Sometimes you need a massage. I think of this as medical, like the chiropractor or PT for plantar fasciitis. But where to go – a spa? A therapeutic place where the people have medical acronyms after their name? Or… the mall?!
I have noticed the phenomenon of asian-run massage parlors cropping up starkly in the middle of otherwise culturally-diluted malls. Have you seen these? The one at my mall is called Asian Island.
I used to pass right by these places, wondering how such an establishment could create the level of privacy and trust necessary to enjoy a rubdown while essentially nude. But that was before my hospital ordeal, during which multiple strange men went rifling around under my already too-loose gown. Now I have no sense of privacy.
So dispelled of that notion, I was free to enjoy the following reasons that a mall massage is better than a fancy spa massage. How shall I count the ways?
1) It is cheaper of course! Not only do the 30- and 60-minute rates beat all the spas and salons around, but Asian Island also provides flexibility at $1/minute down to 20 minutes. The full hour is $50. An hour-long massage at a spa is usually at least $75.
2) No weird Enya music or strange scents. Just strains of vaguely Asian-sounding music streaming from the front lobby. At least it doesn’t make you feel like you are supposed to be having some sort of enlightening experience.
3) The Chinese invented acupressure and acupuncture. While I am prone to over-think choices like “deep tissue massage” or “sports massage,” I can pretty easily get behind whatever a Chinese bodywork practitioner wants to do. Chinese medicine is ancient; they had already figured out natural cures for everything while the rest of the world got decimated by a series of medieval plagues. Who am I to say otherwise?
4) The charm of bits of Mandarin spoken right in front of you. While my lady laughed with a lady on the other side of the curtain and chirped little orders to the assistant in the hallway, I was taken back to a time and place where I spoke pretty decent Chinese on my own for a summer in southern China. That language for me is like a sixth sense with a musical tonality. But for others, this unmitigated language barrier probably increases the desirable wall of anonymity. I could see it both ways.
5) Free hot stone treatment! I have always boycotted hot stone massages on principle. Hot stones usually add about $30 to a massage price. I take exception to this because stones are basically free. You can walk outside and find one. And heating a stone can probably be done by throwing it in the oven. So the hot stone fee is a huge scam. But lo and behold, they brought out hot stones in the middle of my pretty cheap mall massage just because.
So if you find yourself needing a massage, I recommend checking the mall. There’s, surprisingly, nothing like a scrappy, impersonal experience filled with foreign sounds and thin curtains when others would have you take out a small loan for unnecessary luxuries such as “privacy.” As long as it doesn’t move!