Today was a weird day. I took my second trip to China. First time was Beijing this time was just across the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. I had to get my China visa for it which was processed in about a week.^ The reason for the trip was to go for a massage, dinner and some shopping with coworkers, all local to Hong Kong.
The train ride to China from Hong Kong island is about an hour including the 3 transfers necessary. Border crossing is pretty straight forward though extremely tacky, no big surprise. The border area was lined with cheesy souvenir shops, liquor stores, fake jewelry vendors and big advertisements for spas nearby. It's common for Hong Kong people to go to Shenzhen for the day for a spa. It's half the cost of what it would be in Hong Kong and about a 10th of the cost in the US.
Once we crossed into the smoggy city of Shenzhen we found the van that would take us to Queen's Spa, our first destination of the afternoon. We arrived to a dozen employees dressed like World War II nurses with Santa hats who ushered us downstairs into the spa. The place was MASSIVE! Imagine a casino floor in Vegas but the spa version. Rather than gambling tables there were reclining chairs, hundreds of them. Some people were sitting having a massage, some were eating from the fruit buffet provided, some sleeping because the spa allows you to spend the night. My thought was this is definitely not like any Western spa I've been to.
The 6 of us went into the womens changing room to change into the spa attire. Rather than the plush spa robe I'm used to I was issued a pink and orange scrub set that was 2 sizes to small. Hot. We all laughed because we looked like we were in spa prison, then we went upstairs to the lazy-boy casino to start the treatments. We ordered 45 minute foot massages and a 90 minute body massage. The foot massage was very nice, if you haven't had one I suggest you get involved, its a must for someone who wears heels all week. When 45 minutes was up we left our row of chairs and the hot teas we had been drinking to go to the massage room.
Still in our prison uniforms we went into a room that had 9 massage tables. It was like summer camp and we were all bunked up in a cabin in our matching outfits. Again the massage was nice but I couldn't shake the creepy casino feeling of the place. The weird clothes, the smokey smell and the loud people yelling in Chinese all around didn't do anything for the spa ambiance and started to get to me after 90 minutes.
Overall it was an interesting experience, not something I would rush back to do but that US$30 price tag for it all made the weirdness easier to handle.
The rest of the evening was spent shopping around in stores stocked with the random things made in the factories nearby and a Hot Pot dinner. A very Asian day which reminded me that I am living in China even when Hong Kong doesn't always feel like that.
*Note to travelers with US passports - get a China visa in the US. It's less expensive and you're able to get more entries into China than if you apply from other countries.