room with a view

ELLE (Canada) - - Body -

THE SPA AT THE SUN­RISE KEMPIN­SKI, BEIJING, CHINA Af­ter a day walk­ing the Mu­tianyu sec­tion of the Great Wall of China, I wasn’t about to have a Swedish mas­sage or a Euro­pean foot treat­ment. I told the ther­a­pist that I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence a tra­di­tional Chi­nese mas­sage. “It’s not about re­lax­ation, and there are no prod­ucts,” he cau­tioned. “If you are ex­pect­ing treat­ments like you have back home, this isn’t it. There’s no mu­sic, scents or can­dles.” He said that the stretch­ing and knead­ing I’d ex­pe­ri­ence would be about re­leas­ing blocked en­ergy and bring­ing my body back into bal­ance. Af­ter a few days in Shang­hai and Beijing, my asthma-prone lungs were be­gin­ning to feel more than a lit­tle “blocked,” so I told him to ap­ply his deep­est pres­sure and get started. As he kneaded and pounded my thighs, im­ages of Parme­san-crusted flat­tened chicken came to mind. (I had un­know­ingly eaten goose tongue the day be­fore, so I was feel­ing a lit­tle nos­tal­gic for fa­mil­iar fare.) Mid­way through the treat­ment—which in­cluded the ther­a­pist drilling his knuck­les mer­ci­lessly into the arches of my feet and de­liv­er­ing a few swift karate-like chops to my back—I no­ticed that my nose had started to drip onto the floor. The room was dimly lit, so at first I thought the dark splotches were blood. My first thought was “Am I hav­ing an aneurysm?” I asked for a tis­sue, wiped my nose and was re­lieved to see that the tis­sue wasn’t crim­son. An hour later, I re­turned to my room feel­ing pleas­antly pum­melled and ready for bed. By morn­ing, a la­tent cold had been “un­blocked,” but this ex­pe­ri­ence was worth ev­ery snif­fle. More than just a five-star set­ting, lux­ury is about hav­ing mo­ments where you’re out­side your com­fort zone. NOREEN FLANAGAN

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