Around the world travel, Backpacking, Beijing, Bucket List, China, Compass Holidays, Travel, Travelzoo

How Do You Say “Softly” in Mandarin?

Ads on the Beijing metro.

We have one last free morning in Beijing, and Michael has organized a late checkout for everyone, so after breakfast, Katherine and I head to Tiananmen Square. We were here the other day but headed straight for the Forbidden City, and because of Tiananmen’s historical significance, I want to pay a proper visit.

Tiananmen Square

So, we head back to Happy Valley, make the journey by metro to Tiananmen East, clear security and walk from one end of the square to the other.¬†Besides a few statues, there’s not much to see here, but I feel better having made the visit.

We hail a taxi and head northeast towards Dragonfly spa, a place that’s been recommended by a friend for massage and reflexology. Luckily, my maps is working without an internet connection, and I’m able to get us within walking distance to the spa. The language barrier is proving to make solo navigation challenging!

We arrive in an area that seems to cater to Westerners. A Hilton hotel sits next to a shopping complex that’s home to Starbucks, a wine shop, a public swimming pool, and the place we’re after, Dragonfly.

We take a few minutes to peruse the menu and both Katherine and I decide on a 1-hr traditional Chinese massage, which is a combination of deep tissue and acupressure. Andy, my masseuse, collects us from the waiting room, takes us to our respective rooms and shows us the linen tops and bottoms we’re to put on. They are made for petite Asian ladies, and I just about manage to get the pants over my hips.

Dragonfly Spa

Andy speaks very little English, but I tell him I like a strong massage. He goes to work, and I realize he has understood what I said. Maybe a little too much because as he works his way down my back, I’m literally twinging in pain. I start to say, “Ok, maybe not so hard.” But he thinks I mean the opposite and pushes so deep on my lower left back muscle, that I know I’m going to feel it for days. A little whimper comes out followed by “Owwww.” And he exclaims, “Ohhh, you mean softer.” Yes, softer, that’s the word I was looking for!

Andy finishes up an awesome massage, and tells me his name again, “You come back, you ask for Andy.” “Yes,” I say, not even attempting to try to explain I’m just visiting and actually leaving for Shanghai in a matter of hours.

I find Katherine in the reception area, and we laugh at the matching pillow imprints on our faces. We settle our bills, $30 each, head to Starbucks for something to wake us up, and grab a taxi so we can make it back to the hotel to check out and make our transfer to Shanghai.

A few people from the group flew out on a very early flight this morning, and the rest of us are on either a 5:20 or 5:55 flight from Beijing to Hongqiao. We drop half the group at Terminal 1 and the rest of us head to Terminal 2 and check in at the Hainan counter. We have lost Michael, who seems to have broken his own golden rule… “Follow Michael,” and don’t get the chance to say thank you and goodbye.

Katherine and I clear security, grab a snack at a Chinese fast food joint, top up our chocolate supply at one of the duty free shops, and board our flight.

It’s a short flight, but we have time to reflect on Beijing and the trip so far. Because I feel partly responsible for Katherine’s happiness on the trip, seeing as I’m the one that suggested it and sold her on China to begin with, I ask her, “So, what do you think so far?”¬† Her reply, “We’re in China. We paid less than $600. I’m just taking it for what it is.”

As independent travelers, it’s tough for us to have so many of our decisions made for us. We are used to doing the research, the planning, the bookings, the navigating. Doing that kind of work before a trip ensures (most of the time) an enjoyable adventure, and there’s a sense of satisfaction when you figure out a place. BUT, it IS China, and I’m not gonna lie, there’s something nice about these 4 and 5-star hotels, the bus that shows up for our airport and city transfers and the assistance with the language barrier, and oddly enough, the weird and wonderful members of our group are growing on me.

I think about what Katherine said, and agree that we could have never planned this trip for the price we got it for. (Hence the factory visits). I will move forward with an open mind about this “organized travel…” or so I tell myself tonight.

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