Qinhuangdao is the home city of one of my Sheffield friends, Chenhao. She has helped us plan our route through China when we were still in the UK and even now, using wechat, has been invaluable in answering our many questions! After two days of what our bodies told us was strenuous walking along the Great Wall, we were ready to relax. She helped organise two treats for us.
A noisy start
However, the start of the day wasn’t so great. It had been a struggle to find a hostel that took non-mainland Chinese citizens. Turns out hostels have to pay extra for a license to house internationals. After trawling through websites, I found one but it was fully booked. In the end we forked out for a hotel, our first for the trip. It was only £17 a night for a pretty swish room on the 6th floor in a really central area, surrounded by food places and snack shops.
However, Saturday morning the shopping street below greeted us with blaring music. People are noisy in China – noise and bustle is a good thing here, they like it. People walking around will even carry their own radio or music player which will blare out noise, without head phones of course – share the noise. At least we were already awake if not out of bed when this happened…
Friends in Qinhuangdao
The city is a favourite for politicians and important people wanting to escape the bustling of Beijing. They come in the summer to relax by the beaches and this in turn has brought growth and money. It has also brought food and we met Chenhao’s family at the best peking duck restaurant in Qinhuangdao.
Well actually in some restaurants in China they are so big they cover several floors. We were actually given a room number to meet them in but her cousin, who spoke english, kindly came down to fetch us and our confused little faces. She also warned us we didn’t have to eat all the food.
What we have learnt is that the Chinese are very generous and happily go out of their way to help you and treat you. We ate so much food, and were taught how to eat duck properly. We quickly learnt the word for delicious in Chinese (měiwèi 美味). Thank you (xièxiè 谢谢)!
A Chinese bath house
Since we first realised Chinese bath houses were a thing, we were very intrigued to try one. Down the road from the restaurant was one which cost 28 yuan to enter, and anything else on top was extra. For this small price you have access to the segregated shower areas and all the different communal areas for a seemingly indefinite amount of time. The bath house was on (I think) 5 floors. We made it up to floor 3.
On first entering the staff looked a bit bemused and took a while before they realised we were here to stay, and then the smiles appeared. I don’t think they get many westerners. A short man suddenly appeared and in broken english started to talk about the “ma-sar-gees” that the place offered. Despite politely correcting his pronunciation, he did not take it on board. Let’s call him Chuck. Anyway, we had paid and we were in.
Firstly, shoes are replaced by slippers – pink for me, blue for Mischa – and given a wrist band with a locker key. Mischa was directed towards the male shower section and I had to take the lift to the second floor for the female section. After taking a bit too long to realise the number on the locker key was my designated locker, the female staff showed me where it was while chuckling to each other. This number is also used to record any extras bought while inside for the final bill.
In the segregated sections you must be nude and there is no privacy. The walls were lined with showers and at the back, beyond some deck chairs, was a sauna and a steam room. Both too hot for me. I could not find the pool.
After saunering and showering several times it felt like it was time to find some clothes. In the changing area, after pointing and terrible Chinese pronunciation, I was given pink shorts and a matching pink tshirt – as well as one-size fits all white pants. The pyjama-like outfit was pretty comfy actually. I headed to the communal area of floor 3.
The place was huge, and there were no signs but roaming around lead to some staff raidioing and Chuck comically appeared out of nowhere.
“You ok? You want masagee?”
“No thank you, I’ll wait here til my boyfriend comes up.”
“You want boyfriend? I will get boyfriend!”
Chuck sits me down on an armchair that’s long enough to stretch my legs out on and comes with its own TV screen. Several people are sleeping on these chairs. I watch him skip away to fetch Mischa, feeling guilty that he is going to be dragged away from saunas that he enjoys much more than me.
In the end I don’t feel guilty – the men’s section has a pool. And not just one, but three – including a jacuzzi one. Very jealous. While in the lift Chuck even offered Mischa an expensive masagee that can’t be offered in front of girlfriends…
All in all it was a great relaxing experience, and a nice way to spend extra time for a flat price of £3.19. However, I feel that the setup is better for the men than the women – a lack of pool and no offer of a massage with a happy ending for me. Still, probably a healthier way to spend time than our usual method… “pub?” (Think Shaun of the Dead)
This was a wonderfully relaxing day before our 16 hour overnight train to Pingyao in Shanxi Province. Our class was hard seat. We will never travel that way again (overnight anyway) if we can help it! (I’ll do another train post for the fans later :))