Guest Blogger Julie is the creator of the must-visit website, The Rubdown, which gives you the lowdown on the best places to treat yourself in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Featuring budget spas and massage parlours, we’re huge fans of the kind-on-your-wallet recommendations!
Queen Spa in Shenzhen must be experienced to be believed. America may have invented Wal-Mart, but it took China to super-size the spa! A spa that’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, takes up a city block — and sprawls over 480,000 square feet. You could spend days here, and people do (they have designated sleeping areas, and wake-up calls). With few windows, the place has a casino-like atmosphere, where you can easily lose track of what hour or day, it is.
Here’s how it works: You take the MTR to Lo Wu, cross the border, and enter Lo Wu shopping center. Queen Spa has a shopfront there, where staff will direct you to a free shuttle bus that takes you to the spa in about 5 minutes. When entering, you check your belongings with the concierge and proceed to the reception, where you are given a bracelet that has an electronic chip and an account number printed on it. The entrance fee is 98 renminbi for 24 hours (but this will be waived if you spend 168 renminbi on massage or other services, and believe me, you will).
In the changing room, you’ll be given pajamas and a robe. Stash your clothes and valuables in a locker, lock it with your bracelet, and you are off to explore 7 floors of entertainment, dining, spa services and more. Everything is charged to your bracelet account, and you settle your bill when you leave. The facilities seemed fairly clean, though the showers could have been cleaner.
First, we scoped out the swimming pools, whirlpools and hot tubs on Level B1, then headed up to Level 3 and ate at the Chinese restaurant there. Satiated, we waddled over to a rest area and plopped down in giant lounge chairs facing a huge screen showing a Chinese movie. Men and women of all ages were relaxing and enjoying themselves. Kids were there too, many playing video games.
We summoned a waitress by pushing a button in our lounge chairs, who brought us service menus (in English and Chinese). We decided on foot massages (45 minutes for 58 renminbi, and an ear cleaning for about 30 minutes, 58 renminbi). We requested chocolate ice cream from the free fresh fruit and ice cream bar. As we enjoyed our cones, two young women from Jiangxi province soothed our tootsies while an older man used a variety of strange instruments to pull every speck of wax and dust out of our ear canals. I’d never had another person clean my ears before, but when he was done, the world seemed 20% louder. Guess I had some stuff built up in there!
With clean ears and full bellies, it was time for a full body massage. At a touch-screen kiosk we looked through pictures of masseuses and picked which one we wanted to give us a massage, and what kind of treatment — Thai-style, Hong Kong-style, Chinese-style, aromatherapy. (There were hundreds of perky, attractive 18-year-old masseuses to choose from, though I’m not sure that the ones that ended up giving us our rubdowns bore much resemblance to the ones we picked on-screen!) We opted for 90-minute Chinese massages and were led down to a giant maze of tastefully decorated and dimly lit treatment rooms. For the next 90 minutes we were rubbed into a state of relaxation so deep my companion fell asleep.
After our massages, we went back to the rest area, where we sat and chatted, browsed through magazines and looked at brochures for the spa. Some of the offerings: hot stone massage, hair treatments, slimming treatments, facials, cupping, pedicures and back scrubbing. You can also get your laundry done, charge your mobile phone, play mahjongg, and use the Internet. We even found out that next time, we can arrange for a Rolls-Royce to transport us from the Lo Wu to the spa, if we are feeling too fancy to take the shuttle bus.
Before we knew it, we had been at Queen Spa for six hours and it was time to head back to Hong Kong. We changed, dried our hair and did our makeup (helpful attendants will assist you with a blow-dry, if you like). Then it was time to settle up the bill. Our total charges, including massages, food and tips (10-20 renminbi per masseuse) came to about 500 Hong Kong dollars each. You can pay by cash or credit card, in Hong Kong dollars or renminbi. The free shuttle bus took us directly back to the train station, and in under an hour we were back in the heart of Hong Kong.
Final thoughts: Queen Spa is a jaw-dropping place that must be experienced to be believed. While Westerners may find some aspects of it more hyper-stimulating than calming, it’s a cross-cultural experience not to be missed, and it won’t blow the budget.
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