Hands On: Getting a Great Massage in Hangzhou

Hands On: Getting a Great Massage in Hangzhou

Chinese massage has a long history going back several thousand years. Affordable massage is also one of the major perks to living in China. If you’re bright enough to put two and two together, you’ve most likely figured out that pink lights and the characters for foot massage does not necessarily indicate that an establishment merely wants to massage your feet. If what you’re looking for is legitimate massage in Hangzhou, then read on.  Here I go over a number of Hangzhou massage establishments, ranging from the most affordable to the most expensive. 

Only in the last hundred years or so has Chinese massage become well understood in the West. Foot massage, for instance, was not extensively documented until American doctor William Fitzgerald’s book “Zone Therapy” was published in 1910. This book was the first of many that have shifted foot massage from the realm of novelty into the texts of legitimate medical practice in the West. While Western practitioners of foot massage often refer to it as reflexology, in China, foot massage is simply referred to as zu di an mo (足底按摩).  

The Chinese believe that foot massage can help with sleeping problems, digestion, and a number of other issues. At some point during most foot massages, hammer-like tools are sometimes pounded into the recipient’s feet and legs. This practice is thought to increase circulation. These tools are known as lang chui (榔槌), or lang tou (榔头). At the beginning of the massage you soak your foot in medicine water called yao shui (药水). Different types of water have different effects on the body, and if you are unsure of what type of water to get, you can ask “qing wen, wo shi he pao na zhong yao shui? 请问,我适合泡哪种药水?” (Basically just, “excuse me, what type of medicine water should I get?”) 

Those trained in foot massage say that they can tell how healthy a person is simply by feeling their feet. Stiffness in certain areas implies certain organs are unhealthy. If you feel what foot masseuses refer to as needle pain, this implies that there is a problem with whatever organ that part of your foot is associated. If you feel what is referred to as exploding pain or bitter pain, this is normal. If you’ve ever had a foot massage, this most likely makes sense to you. If you haven’t, it will.  

Hangzhou Bo Na Cai Ba 杭州博纳踩吧
One massage chain in Hangzhou that offers consistently good foot massage is Bo Na Cai Ba (杭州博纳踩吧). One hour of foot massage with standard medicine water costs 40 RMB. There is, however, a discount during the day (before 5 PM), so if you go then a foot massage with standard medicine water will cost you 35 RMB. Some medicine waters are pricier (around 60 RMB). The chain has three locations throughout the city. Read on for addresses and other info.

Besides foot massage, Bo Cai Ba offers a wide variety of other massage. Their most elaborate is the Thai Massage, or tai shi an mo in Chinese (泰式按摩). This massage is initially given with the hands, then by the feet. While using her feet, the masseuse uses ropes on the ceiling to suspend herself in the air. This massage will cost you 90 RMB for 1.5 hours. A less elaborate, but nonetheless comfortable, full body massage will cost you 60 RMB for one hour. Though foot, Thai, and standard back massage are all fantastic, the type of massage that Bo Na Cai Ba is known for is cai bei (踩背).This massage, similar to Thai Massage, involves the masseuse walking on your back. Traditionally, cai bei is thought to help with stiffness and pain in the elbows and knees. Sixty-minutes will cost you 40 RMB.  

Bo Na Cai Ba 杭州博纳踩吧View In Map
Add: 521 Wen Er Xilu, Xihu District, Hangzhou (down the street from Reggae Bar)
地址: 杭州市西湖区文二西路521号
Tel: 0571 8990 2781?
Hours: 10:00-03:00

Add: 48 Ding’an Lu, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou (just east and south of the intersection of Yan’an Road and Xihu Road)
地址: 杭州上城区定安路48号 (延安路西湖路路口)
Tel: 0571 87019951
Hours: 10:00-03:00

Add: 168 Xueyuan Lu, Xihu District, Hangzhou
地址: 杭州市西湖区学院路168号
Tel: 0571 85150522
Hours: 10:00-03:00

Shan Na Na 姗娜娜
Opened in 2000, Shan Na Na (姗娜娜) is another excellent massage chain in Hangzhou, with over ten locations in the town and many others throughout Zhejiang Province. This is also maybe the only Hangzhou-based massage chain with locations in the United Sates. Since 2008, Shan Na Na has operated in Los Angeles. While Bo Na Cai Ba is a place where you get a massage and leave, Shan Na Na markets itself as more of a spa where you can a few hours relaxing.  

Shan Na Na is a bit pricier than Bo Na Cai Ba, but the atmosphere is more relaxed (the locations showcase dynastic furniture and decorations), and the snack options are more diverse. At Shan Na Na, you can order actual food, while Bo Na Cai Ba doesn’t offer much beyond candy and tea. Expect to pay around 108 RMB for a standard 90-minute back massage here. Meanwhile, a foot massage (of which there are many types) will cost around 98 RMB for 90 minutes. While we’ve listed three below, there are ten locations in Hangzhou, you can call their Hushu Road branch to find the location most convenient to you.

Shan Na Na 姗娜娜View In Map
Add: 326 Hushu Nanlu, Gonghsu District, hangzhou
地址: 杭州市拱墅区湖墅南路326号
Tel: 0571 8839 3836 -0
Opening hours: 11:00-02:00
Click here to find more branches in Hangzhou

Yaoshi Blind Massage Co. 姚氏盲人按摩
If you want to give blind massage (mang ren an mo or 盲人按摩 ) a try, Yaoshi Blind Massage Co. has 15 branches throughout Zhejiang Province, and is probably the largest blind massage chain in Hangzhou. Since they first opened in Hangzhou in 2000, they’ve opened quite a few branches. Call the Yan’An Road branch for a full listing.

The prices at Yaoshi are about on par with Bo Na Cai Ba. A full body massage is 50 RMB for 60 minutes, 90 RMB for 90 minutes, and 100 RMB for 2 hours. Yaoshi specializes in massage focusing on the spine, called ji zhui an mo (脊椎按摩). One hour of spine massage costs 50 RMB. They also do cupping, which the Chinese believe can pull excess water out of the body in order to restore balance. Gua xia, a sort of scraping, is also thought to bring balance to the body and costs 20 RMB for 15 minutes.  

Yaoshi Blind Massage Co. 姚氏盲人按摩View In Map
Add: 92 Baijingfang Xiang, Yan’an Lu, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou
地址: 杭州市上城区延安路百井坊巷92号
Tel: 0571 8510 8148

Health Club and Spa at the Hyatt Regency
If you feel like receiving some of the best massage in the city and spending a lot of money, the Health Club and Spa on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency on Hubin Road is the place to do both. Call ahead to make an appointment – they speak English. A 30-minute express back massage (geared towards those without a lot of time) at the Health Club will cost you 350 RMB, while a 60-minute Swedish massage will cost 580 RMB. What the Health Club is probably best known for is its stone massage treatment, which will cost you 880 for 90-minutes.  

Health Club and Spa at the Hyatt RegencyView In Map
Add: 28 Hubin Lu, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou
地址: 杭州市上城区湖滨路28号
Tel: 0571 8779 1234

So there you have it. While these aren’t the only places in Hangzhou to get massaged, this gives you a relatively good idea of prices, what to expect, and what to ask for. I can also vouch that none of these establishments have any shady aspect to them, something which has been a major complaint I’ve heard amongst foreigners. So go and get some massage in. Whether you deserve it or not, it’s something you’ll be missing when you leave China. 

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