By Todd Blackhurst
So maybe you’ve heard about the famous or infamous Taiwanese Foot Massage and now you are wondering where is the best place to have this experience. Or maybe you are looking for the full body experience and want to know where to go.
In this post I’ll recommend a few places here in Taichung where you can give it a try, as well as explain some other common Taiwanese practices related to the massage experience.
First, you should know there is more than likely a foot massage place within a stone’s throw of your home. In almost every neighborhood in Taiwan you can find a Foot Massage place. Just look for the big foot sign hanging over the road. In addition, you can open up Google Maps and search 按摩 – that will open up a list of places including their ratings and reviews.
However, your personal experience will always depend on who actually performs the service for you and what your personal preferences are. Most everyone has their favorite spot, so ask a friend or co-worker where they recommend and you might just find a great local place. Some people go for the supposed health benefits, others go because they truly enjoy the time. Some people don’t really care about the actual environment, while others prefer a special feeling as well as a good massage therapist.
Once you find a spot, you then have a choice of masseuse, treatment, length of treatment and the type of massage. After each massage the masseuse will usually give you their card with their number on it or tell you their number. If you have a particularly bad experience, but like the establishment then remember to request a different person when you make your next appointment. If you have a great experience then you can request this person specifically when you make your next appointment.
Here’s a few places that I have frequented along with family and friends and can share my personal experiences.
Uncle Woo’s Foot Massage 吳神父養身館中友育才館
This establishment is located across the street from the ChongYo Department Store. It is an older building, with a long history and relatively stable group of “masters”. I’ve been visiting Taiwan since 2005 and almost the same group of people have been working here since then and some of them are even in pictures I’ve found in the building from many, many years ago. This location is friendly to foreigners even though they speak very little English. However they can be a little “rough” in my opinion.
Because of it’s location near YiZhong and ChongYo, there are always lots of foreigner’s filtering through, so the experience has become, just that, an experience. If you want to be able to control the pressure and have a more comfortable foot massage, you should be able to speak Chinese or bring a friend with you who can express your wishes. Otherwise, you will get the standard treatment, which can be quite intense.
On that note it is important to say here that in Chinese culture both the foot and body massage are intended to be intense and even at times painful. Without pain – no pleasure. So the pain is used to release endorphins which causes you to feel good later on.
Most Taiwanese will tell you that you need to have a foot massage at least three times relatively close together in order to experience the real benefits of this “treament”. This has to do with working out the “bad energy” from your body.
The traditional foot massage begins with your feet being soaked in a tub of hot water (sometimes scalding) along with some Chinese medicine. During this time, you may be given a head and shoulder massage. Afterwards, you will be given a cup of Herbal Tea and then be taken to a relaxing chair where the master will begin working on your feet including your ankles. They will cover “EVERY” millimeter of surface area with their incredible finger work. You may laugh, you may cry, you may go from shrieks of delight to squeals of pain. The master will not relent – it is their mission to complete their work – and they will finish short of you walking out. I have seen little children go through this treatment effortlessly and even fall asleep, while watching 6’6″ muscle bound men cry like babies and writhe in pain. Consider yourself warned.
The FootBath – 春不荖足湯養生館 No. 123, Section 1, Taizhonggang Rd, West District Taichung City, 403
This place is a big step up from Uncle Woo’s. It is a totally different experience from the moment you arrive. The FootBath cares that you really have a pleasant experience from start to finish. You will pay just a little more for this experience, but it is worth it, especially if you want something a little more comfortable. It’s a Japanese themed establishment where you will find lots of wood, bamboo, soft music, very relaxing chair’s and the masters are more than willing to adjust their technique to give you a pleasurable experience. I highly recommend this place and feel like it is one of the more pleasant places to go for a foot massage. A word to the wise, if you plan on going on a weekend evening or holiday, you should definitely call ahead to make reservations, this place gets busy.
There are now three locations. One in Dali and one in the North District, not too far from Pizza Rock and Burger Join on ChongDe Road.
The Mandara Massage – 永豐棧酒店 TEMPUS HOTEL TAICHUNG No. 689號, Section 2, Taiwan Blvd, Xitun District Taichung City, 407
If you are looking for a truly Western experience, well, I’m sorry, you probably won’t find it in Taichung, but the Mandara Massage is the next closest thing. It’s a very personal experience here. This is a really nice place to experience a foot massage as well as any other type of massage experience. I definitely like this place and highly recommend it. You do not need to be a member to take advantage of the services here. Walk through the hotel lobby and follow the signs over head to the Mandara Massage. You can schedule in advance for treatments and because this hotel does serve an international clientele, you will find some English service here.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Visually Impaired Massage. All over Taichung, their are many locations where you can receive a professional massage. Here is the web link. There is a clickable map where you can locate a shop in your district. Generally, the prices at these locations are cheaper, but the quality is excellent. You can also choose to walk in and pay for a massage in ten minute increments. CLICK HERE
Sports Massage & Physical Therapy
This is a little bit harder to find and these therapists normally do not take NHI, so you can expect to pay $1000TWD per hour or more for their services. Paste this phrase into google maps and you should be able to find something near you – again, check the ratings: 運動按摩
Some additional notes:
If you schedule a body massage, be aware that most of the time, you will remain clothed or be asked to change into a simple pair of shorts and shirt the establishment will provide. You will then be covered in a light sheet for the duration of the treatment which the master will adjust as the massage progresses. If you are claustrophobic, this may present a problem and you will need to talk about this beforehand.
Also, most places do not provide private massage rooms for a body massage, if the establishment is busy, you may be in a room with other clients at the same time, sometimes separated by a curtain. When you enter, pay attention to what is overhead, if there are bars mounted over the bed, it is possible that the master may use these bars to “walk on your back” for part of the treatment. You may want to discuss this if you are concerned.
If you choose an oil massage, you will wear a simple pair of shorts if you are a man (I don’t know about women). You will be wiped down with hot towels at the end of the massage, but most places do not provide a place to shower and change. Keep this in mind if you have other appointments. You can ask for some extra hot wet towels to be left in the room with you if you want to clean up before changing back into your clothes.
If the masseuse asks you if you would like him to “gua” you? You should know this involves scraping your skin with a stone or bone or piece of plastic. I have had this done on one occasion. It is extremely painful and afterwards you will look like you have been dragged across the street on your bare skin. It is not for the faint of heart.
Finally, in my experience, Taiwanese massage is usually a sequence of events. The masseuse has a plan in mind they will work through to use the time allotted for you. If you want something different or have different expectations, you should make sure this is clear before the time begins so they can make some adjustments (although I have found there isn’t much adjustment overall – such as an area where you would like them to spend an extra amount of time to work out the soreness or tightness, like a shoulder). This seems to come from their training, which they learn from another Master.
So what’s you favorite place? Post the info below and share it with our great community!