[Trendzilla] Chinese Foot Spas

There are tons of fancy-pants spas in Orange County—but now probably isn’t the greatest time to indulge in such a thing.

I never really worked well with fancy-pants spas, anyway. Snooty receptionists, technicians trying to get you to buy product for the blackheads you don’t have, even snootier patrons, an unjustifiable bill for a couple of hours of relaxation.

If you’re looking to cut out the fluffy white-terry robes and not-so-comforting Muzak playing overhead—and thus cut the bill—there’s a new type of joint in town: Chinese foot-reflexology spas.

They’re not the prettiest places, usually consisting of a simple, clean, darkened room with oversized, overstuffed, leather La-Z-Boy chairs and a couple of flat-screens airing the latest from Anthony Bourdain or some unidentifiable Mandarin-language soap opera. It’s not St. Regis, but it’s definitely not that shady 24-hour Thai “massage” place down the street that offers happy endings, either.

Foot reflexology is an ancient practice that’s also known as zone therapy. It focuses on the massage, pushing or kneading of different zoned areas of the foot, believing each zone corresponds with certain areas of the body, leading to the overall betterment of one’s health. The tips of your toes? Your brain. The balls of your feet? Your sciatic nerve and coccyx. Just above that leads to your colon, bladder and small intestine.

Do I believe in any of that? Of course not. I just know it feels good.

Chinese reflexology always begins with a long, hot herbal foot soak in a wooden tub (with disposable plastic lining) brought to your La-Z-Boy by a massage therapist. While your feet are soaking, your masseuse will start kneading away at your back, scalp and temples. You keep all your clothing on, but it gets the job done.

But that’s another thing: this isn’t the cushy massage you pay $225 per hour for at whatever Laguna Beach spa you’re used to. This is a painful, full-on assault on your back that somehow winds up feeling good, similar to a Swedish deep-tissue massage—the kind that only feels good when it’s done.

And all done by a little Chinese lady who looks like my grandmother.

After the back massage, you’re wrapped like a burrito in a warm towel, and that’s when the masseuse starts pummeling away at your feet. Again, the same concept: pleasure through pain. You can always tell them to lighten up their touch—but why?

The whole process takes about a hour and will only cost you $20 to $25, depending on where you go. While Chinese foot-reflexology spas used to exist only in the San Gabriel Valley, they’ve made their way south, with locations in Westminster and Huntington Beach attracting a wide range of customers. My favorite would be Bali Foot Spa, which charges $20 for a 60-minute experience. No frills, no uppity customers, no appointment required, no drain on the wallet.


Bali Foot Spa, 15440 Beach Blvd., Westminster, (714) 894-5438.

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