Fabulous foot massages in Hong Kong
Ten Feet Tall, a two-storey day spa in Hong Kong, is the most buzzed-about new spot in town. (Courtesy of Ten Feet Tall)
One of Hong Kong's biggest perks – for travellers and locals – is the opportunity to get their sole-weary feet rubbed, kneaded and otherwise coddled for a pittance of what it costs in most large cities. Combine the historical Chinese belief in medicinal reflexology with the inexpensive cost of many beauty and wellness-related services and it results in a thriving massage trade (even excluding the non-PG places).
But with so many options, where should you go for a clean environment that won't break the bank?
The most buzzed-about new spot is Ten Feet Tall, opened in March 2012 by nightlife mogul Gilbert Yeung, who also owns one of the most popular clubs in town, Dragon-i. The two-storey day spa offers foot massages from basic reflexology to oil to lymphatic, as well as other treatments such as manicures, pedicures and nail art, all in a spotless environment decked with a Hamptons-meets-the-tropics décor. Extras like iPod docks in the treatment rooms and a juice bar complete the experience. Considering its location in the Central neighbourhood, 260 Hong Kong dollars for a 50-minute foot massage is extremely good value, and the weekday specials can make it even cheaper.
The purist traveller should head to long-established Hong Wai Foot and Body Reflexology Centre in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, where the best masseurs are nicknamed "masters" and take their pressure points extremely seriously. According to reflexology, digging into the tips of your toes will help clear your sinus, while the arch of the foot connects to the stomach and so applying some pressure there could aid digestion. A 45-minute foot massage at Hong Wai will run you about 160 Hong Kong dollars.
A similarly priced old-school joint is Big Bucket (G/F, Hoi Kung Court, 264-269 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay; 852- 2572-8120). Its name is accurate: your lower legs are first placed into an enormous wooden bucket of steaming water scented with your choice of simple soaps (such as rose or milk), before being massaged for the height of relaxation.
Although high-end hotels like the Mandarin Oriental, the Ritz-Carlton, the Peninsula, the Grand Hyatt and the InterContinental all have stellar – and expensive – spas, many satisfying mid-range options abound for those without limitless resources. A safe choice is chains like Happy Foot and Halite; they're clean, affordable and convenient, with multiple locations in central neighbourhoods. For around 200 Hong Kong dollars, you can get a solid foot massage (or a full-body massage for a bit more) in comfortable, if not chic, surrounds. At these long-standing places, brave souls could also get a Shanghai-style pedicure (180 Hong Kong dollars), which involves the sloughing off of dead skin from the bottom of your foot, leaving them baby smooth, or something as obscure as ear candling (280 Hong Kong dollars), using a combination of heat and pressure that the Chinese believe is the best way to clean those gook-filled canals.
For more of a treat, head to one of the six Sense of Touch locations – the one in the scenic area of Repulse Bay is the biggest, and its main draw (outside of signature treatments inspired by its location on the water) is that it offers relaxing views of the South China Sea. There's also an outlet specially tailored to men, Gentlemen's Tonic, which offers services from an old-fashioned wet shave to packages named after famous historical gentlemen, like The Hemingway, which includes a massage, facial and a Bloody Mary.
Hana R Alberts is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel