Reason #437 to love China – 24-hours-spas

The top-less-chiefs with their extra-cool sunglasses are dancing while they are turning the meat and veggies on the barbecue and the girls that are presenting the mantou-dishes start doing the same. Techno music is filling the room. Vera and I have to yell at each other to make us understood. We are not having a dinner-party but a party-dinner.  

Wait – didn’t I start talking about sauna and spa? A place where you relax in a quiet atmosphere? Words are merely whispered? And IF, very big if!, there is any sort of music it would be a syrinx, quietly in the background, hardly touching our consciousness, just intensifying our impression of being at a special, peaceful and relaxing place?  

Most of this place is like that. But not the buffet at dinner time. And again – wait. Buffet? Sauna? Are you sure? Yes, I am.

Food in form of a buffet is an essential part of the 24-hours-spas. It’s included in a price where in my hometown I could maybe afford a three-hours-stay for.

Oh and then there is always the point of bringing towels. Shampoo. Bathing suit. Slippers. And. And. And. A big duffel bag full of essential items. Plus, maybe a book to read. Not so in China. And of course a bottle to fill up with water to avoid having to spend a small fortune on or offer your first born for enough water to stay hydrated. Back home, there’s the logistics of the unpacking part. Wet towels that need to be dried, washed and dried again. Or washed straight away. Anyway – WORK after you just came home from relaxing!

Not so in China. After checking-in (yes, bring your passport. It’s like staying at a hotel even if it’s just a few hours during the day) you are handed towels and short-sleeved pyjamas to wear in the mixed areas. The non-cloth-areas like Sauna, bath and showers are separated by gender. Massages and body scrubs are available as well. Shampoo, soap and face-wash, even toothbrushes and toothpaste is being supplied. We make proper use of it and scrub our bodies before even dipping the first toe into the hot-bath or going near the sauna as we didn’t want to be frowned upon nor pollute the water.

We soak in the heat of the sauna – when a worried employee jerks the door open, holding up small white towels towards us. They are wet and cooled, straight out of a small fridge next to it. Hold in front of the face they are meant to make the breathing easier but we are not interested. Just trying to get her to close the door as it starts getting cold.

Wearing the p-j’s we explore the mixed area, lounge, read and nap in the arm chairs until our party-dinner starts. Food is delicious and I put some effort into not eating at the speed of music. If we want, we could stay for breakfast. Or lunch. Or even the next dinner.

Heaven, especially if you live during winter in a place where most places don’t have heating!

That said – if you  are headed to China and looking forward to a place like this. I couldn’t find them everywhere but Yunnan definitely offers these. For Beijing my search was without result – the information I found online was outdated. My friend Huan even called a few places for me but to no avail. They were either not offering the overnight stay or not open anymore.

Good stuff needs good timing!

“Oh no” I cry out. Never ever had I thought I would think this about a sign that’s promising a down-hill. 10km of down-hill on a nice, paved road with an acceptable amount of traffic. . A cyclist dream, isn’t it? Just rolling, rolling rolling. But I am not happy about it. Or relieved. I rather fear it. Why? you might wonder. Because I am cold. It is cold. My fingers feel as if they are about to fall off as I stop to put on my third coat – the one that is supposed to stop the wind. I constantly wriggle my toes. My scarf covers my face. My hood underneath my helmet is trying to keep my ears from freezing off. Okay, it’s not THAT cold. It’s about zero. But not much. The road stretches in the shade. The wind is strong as I roll down and I brake from time to time just to check if my fingers still obey me. Adding to the no-dinner, I skipped breakfast as I couldn’t find a breakfast place close to my uncomfortable, noisy sleeping spot from last night. So, I am cold. I am tired. I am hungry. On the plus side? No need to pee. Not a crazy amount of trucks on the road.

Checking my phone for the turn-off Reuben send me is futile – the cold let’s it slide from 50% to 30% to 10% to 1%. Not good.

To my left I spot a huge parking lot, a big store and some food stalls. There’s a roof but walls are only on two sides. Typical place for expensive, not good food where the tourist buses stop. I stop. I order soup. Soy milk – hot soy milk. And can charge my phone. Waiting for the noodle-soup I walk around. Trying to get my toes to stop hurting with the cold. My fingers feel okay when I finally spot it. A stove. With benches around. The stove is rather big, rectangular in size. On the top sits a stainless-steel bowl with a bit of water and some eggs. I sit. Stretch my feet towards the heat. Holding my hands out. Nodding at the man sitting next to me. Using the opportunity to practice my Chinese in a small conversation when my soup arrives and I inquire about the eggs, taking a couple. After a few minutes I feel warm. Energy returns. And I am full. Life is good.

“So, to Shigu, you go this way?” I am asked in as simple Chinese that matches my languages skills and the guy is pointing up the road towards the village with the closed road. No, no. I insist the road is closed. “But, going there – there is no road to Shigu.” he insists pointing down the road. Stubborn, I insist on the closed road and he that I am going the wrong way now.

After retrieving my phone, I check the turn-off. Geez – he is right! I already passed the alternative turn-off two k ago! He seems about as relieved as I am that I didn’t go 8 more k, down a steep hill into the wrong direction.

How I accidentally took part in the 333-minimalism-challenge

No, it’s not about summoning a pocket-sized devil even so it sounds like it. At least to me. Or maybe it is about it? If you see consumerism as the devil than this challenge is trying to tame it.

What is it?

Basically a game where you reduce your wardrobe for a while following some rules. For 3 months you are using 33 items to dress yourself. You count your shoes and your accessories in but not your sleep-wear, undies and work-out clothes.

It aims for people who live in abundance like most people in the global north. Middle-class with staffed wardrobes full of nothing to wear. Hello not-traveling me!

So, if people participate in this challenge there must be some promised benefit, right? Why else would you limit yourself if there is no need to? It promises to offer some insights.

So, what are these typical conclusions? Which insights does the game offer?

  • You don’t need as many clothes.
  • It is easier to pick what to wear.
  • You spend less time getting dressed and more time doing ‘what-is-important-for-you’.
  • You feel more freedom. Less need to buy clothes/things and instead have more energy to fucus on ‘what-is-important-for-you’.

How I stumbled across it.

It showed up in my Instagram feed one day as I lived in Kunming, China for two months. A woman posted a pic of herself, wearing a nice, smart outfit and used hashtags like #333challange #333minimalism. I got curious and she was nice enough to introduce me to the challenge and I continued seeing pics of her where I actually wouldn’t have noticed a lack of variety in clothes if she hadn’t pointed out why she was posting them but rather an attractive woman feeling comfortable and great.

So, learning about it, I realized I was actually already doing the challenge myself – accidentally.

I was bike touring when I got to Kunming and knew I would be after. So I didn’t have that much stuff with me to begin with. And even so I could stock up my change of clothes thanks to my roommate and a clothes-exchange-party I still didn’t have loads. Including my nighty, socks and undies – unaware of the fact that I didn’t have to count them – I barely made it to 33 items – for two months. Before and after I had less but life and clothing necessities are VERY different when cycling.

My wardrobe

For outerwear, I had 3 T-Shirts, 2 long-sleeve-shirts, 3 pair of pants, 2 jumpers, 2 skirts, 2 dresses, one pair of stockings, 2 shorts, 2 pair of shoes and an ultra-light raincoat.

Did I wear all my clothes?

Fascinating but at this point I would have almost have to say no. But then I was wearing the second skirt once. For the shoes: one pair were my cycling shoes with a rather stiff sole which is great for cycling and so-so for walking. Once my roommate gave me the light-weight-army shoes she had, I never wore anything else again.

Was I happy with my choice of clothes?

It depended. The t-shirts and the jumper I brought from home were carefully chosen favorites. As was one of the pants and one skirt. The other things I chose more quickly at the clothes-swap-party.

And that’s what I ended up with. I loved the clothes I carefully chose. I felt great when wearing them. The others? Oh well… I was dressed okay. I didn’t mind them but they didn’t show my personality or clothing style that much. But then again, I believe I am not someone who cares extremely about her clothes or shoes.

What surprised me: The wear on the clothes

Did you ever have clothes break on you? Falling apart? With the tonnes of clothes that go to landfill, op-shops or poorer countries every year it’s just not possible to wear them out. Styles go out of fashion within weeks (yes! 26 times a year the stock in clothing stores changes!) and so the low quality fast-fashion gets faster out-dated then outworn.

So, yeah, I was hardly aware of the phenomen as I would usually throw out clothes before this happens or maybe just when it starts. And I actually saw me as a person that’s wearing/holding on to clothes longer than average.

Plus, I am someone who is mending. But I realized that this wasn’t making any long-term change. Hardly a short-term one. The fabric became to worn and weak to hold the thread. So I eventually gave up on that.

My T-shirts started to get holes. My one pair of pants – which I have had for roughly ten years – was ripping at the slightest impact. Another pair had given up before – at the end of a hike this super-comfy cotton-pants (which I got used of a friend) were totally ripped and so far beyond use I had to borrow one before having street-food – yeah not even talking fancy restaurants here – back in the city. I would have been embarressed if I wouldn’t have been so fascinated how quickly this pants detoriorated…

Packing and Washing

„Have you packed for your trip yet?“ my roommate asks me about 24 hours before I go on a one-week trip. I shake my head „No chance. I have to wash everything first.“ Yeah, all my clothes were barely a load of washing and I had to wash what I was wearing as well. So I would have barely enough for the trip with hand-washing in between. I did a lot of that in Kunming as well. Due to the limited stock I didn’t always collect enough clothes to justify putting on a load of washing and realized how this is actually putting a lot of wear on the clothes again. Shrubbing. Wringing. Seemed to be working away on the fabric.

Luckely Kunming is a very warm and dry place so I could pack my clothes for the trip in the morning. Wearing the pair of pants that was still a bit moist.

Felt weird. At these times it was comforting to know that this was a) temporary and b) choosen by myself. If it would have annoyed me too badly I could have just gone shopping to have as much choice of clothes I wished for. How different must this experience be for someone who didn’t choose this but just can’t afford more. But has to pack for the 5-day-class-trip of their daughter? Running half-full loads of washing because there’s not enough time to hand-wash or clothes around to wait for a full machine? And by that, actually spending more money than needed if enough clothes were available on water, electricity and detergent?

My insights:

I need less. And I desire to have a variety in clothes.

Yes, it is true. For my situation back home: Even though I tremendously reduced the amount of clothing I own over the last five years I still have more than I need at a given time.

I believe we don’t need 7 pairs of almost identically black pants. But if you have them, have the space and not planning to move soon. why not wear them out? If you reduce to 2 pairs, which you then will almost wear daily, you will have to buy a new one soon as they will show signs of wear. But then… what’s the point in keeping the ones that are uncomfortable? We don’t like wearing? We feel awkward in?

When getting new(-to-me) clothes there really is a point in making sure I like them.

As stated above about some things from the clothes swaps as compared to my fav’s that I brought from home. I didn’t like them too much. I didn’t feel like „me“ too much in them.

Part of the KonMari-method is to pick up every single item (of clothes, all your shoes, all your books…) and check if they ‘spark joy’ when you hold them. It sounds crazy, but it works (and it’s awesomly explained by her in a tedtalk I can not find anymore on YouTube.)

I have been practicing this for about three years now back home, ever since I purged using the KonMari-method for the first time. I ended up with a choice of clothes I appreciated much more and actually started feeling happy when grabbing clothes to wear and didn’t have to go past all these „nothing-to-wear“-items in a totally overloaded wardrobe.

So, when getting new stuff into my place, I try to check if they ‘spark joy’ – what I obviously didn’t do at the clothes-swap-party.

Different moods need different styles.

The jumper I brought with me is my absolute favourite one. I bought it at a festival earlier this year of a store I love, accompanied by my best friend. So besides just loving the feel of wearing it, it brings happy memories. It’s an xxl-hoodie.

Unfortunately the jumper from the clothes-swap, even though I really liked it as well, was a xxl-style one as well.

And I don’t want this style everyday that doesn’t fit for a T-shirt. So here comes my need for variety!

The future: What I am courious about:

In a couple of days I am going back home, where an abundance of clothes is waiting for me. Don’t ask me how many t-shirts, pants, jeans and skirts I own. I am wondering how I will react to that.

Where different stuff everyday?

Feel overwhelmed?

What I can’t do is wear the stuff I had at the challenge. What I got at the clothes-swap I left behind for other cyclists to use. What I took with me, is almost worn out.

So, what’s your experience with clothes? Have you heard about this challenge and what do you think about it?

And mending… why didn’t it work out? Maybe there’s more magic to that and it’s about using the right technique? Happy for your adive!

Final destination

Steadily I keep pedaling and pedaling. My progress is slow but there is progress. I let my mind wander. I count in my head in a meditative manner and repeat my mantra “It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop”.

I want this to be my last day of cycling – and then I don’t want it to be my last day of cycling. I want to arrive but I don’t want it to be over yet. I have the strong urge to arrive at a place. To sleep. To rest. So on I go. Up and up this hill. At a speed so slow I can’t play my favorite game of checking the map for the remaining distance without stopping. It doesn’t really matter. I set my mind to arriving in Damaidi, close to Shigu, close to Lijiang where I started this morning lunchtime.

The road goes up and up and up, along fields, landscape that almost feels empty. I fix my eyes on something ahead – anything. A tree. A flag. A stone. I only plan to reach this next stop. Only the tree. Then, my eyes search for the next landmark, 100m, maybe 150m further ahead. That’s all I think about. Only the flag.  Until I reach it and on to the next spot. The stone. I play this game for about an hour, emptying my head from all thoughts as I feel I need all my energy to simply keep going. And so I go. Just don’t stop.

Until I have to stop. I reach a small village that stretches along the road where some cars stopped inconveniently. So, how much further do I have to go? I managed about 5k with this mind-set since the turn-off. I actually didn’t think I would have to go up-hill for such a long distance, but hey. Can’t do anything about it. I check maps-me, as it allows me to judge how much further I have to climb. 

*sigh*

The turn-off the Chinese map “a-map” showed me was wrong. I worked very hard for one hour to go the wrong way. At least… I didn’t descent. I turn my bike around. Stone. Flag. Tree. The landmarks fly by. 20 minutes later I am where I left 1h 20minutes ago.

So, it’s still a long way to Damaidi. To the Stone House. My bed. My dinner. But the down-hill comes. I make good progress. I make great progress. Soon, I will have to get my head-lamp out. The last 10k, maybe only the last 5, it will be dark. Joy fills my heart as I zip down the mountain. Take a right turn at the gas station at the bottom. A tiny village seems to live from the passing traffic. Not only the gas station, but a couple of restaurants, two hotels and a garage.

A road-block. A woman waves me to get my attention. The road to Shigu is closed. There is only this road. I can have a bed for 60 Yuan. Tomorrow, they believe, the road will be open again.

As I hesitate she calls her daughter who refuses to talk to me but uses her phone to translate Chinese to… Gibberish. She understands that it’s becoming Gibberish but refuses to use my phone for communication. Or to speak. I start getting frustrated. No, I AM  frustrated. No new information is gained during these 30 minutes. By now it’s dark. Too late to keep cycling even though Reuben who runs the Stone House pointed an alternative route for me. So the blocked road is NOT the only one that goes to Shigu. By now, I am frustrated and pissed off at these people lying to me. As I turn my bike around the daughter keeps telling me the other hotel is more expensive before running over to talk to them. In my mind, to make sure they don’t give me a better price. But I had had it now. Frustrated, angry and overall tired I look at my options and decide to set up camp. While I do that, the restaurants close and I miss my option for dinner.

I don’t care. I am tired. And simply fall asleep.

9 reasons why I love my Mens-Cup – especially when on long-distances bicycle tours.

In short: It’s just such a convenient way to deal with my period!

What is a mens-cup?!
A Mens-cup, menstruations-cup or moon-cup is a small (usually) silicone cup which catches one’s period. The extra value is has, is that it’s re-usable! So instead of the few hours you get out of a tampon or a (single-use) sanitary napkin, you get a few years (!) of use. Between 5 and 10 years! So I’ve read. I lost my first one after having had it for less than that, so I can’t tell yet.

1. I always have enough sanitary products – no matter where I am.
In Germany, Australia, the U-S and Canada (and more places!) it’s always easy to buy more tampons or pads when needed. Very different situation when I am cycling in rural Lao. Or even visiting friends in a city like Shanghai it’s not so easy to get tampons – even to a point where people who never had a period are aware of it. Imagine the look on the face of a (non-menstruating) friend who offered me some to take on my trip and I refused, explained I am very well aware that I probably won’t be able to get some soon but don’t need them. At this point I explained the cup to him.

2. It’s sooooo light and small!
It’s just a few grams. Like, nothing! WAY less than a small box of tampons!

3. I add less to land-fill.
In some parts of Cambodia there aren’t even any (public) toilets. There is no (good) system to deal with 20/21st-century waste like plastic-wrappings. Families just burn their own trash or collect it in a hole in the ground. So at this, I was really happy for every opportunity to add less to the land-fill and would have been at a loss at what to do with single-use sanitary products without (probably) offending or irritating someone.

4. It’s easy to dispose off.
To dispose off the blood in the mens-cup in these circumstances you can just dig a small hole for it which you cover afterwards. Also works if wild-camping in countries that do have public toilets for example but not close enough to where you are! But there is also the:

5. Lower frequency of having to empty it!
The mens-cup needs to be exchanged in a way lower frequency than tampons. This makes it a lot easier to find a nice place to do it.

6. It’s easy to keep it hygienic.
During the menses it’s good enough to rinse it with water or just wipe with a paper towel/tissue/toilet paper. In between, it should be in boiling water for a couple of minutes for hygienic reasons. So that’s about three weeks time to get to a place with a stove/microwave/kettle or you just do it on your camping stove if you carry one anyway. For storage – it just waits in the toiletry bag.

7. It’s better for my health!
Tampons and sanitary pads contain all kinds off chemicals and bleach. So a mens-cup is an easy way to avoid this! Plus, the production of tampons/pads is using up loads of resources. So I can easily avoid that at no extra hassle.

8. It saves a lot of money!
Even when living in a country that is so famous for it’s cheap toiletries (seriously! Drug stores started accepting wechat-pay which is so far pretty much only used in China because sooo many Chinese tourists spent huge amounts on toiletries to take home. The price of a tube of hand-creme is lower as in Cameroon!) the mens-cup is already saving me a load of money and saving even more of my budget when traveling!

9. … and time!
No need to look around for places selling tampons! Can focus all my energy on trying to find chocolate and pancakes instead!

Let me know what you think of the mens-cup and what advantages I might have forgotten about!