My various workplaces gave me three days off for the holiday, so my father-in-law-to-be-or-whatever-I-count-him-as invited us to spend the weekend in Tongzhou. As usual we spent a day in the spa next-door – a giant, square faux-roman building which offers a sauna, pool, three meals and somewhere to kip for the very reasonable price of five quid. The sauna is the main point of the place, of course. Taking my clothes off in front of thirty or so Chinese men was embarrassing the first time, but the fear factor has absolutely worn off now. The staff all say “Sabadeeka” to you and bow whenever you walk past. Presumably the idea is to dispel with servitude the fundamental ridiculousness of naked men walking around. Whatever the reason, I wish they’d stop trying to help me. Aside from that, and the sauna temperature being unpredictable, it’s pretty good.
The food could be ok if V’s family didn’t insist on getting piles of shellfish and obscure cuts of offal for me to dig through. I tend to get a plate of fried rice and boneless meat, which nobody else will touch. The only thing we both agree on has turned out to be shark fin soup, which I can neither eat nor convincingly presuade others not to. Generally I survive on dim sum and fruit, which is actually somewhere around delicious.
On Saturday we actually slept there too. The sleeping part is easy, there are rows and rows of comfortable reclining chairs. The only tricky part is trying to stop anyone taking V’s chair while she goes off for an hour. There’s also a 4th floor which I’ve never been to. Presumably there are also beds there, but what goes on in those beds? I mean, I know very well, but we don’t talk about it.
The rest of the weekend we hung out at V’s parents’. They’re nice, funny people, but they do tend to communicate with each-other by shouting from opposite ends of the flat – not to argue, just to conduct even the most mundane of conversations. I ate, went on the internet and took xiaobei (the dog) for a few walks round the block. It wasn’t the most exciting weekend of all time, but nevertheless it was good to take a few days’ break from my currently ridiculous schedule.

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