I’ve started to look a bit like a shaggy dog, or maybe a slightly older member of a Northern ‘Madchester‘ band – my budget Bangkok haircut was well past its sell by date. It was time to get it cut.
Venturing out onto the street I picked a hairdresser’s with the least amount of neon on its façade. I’m not sure by what logic I decided on that, but hey, you’ve got to make a choice somehow.
The great thing about being in China and being a Westerner is everyone greets you like a celebrity. The hairdressers proved to be no exception. Within fifteen seconds of getting through the door everyone had come to meet me and I’d had several of those amusing exchanges where no one speaks each others language, but there is a shared exchange of smiles and friendship.
It did occur to me that trying to explain how I wanted my hair cut might be a little bit of an issue, but I reckoned I could probably gesticulate my way though it, or maybe say ‘Brad Pitt’ in a somewhat overly optimistic way.
I was ushered to a plush red upholstered chair and began trying to explain the concept of ‘clippers’ and ‘No. 3’ in my best mime fashion. I think my skill at charades have improved immeasurably after a month in China. Still, the results seem to fall on blind eyes, the young girl hovering behind me looked vaguely confused, but smiled anyway. I began to suspect I might be jumping the gun a little.
She then proceeded to swath me in towels and tip shampoo on my head. This I have to admit came as somewhat of a surprise. Traditionally washing your hair takes place somewhere within the vicinity of a sink.
Continuing with the shampoo, she dexterously added water to work up a lather until my whole head was a big foamy mass. I looked somewhat like an overgrown child at bath time. All this was miraculously achieved without the shampoo going everywhere. I have to say I was suitably impressed by the feat of manual dexterity.
Once fully lathered she began massaging my head. It’s bloody good when someone can do this properly I can tell you. After about fifteen minutes of this, by which point I had drifted off into some sort of shampoo induced ecstasy she pointed me in the direction of what appeared to be a bed with a sink at the end of it.
She then proceeded to give my hair the most thorough washing I think it’s ever had. I was rather hoping she might be able to scrub the grey bits out it was that thorough. To say it was squeaky clean is the understatement of the century, it sounded like a window cleaner squeegeeing a piece of glass.
By this point I was considering moving to Beijing permanently, or at least flying over for haircuts. After some thorough towel drying I was shown to yet another seat – of the reclining variety, where she set about massaging my arms and shoulders.
Suddenly, she appeared to stop. Half opening one eye from my blissed out state I caught her comparing her perfectly hairless arm with my moderately furry one. She giggled so I pulled my tee-shirt down to flash a bit of hairy chest. That solicited a scream followed by a fit of hysterics. Not exactly the reaction I’d hoped for, but hey, anything to provide a bit of free entertainment.
Turning me over she then started working on my back. By now I was beginning to think perhaps they’d misunderstood my request for a haircut and interpreted it as a massage instead. Then I remembered my hair was still wet. Well, had been wet, it was pretty much dry by now.
Just as I was giving up hope of ever seeing a pair of scissors, I was awoken from my massage-induced Zen state and escorted to yet another chair where the maestro of the scissors finally made his entrance.
He had, it has to be said, a very impressive cut. It looked somewhat like the sculptured plastic model that a Manga cartoon sports rather than anything the body would naturally produce. He set about my head with all the fervour of a Tasmanian devil, periodically showing me the tools of his trade. I nodded in vague approval, he seemed to know what he was doing.
After no time at all he’d whipped my head or rather my hair into shape. There was more washing, more screaming as the massage girl fondled my two day’s worth of beard, some frenzied drying with a hurricane force hairdryer and the job was proclaimed complete. I felt and looked about 10 years younger. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration.
The price for the world’s best haircut? 3 quid.