Tucked away in an ordinary-looking building in Thibault Square, right in the heart of the city of Cape Town, lies a haven for tired feet. Literally. Happy Feet is ‘the first Chinese traditional medicine foot massage shop in South Africa’. With a cheery logo of a bright yellow foot with a smiley face, and a completely unpretentious website (ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS, BUT THEY’RE NOT REALLY SHOUTING AT YOU), this is as authentic as it gets.
Walking into their building, you follow the happy yellow feet up a few flights of stairs to what you can only anticipate will be a grotty little shop. Not so! The interior is lavish and dimly lit, with Chinese parasols and small fountains decorating the spacious lounge, and two comfortable treatment rooms. I’ve only ever been for the 45 minute Classic Happy Feet treatment because it’s so perfect I’ve never had to choose another option.
The Chinese (real Chinese, as in hardly any English) therapists lead you to one of the giant chairs, offer you ginger tea, and ask you to put your feet in a tub of hot water with strange round knobs on the base. Apparently this detoxifies the feet, but that’s information gleaned solely from those who have been in the client’s chair because, as I said before, there’s no English spoken. This is actually delightfully refreshing – no need to make small talk or feel bad about the fact that you really just want to sit back and relax. You can unwind with a magazine or close your eyes with no fear of offending the therapist.
The next stage in the treatment is a 10 minute head and neck massage where they force any knots out of your muscles and make you feel as if you’ve been given a new head and neck. And then there are a blissful 35 minutes of foot massage, working on all the pressure points and kneading, massaging and rubbing your feet till they feel soft, relaxed and simply wonderful. Apparently this is a Chinese traditional medicine foot massage, an ancient medicine that dates back more than 2000 years in China. I can quite happily believe that.
So what good does a foot massage do, other than relaxation? According to the Happy Feet website, an enormous amount. Your head will become clearer, your endocrine system will be enhanced, your body defence will raise, your body’s nervous state (?) will be dispelled, your body and spirit will relax, your blood fat will be balanced (is this referring to cholesterol?) and sleeplessness and stomach trouble will be relieved. Magical!
Mostly, though, it is a deeply relaxing and wonderful way to spend an hour. I don’t think anyone actually walks out of Happy Feet: they float.