On torture (or: What to expect from your bed in China.)

On torture (or: What to expect from your bed in China.)

I don’t think people quite comprehend what I mean when I say that beds in China (or at least all the beds I’ve had the misfortune of sleeping in) are hard. We’ll be making small talk, somehow the conversation will come round to beds (as it does) and I’d casually mention that beds in China are really, really hard. They’ll give me that raised eyebrow, skeptical, “uh huh” look and I can actually see them thinking “Bitch, please. I had to carry my 10mm thick mattress 10km every day when I was in the army and there was nothing but it between me and the ground at night. The ground!”. Okay, yes, but on the ground you probably had a thin layer of scuffed up dust to provide a bit of cushioning. If you haven’t slept on a Chinese bed then you do not know what a hard bed is. I’m not being a princess here people. A pea under a hundred mattresses would not bruise my well padded exterior. I am not a softy. But I’m talking about beds that are essentially a bit of soft filling, sandwiched between two wooden planks and held together with a thin layer of fabric. I don’t even really know what the padding is supposed to achieve, other than to sag a bit when you sit on the edge of the bed to tie your shoelaces. Jade pillows might have been lucky and a sign of wealth in days gone by, and hard beds touted as being good for your spine, but this is the 21st century and we have sports cars and chiropractors here for that.

So what can you do about this dilemma if you’re planning a long term trip to China? Here are a few things you can try:

1) Sleep on the floor for a few weeks before your arrival to prepare yourself for the onslaught on your body. Not a carpeted floor. Not a wood laminated floor with that spongy bit underneath that gives it a bit of spring. Those are too soft. Do you want to be a wussy or do you want to get your spine used to a Chinese bed?! Find a bit of concrete or some nice terracotta tiles and toughen the hell up.

2) Get a large person or a St. Bernhard to sit on your left arm and left leg until they go numb (your arm and leg, not the person or dog). Now remove them and then try to fall asleep with the resulting burning sensation as your blood flow returns to your extremities. The St. Bernhard in particular is a good choice if you can get a nice smelly one, because then you can start preparing your olfactory senses for the special onslaught they’ll be enduring on the city streets.

3) Get out a Twister board and put your right hand on green and your left foot on red. Now twist your spine around 180 degrees and put your left hand on blue and your right foot on yellow. Now hold this position for two hours. Attempt to unfurl yourself, and note how your body feels. Can you handle that? If yes, then welcome to China. If not, read on.

Memory foam mattress toppers are a worthwhile investment if you’re going to be in the country for an extended period. But starting at upwards of US$350 a piece (and too heavy to take back home with you), this is not really an option for medium term stays for those of us on a budget. Your best bet then is to do a bit of online shopping on sites such as www.jd.com or www.taobao.com. Visit the sites using Chrome with translation enabled, and you will be able to navigate your way around easily. The great thing about these sites is that you can pay COD (using either cash or a credit card), so there is no risk, even if you get it totally wrong and order a tea tray for delivery to a temple in Tibet. (There would be a risk to the store though, and probably a few confused monks, so try and get it right.) Items are delivered free of charge, to your door, within 24 hours. We found this padded mattress cover on jd.com for only US$25. Combined with an extra duvet or two under us (and a few sniggers and oi-those-crazy-white-people head shakes from housekeeping), our bed went from a torture device to downright almost comfortable with just a few clicks. Stick blender aside, it’s the best money we have spent in China!

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