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Het Gooi consists of a few villages and towns surrounded by huge nature reserves of heather and woods, "The Gooimeer" --formerly the open 'Zuiderzee' and closed by a dyke in 1932, and the famous man-made lakes of Loosdrechtse Plassen.

From the cobbled streets of the medieval fortress of NaardenVesting to the bustling town of Hilversum, home of Dutch television and media, you can cycle through the picturesque villages of Laren and Blaricum along well-marked cycle paths. The Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan (also spelled Mondrian) lived in Laren, where artists and art connoisseurs alike still visit the world famous Singer Museum.

Het Gooi is served by train stations at Naarden-Bussum, Bussum Zuid, Hilversum Noord/Media Park, Hilversum Central, and Hilversum Sportpark, in that order from central Amsterdam to Utrecht. Check the Dutch train website (also in English) for fares and schedule.

Bon Journal

Chinese beauty treatment in the Netherlands

Why do some Chinese women look younger than Western women their age? What is their secret? Does it lie in their natural skin or what they eat?

The secret to having youthful skin lies in something called the Chinese jade facial treatment, as I discovered a year ago.

To share this secret is to tell you about my friendship with Mei Mei Zhu, or rather, Mei Mei van der Linden Zhu, who holds the key to staying young and beautiful. We're the same age but she looks ten years younger because she has been practising the jade stick treatment.

I met Mei Mei in Spring of 2005, in Bussum a village of 37,000 in the famous area of Gooi (or the Gooi, Het Gooi or 't Hooi) east of Amsterdam. Her Mandarin sounded familiar to me because she came from the same region of China as my father. As we were at a similar stage in our lives and both minorities in this affluent Dutch neighbourhood, we became friends very quickly.

Before settling down in Holland, I often treated myself to facials and related beauty care while working full-time. It began in Singapore where the beauty parlours competed fiercely for foreign clients. As I had often travelled out of London, I began to visit spas in different hotels, eventually settling for a regular facial and massage service in Houston.

I had considered facials and associated beauty treatments a luxury only affordable by those with a full-time salary. Thus it was a surprise when Mei Mei offered to give me a facial. I can't remember how it began --- perhaps with a conversation on how I cared for my skin. Or perhaps she wanted to share her beauty philosophy or give me a present for a special occasion.

Whatever the beginnings, I recalled that she used two smooth sticks to press on my face. I had never experienced anything like that before. She took great care while we chatted in Mandarin. The next few days my face shone.

Mei Mei offered to treat my face for my wedding day. I requested that she also treat my mother and maid-of-honour. They also felt something different --- a kind of electricity on their faces? Had there been more time, I would have asked her to treat all my girl friends.

When I lie on the couch with my eyes closed and my hair wrapped in a towel and Mei Mei's soothing voice telling me whether my skin has improved or not while her gentle hands cleanse my skin, I finally relax and look forward to feeling young again. For truly the next day I see the results. She has also taught me to take better care of my skin.

A woman deserves to be pampered now and then. When you visit a beauty parlour, you are one in a queue of people. What Mei Mei offers is a home visit --- much more enjoyable and affordable, especially in Holland where the Dutch consider their homes "gezellig" [pronounced he-zel-li-he meaning cosy.] Gezellig is the epitome of the ideal and optimal living situation --- the nirvana for the Dutch.

Does anyone else in Holland offer such beauty treatment in the home? Does anyone else offer Chinese jade stick facials? I don't think so, for jade is priceless. And so is Mei Mei.

1 March 2007

Related links:
Chinese beauty treatment site English
in Dutch:
Mei Mei Linden Zhu
Correction at 20 March 2007:
Mei Mei Zhu or Mei Mei van der Linden Zhu should be spelled as MeiMei, with no space between. Apologies.
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page. See her publication list for more.
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