I recently planned a visit to a Korean day spa with my friend Hana. As we began our drive to New Jersey, she gave me a heads-up to the nudity factor but also told me that she picked the spa's superwoman to do all my buffing and massaging -- and was she ever right!
Hana explained how the bathing concept started in Korea, which, like in other countries, lack of a bathroom to bathe and shower brought communal bathing into the culture, from family tubs to individual ones, all of it is a social experience for cleansing.
The wellness aspect of the spa is also part of the lifestyle of the Koreans and the saunas are amazing; each sauna features different benefits, from alkaline infusion to crystal and salt.
Hana and I enter the locker room, and the experience begins...
Shoes must come off immediately because everything in the spa starts with cleanliness. The floors must be spotless for bare feet. We strip down and change into pink tee shirts and huge elastic-waist shorts.
There are co-ed spaces filled with people eating gorgeous fruit and healthy, authentic Korean food.
The surrounding furniture and decorations have a very eclectic Roman/Little Italy, crossed with Korean style, feel. IT all works for some strange reason because it feels as though you are nowhere in the USA.
Hana and I try all the saunas and net must go into the steam room to prepare for our scrubs and massages. First, we must remove all clothing in a huge open room and take showers to clean ourselves before entering the hot tub Jacuzzi. After the hot tub, we go into a cold whirlpool, then into the steam room. Each space has herbs and scents to enhance the experience -- I love them all!
The steam is fantastic, and from there we are brought to the massage tables. I think I am the only non-Asian woman until I see a curvaceous African-American woman (now we both have the largest breasts in the entire 17,000 square feet of the spa.) I am fine walking around nude, but clearly the majority of Asian women are blessed with thin hips, lean bodies and look in pretty good shape.
The masseuses are outfitted in black lace bras and black boy panties, their heads wrapped in plaid 1940's head wraps. I feel like I'm in an Italian Vogue photoshoot by any of our favorite fashion photogs. I lay face-up, nude, on one of many pink vinyl tables, in a cement shower room with huge tubs of water.
All of the steam and relaxation up to this point makes me feel as though I have been abducted onto an alien spaceship, and they are having their way with me. It is all very clinical, but the environment is like nothing I have seen before, or could imagine, and I am loving every minute of it.
As I lay on the pink massage table, my head is propped up on a wooden pillow and my masseuse places hot towels under my neck. She then begins to throw hotttt water on me which cools quickly, a surprise, but each time this happens I prepare myself, and it is refreshing. She overs her hands with loufah-type towels and starts to remove my self tanner tan, along with layers of dead skin. The scrubs are just hard enough without being too rough, and for an hour she scrubs everywhere!
Next, she rolls me over on one side, back to the other side, then pushes me to sit up, and then back down. The body scrubbing is fast and efficient, then my face is exfoliated with fast, but gentle, strokes. The rinse is next, so the masseuse leads me to rows of handheld showers. Thankfully, she helps me, since I am sinking further into a stupor, and then she helps me back into the steam room.
She returns 5 minutes alter to get me back onto the table. Oils smelling like jasmine, are quickly swept over my body, and I am flipped over and around easily as she massages every part of my body in every position imaginable. Now, I have had many massages prior to this, but never one that included my breasts, being massaged over and over again. I keep having thoughts like... is this a breast exam, is she kneading bread or am I having a massage? But it is all good. I'm so intoxicated by the experience, quite frankly, I feel transposed to another time, space, and location, and couldn't care less about anything.
The massage is fast and furious. She feels the tension in my neck, shoulders, and back. She massages me repeatedly, and places hot towels over my back and neck more than 12 times. When she reaches my "Physique 57" legs and butt, which feel stiff and achey, all I'm thinking is, wow.
After a facial massage, she applies a cucumber masque and it is magical... Then she's back to more neck and back massaging. She flips me around and, with all the oils, I slide easily on the hot pink vinyl table.
Within seconds my body is swirled around and I'm facing the water equipment wall. My black lace bra'd masseuse begins washing my hair and giving me a head massage. If it's possible, this is even better than the acupressure foot massage she gave me earlier. She washes my hair, puts in a conditioner, and after rinsing, wraps my hair in the most fab small plaid towel knot.
I am again showered off with the small hand-held showers, and off to get dressed. I am in a trance and feel like I am lost in some Ray Bradbury dream.
As I comb my hair, I see quite a few Russian women walking around the locker room in Victoria's Secret-type bras and panties, and looking very groomed. They are quite the contrast to the asian women, but I realize the baths are common for both cultures, despite their many differences.
Hana comes rolling out looking as drunk with pleasure as I am. "I'm starving," she says... I am thinking the same we head to the food area and eat up a storm. I have a bowl of Korean-style vegetables with rice, a seaweed soup and lots of sides of spicy veggies. Hana orders a soup made of stuffed Cornish hen which looks and smells terrific. She says it is their healing soup, used for wellness and health. It is home-cooked, healthy Korean food.
After starting our day at 5 PM, we walk out just after 9 PM. The entire experience has been amazing!!
I can't believe someone hasn't taken this experience and Westernized it for spa hotels. It is so modern in its ancient timeless perfection.