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My first venture to an authentic Korean spa was years in the making. I had a conversation with one of the lovely ladies at Town Nails in Riverside, CT close to seven years ago about what she was planning on doing for her day off. She explained she was going to the Spa for pretty much the day!? Hmm, I am instantly jealous and intrigued; picturing an entire day spent being scrubbed and massaged to some relaxing music with loads of lemon water and almonds. I then think to myself…wow, I should get my license in nails, entire day in spa = lots of $. The lovely lady goes on to tell me that it is a local spa where many of her friends go (what!) to relax and detox (now I’m really listening) by taking steams, soaking in hot tubs, hitting the sauna then getting a scrub, a massage or a facial. Well straighten my hair and call me Hei Ryung, I’m going to beauty school!
Cut to scene seven years later, it turns out I was completely in the dark. Korean style spas have been in America for a long time and have, obviously, been very popular amongst the Korean/American population. They vary in size and style. One thing for sure is that they are not for Koreans-only and they are gaining in popularity. On a recent trip to LA with my 18-year-old son and six of his buddies, (another story for a different day) I was encouraged by my partners at TLV and Tracy Schmidt, a good friend who just knows these things, to check out the Olympic Spa on Wilshire.
Being that I am a mature woman (eesshhh), I am not at all insecure about going it alone. It also doesn’t hurt that I traveled 6 hours by plane and the odds of me knowing anyone here are slim to none. I enter the spa and pay for my “Goddess Treatment” which includes a Korean body scrub (hurts so good) an incredible body massage, an oil scalp massage and conditioning treatment for hair, a mini-facial then a deep body conditioning topper. All this for the unbelievable price of… wait for it … $130! I sprint to my locker to change and am asked to shower (more than once) by the cute girl that shows me around. I change into my robe and realize, with not a little dread, that I have not gotten a bikini wax in some time. Uh oh, mature lady façade goes out the window, cue teenager with her first locker room experience. I slink to the shower area to rinse off and soon realize that my concern about hair down there was all for nothing. The +30’s were a mixed bag, who were slightly or very hairy. The -30’s had absolutely no hair but made up for it in ink. Have I missed some Darwinian evolution over the last generation? Having only boys, how would I know?
Anyway, back to the spa, after showering I decide to use the ladies room. Upon entering my very spacious stall I realize it’s outfitted with a Japanese toilet. Hmm, I have heard about these but have never had the opportunity to use one. Brief overview – these toilets are high tech! They have options for heated seat, options for front and/or rear cleansing with customizable water pressure. Intriguing… I decide to check out both options for reporting purposes and quickly realize a girl could forget why she came in here in the first place! I had a little trouble finding the stop button, it was all a bit distracting, but to be honest I have never felt so tidy in my life.
After exiting the ladies room, a little red-faced, I soak in the Mugwort tea bath, take a steam, pop in the cold plunge and then hit the “Jade” Room – where I promptly fall asleep. I’m awakened by a woman about my age, calling my number. She is dressed in a black bra and undies. Apparently all the technicians wear this “uniform” which actually makes loads of sense once you see the treatment space. I follow her into a large room filled with separate “stalls” where no less than 20 women are receiving various treatments. (Think Loehmann’s dressing room.) One important word of advice: Keep your gaze down! or you may catch a peek of your neighbor’s nether region that will be forever emblazoned in your memory. So, I make myself comfortable and proceed to experience the most blissful 2 hours of my life. My scantily clad technician taps me on my shoulder when I need to roll over. The treatment is effortless and there is no need to get up to shower as they have hoses at each station. When the scrub is done they just wash you off with warm water right on the table. I get the sense that this is a finely tuned operation and have to applaud the brilliant call on the underwear uniform. I’m so sad when my treatment is over, but no doubt I do feel like a goddess. I head back to my locker to change and begrudgingly prepare to head back to my hotel, sneaking one more trip to the ladies room before I go! 🙂
Good news! There are quite a few Korean style spa’s in the Fairfield/Westchester County area. We will check it out this fall and get back to you all with update. Can you say “Girl’s Night?”