Korean Spas: They’re Not Messing Around

I have always wanted to check out a Korean spa, but was hesitant because I feared they wouldn’t be user-friendly, as I hate being bad at things. Turns out my fears were totally justified

Raylan Givens

Raylan Givens.

But alas, I was ultimately lured in by the promise of a transcendent experience. Here is where best friend Ling & I ended up. Special thanks to spa-and-pretty-much-everything-else-savvy Erica  for the recommendation.

When we checked in, we were not offered a tour, so I had to ask for one. (Scowly face.) The attendant gave us the most cursory tour in the History Of Cursory Tours. She REALLY had something better to attend to.  It was like she had a Hot Pocket waiting for her that was at optimum eating temperature. I kept asking her questions as she inched away and I inched towards her. We were totally foxtrotting.

So we were basically left to figure things out on our own. (Key scary music.)

When we arrived at our lockers, Ling remarked that it reminded her of a prison, where everyone was milling about in the same uniform. Then the woman next to us said that this place was WAY better than a prison, trust her, she knew.

Oh shit.

Oh shit.

I quickly realized that when you enter the spa, you are no longer in America. You are in Korean Spa Country. And everyone is a native. Except you. 

WTF IS GOING ON?

There are signs stating that bathing suits are not allowed. I am not sure what happens if you wear one, but I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. 

Oh shit 2.

Oh shit 2.

So everyone, as a rule,  is completely naked. This place has more vaginas than The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Anyway, needless to say, within minutes of arriving I broke an enormous Spa Rule. 

There was a shallow, narrow body of water that ran along the side of the jacuzzis. It looked like a foot bath, so I asked Naked Stranger standing next to me what it was and for some reason heard, “Step right in and trudge around.”

BIG MISTAKE.

As soon as I stepped in, I heard a commotion. I looked up with wide eyes and was greeted by a sea of angry faces above the partition across the room.

Prairie dogs.

Yep, a sea of workers got all Angry Prairie-Dog on me, shrieking that I get out of the pool. Actually, I think that was what they were saying, but it was all in Angry Korean Language. 

Everyone in the spa stopped and stared at me. And trust me, it sucks to be yelled at by a bunch of angry clothed women when you’re naked.

I immediately deduced that I was standing in Holy Water blessed by the Pope, but apparently it was a pool of clean bath water. Bath water that you are supposed to sit beside and pour over you into a drain. Yeah, that was REALLY OBVIOUS to a gringo. It would have been really helpful if Hot Pocket had mentioned this during our tour.

Fucking Hot Pocket.

Fucking Hot Pocket.

Soon after, it was time for my nearly 2 hour Goddess Treatment. The treatments take place on what look exactly like dissection tables, with your naked neighbor directly across from you. And if you time it right, you can look directly up her hooch when it’s time for you to turn over. 

I was skeptical about my treatment for about 30 seconds. Then the technician, who most certainly is a Dominatrix Gymnast by night, scrubs you within an inch of your life, continuously pours warm water all over you, washes your hair, and massages you ferociously. The experience can only be described as The Best Thing Known To Mankind.

After our identical treatments, Ling & I sat and talked about the experience for about 20 minutes, with the hushed voices and glazed eyes and newly converted cult members. The Best Thing Known To Mankind.

I cannot recommend a visit to a Korean Spa highly enough. It’s weird and foreign and naked and perhaps questionably hygienic, but it’s also pretty transcendent. For $130, I lost my dignity, and about 2 pounds of dead skin. And gained an incredible sense of peace and balance. Consider me a convert.

Julie Townsend Maigret is a Los Angeles-based interior designer focused on creating distinct, modern, livable spaces for her clients. She started her business in 2007 after attending UCLA’s interior design program. She has since developed a portfolio of thoughtful, comfortable, and often quirky residential and commercial interiors.

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