Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Korean Spa Adventure, part two

I quickly learned that my therapist spoke very little English. We rounded the partition that separated the massage tables from the rest of the spa area and she instructed me to "face up." So I lay on the massage table (it was not covered in a sheet or anything), and she went to work on my body scrub.

And boy did she scrub.  She wore these little exfoliating mitts, and I  am not exaggerating when I say that she scrubbed every single exterior part of my body (but, no, she didn't scrub there). She scrubbed and scrubbed, and then stopped to pour bucket after bucket of warm water over me to rinse. I turned to one side, and she scrubbed and doused me with water, I turned to the other side and finally my back, and she scrubbed violently.

I can only describe it as a medical experience. She worked with great tenacity and resolve. Was it weird?  Sure.  But after a minute or two it was just a spa treatment.  Since I left there I am still marveling at how incredibly smooth my skin is. Even those pesky, itchy winter rough patches have vanished. Having the buckets of water poured over me was heavenly. In all of its awkwardness, that body scrub left me with amazing results.

When I was fully scrubbed, she cupped my hand and gave me some Olay face wash, and then instructed me to shower with soap. I complied.

When I returned to the table, I started out face up once again, and she began my massage. She worked my arms, legs, hips, etc. However, the massage also included some acupressure on my hands, head, and feet, and she manipulated my arms and legs to stretch my muscles as well as massage them. When I turned onto my stomach she covered my entire body with steaming hot towels and continued to work in the same fashion. She found each knot in my back and neck and worked until it was completely gone.

The only truly odd part about the massage was when I realized that the therapist was on the table. I was in that nirvana of the middle of a great massage where you're not asleep but you're too relaxed to care even if the building explodes, so I don't think I noticed at first. Is she on the table?  Why would she be on the table?  What is about to happen?  And just as I asked myself the last question she began working my lower back and glutes with her knees. She was a tiny, tiny person, and I'm not going to lie, it felt so good.

I thought the treatment was over, but there was still much more. She asked if I was allergic to cucumber, and then grated one in front of me and covered my entire face with it. Then, she wrapped my hair in a warm towel and my whole face in what seemed like cheesecloth. I thought for a moment that I couldn't handle having my face covered tightly in this way, but once I confirmed that I could see everything and breathe easily through both my mouth and nose, I relaxed again. While my face cucumbered, she pretty much repeated my entire massage with less intensity. It was like a mini-massage now that all of my knots were worked out and muscles were stretched.

She removed the mask, and I was about to thank her when I received one more set of instructions. She needed me to move my head all the way to the end of the table so she could wash my hair. No kidding. If you've known me long you've probably heard me say that if I were independently wealthy I would probably pay someone to come to my house every day just to wash my hair because it is the most relaxing thing I can think of, so this was a fantastic and unexpected treat.

I'm sure you're wondering how much this grand treatment set us back, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer. It was a whopping $85 including tip. I've paid more (twice that perhaps?  I'll never tell because that would just be embarrassing) for mediocre massages in fancy hotels.

I showered again, quickly this time, and put on my pink shirt and shorts uniform and went out into the common area to meet Trey, hoping that his massage was as awesome as mine. Of the two of us, Trey is the more modest, so I was a little concerned about how he viewed the experience.

He looked a little drunk in his gray shirt and shorts uniform, like he'd been sleeping for hours, and he confirmed that his massage, body scrub, and spa were almost identical in their strangeness and amazingness.

The room just outside the mens' and women's spa areas is enormous. The center of the room is lined with plush, cushiony chairs and couches, and people sat here and there reading books, enjoying hot tea, and visiting with one another. Directly to the right is the Korean restaurant located in the spa, and there people ate (there was a dining area with tables and chairs), and placed their orders from the expansive menu written in Korean but with detailed English descriptions of each dish.

Past the restaurant and sitting areas, there is row after row of recliners and ottomans, probably 75 of them. They all face a projection television screen that played one of the bowl games going on that day. Here people watched tv, slept, read, and visited with one another. I assume that this is where you would sleep should you choose to take advantage of the spa's 24-hour services.

There were many unique rooms whose doorways lined the walls. I'm going to answer the question I know you all want to ask - all of these rooms were co-ed and everyone was fully clothed in their uniforms. In each of these rooms you could choose a bamboo mat and sit or lie down for as long as you liked. Here's a list of the rooms (I cheated and used the web site so that I didn't leave anything out):

  • The Fire Sudatorium: made from "living" rocks and kept at such a high temperature that a staff member monitors the entry and exit so that no one stays in there too long. Trey made it about a minute, but I could stand it a little longer.
  • The Pyramid Room: shaped like a pyramid on the inside and coated in gold in order to purify and send healing energy.
  • The Salt Room: made from 350 million year old salt rocks
  • The Ice Room: kept quite cold and meant to lower body temperature and increase circulation
  • The Bul Ga Ma: made with elvan stones that release infrared rays and positive and negative ions. Blocks in the room are heated to 800 degrees.
  • The Charcoal Room: made with yellow soil and natural charcoal and heated
  • The Yellow Soil Crystal Room: made with pure yellow soil and crystal and heated using a yellow soil furnace
  • The Oxygen Room: made from a special wood that releases phytoncide (I think?) so that you can "breathe in the forest"
  • The Aromatherapy Room: with aromatherapy that calms and focuses the mind
  • The Amethyst Room: made with walls of amethyst
  • The Base Rock Room: made with slabs of Siraka rock imported from Japan to enhances metabolism

In addition, the spa has a playroom for children (think play area at McDonalds), a karaoke room, and movie theater that continually shows movies in case you just want to kick back and watch a flick. I was shocked at everything they managed to include in just one facility.

After we met up, Trey and I shared a delicious meal from the restaurant - teryaki chicken, steamed rice, dumplings, miso soup, and tempura vegetables. Then we explored every single room in the place, and then we agreed to spend a little more time in the spa pools area before leaving for home. All in all, I think we spent around six hours there, and if we hadn't had to drive back to College Station I think we could have spent many more.

Several things surprised me about the place. There were clearly families spending the day together there - Asian and non-Asian. Parents and their teenagers, grandparents and their small grandchildren, and people of all races, ages and sizes. As the day progressed, groups of girlfriends came in to relax and hang out, too. Also, the place was immaculate. There were employees constantly cleaning, and I never saw anything less than perfectly tidy.

I know it sounds crazy, and some of you are still wondering what on earth we were thinking and how could we ever be comfortable in a place like this. Some of you, just from my description, probably still think that there's something creepy going on there. But there's not. It's a nice, family, relaxing place. Further, I could have been convinced that I was in another country.

The hippie in me came out a time or two. I wondered what American girls' perceptions of their bodies would be like if places like this were normal. Would we all be so hyper-critical of every sag and wrinkle if we were used to the fact that everyone looks different but ultimately it doesn't matter?  I also really loved that everyone had the same comfy uniform. There were no rolexes or $900 shoes -- everyone was on the same level in their uniforms, and I swear it made people friendlier and more comfortable.

Don't worry. I'm not packing up to move to a commune anytime soon. I did, however, really enjoy my relaxing anniversary adventure, and all for around $210 (two body scrubs, two massages, two admission fees, and lunch).  Trey enjoyed himself, too.

I guess you can already tell that I highly recommend the King Spa, but I also highly recommend being married for 10 years to your best friend who will gladly take random adventures with you. Happy anniversary, Trey!

King Spa and Sauna


Erin S said...

Okay. I'm in. Can we go tomorrow?

- said...

What Erin said. Again.

StormyHickman said...

I would love to go back tomorrow and the next day and the next. It was awesome. You can buy a membership and go whenever you want, but that seems impractical since it's 3 hours away.

April said...

Sounds like we need a GIRL TRIP!!! I want to go!!! I could use some buckets of hot water poured over me right now - that sounded amazing.

Jackie said...

Ok, so now that I'm caught up...I have to say what you describe totally reminds me of the hammam I had in Tunisia in 2004 and more recently in Cordoba, Spain last summer. If you do decide to go on a group girls' trip, I'm definitely in!