Cost: $40 ($32 on Groupon)
Money paid vs. Actual value: It was a fair price for services offered.
What: Spa World, a Korean Spa
When: January 23, 2019, 11am (time matters because according to yelp it can be unreasonably crowded on weekends).
Why: I am a lover of all things wellness and beauty and what is more "wellness and beauty" than a spa!
Before I get into the review of Spa World, I'd like to take a moment to give a little background on Korean spas:
What is a Korean Spa?
A Korean spa or jjimjilbang is a large gender-segregated bathhouse furnished with baths, saunas, and massage tables, spa services and more.
What are som of the features of a traditional Korean spa?
1. Poultice rooms (dry saunas that each serve different healing purposes)
2. Body Scrubs
3. Vaginal Steams
4. Hydrotherapy (also called Bade pools)
6. Fitness center
7. Massage therapy
What is so different about Korean spas?
(Note: I write this as an outsider and based on my research and my own experience, please do not hesitate to correct me if I am wrong or have misrepresented Korean spas in any way. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Korean spa culture is less focused on luxury and relaxation and more focused on socializing and healing. Korean spa time is for talking and spending same-gendered time with your friends. There are no fluffy robes and no people doting on you as you might find in a traditional American spa.
Unlike a body scrub at a day spa, the body scrub at a K-spa will happen alongside another woman, not in a private room, and as was the case in Spa World, only a few feet from where other women are bathing and showering and talking.
A final difference which might feel like culture shock is the nudity. The Bade pool or hydrotherapy aspect of the Korean spa (a large room with various pools of different temperatures and saunas) is a same-gendered space where everyone must be nude. Clothes/bathing suits are not an option I loved it but it is definitely something you should be prepared for.
My experience//My Review
Let's start with:
I only had two criticisms of Spa World.
1. The steam sauna in the Bade Pool area smelled very mildewy. Mold and mildew scares the crap out of me so I was not able to enjoy that room.
2. I didn't quite know what to do. I understand that the spa is culturally not FOR me. I understand that this is a space for Korean/Asian women and is culturally catered to that demographic. However, there were so many times I just didn't know what to do. Maybe I was overthinking it but is there a strategy for how to navigate the poultice rooms? Should I start with the coolest pool and then gradually go hotter? Or do I begin with the hottest pool and gradually get cooler? Is there a certain amount of time after which I should stop poulticing? I would have loved for some guidance. A pamphlet, a quick explanation, a sign? Literally ANYTHING!
Despite scathing yelp reviews, I like the no-frills approach to spa-going. It's nice to simplify the spa scene.
2. Poultice rooms
7-different rooms each with it's own healing properties: oak charcoal, red clay, amethyst gem, ice, Himalayan salt, red clay balls, blue onyx.
It was awesome to be in a space where all the women were in the nude and there were no men and no one cared. We women spend so much time obsessing over the imperfections of our bodies and it was so nice to just break that cycle and just be free.
4. Cultural immersion
Going to a Korean spa gave me that spike in serotonin I get when I go to a new country and get to learn and navigate a culture that is not my own. I was nervous about being disrespectful and excited to experience new traditions.
Final Verdict: I definitely recommend Spa World! For the health benefits, for the relaxations, and definitely for the experience. It's a social activity so consider doing what I did and go with your best friend; trust me, you don't know someone until you sit naked in ice water with them.
In all seriousness, Spa World is a really calm and different atmosphere. It's nice to be in a place that is a safe space for women (I definitely think we need more naked female-only spaces). It's also nice to be in place where health and wellness is treated as something normal and average and not a luxury. For forty dollars you can sweat, and soak, and breath your way to health.
My only regret is not getting a body scrub. My next visit I will be sure to let an old lady rub me down until you can see my skin from space.
I made the ultimate rookie mistake and did not properly hydrate after the spa. Your body loses so much water when you swim, sweat, sauna, steam, and soak. I woke up today feeling like I got hit by a truck. Please make better choices than me and make sure you double up on electrolytes and water after the spa.