Naked As the Day You Were Born
A few weekends ago, I hung out with my best friends.
It was weird, yes, for a little while. But then I got used to it. Enjoyed it, even.
For all those not yet introduced to how Korean spas work, know that you’re naked. The whole time. Swimsuits are not even an option. And yeah, you’ve got a tiny towel—and sometimes a robe—but it’s only a nuisance as the experience goes on.
If you’re looking for an ultra-cushy, ultra-pricey spa day, go to Burke Williams. But for $70, you can test out the ultimate Korean spa package, complete with scrub, face mask and massage.
When you first arrive, you’re separated by gender, and you strip down and change into nothing but a pair of rubber flip-flops (for those squeamish about communal footwear, feel free to bring your own). Next, you soap down and wash your hair . . . next to tons of other ladies doing the same thing. Naked. On a stool. This is where the initial giggle fits usually happen.
After that, you get to relax—naked still—in a series of jacuzzis (cold and warm dip, the latter of which is recommended prior to your scrub to open up the pores) and partake at your own will of a number of amenities available until it’s time for your appointment. There’s the salt room, where you can hang out and exfoliate yourself with all the other naked ladies. There’s also a steam sauna and a dry sauna.
And then you hear it: An older Korean lady calls out the number you were assigned when you prepaid for your spa day. She’ll be wearing a pair of panties and a bra. And she’ll look a whole lot like your friend’s grandmother. She tells you to lay face-down on a plastic-lined table. Using a special exfoliation “mitt” of sorts, she then scrubs every inch of you, resulting in rolls and rolls of disgusting, dead gray skin falling onto the table around you. It’s weird, yeah, especially considering the fact there are other naked gals around you getting the same thing done. But it feels good once you get past that. (Or, you know, once she stops scrubbing your ass.)
After the scrubdown, you enter the massage portion of the treatment. Using oil, she’ll start rubbing you down—and this isn’t the gentle prodding with aromatherapy you’ll find at fancypants spas. Unless you request otherwise, you’re in for something comparable to a deep-tissue massage. To finish up, the attendant will then shampoo and condition your hair, apply a cucumber facial mask, and then rinse you off with rice milk.
She thanks you and sends your naked self on your way.
The whole process takes about 90 minutes, and you’re more than welcome to continue using the amenities afterward.
It’s a completely amazing experience that is commonplace in Korean society (and even Koreatown in Los Angeles!). You’ll feel squeaky-clean, baby-soft and, actually, almost reborn.
Oh, and about that naked thing: No one else at the spa is exactly supermodel material, either. There’s the old, young, overweight, underweight—body types of all kinds. No need to feel shy. Or shameful.
Giggling at the sight of your friends’ boobs is okay, though.
Imperial Health Spa, 8251 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 530-0055. By appointment only.
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