Photo Credit: Peter on Yelp
The day after Christmas I visited the King Spa & Sauna on Royal Lane. It’s a Korean jjimjilbang with spa services, sauna rooms, a movie theatre, Korean cafe, and an indoor water park. Swim up bar! Free Wifi! Yes please! I’d heard of this place years ago but never made the effort to try it out. It’s far away, requires most of a day and you get naked in front of strangers. I’m a pretty adventurous person but the whole nudie in front of others thing was something I wasn’t sure I could do. Turns out I had no reason to fear.
When you arrive you’re handed a spa uniform and plastic bracelet that has your locker key. You use this bracelet to purchase everything in the spa (treatments, food, drinks, sundries) and from then on will be referred to as your locker number by all staff. No free hugs here. A brief review of Yelp reviews will inform you the staff is quite brusque. Don’t let this deter you. But if you’re in the mood to be pampered by others choose another place. There are essentially 4 different sections to the place: locker room, “dry area” (containing saunas, cafe, movie theatre and lounge), water park, and odd upstairs areas with bars, nail salons and more lounge spaces with comfy reclining chairs, TVs and fountains. It’s almost too much to go into. The place is huge.
The locker rooms are segregated by gender and the only area where clothing is optional. It was exceptionally clean and contains showers, hot tubs/whirlpools, wet sauna, cold plunge pools, and other more traditional locker room amenities. You can wear a swimsuit and look incredibly uncomfortable as you cower in the corner (I spotted a few terrified young women but not many) or you can get over it and have the best, most relaxing time you’ve ever had. They also have a select number of spa services in this area. A friend who accompanied me convinced me to try a body scrub & massage combo. It was quite an experience and I will only recommend this to the adventuresome.
It goes like this: You arrive at the check in counter in the women’s locker room where a bored looking woman gives you minimal instructions that I interpreted as take a shower and wait in the whirlpool for your number to be called. Not long after settling into the whirlpool an excited looking, petite woman, who is in the middle of brushing her teeth starts shouting something that sounds like my number. After noticing me look over she runs to me and grabs my wrist to inspect my locker key. After confirming I am who she needs me to be I am lead behind a half wall next to the whirlpool that has Simpsons characters etched in the glass along the top. Yes. For real. The toothbrush is still in her mouth. Behind the Simpsons half wall is a row of tables, each about 6 feet apart, each with a naked woman, all in the midst of various treatments. Good thing I got over my modesty issues earlier. Along the back wall are various bottles of creams, towels and a sign over each station. I learn my massuse’s name, Candy.
Candy dumps a bucket of water on me (produced from a large plastic garbage bin with a spigot over it) and immediately begins to scrub all of the skin off of my body with sandpaper mitts. This wasn’t a spa experience I was used to. There was no calming music or gentle touch. There was a vigorous pace and pressure that was maintained for the entire hour and a half. When the scrub is completed you have a few seconds to realize what has happened and see your skin all over the table. This would have been unsettling and a bit gross if I had time to process it. About the time you figure out what you’ve seen another bucket of water is dumped on you and it’s time to shower.
After your shower the massage portion of the treatment begins. It must have been an acupressure technique because it hurt pretty damn bad. In rapid fire she’s crawling all over me and digging elbows in my back and I’m doing my best not to squeal in pain. Candy and I had established a level of trust the moment she pulled me behind that wall but I truly felt she knew what she was doing. She seemed to find knots I didn’t know existed and was able to work out kinks in under a minute before moving on to drive her entire body weight into another vertebrae. Through the pain I believed it was for my own good.
A mask is applied to your face while more body pounding happens and finally your scalp is scrubbed clean and a conditioner is applied. Your head is wrapped in a towel and you’re lifted up and pulled off the table to a standing position in one swift motion. TAH-DAH! I start stammer a thank you when Candy grabs me by the wrist and pulls me back into the locker room and back to the counter where I’m handed a coupon for free admission to the spa and Candy disappears. I assume she’s off to snatch another woman out of the whirlpool and begin again.
While the experience was a bit disorienting I give it high marks and would even consider doing it again. A body scrub, massage and facial for $120? This is a better deal than anything I’ve run across to date. Less adventurous? Just try one of the million other things to do there that don’t involve public nudity and physical pain.