Saturday, May 15, 2010

Korean Bath House

Yesterday I visited the Korean Bath House for a treatment called “Full Body Care”, it is wonderful but not what most of us are used to.

The full body care consists of a 30 minute scrub and a 40 minute massage. I am doing this to make sure my skin is smooth and completely exfoliated before I get my spray tan on Friday.

Here is how they describe it in their brochure:

Body Scrub methods are imported skills from Korea, its exfoliation service. Body scrub treatment sterilizes and removes dead flaky skin leaving you fresh, clean, smooth skin. It’s totally provide relaxed and revitalized feelings.
Full body care is the combination service of Scrub and Massage, this service is provide in the Spa area, it’s most highly recommended service in our Spa.
Acupressure Massage is the method of applies pressure to certain meridian points on the body that relieve tension and relaxing tight muscles and body pains. It’s traditional art of Asian deep tissue massage

Ok, but here is the deal from my perspective:

I enter the health center located in an old run town strip mall; I have been here before so I am familiar with the place.

The man at the counter looks at me and asks if I want a “strong woman” I said “yes, the stronger the better”. I pay my fee ($80.00) and he hands me a locker key, a very thin robe and three small towels about the size of hand towels. There are toothbrushes at the counter if you want one.

Women enter into one door and men another; they will be separated the entire time. You leave your shoes in a cubby area and must walk barefoot the rest of your stay (except when using the toilet, there are some slippers to use at the door, you remove them and leave them at the entrance of the toilet as you leave).

Find your locker, take off all your clothes and put on your robe. Off down the hall the to communal “bathing area”, you enter the glass doors and off goes the robe for the rest of the stay. There are more cubbies for your towels and robe.

First protocol is to shower. Many women come here and spend the day with kids, family and friends; it’s only $20.00 for a day use. You can use one of three open western showers or there are 8 bench showers with a hand held shower head. All stations have shampoo, rinse, soap and buckets. Most women plop down at a bench and start scrubbing; they have their own shower caddies they keep there. They will turn and scrub each other, laughing and chatting the whole time. Kids and mothers, grandmothers, everyone is naked and getting clean and having a great time away from men and worries. People do not speak in whispers, they laugh and greet each other and are right at home.

I use the open western shower. After cleaning thoroughly I take in my options. There is the huge “warm” spa, the small “hot” spa and the medium “cool” spa with the nonstop shower of water plunging down from the ceiling.

I know from experience that the hot spa is way too hot for me, so into the warm one I go, and float a while, I attempt the hot spa and scald my feet, three times, nope; it’s still as hot as it was last time.

I decide to use the wet steam instead of the dry sauna as the sauna is quite crowded already. The wet steam room is cavernous and the walls are covered in large river rock. There is a huge dish of some dried herb on the tray where the steam emerges and I believe it is wormwood, it smells wonderful and earthy.

The steam pours in so hot and strong that I am dripping in sweat and cannot see two feet to my side, time to exit to the cool spa. There are buckets around the edges; you should rinse the sweat off your body with the water from the spa before getting in. The cool spa is so cold it takes my breath away; I quickly slip under the water shower and back out to the warm spa.

Time for my Full Body Care. There are four therapists and they all wear black lace bra and panties, I am not sure why but that is the traditional uniform. There are four massage tables and I am instructed to lay down face up on one.

She starts by donning little yellow rough mitts, and starts to scrub very briskly over my entire body. Think of how rough a cat’s tongue is, and then imagine a 250 pound Bengal tiger’s tongue licking you all over, it feels like sandpaper. She twists and turns me, the thick dead skin starts to spill over onto the table, piling up all over, it’s disgusting. She flips me on my stomach, same thing, on my left, on my right, getting every inch of my body.

Periodically she rinses me with a large basin filled with hot water; it stings because I am missing so much skin…

When she has completely scrubbed off three layers of skin and rinsed me, she does the whole thing over again just to be sure. She then does it again but this time with a strong smelling soap, more rinsing and swishing.

Now a face mask is applied, and a light gauze over the face with another mask painted on, my hair tied up and she starts the massage.

I am coated in baby oil, slippery like a seal, I am afraid I will slide right off the table. The technicians all laugh and joke, loud guffaw’s periodically as they tell jokes and belly laugh.

She asks if I am from a farm, I have no idea what to say except “no, I am not from a farm”, then she says I am so big and strong with lot's of muscles....“Ah “ I tell her I am a bodybuilder and she understands and shouts something and they all laugh.

The massage is a kind that is a combination of kneading, cupping and pressure, some pressure is so strong feel I might cry. My shoulders are extremely sore and tight so she keeps telling me to relax, I am trying but it hurts! She says I need acupuncture for my tight shoulders. I think I just need to stop those 185 pound RDL’s for a while….

She shouts “relax” and slaps my bare butt.

She flips me on my stomach and tries to get at my shoulders, using hot towels and pressure, kneading so deep. I am wincing in pain when she hops on the table, straddles me and holds one of my feet down with hers, and starts pounding in my shoulders saying “you have a problem!, You have a problem”…I am starting to think I am in a James Bond movie and I am about to be murdered…

She stands me up, uses a hand held shower to rinse me again, the makes me sit up and she slaps a hot towel over my shoulders and continues to pound with her fists! It’s starting to feel good….

Back down, she cleans off my face, washes my hair and sends me off….

My skin is like the day I was born, smooth and silky. My shoulders are still tight but I think after my competition I won’t be so stressed.

I wander to the quiet relaxation room, a large room with a huge heated marble slab topped with thin blankets (see the picture above). I grab a neck rest and lay down, with my robe on and doze for a moment, I am done.

I leave, drive home thinking about lunch, I am starved. Then I am meeting “R” by the pool at the club, we will chat about weightlifting and food, a nice relaxing day even if I did get beat up…literally!

Try it sometime, you can find Korean Bath Houses in most large cities.

Lawrence Health Spa
3345 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA. 95051

Ask for Sue if you want a "strong" woman!