Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Korean Bath House

I am a person steeped in rituals. Oh not the weird kind, but I suppose a lot of people would find this one weird, in fact, I know those out there who are a bit more conservative certainly will.

Saturday morning I went to the Korean Bath house, and the actual name of the business is Lawrence Health Center. I go here a week prior to every competition. Why? It is important to exfoliate very thoroughly so the spray tan goes on even and looks good. All that dead nasty skin needs to come off! 

The bath house has a cold spa, hot spa (waaaaay to hot for me), warm spa, dry sauna, steam sauna, therapy room, relaxation room, beauty salon and small eating and resting area outside the locker rooms.

Men and women come here to bathe and socialize. Good, clean, healthy fun. You start off by paying your fee. You can come for the day, as long as you like for only $20.00; or you can do what I do and pay for Full Body Care for $80.00, this lasts 1 hour and 10 minutes. The brochure say this about the Full Body Care:

Full Body Care is the combination service of Scrub and Massage, this service is provided in the spa area, it's most highly recommended service in our spa.

Body scrub methods are imported skills from Korea, it's 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.

Acupressure Massage is 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.

After paying my fee I was handed three small hand towels, a toothbrush and a robe and locker key, off I go to the women's section. I leave my shoes in the cubby, I wore flip flops no one will take them.

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I find my locker and a woman comes to take my ticket showing I paid for a service.  Everything is sparkling clean, everyone is barefoot (well, naked actually) and the floors are smooth and clean. I trot off to the bathroom first, they have crocs by the doors to wear in the toilet area.

Then to the communal bathing room where I stash my little towels and robe in a cubby and start in on the process. There are standing western style showers , three of them. Then a whole row of small stools and hand held shower heads with mirrors in front. Most of the women plop down on a stool and start scrubbing and cleaning and chatting the whole time. They scrub themselves, they scrub each other.

I use the standing shower and clean well, washing my hair with their products. The soap is a big round green ball, smells strong to me.

A big sign says "Keep Quiet" and everyone is laughing, shouting and having fun, no one whispers or pays attention to the sign. You need to talk loudly to be heard over the splashing of the water in the cold spa, a huge waterfall is constantly pounding down a shower of icy cold water.

I won't be enjoying this long, I really don't want to stay in the steam and lose water right now, so I am quick. I weighed myself just before leaving the locker room, I will weigh myself after I am done, it needs to be the same.

I float in the warm spa a while, then into the steam room. I love this steam room, it is huge and the walls are covered in big boulders. It has wormwood on the grate so the scent is heady in the room.

Back out to the bathroom one last time and as I walk through the lounge an older Korean woman lets out a loud gasp and brings her hands to her face. It is Sue! I always ask for Sue but was told she wasn't working today. I walk over and she is holding her hand out to me with a smile on her face. She doesn't speak very much English, but that has never been a problem for us. I explain I asked for her and she said she works Sundays through Thursdays now. She asks if I am having a scrub and a competition. I tell her yes I am having one and a competition in a  week, she smiles and says something to her friend. We say goodbye, I have to go. 

I enter back into the bathing area and then my acuma (Korean for Auntie) comes out in her black lace panties and bra and leads me to the massage table. There are three tables, this is no private matter. Anyone who is not comfortable being naked should not come here, or maybe if you want to get over this ridiculous fear you should!

I lay face down and she scoops buckets of very hot water out of a big garbage pail and splashes it over me, she will continue to do this throughout. She starts scrubbing my entire body with two rough mitts. The dead skin pills up brown and waxy all over my body, thank goodness she splashes that hot water on me to get rid of it all. 

She picks up my hand and places it on my stomach, "feel soft?" she asks? It does, I run my hand up and down my body, it feels wonderful.

On my side, she scrubs every inch, the only area not touched is the labia, everything else is scrubbed thoroughly. On my back, she scrubs my abdomen, my breasts, my underarms, my inner thighs.  On my other side, legs get pushed and moved so she can get everywhere.

I think my favorite part is the scrubbing of my neck. I know that sounds odd, but to have my head pushed to one side and my neck and under my chin completely scrubbed just feels fabulous.

After she has scrubbed all my skin, she rinses me off and then scrubs again, this time with soap. Then she stands me up and says how healthy I look now. I understand that skin to Korean women is like weight to American women. The Korean women want clear, smooth, soft skin, the Americans want to be painfully thin. 

I rinse again and am handed a small towel to dry off with. Then back on the table where she applies a mask to my face. Now hot baby oil is liberally poured all over, she starts the massage. Again I am flipped and flopped all over the table.  She works an especially long time on my upper back area, it is tense. My calves are really tight too, and she massages my glutes and lower back with her forearm, it feels so good.

Finally she washes my hair and massages my face a bit more.  Stands me up, hands me the shower nozzle to rinse again and sends me on my way. 

I go to my robe and get a $20.00 tip for Huong, she did a great job. Although I prefer Sue as she is very rough and thorough, Huong left my skin less red which is probably better for the competition. 

I would do this every week if I could afford it. And every time I do this I say I will go to the little market next door and buy some of the exfoliation gloves so I can do it myself, but I always forget.

A great discovery as I drove out here was I say Dosai Place! My friend Devarshi always has pictures of himself eating Dosa on Facebook, It looks so good. I want to go after my competition and bring the Coopster. 

The don't have a website, but here is their information:

Lawrence Health Center
3545 El Camino Real Santa Clara CA 95051
(408) 243-1177
Open 7 days a week 9:00 am to 10:00 pm (last entry is at 8:30 pm)
Closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas