You’ve probably heard about the mysterious and glorious Korean Spa, and you might be interested in partaking in the experience. There is no doubt that the first time can be a little…. intimidating. Yes, the rumors are true, you do get totally naked and soak in a tub with a handful of strangers. But, we promise that it is beyond worth it! Just follow these steps and you’ll avoid any awkwardness and navigate the Korean Spa or Japanese Onsen like an old pro.
Step 1: Check In. When you arrive at the spa, there is generally a check in counter where you will pay an admission fee and in return you will receive a magic bracelet with a number on it. This bracelet is your spa identity and currency. The number on the bracelet correlates to your locker number, and there will also be a key to your locker on the bracelet (sometimes it’s tucked into the bracelet).
The numbered piece of the bracelet also acts as your wallet, so you can use it to charge food, spa treatments, extra towels, etc. Whatever you charge, you will pay when you check out of the spa. So, keep your magic bracelet on your person at all times!
Step 2: Remove your Shoes. Most likely, you will just need to carry your shoes to your clothing locker. Some spas will offer small shoe lockers that will also correlate to the number on your bracelet. Shoes are not allowed anywhere in the spa (so you might bring a warm pair of socks to walk around in).
Step 3: Get your Uniform. Some spas will hand you a uniform when you check in, others will require you to go to another counter to get a uniform. Either way, you will get a uniform, and we will come back to this flattering apparel a little later.
Step 4: Determine if you want any Spa Treatments. The Korean Spa has a plethora of delightful spa treatments to further your relaxation experience. Before you get to soaking, it’s a good idea to book your spa treatments. You either book spa treatments at the front counter or inside at a reservation desk, and be sure to ask where you need to be at the time of your treatment. You will want to give yourself about 45 minutes to an hour to soak before any treatments. Here are some of the spa treatments to consider:
Massage: you can select from an array of massage treatments. They will offer your standard Swedish Massage, Chair Massage, Foot Massage and my personal favorite Accupressure Massage. What is Accupressure Massage? Well, it’s the most enjoyable torture ever. It is a deep, aggressive massage that targets your pressure points. It may bring you to the verge of tears, but afterward you will feel like a noodle with your stress and pain washed away! You can always ask the massage therapist to increase or decrease the pressure, and be sure to speak up!
V-Steam Wormwood Steam Bath: yep, the “V” in V-Steam stands for Vagina. In this interesting treatment, you sit on a throne while steam and herbs penetrate and nourish your lady parts. This centuries old Asian traditional medicine is believed to work wonders for everything from painful menstrual periods to supporting fertility by boosting blood circulation and oxygen.
The Scrub: You need to be very comfortable in your own skin to enjoy this scrub, but it is highly recommended. Basically, you will be laid out naked on a plastic-covered massage table. Then, a woman wearing a prickly scrub glove will rub your body removing the top layer of skin – from everywhere (and I mean everywhere!). Depending on the option you select, you might be massaged with oil, slathered in milk and honey or have your hair washed. This amazing traditional treatment will leave your skin feeling oh so soft, and the brushing action will also support circulation. Be brave and give it a try, the results are totally worth it!
Step 5: Make your Way to your Locker. Open it up, put your clothes in, and get naked! Make sure to put your hair up as well, if you don’t have a hair tie, ask for one.
Step 6: Enter the Spa and Shower. As you walk through the foggy spa doors and entire paradise, the very first and most important step is to shower with soap. There are typically two types of showers at the Korean Spa – standup or sit down. Pick one, find the bar of soap or body wash and scrub all over. Don’t forget this step, and be sure to shower every time you enter the spa area.
Step 7: Navigating the Pools. There will be several warm and hot pools and one very cold plunge pool. All pools should have their temperatures listed. The best way to start is to find a hot pool that isn’t too hot for your liking and enter the water. Soak. Then soak some more and enjoy. I prefer to stay in the hot pool until I’m so hot that I need to get out, and then I walk to the cold plunge pool and immediately submerge my entire body in the water. And then I soak as long as I can in the cold pool. Once I’m so cold that I have to get out, I head back to the hot pool and repeat. This ritual really gets the circulation flowing! However, I must caution that you need to go at your own pace, if at any point you feel light headed or weak, sit down and take a rest. Don’t overdo it!
While you’re in the spa area, you will find a few other areas to enjoy. There will be a dry sauna and a steam sauna. Be sure to shower after leaving a sauna and before entering the pool. There will be one hot pool with slightly brown water, this is an herbal bath to nourish the skin. There are also fun buttons to push in the pools that might start a waterfall or another massaging water feature, feel free to explore and enjoy!
Step 8: Time for your Spa Treatment. If you are getting a scrub, you will probably stay in the spa area. For all other treatments, it is likely that you will need to dry off and put your uniform on and go find the massage area.
Step 9: Explore. After your treatment is over, explore the spa and take advantage. You can go back and soak in the pool more, you can grab a bite of delicious Korean food at the eatery, you can lounge, or you can detox, balance or bake in any of the unique and exotic rooms. The rooms will typically tell you what they are and how they work with a little sign on the outside. Just be considerate of your other guests and shut the door quickly when you enter or exit a room. Also, please be quiet, this is a place to relax. And, finally, be sure to stay hydrated as you are detoxing and you need to keep drinking water to flush the toxins.
And, that concludes our guide to the Korean Spa. Have fun, and trust us, you’ll love it!