Last Saturday I tried out my first Korean spa. Howard's friend just opened up a new spa and he said he could get me a discount. After looking at the menu (basically just the pictures because it was all in Korean) I chose a two hour massage. It was supposed to be about $70, but with the discount it came to about $45. Can't go wrong, right? Well... Korean spas aren't quite as relaxing as you might think.
The spa was on the other side of town, so Howard picked me up and took me there. We had a cup of tea with his friend (the owner) and then he left and I was on my way to, what I thought, would be my most relaxing two hours in Korea so far. I have had several massages at spas in the states, so I had expectations going in.
I first stepped in to the changing room. This wasn't what you'd think. It was a very small room with a few lockers, a mirror, slippers, and two doors. One door went to the lobby, the other door went to the spa room. Howard's friend (her English name is April) showed me my locker, and handed me my "robe". The robe was a sheet with some Velcro on it. Figuring the robe wasn't very crucial, as I'd be taking it off soon anyway, I shrugged it off, put on my slippers, and made my way through the door to the "spa". (Yes, this spa now gets quotation marks).
There were about five massage tables in the same room. One lady was already occupying a table and getting a face treatment. I was ushered to my table and was told to lay down with my head in the hole. Standard procedure. I did so and was covered up with a sheet. I left my underwear on, I usually do when getting a massage. April pulled back my sheet, undid my Velcro to expose my back, then, upon seeing my underwear, hoisted it down with a soft, "excuse me".
Luckily my face was through that hole because my cheeks must have turned three shades of pink. I focused my eyes on the floor, where there was a candle directly beneath my hole. I saw April's feet shuffle around me several times before I heard "cold" as oil was being poured on my back. Okay. The table is heated. This is nice. I can get used to this. So what if my butt is exposed for everyone in the room to see? No biggie. It's fine. Okay. Rubbing. This is nice. That feels good. WHAT?! Her fingers slipped down my crack.
My face, again, turned dark pink as I jumped and winced in embarrassment. Okay. That had to have been a mistake. My back is very oily. She is probably just as embarrassed. Okay. Look at the candle. No big deal. She's just your co-worker's good friend. She won't tell right? WHAT? There it was again.
Okay. Accident. That had to have been an accident. An honest mistake. But again? Thank God my face is in this hole and she can't see me. Okay. Yes, it is slippery. She is probably nervous because I am her friend's co-worker. She just has to be as embarrassed as I am. Breathe. It's okay. La la la. Relax. Okay, she's on the shoulders. This is good. Up is good. Uh oh, she's going back down. WHAT? AGAIN? REALLY? ARE YOU SERIOUS?
And this went on. Over and over again her fingers "slipped" in my personals.
About an hour was finished, and she said, "Okay, turn". The second half of the massage, was supposed to be my face. An hour on my face? Really? Whatever. But shit. Now my face is going to be exposed. But really, what can she do to my face that would cause me to make faces?
All of a sudden she put a very hot steamer a few inches away from my face. It was so damn hot. I didn't want it anymore. I have troubles breathing in humidity because of my asthma. I opened my eyes just a smidgen, as I saw gooey hands nearing my face. I only caught a glimpse of it but it had a striking resemblance to honey. In about two seconds I thought, "HONEY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME? ALL OVER MY FACE?'
But as her hands touched me, it was actually just some oil. Several times she put on oils and took them off with very very hot, wet towels. At one point she put a liquid on my face that burned like nothing I've ever felt before. It hurt so bad I wanted it off, and I wanted it off now. Maybe she didn't warn me because she didn't know the English for it? I can't be sure. But all of a sudden she has a bright light and is doing some sort of light therapy to my skin. Okay, a warning would have been nice. Get it off. Get it off now.
After what felt like a full hour, the burning stopped and she carried on with more oils and more massaging. All of a sudden she goes down my neck, and starts massaging my boobs. ARE YOU SERIOUS!? I was biting my cheeks so hard I think they started to bleed.
Now, her assistant takes my sheet and lifts it up off my legs towards my crotch. WHAT IS HAPPENING?! She lifts up one leg and places it down, then the other. Then she zippered something from my feet all the way up towards my crotch. You have got to be kidding me. What is going on?
All of a sudden I hear a beep and something is inflating around my legs. It was very similar to a blood pressure checker... covering my entire legs. All the while April is having a nice time with my boobs. WHAT IS THIS PLACE?! After about twenty minutes with the legs, the machines stopped.
April was back on my face with more oils. She wasn't just keeping the oils to my face, however. She was rubbing them all over in my hair and around my head. One last towel... she puts it on my face and it must have just come out of the freezer because without warning my face felt like it had been dipped in ice water. What a nice way to end such a relaxing massage.
As if it couldn't have gotten more awkward and uncomfortable, April, at the end of my massage said, "Are you going home now?"
"Okay, I will drive you home."
April doesn't speak much English... so we didn't talk. April put the radio on in her car until thirty minutes into the drive. It was pure awkward silence for the whole hour ride home.
I think I came out of there more uptight than when I went in. Oddly enough, I think that might be my last massage in Korea.