My co-worker Michelle told me that she was going to get a free facial at a spa in Seoul. I told her, "Oh... that sounds nice," remembering my previous experience. In Korean that must mean, "Please... let me join you!" The next day she came to work and told me that she had also made an appointment for me to join her in a free two hour facial.
After rescheduling once, the day had finally come. I was going to go head to head with a Korean Spa for round two. I wasn't sure if I was more dreading the facial or the fact that I had to meet her at the subway station at 8:45 am on a Saturday.
As we approached the spa I was thinking that this couldn't be worse than the last time. Or could it?
The changing room was much like the last time. It was a small room about ten feet by three feet with lockers. It is pretty uncomfortable changing in a room with your co-worker in this small of a space... especially since this is the first time I've seen her outside of work.
We were also placed in the same room, along with two other unoccupied tables, approximately three feet apart from each other. The facial began like any other... putting oils on, tying back hair, getting comfortable. Then it began...
Traditional Korean massages are very rough. The place I went to last time was not a traditional Korean spa. The lady told me that she just kind of did her own thing. Well... as soon as she started massaging my head I remembered this was going to be a strong massage. It felt more like she was trying to rearrange my skull than trying to soothe me.
Then she moved on to massaging my face. At first it felt nice. I like a strong massage. However, after several minutes of very strong repeated movement in the same place... it starts to feel like you're being punched. She would move my head to the side, but crank it really far over and push it down. Then she would do the same thing to my neck. At times it was hard to breathe because she was pushing over and over on my esophagus. It was so strong that I would have bet my month's salary that my face was going to be bruised the next day.
After a while she started to remove the massage oils from my face with a warm hot towel. This is standard. What she did... was not. She started by putting the towel over my forehead and pulling down hard, ramming my head into the table. Then she did the same to my chin... my mouth would open from the pressure. Then, what I find to be the most bizarre, she wrapped the towel under my chin and pulled up... moving my whole body up the table. Then she would wipe my face clean.
Michelle laying next to me was much more comforting than last time, because she translated for me. She told me when things might burn or "don't open your eyes" always proves to be helpful. After about an hour she told me they were putting a mask on my face and I shouldn't open my eyes or mouth.
They began by putting a mesh material over my face... then they caked on something that felt very thick. This very thick substance must have been stored in the freezer, because it was as cold as ice. I was wincing as she put it all over my face, down my neck, and on the top of my shoulders.
Michelle then told me that they were putting bags around my legs that would be an automated massage (it really helps having someone to translate!) The bags were very similar to last time... filling up with and releasing air to create a massage.
They must have put the mask on Michelle, too, because suddenly she stopped talking... the lights in the room went out... and we were alone. At first I thought that this would be an awkward silence... but Michelle broke that with her snores. You have got to be kidding me. Her snores were so persistent, that I could not relax myself. It didn't help that the massage bags didn't appear to be working... the top of my thighs were in a constant state of inflation while my lower legs were massaged. I started panicking because I wanted the things off. I couldn't see, couldn't talk, was in the room with a snoring co-worker, and had to pee. They left us there for an hour.
Finally, the lights flicked on in the room. I heard a few cracks and pressure on my face and suddenly I was mask-less. I turned to look at Michelle, and realized that we had a thick white hardened plaster on our faces. When they removed hers, it came off in the shape of her face.
The lady then started stretching my arms, pulling so hard that I was moving on the table and my bones were cracking. Then she had me sit up. She started open handed slapping my back. Up and down she slapped. Sometimes concentrating on my lower back, other times in the middle.
Alas, I was free to go. When I got home, I was telling Andrew about my spa day ... he wanted to know how hard she was slapping my back. When I demonstrated he said, "OW! Why would you hit me that hard?!"
It is now Sunday night. All day my upper body has been in pain. It feels as though I spent the whole day Saturday at the gym lifting weights. My body aches and my face has broken out in rash and zits.
Gina - 0 Spa - 2.