Waaaaay back in August, pre-surgery, I went on a little cultural outing with my roommate, Emiko, her friend, and her friend's sister-in-law. Emiko and her friend were both in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan where, unlike Nicaragua, it gets really cold. They had grown to appreciate regular trips to the bath house for a good, cleansing steam and had managed to find the equivalent in the DC metro area: the Korean spa.
There's a pretty decent-sized Korean community in parts of Virginia, so we went way beyond the reach of the metro to Spa World. From the outside it looks like maybe it's the world's biggest bath supply store situated in a regular old suburban strip mall. Just from looking at it I never would have guess what was inside.
When you pay, you're given a little orange jumpsuit and a fancy little electronic, waterproof key that will open the shoe locker right in the entry way. Next men and women head to their respective locker rooms where that key opens another locker and absolutely everything you have goes in and you're left wearing your key on its little bracelet and nothing else!
In the spa they have showers for rinsing, two saunas (hot and dry), a giant pool with many jets at various positions, and a couple hot tubs. The day we went the place was full of women of all ages and colors – clearly the Korean spa was not just for Korean ladies. After a while you get used to the fact that everyone's naked and just enjoy moving from jet to jet in the pool or steaming in up in the sauna.
We paid a little extra for a full body scrub (you can get massages, facials, etc) and I think it was well worth the money. They have a group of middle-aged Korean ladies clad in black lacy undergarments who direct you to a pink plastic table and the proceed to scrub off all your dead skin from head to foot (you can actually see the gross flakes of dead skin which is gratifying to know it's now gone but disturbing to know that your skin will eventually return to that invisibly dirty state). I'm pretty sure she scrubbed off much of the tan I had left from Nicaragua.
After lounging about in the spa area, we put on our little orange jumpsuits and went to the common area where men and women mingle amongst the seven rooms of various heat. If I remember correctly the hottest room was over 150 degrees so we started there and worked our way down to the ice room which was below 50. One room was full of little clay balls!
To finish off a day of converting our bodies to mush, we enjoyed a tasty Korean lunch before pulling our clothes back on over our now smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom skin and heading back out into the not nearly as relaxing world.
Photos were borrowed from various websites...