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Hey ladies, wanna to to the Korean spa tonite? (Wed 2/16)

topic posted Wed, February 16, 2005 - 11:24 AM by  Kristine
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I've been convinced I would love a trip to the Korean baths on El Camino near Lawrence in Sunnyvale, and plan to go tonight. Anyone wanna go with me? (Men are welcome, but you would go to a separate section of the spa ... it's not co-ed! :)

I'm thinking of a 7:30 or 8ish visit -- don't have reservations yet, so if you want to go let's coordinate about that by private msg.

From what I gather, it's about $65 for an hour treatment that involves a "scrub" and massage, but under $30 for the trip to use the facilities and do your own scrub. Here's a Merc News article you might want to read about it:

Full-body scrub highlights a visit to Korean bathhouse

By Linda Tsai
Mercury News

Shedding your skin is not just an expression at the Lawrence Health Center in Santa Clara.

At the only Korean-style bathhouse in Northern California, the typical client walks out aglow after scrubbing off every fleck of dead skin on her body, from forehead to inner thighs to the pinkie toes.

Such an authentic practice is but one of the many bodywork experiences available in the Bay Area. For spa connoisseurs who think they've tried everything, treatments from Asia may be a way to rejuvenate in the new year.

Asian bodywork centers have operated for years in the Bay Area, but interest in them has grown recently along with the popularity of mainstream spa treatments. However, unless you're familiar with the Korean, Chinese, Japanese or Thai communities, it's hard to know where to go to find them.

A Japanese friend had told me about her scrubbing experience at the Lawrence Health Center. ``Everyone's naked . . . and every inch of you gets scrubbed,'' she said. This was not your typical treatment at Preston Wynne. With those words, I was convinced I needed to try a Korean body scrub.

I felt intimidated until the moment I walked through its double doors and was greeted by a smiling young receptionist. In the end, the clinical setting had me completely at ease -- and two weeks later my skin was still satiny smooth.

Driving by, the Lawrence Health Center at El Camino Real and Lawrence Expressway looks like a generic workout facility in a strip mall, with a name that gives nothing away.

Inside is a 12,000-square-foot spread of deluxe hot tubs, saunas, massage rooms, showers and relaxation rooms.

``Koreans are crazy about health things and cleanliness,'' says Aeja Kim, 53, of San Jose, who frequents the Lawrence Health Center at least twice a month. On a recent Friday afternoon, she spent five hours there scrubbing, soaking, steaming, then doing it all over again and again.

The clientele is 80 percent Korean, more women than men. The immaculate facility has been open since 1992, yet most non-Koreans still don't know about it, and owners Janet and Richard Kim don't mind that one bit.

``We don't advertise,'' says Janet Kim. ``The nature of our business, we don't want people to make fun of it. We opened it for our community and for Korean people visiting here.''

The Kims are protective of a custom that Westerners are less comfortable with. The clients are uninhibited -- clothes-free, that is -- typical of health spas in Korea and other Asian countries.

If you're uncomfortable undressing in front of other people at your gym locker room, this center is not for you. From the moment you push open the door marked ``WOMEN'' (or ``MEN'' to the other side of the building) everything's communal.

``My daughter doesn't want to come here,'' says Aeja Kim, ``She says, `Mom, everyone's naked.' I told her she could wear a bathing suit. She still won't come.''

The typical female customer walks in, takes a shower in one of four stalls (shampoo, conditioner, soap, even disposable toothbrush all provided), goes into the herbal steam or dry sauna, takes another shower, soaks about a half-hour in the warm (nearly 100 degrees) tub to loosen the skin, sits in front of a mirror and scrubs off all the dead skin with a Korean-style scrub mitt, showers again, steps into the scalding hot tub (104 degrees), steps into the cold tub (about 65 degrees) then back to the hot, then back to the cold.

``It's like a shock treatment,'' Aeja Kim says. ``The skin expands then shrinks. The cold water feels like someone's squeezing or choking you. It's good for circulation and for aches.''

Signs are posted all around reminding customers to always shower before entering the hot or cold tubs, assuring proper hygiene in this shared setting. The tub water is sanitized daily, Janet Kim says.

Male Korean customers follow a similar routine as the women. But also popular with the men are a dry shiatsu massage and some R&R in a large recliner in front of the large plasma screen.

For women and men who want to let someone else do the scrubbing, the center has five scrub practitioners, all native Koreans with more than 10 years of experience. (Women are scrubbed by women in the female spa area, men by men.)

That's how I recently shed my skin, literally. Head to toe.

For $65 each, I and two friends tried out the ``full body care,'' an hourlong treatment that combines a full body scrub, skin-conditioning treatment, facial and deep-tissue massage.

We arrived for our 6 p.m. appointment at 5:30, because a long soak in the warm Jacuzzi is required to loosen the skin for removal.

Three ``wet scrubbers'' in black bras and briefs summoned each of us to our massage tables promptly at 6.

We lay on our back while the scrubbers put on thin square mitts with the texture of cheap, rough towels. Then the scrubbing began. First the legs, then feet then back up the body. We turned to our left side. More scrubbing. We turned to our right side. Scrub scrub. Then on our backs. Scrub scrub scrub. Inner thighs, outer thighs, underarms, face, fingers, toes, heels. Sometimes, in the shin area, it only took four or five back-and-forth strokes to clear the layer of skin. In some stubborn areas, like my bottom, I counted 25 up-and-down strokes. Yikes.

I looked around me and all I could see was clumps of gray, dead skin. Soon I could feel the clumps gathered around my legs, my arms, my shoulders, until my scrubber scooped up a pail of warm water and splashed them off the massage table.

Next, after a thorough rinse, came the body care. Oils, milks and lotions were rubbed and kneaded into every inch of my newly exposed skin. At one point, as I lay on my stomach, the scrubber was crouched above me on the massage table, using all her strength to knead out my stresses. At another point, sitting up, I felt her head shoved between my shoulder blades, another foreign technique.

But the best capper was a thorough hair wash in the end, complete with a scalp massage. I could have lain there forever.

But alas, there was so much more to experience at Lawrence Health Center:

• A lounge with a plasma TV and heated marble areas for relaxing and to promote circulation.

• A dry massage room for professional shiatsu massages.

• Jua yoks -- Korean clay seats holding steaming herbs, designed to refresh a woman's private area.

• In the men's lounge, 10 recliners for dozing in front of the big screen.

• Hair dryers, brushes, styling tools for primping in front of wall-length mirrors.

• Jin's, a full-service beauty salon connected to the health center.

posted by:
Kristine
SF Bay Area
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