Wednesday 18 February 2015

Scrub + Massage At Natura Spa (AKA My First Proper Jimjilbang)

For all the times we've travelled to Korea as a family, the one activity we've never gotten round to trying is hanging out in their Jimjilbang. Which, if you think about it, is odd on so many levels. We love massages and soaking in hot tubs! I love public bathing houses because it's always populated by old ladies, so I'm always the youngest and prettiest person around! We're usually so good about exploring local traditions! We've literally been to Korea so many times. I'm not in Korea now of course, but with Jimjilbang's dotting the K-Town landscape here in LA, I figured I could enjoy the essence of the experience without having to shell out for a plane ticket. 

With Chinese New Year round the corner, it seemed like a particularly good time to get squeaky clean, so I booked myself a scrub and massage, which came with waived admission to the rest of the spa facilities. At Natura, the spa is completely segregated by gender, and this starts at the very beginning, with exclusive entrances for each group, and goes all the way to separate cafe and resting facilities. At nine in the morning, the only other people around me were three old ladies who were obviously experienced Jimjilbang-goers, judging by the overflowing toiletries baskets they carried in with them. I had half an hour before my scheduled treatment to get a start on the tubs and the various sauna rooms, and I made the most of my time, hopping to and fro. Got my soles a bit singed in the Yellow Clay Treatment Room (Gosh those rocks were burning hot), but it was entirely worth it for the way the heat just bled all the tension out of my shoulders. 

My scrub and massage took place in a little alcove off the main bathing area, and the whole experience was surprisingly... slicker than I'd expected. Warm water was splashed over me ever so often, prepping my skin for the salt scrub while also washing away the somewhat disturbing clumps I'd apparently shed. It might have been all that water, it might have been the fact that my skin was newly baby-soft, but I nearly fell off my treatment bed while turning this way and that so the loofah could get at me at all angles. Freshly sloughed, I was given a dollop of of face wash and sent off for a rinse before returning for my massage. The beds must be incredibly water proof, because it was bone dry when I returned, only for us both to get doused in what seemed like an endless drizzle of oil over the course of my rub down. Towards the end of my massage, a face mask made in part with freshly grated cucumber was applied, and while it set, my hair was washed. Even with the increasing bustle of the spa floating over (AKA The not so dulcet tones of old ladies screaming at each other in Korean), I was properly blissed out in my little corner. 

I wanted to make the most of my spa morning, so another full circuit was made. Business as usual, though at one point I had to duck out of the wet sauna after the lady in there with me started engaging in rather vigorous calisthenics (I'll have to remember that one, it seems like a surprisingly good method for emptying a room). Lazing about in the hot rooms left me utterly famished, so I meandered down to the in-house cafe. $10 got me a full meal of handmade noodles in a rich clam and vegetable broth and an array of appetizers, which gave me all the sustenance I needed to get through all my readings for the day in one sitting. 

It was a glorious treat of a morning, and now I'm sorely tempted to try out all of LA's Jimjilbangs while I'm here.