A few years back I went on a spa trip to Germany and was astounded by the elaborate "Sauna Worlds" at their traditional, historic hot springs spas. I wished that we had something like that in America -- people paddling around in the hot springs, cozying up against jets, relaxing in chairs, going in and out of saunas all day, all for a small admission fee. Now we do -- Spa Castle in Flushing, Queens, an over-the-top spa that has 100,000 square feet on five floors, wonderful and unlike anything we have in the U.S.
Basically you get a day pass for $35 to $45 (weekends) and spend the day exploring its facilities, including seven different saunas (including the L.E.D sauna room in the photo that "uses color therapy to balances vital life energies"). steam rooms, and year-round roof-top pools with lots of interesting jets. You can get treatments -- a side-by-side Korean body scrub or private "VIP treatments" that provide a more traditional American spa atmosphere. And there are plenty of places to eat, relax, and hang with friends. And Spa Castle is currently building two more locations -- a 122,000 square foot Spa Castle in Carrollton, Texas, and a 282-acre Spa Castle in the Poconos!
I asked Myung Yi, owner of Juvenex Spa, a Korean spa pioneer in Manhattan, what makes Korean spas different from American spas, and I found his answers fascinating. He said they're not as quiet. "Spas for Koreans are a place to sweat and talk with their friends, so the atmosphere is little more upbeat.
American spas are mostly focused treatments whereas Korean spas are focused on meeting and spending time with friends."
He also said that Koreans take body scrub very seriously - another trademark of Korean spas. "Traditionally, body scrubs are prepared by having the client soak in warm to hot water for 10 to 15 minutes." He said American spas use salt for body scrubs, but Koreans use milk, water, and a scrubbing mitt only because it's gentler on the skin and gets a better results.
The scrub helps with the whole detoxification process by "opening up the pores for a deep clean," he said. "With the improved blood circulation, the skin is healthier."
He also said Korean spas use natural materials for the facility. At Juvenex they have a jade dry sauna. "Koreans and other Asians wear jade as jewelry because it's believed to improve the overall health. It's believed to promote stress-relief and to be good for arthritis. When a person sweats in jade sauna, there isn't any odor from the sweat." A mugwort steam sauna lets you breath this traditional herbal medicine through the nose, promoting detoxification of the body. Finally, a low heat sauna is made of baked clay, because "earth is believed to be the source of human body and it is what our body feels the most comfortable with. This helps with relaxation of the body and detoxification."
Finally, Korean and Asian massage is focused on pressure points. "It can be little painful for some people, but after the massage, the body is fully relaxed." I'll let you know -- I'm going in this weekend and Juvenex is on my "to-do" list.