Many people think that a massage is merely an expensive day of soft pampering. I’ve given up on those massages at the high priced, ‘zenned’ out, lavender filled spas. Most the massages have been just OK, and at $150 for an hour I would get far more pleasure in my own home with a bottle of Krug, some good music and a foot massage by my three-year old daughter. For some reason, she thinks this is fun too, so who am I to stop her? Is that bad?
But in all honesty, our bodies do need massage to help rid the us of those nasty toxins. Historically speaking, spas used to be integral part of general health care and have been in existence since the days of the Roman Empire. As for the root of the term spa, there are two theories: one is that spa is an acronym for the Lain phrase salus per aguae meaning ‘health through water’. While others believe the word comes from the Belgian town of Spa which has been known for its baths since Roman times.
So like I said, I’m done with the fancy spas. Four years ago, while I was in Los Angeles with some friends, I was introduced to Korean massage. We drove into Korea Town and parked in large lot that overlooked a golf driving range on the top of the covered parking lot. Strange indeed but I was again reassured that the Olympic Spa would not disappoint. The building is nothing fancy and very basic, clearly there’s little spent on decor. You order a trio (a scrub, massage and hair wash all for the fair price of $80) from women at the front desk who do not speak any English. Clothing is left in the locker room and you enter a steamy room filled with several soaking tubs, it truly is another world. After spending a good hour steaming all your impurities from life’s vices, you’re escorted to a long line up of massage tables. Drop your inhibitions because every crevice of your body will be scrubbed leaving you with the shiniest epidermis you’ve ever seen. While the scrubbing can be painful, at the same time you feel as though you are ‘turning over a new leaf’ or washing away your past sins. This is all followed by one of the strongest and deepest massages that will rock your world. I’ve never felt so clean and void of toxins. Maybe it was the dirty layer of skin which was scrubbed off my body or the cold and hot soaks that made your skin tingle, or the masseuse that climbed on my back and made every bone in body crack. Whatever the case, I was hooked.
Back in SF, I mourned the fact that we did not have a Korean Spa. In my travels to NY, I found a Korean Spa which was slightly more expensive ($120) but offered the same blissful treatment that I received in LA. Juvenex spa is located above a Karaoke bar in the heart of NY’s Korea Town (almost as strange as the golf putting course but I promise you can’t hear anyone singing). I indulged myself in what I considered to be a spiritual ritual on any occasion that found me in NY or LA, however late last year my dream came true. The beautiful Imperial Spa opened up in San Francisco, not by a driving range or karaoke bar but next to a KFC on Geary. For a paltry $80 you get the works.
This is not for the faint at heart but if you like to scrubbed, scraped and you're willing to surrender to this ancient spa ritual, then this is for you.