Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

1,000 words isn't enough

Last Monday, I wrote about Inspa World, a Korean-style bathhouse in Queens. On Friday, we decided to start off the holiday weekend with a clean slate by spending the day there and washing away our stress. I don't think we could have had an experience that felt more like traveling without boarding a plane. With no idea what to expect, and not knowing how the facility functioned, it felt like we were actually in Korea. We ordered food by pointing at a picture and made cultural blunders one would expect to make in a different country.

Our adventure started in the lobby, where we paid our entrance fee and strapped on our personal electronic bracelets. These opened our lockers and paid for food and services when we waved the embedded chip in front of a receiver, eliminating the need to carry a key or money. At the back of the lobby, Cassie and I parted ways and headed to the gender-separated locker rooms and baths. We were both on our own to figure out how things worked.

At the doorway to the locker room, I was prompted to remove my shoes. An anteroom contained a row of small lockers just for shoes, before you even reached the locker room proper. I locked up my shoes, and walked around barefoot for the rest of the day.

From what I'd read about this place, both in the New York Times and on the spa's own website, I knew that the baths on this first level were separated by gender, and the baths on the upper levels were mixed-gender. What I didn't know, however, was what (if anything) I was supposed to wear on this first level. Changing into my bathing suit, I made my way to the bathing area.

Before I could even enter, however, an attendant chided me in broken English for wearing a bathing suit, and told me I had to be naked to enter the bathing area. Feeling like an idiot, but more comfortable now that I knew what to do, I stripped down and went back to the bathing area. This time, they let me in without a word.

When I saw what aquatic delights lay at my disposal, I knew I was in for a treat. Along one wall stood a bank of chrome and glass showers. Along another were a row of personal hygiene stations with stools, where you could sit and shave or take a seated shower. Most of the room, however, was taken up by a series of baths. They ranged in temperature from 59 F to 108 F, enabling you to find that perfect temperature or go back and forth from hot to cold. They all bubbled and frothed, and many featured therapeutic jets to soothe away all your stresses.

After I showered, I made my way to the closest bath, still a bit unsure of myself. I settled into the warm water, discreetly looking around to get the lay of the land and learn by observation. As I tried to blend in and look nonchalant, I glanced up and noticed the sign above the pool in which I reclined: "Kiddie Pool." So much for looking like I knew what I was doing.

I sampled several other pools, and then made my way back to the locker room. Cassie and I had planned to meet upstairs after briefly checking out the baths. After I dried off and reentered the locker room, the attendant stopped me again and thrust some pajamas into my hands. As it turned out, you don't just spend your visit barefoot, you also walk around in pajamas. Talk about relaxation.

Upstairs, "Sauna Valley" beckoned us with seven different saunas. Gold Sauna featured real gold plating. Jade Sauna soothed with far infrared rays and intricate mosaic design. Ice Land, a chilled room with ice-covered walls, was a welcome respite between sauna visits. This level also offered a salad and fresh fruit bar, frozen yogurt and Starbucks coffee, as well as lounge chairs where we spent a couple of hours reading and relaxing.

On a day as beautiful as Friday, the rooftop pools were the best. Two large outdoor pools featured every configuration of aqua jet you could possibly imagine, enabling you to move from one to the other and massage every part of your body. Our favorite was the "Waterfalls," where gallons upon gallons of water poured down on you from above at the touch of a button.

I could go on and on about our experience—I suppose I already have—but words can't adequately convey the sensation of spending the day at this place. In fact, that's why I have rambled on at such length. I am critical of bloggers who write extended treatises on topics that can be covered in a paragraph, and don't hesitate to critique the writing skills of someone who needs 1,000 words to paint a picture. But in this case, I am guilty as charged. Sometimes it takes 1,000 words to realize that even a million words wouldn't be enough.



Blogger usamctwo said...

Sounds wonderful and relaxing. I liked the pictures from their website of the outdoor pools in the snow.

May 25, 2008 2:41 PM  
Blogger Cassie said...

Spa Castle (as it is now called) was awesome. It really did feel like we were on vacation. The only thing missing was a pina colada. Bring a book and plan to spend the day there...we were there almost seven hours!

May 29, 2008 10:07 AM  

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