I just came from Spa Castle, formerly Inspa World that got a terrific write up from the NY Times (Link ).The only way to describe it is that in Korea and in Asia, neighborhood public baths were a family and community experience. Homes didn’t have bathtubs and you went down the street to clean up, soak in a hottub, schvitz in a sauna, and get massaged and exfoliated. I remember going as a 3 year old with my grandfather and soaking in the hot tub up to my neck.
As an adult, going out and drinking and partying all night in Seoul with friends and roudy cousins always ended up with a session in the sauna sweating out the toxic waste from too many bottles of Scotch and Soju.
The arrival of a public bath in NY that openly catered to non-Koreans was not surprising considering the congregation of bathing nationalities from Central Asia and the former Soviet Republics. I went at seven in the morning -these are open 24 hours, and you check in. Fees were 50 bucks which are about what you pay for a medium grade spa in Seoul. You are given a wireless key to a locker where you leave all your clothes. This section is not coed. You go in, shower, shave, brush your teeth, and soak in the 109 degree tub. I am a bit jarred by the bear soaking next to me but soon realize it’s a human, likely Russian by his Cyrillic tatoos. I go for a scrub down and massage 50 bucks. A heavily muscled man scrapes all the dirt and dead skin off my body along with some skin and then methodically tries to rip off my appendages after smashing every muscle on my body. I shower and consider putting on the shorts and gown and going upstairs to the coed family areas, but skip it because time is short.
They’ve renamed the place Spa Castle and have shuttles from Manhattan. Prepare to be naked. The food upstairs is supposed to be unbelievable. I feel completely rejuvenated, but a bit sore. No skin grafts or MRI’s were needed in the creation of this entry.