Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Spa Review

Always on the lookout for a cultural experience, it was with great enthusiasm that I said yes when my friend Marsha, from the yoga studio invited me to go to the Korean I Spa in Irvine.

I love a good spa experience as much as the next gal, but more than that, I'm always eager for new storytelling material.  This place is ripe with it.

When you arrive at the I Spa, don't be intimidated by the exterior, which looks more like a Costco than a spa.

I Spa in Irvine

.....but inside is nice and clean.  After what feels like a long walk down a long corridor to see the Wizard of Oz, past the ATM machine, past the anti-fat clinic, past the barber shop, you walk up to a counter where two lovely young Asian women are waiting to hustle you.

"First time here?  You like a spa package?  Maybe some coupons?  We have special today." said a likable young woman whose name tag informed me that her name was Cookie.

After Cookie briskly toured us through the warehouse sized facility, I finally decided to have a combination spa package which was to include a body scrub, a lavender oil massage, a collagen facial, cucumber slices to soothe my tired eyes, a shampoo and conditioner.  All this was to last a total of one hundred minutes for the low price of $100 including the Sauna and Jjimjilbang.

Simply put, one side (the sauna) is for same sex naked folk, the other side (Jjimjilbang) is for both sexes so long as your willing to sport this fashionable outfit.....

Designer Jjimjilbang Pinks

I'm not normally a modest person, but even I was a bit intimidated by all the nudity.  We stripped down to our birthday suits and off we went to soak in first hot tubs, then freezing cold.  Next hot steam rooms, then freezing cold showers.  Then a dry sauna, then back into the icy tub.  The women who were participating in these activities along with us ranged from amazingly attractive women, the kind you might see as a model advertising Hot Asian Babes Waiting To Talk To You Now! all the way to those who'd had an unfortunate date with gravity, leaving them looking like the elephant woman.

"Number 459?" a thirty-something Asian woman called while I was soothing my tired muscles in the hot tub.  It was time for my treatment.

The treatment area looks like a series of horse stalls except that it's tile instead of wood.  No dim lighting here.  Each stall is furnished with a massage table covered in pale pink vinyl.  Each stall is equipped with a drain in the center of the room which comes in handy with all the rinsing that was to occur.  My therapist was an attractive Asian woman whose black hair was scraped back into a bun.  The uniforms that all the therapists wear are black lace bra and panties like the kind you get at Target.

I was instructed to lie face up, while the therapist had her way with me.  She was treating me like a life size version of Spa Fun Barbie.  She put on a scrubbing mitt and went to work.  Vigorously.  "This too hard?" she asked while a Muzak version of Killing Me Softly played.  Scrub, scrub, scrub.  Rinse.  Scrub, scrub, scrub. Rinse.  She scrubbed almost every part of me.  If you have any pubic hair, yes, she will scrub that too.

She then abruptly jerked Spa Fun Barbie up into a sitting position, squirted some face cream from a tube into my hand and instructed me to hit the shower.  "Go wash you face, shower off and come back for massage."  The face wash was delightfully creamy and cleansing.

Once back on the pale pink vinyl massage table, the massage began.  Luckily, I enjoy an aggressive massage.  When you go to the I Spa, that's what you're going to get.  There's no nodding off as you're gently rubbed down.  This is an interactive massage.  The therapist's skilled hands went to work kneading, rubbing, karate chopping and working all the kinks out of this surfer girls shoulders and neck.  Halfway through the massage, she applied the collagen face mask.  It was nice and cool.  Cucumber slices to the eyes followed.

I just can't finish this post without wondering about the black lace bra and panties uniform the therapists were sporting.  I had heard the stories about what happens in some of the seedier Asian spas.  You know the kind.  They announce their presence to passersby with bright red neon signs that scream Massage!  Towards the end of the massage, I started to wonder if this was to be my fate.  If so, based on the aggression with which the massage was performed, I could pretty well guarantee that my child bearing years would be over.

But it was not to be.  The treatment concluded with a relaxing hair washing, conditioner, then the removal of the collagen mask.  The entire mask came off in one satisfying piece.

Next time you're in Irvine, check out the I Spa.  And bring your kids.  This is after all, a family place.  They even have an indoor kids playground.  I give it four enthusiastic stars.

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