I spent the afternoon at the Olympus Spa Korean bathhouse in Tacoma. The website is really anodyne and doesn’t do it justice. Its in a Korean strip-mall in South Tacoma, a region of car lots and low-rise fast food with corrugated iron roofs. Its not auspicious but the place is totally cool.
The women’s Bathhouse is a Korean tradition: hot and cold tubs, an icy waterfall, green goop, mineral baths, wet and dry spas and lots of scrubbing. But, unlike Western spas where you seldom see other women this is a very communal experience. You wander around naked in the ‘wet’ areas (the baths) and have a robe for the other areas. If you’re having a scrub (where they exfoliate you for half an hour until your skin rubs of like pulp) you arrive an hour early for soaking and steaming to soften you up. Afterwards you can relax in the hot rooms (darkened rooms with cushions and highly heated floors made of huge cushions of salt or sand or mats – like lying on a very dim hot beach). And there’s the restaurant with lots of condiments and only $7.50 for anything on the menu.
One of the greatest things about the bathhouse is the fee – its only $25 for use of the facility and $45 for a scrub. I spent almost 4 hours there for that. They’re opening another in Lynnwood – February 2005.