I Got Scrubbed within a Millimeter of My Life and Loved It!
Our spa correspondent tries out an upscale Korean day spa
As a spa consultant, I make sure to take full advantage of my job’s perks (wouldn’t you?). That’s why I was so very excited when I heard about a new spa opening that elevated the traditional, pedestrian Korean bath experience to a luxurious level. Having been subject to the standard Koreatown version, where privacy is forgotten and torture is practiced – well, if you consider a tiny Korean lady beating you with small twigs & branches “to stimulate circulation and blood flow” torture — I couldn’t wait to see what a luxe version might entail.
The only caveat was that I had to travel over the Hudson River (gasp) to enjoy the services at Sojo Spa Club, located in Edgewater, NJ. There is a convenient shuttle bus that will whisk you through the Lincoln Tunnel if you don’t have your own transportation. So off I went with my bathing suit and my dignity intact to experience the Korean spa.
Sojo Spa Club was built from the ground up and is spotlessly clean. You are greeted by a spa attendant who then directs you to remove your shoes and store them in a handy locker downstairs before you are whisked up to the promised land of rejuvenation and relaxation.
I immediately booked the 90-minute Korean bath treatment, in the bathhouse where clothing is optional. However, it’s recommended that you soften up your skin prior to the treatment by immersing yourself in the many outdoor pools where clothing is necessary since it’s so close to the Hudson River that people on the Staten Island Ferry could see your jiggly bits. There is a wide selection of pools including a silk bath, a cedar-lined pool and a hydrotherapy pool to name a few. There is also an infinity pool on the roof with incredible views of the Hudson and Manhattan. At least, that’s what they told me. The first time I went there was in a blinding snowstorm, so there wasn’t much view to be had on that day, as evidenced in the photo below.
After enjoying the facilities where I could easily spend hours on end, I headed to the bathhouse when my number was called (you wear a wristband) and was escorted back into the inner sanctum of the women’s only area. My therapist, who was dressed in a black bra/underwear set, led me to a somewhat private room with tiled walls and a treatment bed in the center. I took everything off and laid down with some trepidation, since there are no towels or any coverings to speak of. Then the therapist started scrubbing and scouring every inch of my bare body — not massaging, but digging in every nook and cranny with a pumice stone. After each body section, she practically drowned me with a big bucket of warm water. It was a sheer respite from the torture, and I found myself counting down the seconds until I would once again be submerged!
In French, the phrase grand écart means ‘split,’ as in a dancer who gracefully embraces gravity on the floor. In a Korean bathhouse, the grand écart is when your therapist takes one leg and positions it on her shoulder while maniacally exfoliating every single inch of visible skin.
You have to endure the scrubbing part for about 30 minutes. After that, I had the most divine scalp massage and cucumber shampoo, and then finally a full body massage with oils. I am addicted to massage, but I do have to say that having one done when you’ve just had multiple layers of dead skin cells removed is not the most pleasant.
Then the therapist cleaned up the table, littered with my old skin and any remnants of dignity, and I was told to go shower away any inhibition I had left – which at that point was really just some lingering cutaneous cells. I do have to say that I emerged with the softest skin I have ever had. It was pliant, supple and hydrated, and the feeling lasted for days. This is not a treatment for the demure but is well worth the result of shedding all that self-consciousness or reserve that has built up for years on end.
I have returned to Sojo three times. No, not because I am a masochist, but because it is such a great experience to share with friends.
Want to join your Covey Club friends for a spa adventure? We’ll be hosting a relaxing weekend at Civana Resort & Spa:
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