Sunday, April 19, 2009
I am America's Gypsy and my gypsy spirit has taken me around the world only to find there are many hidden gems of culture in our own back yard of America. These small countries with in our major cities bring unique adventures to the curious soul.
Today we are exploring Korea in America! It was another day of hustle and bustle in Los Angeles and I needed to relax! I’ve heard of these so-called Women's Day Spas, but in this city of luxury, it comes at a high price. Driving down Wilshire Blvd. I pulled into the Grand Spa (www.grandspala.com), which is right in the middle of Korea town. Korea town is considered one of the most diverse neighborhoods in America with a Korean population of some 160-thousand people, making it the largest concentration of Koreans outside of Korea. It is under 5 square miles and is rich with brownstones, high-end Asian boutiques, food markets and spas. For under a hundred dollars you can spend all day in a Korean spa or as they call it, Jimjilbang, and receive an assortment of ancient healing treatments such as the famous Korean Scrub. Ajumas (older Korean women only wearing black underwear) or Ajoshis for the gentlemen (yes, men get scrubs too), will scrub you from head to toe with a special exfoliating glove. "Anyong Haseo" is the greeting and "Kamsamnida" is thank you in Korean.
As the doors open to the Grand Spa, an array of Korean women all dressed in white greeted me with joy “Anyong haseo!” As I undressed into my white robe and towel, I entered into a mermaid’s oasis filled with showers, soaking tubs, dry saunas, and an array of steam rooms. I opted for the cold tub first. As I inched my way into the freezing water I couldn't help but laugh and scream at the same time. All the naked Korean women looked at me with a slight grin on their face.... as I said with great articulation "C O L D!" They nodded in agreement. After about an hour of circulating between hot and cold tubs, it was time for my scrub. On my way to my treatment, I passed naked women lying on wet beds and heard the sounds of wet flesh hitting wet flesh and then realized that not only was I naked and wet, but so was my Ajuma.
The scrub began! She poured hot water all over me like a dog being washed in the sink. She then flopped me onto my tummy and with brisk movements wearing lime green exfoliating gloves; she salted and scrubbed me like a piece of meat being seasoned for the BBQ. Even though she was small, she was extremely strong. She then poured hot oil all over and rubbed me like a potter loosens his clay. Then came my favorite part...she washed my hair! With vigor, she lathered, brushed and rinsed just like my mom used to do when I was a kid. She then rinsed me off and poured this warm, white liquid over me. Milk! She was pouring warm milk all over my body. I let a little drizzle into my mouth and had a faint memory of my mother yet again. She gently slapped my back to tell me to get up and shower. I said "Kom sam nee da" on my way out and felt so relaxed and clean. The only sound in the whole room was water splashing and hands smacking wet thighs.
Los Angeles is filled with many different Korean Spas; The Olympic Spa (www.olympicspala.com) where you can rotate between the Oxygen stone sauna, cold plunge, Mugwart hot tub, Himalayan rock salt sauna and an infrared sauna. After all that circulation one gets hungry. They have a wonderful little café where you can sip seaweed soup, nibble on fermented kimchi and drink Pumpkin tea. Gypsy Health Secret: Kimchi is rich in vitamins and aids digestion. And Pumpkin tea helps you to sweat and urinate so as to support the detoxification in your body.
The Beverly Hot Springs (http://www.beverlyhotsprings.com/)
is a natural mineral thermal spa in Los Angeles. The water comes from a natural artesian well 2,200 feet beneath the earth's surface. Hot springs contain various minerals and elements such as alkaline, radium, sulfur, sodium and alkaline sodium chloride, which have healing properties and health benefits.
One can experience all these ancient Korean rituals right here in America. Other cities that have Korea Town are Manhattan, Orange County, Seattle, Atlanta, Doraville, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, and Kansas City. The gypsy enjoys every cultural experience fully and finds the best deals, the best services and creates the best stories to tell to others.