King Sauna…the king of saunas

My friend Laura is extremely selfless, and decided that her “birthday party” would be a girl’s day at the spa. Everyone wins. Except the guys. On Sunday morning, six of us met on a desolate street in midtown to board a Mercedes shuttle bus to a Korean spa in New Jersey. Obviously. We knew things were good long before the luxury shuttle came into the picture. The original tip was the message on the coupons we’d all end up using:

KING SPA E-COUPON
***MUST BRING THIS PRINT-OUT AND FILL OUT THE QUESTIONNAIRES.***
$10 of overnight surcharge will be added for checkout after 2:00AM and check in before 2:00AM.
$35 surcharge will be added for every single 24-hr staying.
YOU MUST BRING THIS PRINT-OUT…Email forwarding will NOT be accepted and your Email MUST shown on the eCoupon.

So many questions. Do I have to print this coupon? If it’s an e-coupon, shouldn’t I just be able to show them on my phone? Can I LIVE at King Sauna and Spa?

I never learned the answer to any of these questions. Instead, the lot of us piled into the shuttle bus, and the guy gave us little tickets. Coupons, if you will. He began to speak in his native language to the girl sitting beside me.
“I don’t speak Korean,” she said. He kept on keeping on. “I’m not Korean!” she said, obviously annoyed. She’d just heard him speaking decent English to us, but he just assumed he could get comfy and kick it Korean-style with her. She was not having it. It was a very awkward instance of ethnic tension. We all needed to get in a steam room. Now!

Luckily, that’s just where we found ourselves after a 25 minute ride and smooth check-in. We were given a roll-up of big towel, mini towel, and pink pajama set/Barbie prison uniform. One size fits…most. Soon, we were ready to roam King Sauna and Spa in style. Our first stop was a mineral salt room. It was really hot, and humid, and we sweat a lot. The next stop was another mineral steam room. It was really hot, and humid, and we sweat a lot. Etc., etc., for about five hours. It was magnificent. There were also warning signs outside most of the rooms, suggesting that people who had consumed alcohol not enter, as, oh you know, you might have a heart attack. A breathalizer at the door might be the way to go to prevent any mishaps, but what do I know about running a sauna/spa?

We did a number of fun things along the way including, but not limited to:

-Napped in the Amethyst Lounge (this was a giant room with two dozen Lay-Z-Boys and TV a showing a football game on silent…they also played relaxing music, such as “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch and “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson.)

-Sat in the floor-y chairs in the general lounge, while people around us played chess, checkers, mahjong, and the like.

-Ate bibim-bap (and say “bibim-bap” over and over again) and a giant bowl of rice slushy

-Discovered what a “hip bath,” which was offered on the spa menu, is (it has to do with hemorrhoids…no one got a hip bath this time around).

Eventually, we ventured down to the sauna and baths. These areas were Women Only and also Naked Only. Super naked. It was awkward at first, but we all got used to it after 50 seconds of giggles trying to discreetly cover ourselves. We first hit the sauna, where we sat for more sweating and rock walking (I don’t even know if the rocks were hot…my body temperature was like 300, so I was probably pretty close to death). Then we got in four different baths (really cold, cold, warm, and hot). My favorite was warm, not surprisingly, although hot better than it should have to a healthy human.

Finally, we showered and began to get dressed. Laura’s friend Lena was the first to get to the bus, and she texted us as we changed. Hurry, the bus is filling up! We were like, F. The worst part was that the next bus wouldn’t leave for another two hours (I certainly would have died given two more hours in that hothouse) and that Sophie was still napping in the nap room. We got dressed as quickly as possible and ran to the front desk. The manager had to page Sophie. That was a low point. Then Lena texted that she was on the wrong bus. She’d gotten off just before they departed for Flushing. Close call! Our bus wasn’t even boarding yet. But it was just as well. Sophie made her way down eventually (she’d thought the page was part of her dream, at first). So, after five hours (there are few windows in the place, and it’s rather difficult to tell the passage of time…I can see why they have the $35 rule), we bid King Sauna and Spa adieu.

We packed into the Mercedes shuttle bus for the trip home, and were lucky to be the first ones seated. A couple of women came just before we left, and it seemed there was nowhere for them to sit…but there was. The driver opened the back doors of the shuttle, where two folding chairs lay. He pulled them open, and sat them facing the same way as the other seats.

“Just hold on to the bar when I turn,” he told the women. That seemed like a good rule.

Eventually we were back in NYC, disoriented as could be. It was a marvelous and strange day, and I can’t wait to go back for some sweating and maybe a quick hip bath.