Would you like to know what it’s like to go through a human carwash? Well, keep reading dear friends (and strangers) as I take you through my very first time at Wi Spa, a Korean spa or jimjilbang in the heart of Koreatown in Los Angeles! A k-spa may be vastly different from your average American spa but you will still come out very relaxed and squeaky clean. My two LA BFFs, Elaine and Parky were my k-spa sherpas guiding me like a baby rhino entering a desert oasis. Let’s bathe!
At Wi Spa, valet parking is complimentary which is what you want when you’re running late to your appointment because like, LA traffic. Once you enter the lobby you’re greeted by a receptionist who will check you in and give you a wristband with your identification number. You will also pre-pay for your entrance fee (20 USD) and any other services you’ve booked in advance. If it’s a slow weekday, you may be able to book the same day. You’ll also receive a t-shirt and towel before being directed to separate entrances delineated by gender.
At locker room, grab a pair of one-time use slippers, elastic shorts and bathrobe to complete your county jail ensemble, then find your locker indicated by the number on your wrist. Like a nervy noob, I tapped my new bling to unlock a row of lockers right next to Elaine’s. By the fourth unopened locker, she took me for a fool and to my locker to disrobe. No slippers or bathrobes necessary here, just bring your K-pop star sized towel.
We had 30 minutes before our scheduled half hour scrubs (30 USD) so, we showered and entered the steam sauna. The saunas will make you sweat so, come and go at your own pace. If you’re not well hydrated, there are water coolers nearby to keep you moist and don’t force yourself to stay as long as the other people. We took shower no. 2 and out came our Korean aunties in black lingerie yelling our numbers. “Why don’t they wear bathing suits?”, I yelled aloud at Elaine, but she either didn’t hear me or want to be associated with me.
Pusillanimously, I followed my auntie to my semi-private, neon pink plastic covered metal table. Auntie introduced herself, handed me a scrunchie to gather my wild black mop into a bun and told me to lie face down on a folded yellow face towel. A bucket full of hot water was thrown at my body and a vigorous scrubbing of all exposed body parts starts to take place. All I can think of was, “Did she ask me if I was okay with the water temperature?”, nope. That’s an offense punishable by tipping a percent less. Right then, I felt a new sensation, a stranger’s hand very near my butthole.
Before I knew it, I had to flip over and focus on something but it was just me, a bare concrete room and auntie. A few minutes later, I was in various yoga-like poses while auntie was still prevailing over my tanned and freckled skin. I speculated if she was determined to scrub it off. A final rinse of water made its way up my nose and then, she guided me into a new pose to shampoo my hair into a top knot. I hoped she’d massage my head longer.
Finally, it was over and my skin felt like a newborn babe’s. I can’t stop feeling how smooth and supple my skin has transformed — truly refreshed! Auntie had a few things for me before I was sent off: an assignment to scrub often with the same scrubbing mitt she used and a paper envelope for her tip with instructions to return it immediately to her.
Elaine and I met eyes again as we exited with damp paper envelopes in our hands. Parky seemingly comfortable getting her skin polished while in a side angle pose, yelled instructions at us to head upstairs so, we had to turn around and see her naughty bits. I thought we’d be used to all of the naked bodies by now, but we’ll poke fun at her nonchalance later. We nod and head to shower no. 3 in a chair, before the dry sauna. It felt like my childhood summers living in the high desert. Not bad, but I didn’t want to stay long.
The hot and cold tubs were the only things left to explore and the mini crowd that gathered thought so too. Mothers, small children, friends and solo spa goers luxuriated from medium heat to hot and icy cold tubs of water, in that order. We followed suit, but we were getting hungry so we took our final shower of the day (I swear!) to explore the other floor for the full jimjilbang (Hangul: 찜질방; hanja: 蒸汽房) experience.
We put on our uniform t-shirt, shorts and slippers before heading up. I didn’t pack a brush or moisturizer, but they were provided in the vanity area along with a hair dryer. Upstairs at the jimjilbang, we encountered a heated floor perfect for napping surrounded by the signature sauna rooms, rows of computers, a library with comic books and a restaurant. We nap for a few minutes and meet Jen at the restaurant to nosh on a plate of kimchi fried rice and corn silk tea (so good).
Post-digestion, we enter the five saunas for 10-20 minutes each, ranging from low heat to high heat, saving the ice box for last to close our pores. The five Signature Saunas:
- The Jade Room is beautifully lined in jade, sodium and other minerals is aesthetically pleasing and all ours. The temperature felt warm but not uncomfortable which helped us ease into the sauna experience.
- The Salt Sauna was the same temperature as the Jade Room but felt warmer with other bodies nearby. The pebbles of pink salt was very welcoming and warmed up different pressure points along my backside. You may want to ease into laying your bare legs if you’re sensitive to heat by putting your feet down and bending your knees.
- The Clay Sauna is filled with small balls of warm clay to bury your body under, but it way take some time to get used to even lying on top before attempting this. There’s a wooden plank in the middle to help you make your way to the other side of the room in case the front is full. This was the trickiest to lay comfortably down on but it was also the most fun! You will make a lot of noise getting in and out of position but so does everyone, so don’t worry about it.
- The Ice Room looks just like a freezer with frozen pipes surrounding us but felt refreshing after about an hour of laying in warm saunas. I also wanted us to freeze our bums off before we attempted to go into the hottest room by staying until our legs were shaky and restless.
- We saved the Bulgama last because I wanted to feel the immense 231°F thermotherapy after an icy experience. It wasn’t as bad or shocking to the system as I thought but I couldn’t hangout there for the full 20 minutes. We returned to the Ice Room right after to bring our internal temps down and all was well again.
After a soothing and relaxing experience, we changed into street clothes and concluded our evening with a multi-course Korean BBQ meal at Ahgassi Gopchang and Korean shaved ice (팥빙수, patbingsu or patbingsoo) at Okrumong with our boy toys. The next time in Ktown I will definitely return to Wi Spa and when I visit Korea, I will have to go to a jimjilbang there too!
2700 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week