Moments of luxury and pure indulgence

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Moments of luxury and pure indulgence

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Hot stone massage is offered at the Grand Hyatt Seoul. [JoongAng Ilbo]

The Korean concept of a spa used to be a monthly outing to a public bathhouse to scrub the dirt away. That was before most homes had their own bathrooms, but the tradition is still alive and well. At public bathhouses one can still see ajummas frantically scrubbing their epidermis until their arms turn as pink as a boiled lobster. On the other hand, there is also a growing demand for upscale versions of the urban day spa, where there are many ways to relieve stress. Here are some of the spas that are popular at present.

Hotel Spas

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Grand Hyatt Seoul

Grand Hyatt Seoul
Newly opened with a lush interior by John Morford, who designed the Park Hyatt Tokyo, The Spa at the Grand Hyatt Seoul offers traditional Korean massage techniques with European aromatherapy on its main treatment menu. Both full and half-day programs are available and they include facials, body wraps, scrubs, and exclusive hair treatments that include one or one and a half hour sessions of aromatherapy, deep conditioning and massage. The Spa features 12 suites that come with private bathroom facilities and music selected by the guests. The therapies include a four-hour program that involves a ginseng cleansing scrub, a foot massage, anti-ageing facial and cuticle treatment, all based on traditional Korean massage techniques. All products used in the treatments are natural botanical extracts. The spa is located on the hotel’s garden level. Prices begin from 120,000 won. For more information call (02)799-8808.

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W Seoul-Walkerhill

W Seoul-Walkerhill
One of the highlights at the W Seoul’s Away Spa is its Turkish bath, which incorporates scrubs, oils, natural soaps and steamed herbs used by tellaks, the special therapists who help customers to bathe in Turkey. The Turkish hamam room at the spa was built with a traditional domed shape and it has separate rooms for men and women, according to Turkish tradition. But aside from these touches, Away Spa is undoubtedly a place that faithfully reflects the hotel’s stylish modern setting. It has 21 treatment rooms with VIP suites, pools and an outdoor treatment area overlooking the Han River. Other popular treatments in the spa include watsu, an underwater acupressure massage, in which the guests are cradled in the arms of a trained therapist, who moves them around and massages them in the water. The spa also offers special fitness treatments for sporting types. After treatments, visitors can refresh themselves at Tonic, the hotel’s fitness restaurant, which has health drinks with wild names like “Wonder Woman” and “Hulk.” Facials and body treatments begin at 100,000 won. For more information call (02) 2022-0450.

JW Marriot

The Marquis Thermal Spa & Fitness Club is one of the first hotel spas to open in Seoul, with a lavish fitness facility that includes a rock climbing wall, scuba tank and a swimming pool. The spa programs feature Hydro baths, in which mineral sea salt, seaweed powder and aroma oils are mixed in hot water to relieve tense muscles. There is also a special bath that uses medicinal herbs that help remove cellulite; a body wrap program on a thermo water bed using a sheet soaked with chamomile and lavender extracts; a “Blitz Shower” using high water pressure to boost metabolism and an aromatherapy back, neck and shoulder massage. Guests are offered oxygen therapy after each treatment.
“Some people say that we are actually a hotel built around a spa,” said the hotel’s general manager Robert Lohrmann. Treatments start at 90,000 won. For more information call (02) 6282-6578.

Medical Spas

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Be S Clinic

Be S Clinic
“Be S” is a medical beauty clinic, run by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Visitors to the clinic chose from various spa treatments after a consultation with doctors. The names are a sign that each treatment is luxurious. The programs include the Niagara Water Journey, a massage technique that relieves tension through air and water pressure; “Javanese Lulur” a traditional bathing technique that is performed on Java Island brides and uses cleansing creams that are made from a mixture of rice powder, exotic herbs, jasmine oil and vanilla yogurt; and “Cleopatra Silky Oil Coat,” which uses warm milk and oil with a body wrap made from rose petals. There are specialized facials, scalp massage and other diet programs. Membership must be obtained in order to get treatments. For more information call (02) 549-6550.

LaMar
LaMar is one of the first medical spas to be opened in Seoul. It is operated by a dermatologist. It offers massage treatments under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional. Currently the place offers an OMB spa, a special bathing system that is used to treat pain at hospital rehabilitation centers, facials, massages, and treatments that require a medical permit. Packages start from 150,000 won. For information call (02) 512-0702.

Specialized Spas
Whoo Spa Palace

Whoo Spa attracted attention among female health buffs because it uses medicinal herbs for skin care. The facility, which was deliberately set up to look like a palatial home from old Korea (the place was designed by staff from the Korean TV show “Gung”, a drama about a royal family in modern times), mixes modern and traditional elements. It’s also famous for using hand techniques instead of machine treatments for facials, which are administered using medicinal herbs. It also offers body massages that were, in the past, performed in Korean palaces plus hand and foot massages. For VIP customers Whoo regularly offers meditation classes, yoga sessions and tea ceremonies. Prices begin at 80,000 won. For more information call 080-022-0303.

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Quick Sports Massage

Aruna
Aruna has established its reputation as a spa primarily for men. To cater to their clientele they’ve introduced fast lunch spa packages for businessmen, which include bathing and massaging packages that take less than an hour.
Aruna’s concept is more about relieving stress than improving beauty; massage therapists here use harder pressure than average on the shoulder and neck to relieve tense muscles. An 80 minute “businessman’s package” includes back care and a hydro facial massage for 100,000 won.
Quick Sports Massage
Sports massage, of the type that is provided to athletes before games, is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for men.
It’s often sought after by male businessmen following a night of heavy drinking, before they head for work. Quick Sports Massage is one of the more popular brands in the field; they also have branches in China and Singapore. Most sports massage involves hard pressure at a low cost, performed by male therapists. Prices start at 40,000 won. For more information call (02) 3393-1252.

Cosmetic Spas

Body Shop’s Well-Being Spa offers affordable spa packages under 100,000 won. Its main program is an aromatherapy massage using the company’s products. As a specialty it provides pre-natal massage.
There are branches in Sinsa-dong, Gwanghwamun and Myeongdong. For more information call (02)365-2637. The Amore Spa (02-2118-6221), a small but posh space designed by Amore Pacific is on the 10th floor of the Avenuel Department Store and offers various therapies that use botanical ingredients and water. The Aveda Dar Concept Spa (02-544-7821) offers various aromatherapy and spa treatments using Aveda’s essential oils. The spa offers programs developed by the herbalists and therapists who were the progenitors of spas in the west.


By Park Soo-mee Staff Writer [myfeast@joongang.co.kr]
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