an evening at king spa

We did something a bit unconventional for Valentine’s Day this year…we went to a Korean spa!

King Spa, located in Niles, IL, offers hot tubs, saunas, and massages, and even has a movie theater and food court inside. When you first enter, you’re given an electronic bracelet with a locker key, and assigned a number. You use this bracelet to pay for things like food, as well as services like scrubs and massages.

There are two locker rooms – one for men, the other for women. Within each locker room, there’s a hot tub and sauna area, which is fully nude. Then, you walk into a co-ed section where there are 9 different themed sections.

When I first walked into the locker room, I felt shy about taking my clothes off. Heading into the hot tub section, I felt a little better once I saw that everyone else there was naked.

As I lounged in the hot tub, I wasn’t sure of where to direct my eyes. I started by reading all of the signs thoroughly and studying the facilities. Eventually, I allowed myself to casually glimpse at other women’s bodies. There were all sorts of people there – of all ages and races. Some bodies were conventionally beautiful, while others were more unique. Some had interesting tattoos, others with stretch marks. Some skin was saggy and wrinkly, while others’ was still taut and smooth.

I wondered what everyone’s story was. If they were first timers like myself, or if this was their 20th time here. If they were also insecure about their naked body, or if they were completely comfortable. I pondered if they had driven from Chicago (I heard one woman at the end comment that they had driven there from Indianapolis) and what they did for a living and who they were there with, if anyone.

On one side of the room were a row of tables where naked women were getting scrubbed down by old Asian women, wearing black two-piece outfits. I saw one woman get oiled down and scrubbed, her hair wrapped in a towel, and eventually led over by the old Asian lady to the showers, where she thanked her gratefully.

Most people sat around quietly, not not trying to make eye contact, but also not deliberately trying to. It wasn’t uncomfortable – it felt more like an unspoken code of conduct.

Eventually, I headed back to the locker rooms to switch into my “uniform”, which was a baggy pink t-shirt and equally as baggy, long pink shorts that looked like basketball shorts. Andrew and I decided to leave our phones in our lockers.

Walking into the co-ed common area felt like walking into a bizarre adult PE class. All of the women were wearing the same pink getup as me, while the men were in the identical outfit, in grey. Shoes are not allowed in the spa, so most people were barefoot, aside from a few that wore socks.

In the center of the area was a collection of couches. A few people were sprawled out, napping. There were chess sets laid out, magazines to browse through, and even a TV set up to play Super Mario World.

Circling the main area were doors leading to the different rooms. There was a salt room, where the walls were made of Himalayan salt and the floor was pleasantly warm. There was a charcoal room which was very similar to that. People in there lay silently on their backs, most of them with their eyes closed gently.

There was a Pyramid-shaped structure, and an Ice room that Andrew scoped out – he reported back that it was essentially a “fridge for humans”. There was one room with walls covered in amethyst crystals, and thousands of tiny wooden cubes covering the floor. It reminded me of a kids ball-pit, except the balls were tiny wooden cubes instead of plastic balls.

It was interesting seeing about half of the people on their phones, while the other half laid there quietly, staring off into space or eyes closed. I was glad that we decided to leave our phones in the locker rooms – it was so interesting to just sit and people-watch.

At one point, we ordered dinner from the food court. I got a spicy pork bento combo, which reminded me of the combo sets I would get from the H-Mart food court. There was miso soup, shaved cabbage with Thousand Island dressing, two gyoza, spicy pork, pickled jalape├▒os and white rice. It was quite yummy and satisfying!

We arrived around 5pm and left around 9pm, racking up over 4 hours at King Spa. Before we left, we both did a second round in the hot tub and sauna. I felt much more comfortable this time around. I shed my uniform with ease and sauntered into the hot tub. I didn’t feel the need to suck in my stomach.

In some ways, King Spa sort of reminds me of an airport. You come here, mingle with complete strangers for a few hours and then most likely never see them again. Except – I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a person naked at the airport.

I loved King Spa because you can go there to relax and you don’t need to be wary of being yourself. After all, we’re just a bunch of naked people sitting in hot water.

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