By Carrie Murphy
I'm floating buck naked in a giant indoor hot tub, surrounded by other women who are also buck naked. Alas, however, I am not at the Grotto at the Playboy Mansion in LA. I'm at Spa World in a strip mall in VA. Centreville, to be exact, home of some of the best Korean food and, as I would come to find out, the best Korean spas. I'm not sure this is how I envisioned my Monday morning going, but as I sat in the gigantic pool, letting the massage jets punch my back, I could think of a lot worse things to be doing. (Work?) Yes, once you get over the mental hump (and all those lady lumps) of public nudity (bathing suits aren’t allowed), you enter the Spa World zone, a Zen mindset where washing your hair while squatting on a stool next to a complete stranger becomes totally normal.
Besides the pool, I also sat naked in one of the saunas, before getting fully outfitted in one of the Spa World assigned uniforms, a shapeless orange shirt and shorts set (the men get yellow), to head to the unisex common area to eat. The teriyaki chicken was good, but not as good as the next event—the poultice rooms.
Supposedly these rooms will help alleviate your body's ailments based on the properties of the stones and gems in each room. I was mesmerized by the trippy full-wall mosaic of birds and animals in the Amethyst room, as well as the weirdly sci-fi vibe of the Salt room. But it was the hot-as-Hades Red Clay Ball room that completely blew my mind. I laid my newly rubbery limbs on top of thousands of tiny red clay balls, learning along the way that they're noisy, so walk with caution. I got a lot of dirty looks when I tripped and sent little clay balls flying over the snoring dude in the corner. But Korean-spa social missteps (literally) aside, it was worth it: the overall sensation of the room is half lying on the beach and half what I imagine it must feel like to be in the womb. I definitely felt some "power," but since my visit, I still get migraines and the scab on my knee hasn't fallen off yet, so you know, the jury's still out on these rooms’ healing effects.
What’s decided though, is Spa World’s awesome insanity. It was kinda like those dreams where you get trapped in the mall and have some crazy adventure where you soap up the fountain. Except here, the fountain is a pool and it's totally OK to use soap.
Spa World is located at 13830 Braddock Rd. in Centreville, Va., about 25 miles west of DC. Admission is $35 for the full day.
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Carrie Murphy is a poet and writer living in Alexandria, Va. Read more at her blog or follow her on Twitter.