If your version of an "ethnic massage" is limited to Swedish rubdowns, a new book promises to open your eyes.
For The Spa Less Traveled: Discovering Ethnic Los Angeles, One Massage at a Time, authors Gail Herndon and Brenda Goldstein anonymously visited hundreds of Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Indian and Mayan spas in the L.A. area, from the beach cities to the valleys, and beyond. Published by Pasadena-based Prospect Park Books (the same people who issue the annual EAT: Los Angeles), The Spa Less Traveled is not only a great resource on hard-to-find local spas -- it's also part of a good cause, with a portion of sales benefiting the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
You can catch the authors at Vroman's in Pasadena on Friday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. But first, we asked them to give us their ten favorites spas, coupled with text from the book.
10. Mint Leaf Natural Products & Thai Massage (Claremont)
"You'll get a true Thai massage in a beautiful facility in a lovely little city. Factor in time to walk through Old Town Claremont afterward and keep your Zen on."
9. Ayodhya Thai Holistic Therapy (Pomona)
"Occupying a sweet little house, this Thai place is simply lovely, with hardwood floors, warm colors and pretty fabrics. The main room doubles as an instructional area for yoga, complete with mattresses on the floor. There are a couple of wooden benches off the cushioned floor where you wait for your treatment."
8. CJ Grand Health Spa (Northridge)
"If you don't want to go to Koreatown for an authentic body scrub, have it here. The private rooms make it a great place for folks who don't like the idea of being scrubbed naked in public."
7. Hankook Sauna (Koreatown)
"An older, smaller Korean spa, Hankook has an appealing intimacy. While it's not for you and 20 of your close friends, it is a good place to share with two to three friends who enjoy a spa adventure."
6. Soul Spa & Chiropractic (Long Beach)
"In addition to Indian head massage, they do hot-stone, deep-tissue, sports massage, pregnancy and Swedish massage, as well as reflexology, facials, waxing and chiropractic care."
5. Spa Relaken (Torrance)
"It's just such a gorgeous place -- you feel better simply by sitting in the lobby. The spa has package deals that include a bento-box-style healthy lunch with your treatment. What a great idea! Be sure to pop in the Japanese market just behind on Western Avenue while you're still in the neighborhood."
4. Japan Shiatsu Massage Center (Downey)
"This was one of the best shiatsu massages we've ever had! The center is clean and authentic, the staff is nice and respectful, and the massage area is quiet and calming. The attention to detail makes the experience delightful -- you can tell you're in the hands of a master shiatsu therapist. Come at least 30 minutes early to enjoy the sauna."
3. Voda Spa (West L.A.)
"Russian tradition intertwined with contemporary California style and comfort. If you're a woman, try to go on a women-only Wednesday -- we did, and we practically had the place to ourselves."
2. Harmony Day Spa (San Gabriel Valley)
"It's a large place but you still feel like you're getting an intimate service. It's a good place to take a group of friends. While you're there: check out Van's Bakery (860 E. Valley Blvd.), which specializes in Chinese, French and Vietnamese baked goods."
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1. Spaahbulous & More (Downtown)
"Schedule an appointment on the website (allow four-hour advance notice). You'll remain fully-clothed except for rolling up your pants to the knee. Your feet soak in hot herbal water inside a plastic-lined wooden bucket. You sit on the ottoman as you soak, and the masseuse works on your neck, shoulders and back. You then move to a big comfy chair for the rest of your foot and body massage, while the masseuse takes your place on the ottoman. She'll cover you with a white towel. After your feet are dried, she'll use a lotion to facilitate the reflexology. We were ready for a nap when it was over. Was it the dim lighting or the heightened state of relaxation? We'll have to do more research."
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