Can You Actually Use a Korean Spa as Your Hotel for the Night?
Photography isn't allowed inside Wi Spa for obvious reasons. Enjoy this pleasant stock imagery.
I showed up to Wi Spa, the 24-hour Korean spa on Wilshire, at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday even though my treatment wasn’t until after 10. I also showed up with a bathing suit in my bag, on the off chance they’d amend their “no clothes in the baths” policy for me. They didn’t.
In preparation for my spa night and as part of my investigation into the staycation capabilities of a 24-hour spa, I researched thoroughly — and by that I mean I watched a 10-minute YouTube clip of Conan visiting Wi Spa for the first time. Conan drives two clear points home in his video: a) Getting a body scrub hurts like hell; and b) You need to drop all trou before getting into the hot and cold baths. I was initially not willing to come to terms with this fact until someone sat me down and assured me that the experience wouldn’t give me a yeast infection, but there was no doctor on duty to discuss that with me.
Trying to abandon the fear Conan had instilled in me, I valeted (if you want to stay the night, you can leave your car as late as you want, even though the valet leaves around 11 p.m.), checked in and paid for my scrub and my $20 entrance fee. If you’re not getting a treatment, it’s $25 to enter. But as I’d already shelled out $30 to have all my dead skin removed, I got $5 off admission. I was handed a yellow Wi Spa shirt (men get white, women get yellow) and a watch with the number 711 on it. It felt a whole lot like I was checking into the hotel in The Lobster. I could only imagine the dating games that might take place if people were paired off based on their stopwatch numbers at Wi Spa.
I went down to the women’s sauna area and grabbed the robe and the khaki shorts that are part of the Wi Spa uniform. Being overly aware of all the bare asses now surrounding me, I opted to change in the bathroom. It was very clearly the road less traveled.
Once I grew accustomed to my khaki uniform, I started to explore to see if you can, in fact, comfortably use a 24-hour spa as a hotel for the night. I climbed the two flights of stairs in my Wi Spa slippers to the coed floor. The first things I noticed were a children’s play area, three men on laptops next to the bigscreen TV (the Red Sox were beating the Giants by three runs) and a restaurant. Very hotel-y so far.
The bulk of the heated floor was taken up by patrons in white and yellow shirts sprawled on soft yoga-ish mats. On the far side of the room are five saunas: the ice sauna, salt sauna, clay sauna (which, for the record, is the one Conan hung out in), jade sauna and bulgama sauna. The temperatures are displayed on the entrance to each, ranging from the 41-degree ice sauna to the 213-degree bulgama sauna.
The clientele, I also noticed, isn’t unlike the people you’d find at a hotel. And I was pleased to find that I wasn’t the only one who'd shown up by myself. To me, a 24-hour Korean spa is the perfect spot for a solo staycation. You can keep to your own agenda and dine, sleep, eat, read, sauna and soak on your own time. And not all of us are dying to hang out with people we know in a place where nudity is required.
Aside from the singles, there are plenty of families, which also gives the place a hotel sort of vibe. About 10 feet from my mat, a mother was feeding her daughter Haagen-Dazs and a boy less than a year old was wearing a white Wi Spa shirt that came down to his knees. Taking your kids to Wi Spa is kind of like taking them to a resort without leaving town.
I doubt the people-watching would ever get old (seriously, the amount of people streaming YouTube videos on their phones while roasting in the 126-degree clay sauna heat was unprecedented), but Wi Spa provides books and computers if it does. This really isn’t just a spa; it also has a mini business center (with the computers and books) and an in-house restaurant, which doesn't feel far off from a small kiosk at the airport, except with much better food and long mess hall–style tables that allow you to sit on the heated floor. For four bucks, I had miso soup and kimchee for dinner.
At 9:30, the saunas were still full and the restaurant still bustling, even more so than it was at 7. The only thing that changed was that the kids had pretty much cleared out.
I went into the naked tubs around 10, hoping they would’ve emptied out by then. Instead, a group of 30-something women were just arriving for the night. Not ideal timing, seeing as I had finally coaxed my Massachusetts Catholic school–bred bones out of my shorts and T-shirt so I could soak in the steaming hot water before my 10:30 scrub.
I mainly opted for a scrub to see if Conan was overreacting in his video and because going to a Korean spa and not getting a scrub would feel a little like going to a well-regarded steakhouse and ordering a chicken dish.
"It felt a lot like someone was taking a nail file to my entire body."
The scrub happened directly off the bath room (as in the room with baths, not the WC), in a room with too-harsh lighting and a line of bright pink washing tables. The women already getting scrubbed were wearing absolutely nothing, and the women doing the scrubbing wore their uniform of a bra and underwear. Overall, the amount of fabric in the room could’ve been sewn together to make a child’s skirt and not much else. Lying on the table, I was scrubbed more vigorously than a child who spent hours playing in the mud against their parents’ wishes. I had no choice but to force myself to come to terms with the amount of dead skin that was shed onto the pink table as the yellow scrubbing glove went back and forth across my body.
It felt a lot like someone was taking a nail file to my entire body — which is fine for the kneecaps but less exciting when your inner thigh, chest and armpits are also getting filed, buffed, oiled and exfoliated. I can safely report that Conan did not lie about how the scrub feels, but it was very successful, as my skin is now softer and cleaner than a freshly swaddled baby’s.
Overall, the answer is a resounding yes, you can use a 24-hour Korean spa as your hotel for the night. You can eat and spa as much as you want, and you can get a pretty decent sleep on the heated floor on your mat and pillow. (There are blankets too, and I recommend going double mat for best sleeping results.) If you don’t want to sleep in the coed area, there’s also a sleeping floor in the women’s area (and I assume one in the men’s as well), and there are cozy armchairs and televisions on nearly every floor. Your $25 entrance fee is good only until 4 a.m., but you can pay an additional $10 and stay until 11 a.m. So to spend the entire 24 hours costs you $35. I left well after midnight, and was there for about nine hours in total resting, sauna-ing, reading, feeding and basically living the life of an indoor cat. And I’d definitely say it gave Airbnb a run for its money.
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