Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Facility Review: Chung Dam Spa, Cheltenham PA
Part of my time in Philadelphia I spent hanging out with my old circus teacher Cypher (see Masterclass with Cypher Zero). It was coincidence that we were in town at the same time. So we did typical circus stuff: training at an aerial space, consuming many calories, and hitting the spa.
Cypher wanted to check out Chung Dam Spa, a smaller Korean spa outside Philadelphia. So we headed there the Saturday afternoon before I came home. As with the last time I went to a Korean spa (see Facility Review: King Spa, Chicago), I was having a Very Bad Day, and a couple of hot tubs sounded like a good idea.
Chung Dam was way smaller and less impressive than King Spa or Spa Castle, but we weren't there to be impressed, we were there to relax and restore.
Be forewarned: unlike the larger spas, almost everything here is gender-segregated. Only the salt room and lounge are coed. So, it's not a great place to go and spend time with a member of the opposite sex. Also: we were both given a set of towels, but only the ladies get bathrobes. (The locker rooms had baskets of the typical Korean spa uniforms that you could wear into the common area.)
Here's a weird thing: as in other places, there's an area to take off and store your shoes before you go into the main locker room. But the shoe storage was just cubby holes, not lockers. So there was a sign up next to them advising against leaving your shoes unattended. Uhhhh, so that's why there are shoe cubbies right at the area where you're supposed to remove your shoes? (True story: I had a pair of sandals stolen from the NYSC locker room once. They weren't even nice. WTF?)
So once you get dressed or undressed, there are showers that you are required to take before using the hot tubs/not hot tubs.
The big question everyone has: Do you HAVE to be naked? I'm going to go with a yes-I-think for the hot tubs. There was a sign that said you could not even wear a bathing suit in the "lower body tub." But only one of the three tubs was labeled "lower body tub." I'm going to assume they meant all 3 tubs, because they were all about the same size, so what's the difference?
In the hot tub another American woman struck up a conversation with me. It was her second time and she was there for the salt scrub (a typical treatment in Korean spas), and she looked at me like I had 2 heads when I said I wasn't getting one. Side note: I cannot relate to people who talk about massages and spa pedicures and scrubs saying things like "It's ONLY $60 and it's SO WORTH IT it's like for 2 hours." As a person who's been broke and busy for most of my adult life, neither spending $60 on recreation nor laying around doing nothing for 2 hours sounds appealing. I don't even like the time and money investment in mani-pedis. I'd much rather get my eyebrows threaded. You're in you're out, here's $8, I look good.
The tub that was labeled "lower body tub" was not hot at all. Lukewarm. No one was in it. The third tub was a cold one with a stream of water dropping into the middle so you could give yourself a nice shoulder massage under it.
After that I went into the coed area to touch base with Cypher. The lounge was nothing special, although the recliner I ended up in was comfy. There were muscle magazines with frighteningly veiny men on them. NOT RELAXING.
What was cool was the salt room. I'd been in salt rooms before, but none that had A GIANT PILE OF SALT IN THEM.
Finally, it was time to check out all the other saunas. These were back in the gender-separated areas, so you could be naked if you wanted, but not everyone was. Some people wore their robes, some wore their uniforms. If you're gonna be naked though, you should probably lay on a towel. That's why they give you like 3 towels.
The "hot clay with charcoal room" was pretty nice and smelled good. The "warm granite room" was super lame. It was supposed to be 98 degrees but it didn't even feel warm enough to be a summer day. I was like, "Is this thing on?" No one else was in there either, so I guess they agreed with me. Or it really wasn't on.
There was a steam room that according to the website is supposed to be "mugwort" but it seemed pretty normal to me. Still nice though. Steam rooms are my favorite.
There was also a regular sauna, which always seems wasted in a Korean spa. It's like "WE HAVE 10 KINDS OF SAUNAS and also a normal one."
All in all, it's not a mega-spa, and it's probably more worth it if you're getting a salt scrub (the $20 entry fee is included for that). But it's clean, cozy, and a nice place to relax if you're in the area.
Chung Dam photo from chungdamspa.com
Photo of me by Cypher Zero