24 Hours at Spa World I came to relax—and discovered the unbearable lightness of staying that way.

Illustrations by Carey Jordan

I am sitting boob-deep in tepid water, sous-viding the burrito I ate for lunch a half-hour ago.

Around me float a dozen women representing almost as many age and ethnic groups. An elderly Korean lady accidentally grabs my thigh while, outside of the pool, a young blonde woman towel-dries her crotch. It is a typical Friday afternoon at Spa World, the sprawling South Korean-styled bathhouse in Centreville, Va.

This unincorporated community in Fairfax County isn’t at the forefront of many international trends. But when Spa World opened in 2008, it was during the height of South Korea’s public-bath craze and just a year behind the opening of New York’s largest jimjibang, Spa Castle. Since then, Spa World has done brisk business relaxing the D.C. area’s fast-growing Asian population as well as various tightly wound constituencies, including between-assignment State Department officials, Groupon users, and expats pining for the sentos, banyas, or hammams of their youth. There’s no shortage, after all, of type-A Washingtonians hoping to shed their stress (and, clearly, their clothes).

They all make pilgrimages to this otherwise unremarkable strip mall off of I-66, entering a concrete building the color of old newspaper. Then, just past a pair of amorphous Buddhas, they surrender their shoes and receive a yellow or prison-orange uniform and a telephone-cord bracelet that serves as both currency and locker key.

Until this month, $35 bought you a 24-hour pass to the entire two-story complex: fifty thousand square feet of saunas, hot tubs, and sleeping rooms. Now, a sign taped to the locker-room door outlines the new policy: “General Admission includes 12 consecutive hours use of the facility. There will be Overcharged fee of $40 after 12 hour. Coupons and any other deals will not be acceptable for Overcharged fees.”

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On this day, at least one spagoer feels Overcharged, indeed. “I bought a bunch of coupons, and then they changed the rules,” says a lanky man I find near Spa World’s snack bar. “Did you really use the full 24 hours?” I ask. “All the time,” he says, explaining that he works as a gardener in the D.C. area, though he has a homestead in West Virginia. “I stay with friends, but sometimes I like to get out of their hair by coming here.”

While South Korean bathhouses traditionally stay open 24 hours, most U.S. jimjibangs don’t try to keep up. Even in New York, the jimjibangs close at midnight or soon thereafter. But Spa World seems determined to stay true to its insomniac roots despite the early-to-bed town it serves.

Being an early-to-bed person myself, I have never stayed at Spa World past 5 p.m. Today, however, I’ve told my editors I’ll lock myself in the bathhouse for 24 hours to find out what happens during the witching hours. I’m curious to see who stays overnight—Runaways? Down-on-their-luck couch surfers?—and how they find sleep at a complex that is largely devoted to sweating and bathing. If a rave breaks out in the ice room at 3 a.m., I want to know. Moreover, I want to test my own capacity to stay relaxed for an entire day. Do I have what it takes to spend 24 hours locked in a Northern Virginia strip mall without going crazy?

Spoiler alert: I do not.

Friday, Feb. 15,
1:30 p.m.

Nudity is strictly enforced in the sex-segregated areas of Spa World, which include separate men’s and women’s 97-degree “bade pools,” with mushroom-shaped water fountains in the middle. Bathing suits are not allowed, a sign explains, because they might leach chemicals into the water or cover up signs of infectious disease.

I’m not usually squeamish about baring my butt, but today I’m worried my fellow bathers will notice the pancake-sized bruises on my thighs and think I’m suffering from late-stage Ebola. A few days ago, an off-duty police officer ran a red light near Union Station and then changed his mind, backing his car over me and my bike while I was in a crosswalk. As a result, I’m sporting a variety of contusions and abrasions, one torn ligament, and a chipped shoulder bone.

Despite the mishap, I decided to soldier on with the Spa World lock-in. After all, the bathhouse’s gemstone-encrusted saunas purportedly have magical healing properties. (More on that later.)

So I disrobe and shuffle past two older, stern-looking women in black lace lingerie guarding the door to the bade pool area. They stop one customer from taking more than two tiny towels and chastise another for failing to dry off before entering the locker room, but they let me pass, bruises and all.

Besides the 10 women floating in the bade pool, a few more soak in smaller hot tubs—more people than I expected to see in the middle of a weekday. I step into the pool and drift over to what looks like an overlarge sink faucet, which pummels my uninjured shoulder with a mighty stream of water. Heaven.

Through my foggy glasses, I contemplate the variety of bodies in this Northern Virginia melting pot: a 40ish women with a torso like a Coke can, a college-aged gal with ski-jump boobs, a young mother and baby, both covered in freckles. Like uniforms, nudity has a leveling effect. We might speak different languages and occupy different rungs on the socioeconomic ladder, but when stripped of the signifiers of class and culture, we’re all just naked apes with sore backs.

I soak in the various tubs for an hour, perhaps longer than recommended, but it’s hard to know. One sign tells me to spend no longer than five minutes in the water; another placard recommends five to 10 minutes; and when I sign up for a body scrub, I’m told to spend a full 30 minutes in a hot tub before my appointment. The management puts up new signs without taking down old ones, resulting in an archeological record of evolving guidelines and thwarted ambitions—including a laundry room labeled “banquet hall” and a business center that’s “coming soon” but has failed to materialize for at least a year. The very first sign I encounter, in the locker room, is my favorite: “Please be accompanied by a guardian for the old, The weak and the children.”

2:30 p.m.

I gave the au pair/geriatric nurse the day off, but I find my boyfriend, Steve, in the co-ed “poultice room,” which both of the sex-segregated pool areas eventually lead to. He’s claimed one of the few Western-style chairs and already looks bored.

“Twenty-four hours,” says Steve. “Are we going to be able to do this?”

“It’s going to be tough,” I reply, but I suspect that, although he made it through Navy boot camp, Steve won’t survive Spa World.

We’re both wearing Spa World’s gender-coded uniforms, though Steve’s top is a nice, soft T-shirt reserved for very large men, while the rest of us chafe in rough canvas. On our wrists are orange plastic bracelets dangling numbered locker keys. At the center of the room is a raised floor where people hang out on the mats, chatting, sleeping, reading, or watching one of two large-screen TVs. Around the edges of the room are saunas, each of which offers a host of special benefits. The amethyst room, for instance, “prevents skin ailments,” and can “cure various geriatric diseases.”

While the bade pools are foggy and dim, the poultice room is noisy and bright. Unseen speakers emit a sine-wave beep, then an announcement: “Guest 2025, please come to the massage area.” I glance at my bracelet, though my massage isn’t until 4 p.m. In fact, every time there’s an announcement, I frantically check my number to make sure I’m not in the wrong place or in trouble somehow. Sudden onset authority anxiety: a result of either the prison-orange uniforms of the high-school announcement system.

In addition to the saunas, the poultice room is ringed by staircases. One has a curious sign: “The men’s sleeping room has been closed until further notice.” I investigate. At the top of the stairs is another sign: “Security Camera Now Recording.” I tentatively push open a door and peek in. Five men look up from their respective Korean newspapers, mildly annoyed by the interruption. I belatedly notice a sign that says “smoking room.” No one is currently smoking, though clearly someone has been. Huge silver ashtrays overflow with spent cigarettes.

I close the door and walk to the end of a hall, where I find another portal that someone sealed shut with yellow tape, suggesting the world’s most relaxed crime scene. I peer into the window and see only a wood floor and a sign asking that customers not remove the blankets.

Since I’ll be looking for a dark and quiet place to rest soon enough, I hunt for the women’s sleeping room. I head up another staircase from the poultice room and find myself in a fitness center. There are the usual rows of elliptical machines, treadmills, stationary bikes, and weights, plus a bookshelf lined with tennis shoes and a sign asking people to return the books after reading them. (There are no books, only shoes.)

No one is exercising, but three spagoers stand barefoot on what appear to be violently vibrating walkers. The cardiovascular benefit of these machines seems questionable, but I give it a try anyway, tentatively pressing the button for “low.” A platform tilts rapidly back and forth, shaking free an idea. Maybe the real purpose of spas and their many devices is to provide unusual sensory experiences. The salutary benefits of hot tubs, saunas, and body shakers provide a convenient cover for adults to engage in some tactile fun.

Kids can plunge their hands in mud for no reason at all, but when adults play with mud, we pretend it’s to tighten our pores.

4 p.m.

I loiter next to a low wall in the bade-pool area, watching as a middle-aged woman in leopard-print underwear kneads a very relaxed-looking woman. She lies with one arm draped over her side like Sleeping Venus, eyes shut and unaware that the massage therapist is wielding a cheese grater just inches from her skin. I feel relieved when the masseuse uses it to grate a cucumber instead of her client. She makes a delicious-smelling mush and applies it to Venus’ serene face.

Soon comes my turn for a scrub and massage, and I’m led to my table by another Korean women, this one in lace lingerie. She gestures for me to take off my glasses and lay face-up on the table. I try to warn her about my injury. I point to my broken shoulder and wince. She looks confused, so I attempt to surmount our language barrier by speaking slowly and loudly. “Broken shoulder, please don’t touch,” I say, feeling like an idiot. What am I doing getting a massage, anyway?

She pushes me down and begins vigorously scrubbing my entire body. This is not a Western-style massage, where you’re covered by a sheet, your body demurely exposed a tiny bit at a time. I am in public, totally naked, and my massage therapist has no compunction about getting right up into my every nook and cranny. It’s a damn good body scrub, but I’m getting anxious. I don’t think my message got through, and her hands are heading shoulder-ward.

I attempt to convey discomfort by stiffening and shifting my body. It’s a strategy I remember using as a teenager on dates with handsy boys, and it’s proving as ineffective as ever. Missing my nonverbal cues, the massage therapist gives my left shoulder a firm press. I yelp. She apologizes, but soon her hands return to my injured shoulder. I try to relax through the pain. My shoulder is getting sloughed whether I like it or not. The grey worms of my own exfoliated skin roll off my body and drown in tiny pools of water on the floor.

5:30 p.m.

Resuming my search for the women’s sleeping room, I head up another staircase and find a locked, glass-walled area. In back are long-abandoned salon chairs and hair-washing stations. There are also display cases of shampoo, slippers, and cheap jewelry—items that are ostensibly for sale, though there’s no cash register in sight. The biggest ticket item: a $3,000 “water mineral activator.”

I’m about to head back downstairs, defeated, when I see a clue. A yellowing sign on a window reads, “For women’s sleeping room, please use the staircase in locker room.”

I return to the locker room and see nothing resembling a staircase. There are exactly three exits—one to the bade pool, one to the poultice room, and one to the front-desk area. I methodically explore the room, weaving around women in various states of undress until I find a narrow staircase hidden behind a row of lockers. At the top of the stairs is the padlocked door of the women’s sleeping room and a sign: “Closed for Maintenance.”

8 p.m.

Steve is still in his chair, looking lifeless, but he perks up when I tell him it’s time for the evening’s big event: dinner. When the Washington Post’s restaurant critic, Tom Sietsema, reviewed Spa World’s house restaurant last year, he called the vegetarian dumplings “feel-good” and the bibimbap “everything I want from the beloved Asian meal-in-a-bowl.” I call them bland. Luckily, there’s plenty of Sriracha around, so I drown my meal in rooster sauce while watching a sad-faced Asian man slurp soup while tabbing through spreadsheets. Behind me, a cute Russian couple giggles over a Lilliputian dish of kimchi. Both wear towels tied around their heads and twisted into Princess Leia buns.

After eating, Steve returns to his chair, and I introduce myself to our neighbor, the West Virginian. He looks up from a stack of New Yorkers that he is taking copious notes on and tells me about the rowdy 24-hour crowds. I ask about the sleeping rooms. “There was a scandal,” he says. “I heard about it through back channels. Someone did something they shouldn’t have.” He refuses to elaborate.

I read a short story about vampires, and empathize with their predicament: An eternity of bland comfort can only lead to despair, ennui and, finally, violence. At first, Spa World seems like a sensory extravaganza; now it’s a sensory deprivation tank, with its vast body-temperature pools and rooms. I visit a sauna with a floor covered in clay marbles—a mosaic of red, grey, and black. Crunching under my feet, the clay balls sound like waves crashing. Slipping through my fingers, they sound like rainfall. Time crawls.

To avoid succumbing to bloodlust, I make friends with more spagoers. A State Department employee is studying Korean out of a book, somehow missing the opportunity to converse with dozens of native speakers. I interrupt a man who is reading Your Defiant Child. He tells me he has two children, age 8 and 6. I resist asking him which is the defiant one.

A couple from New York, Terrell and Lee, tell me they came to D.C. for a friend’s birthday party and decided to spend the night at Spa World instead of a hotel. “That was a mistake,” Terrell says, shifting uncomfortably in his loveseat. Another couple, this one in their 20s, tells me that they hadn’t planned on spending the night, but they got too relaxed to drive home. This strikes me as plausible. Both of them appear to have melted into their chairs.

10:33 p.m.

I’m drifting to sleep in my loveseat when a burbling fountain shuts off. The abrupt silence startles me awake.

10:36 p.m.

The fountain turns on again.

10:39 p.m.

The fountain turns off.

Cursing the fountain, I decamp to the floor mats. The last thing I see before I lose consciousness is an elderly Korean woman sticking her hand way down her orange shorts and scratching vigorously.

Saturday, Feb. 16,
1:20 a.m.

My cell phone chirps. It’s almost been 12 hours—time to check out and back in again. Steve hasn’t slept at all, due to the smallness of the chairs, the hardness of the floors, and the three-minute fountain. We both check out, but I sign up for the next 12 hours alone. A small group of women stands in line behind me, chatting in Russian. I smile and wave and get blank stares in response. “Dobre outro!” I say, excited to use my one Russian phrase. They continue to ignore me.

1:30 a.m.

The Russians and I plunge naked into the bade pool, which is almost as busy as it was 12 hours ago. Selecting a Jacuzzi-jet station, I realize, probably requires a similar calculus as the one men use to choose a urinal. You want to avoid standing directly next to someone else, unless that’s the only remaining option. I head for a spot marked by a semicircle railing and find a set of jets that point directly up your skirt. Except, of course, I am not wearing a skirt.

Two women with cropped hair are soaking nearby. My gaydar pings, though they don’t seem like a couple. In fact, body language suggests that this may be an ill-advised date, the kind that you go on because you have nothing else to do, stretching well into the night through the sheer force of inertia. One woman leans away from the other, arms crossed, looking bored. Her companion looks at me, eyes narrowed. It seems I have been staring.

2:15 a.m.

Before I head to bed, I visit the smoking room, expecting to interrupt an orgy or, at the very least, some high-stakes Go-Stop. I crack open the door and find a lone man reading his iPad. I pop into the ice room and meet three college-age gals who have driven down from New Jersey just to visit Spa World. They seem dismayed when I tell them there’s a Korean bathhouse—Palisades Park’s King Spa Fitness—in their very own state.

En route to the mats in the poultice room, I peek into one of the cooler saunas and see a couple fast asleep on the floor, spooning. Fifteen adults and one child are sleeping on the floor, and a handful of other people doze on chairs. Employing a damp towel as a sleep mask, I fall asleep despite the quiet murmurs of a Korean drama and CNN.

6:30 a.m.

I’m awake, and my chest constricts when I realize that I have another seven hours to go. I imagine sprinting barefoot, past the front desk, and into the parking lot. I just want to see the sky, just for a minute. Would anyone really care if I bailed a little early? In the name of journalistic integrity, I promptly fall back asleep.

8:30 a.m.

Unfortunately, I’m awake again. The water fountain turns on and off and on and off. I browse a catalog of industrial mats while eating a breakfast of baked eggs. I ask the sauna-spooning couple how they slept. “Great,” the woman replies. I get the sense they live with their parents and use Spa World as a cheap place to canoodle.

I, myself, haven’t spent much time in the saunas yet.

I don’t quite get their appeal—why get hot and sweaty on purpose? But since I have run out of other things to do, I head to the 136-degree amethyst gem cave. Lying on the floor, I gaze at the ceiling, a 10-pointed star of purple and red gems. My mind enters a liminal state as I observe the walls, stone mosaics of flowering trees, mushrooms, deer, and egrets. A peaceful pastoral scene, though the mushrooms dwarf the birds.

The heat has made my limbs heavy and slowed my mind. The point of saunas, I suspect, is to force people to still their bodies and thoughts. The sweating is incidental. I lie there for maybe a half-hour, and when I return to the poultice room, I feel light, my despair incinerated.

The health benefits claimed by the gem-stone rooms seem far-fetched, but I am a strong believer in the placebo effect. So I claim a mat in the salt room, a 166-degree sauna that, the sign says rather literally, “heats bone.” I assume it means “heals.” Soon, sweat beads bubble on my skin, and I imagine that they are a viscous gel, dribbled onto me by the sauna’s pink salt blocks. In my mind’s eye, this magic substance soaks into my torn ligaments and binds them back together.

On my way out, my empirical mind regains control and I sneak a taste of the wall. It’s salt, all right.

12:00 p.m.

I page through a copy of Lucky magazine and learn that bright pants are in for spring. Apparently Spa World’s orange shorts are on trend, too, I think sincerely. The saunas may have baked my brain.

12:20 p.m.

I know where all the best jets in the bade pool are now, and I rotate through them like a pro. I strike up conversations with fellow bathers, give people unsolicited advice, and show them how to operate the jets. It’s a wonder Spa Word hasn’t kicked me out for being creepy, or offered me a job.

A small child dumps a pan of water on my head, and I realize it’s time to check out. I get dressed and ask a Spa World employee if there’s someone whom I could interview. The manager on duty, James Lee, says he is much too busy to chat. I call him later, and he explains that the bathhouse discontinued the 24-hour passes because “there were some customers treating Spa World as a hotel, for when they had nowhere else to go, and we wanted to get rid of those customers.” As for the sleeping rooms, they had a “variety of problems I prefer not to disclose,” Lee says.

I check out of Spa World, step into the strip-mall parking lot, and search for the sun. The sky is slate grey, but I love it anyway. A communal spirit has infected my city-hardened soul, and I chat with strangers during my Metro ride home. “I just spent 24 hours in a spa,” I tell a family who is visiting from Florida. “Weird,” a teenage girl replies.

She’s right. Spa World is weird. Even after doing it myself, I’m still surprised people really do spend the night there—otherwise normal folks looking for a cheap hotel or a place to cuddle, or who’ve simply gotten too lazy to check out. Maybe it’s a good thing Spa World switched to 12-hour passes, so no one gets inextricably embedded in a tatami mat. Of course, the real danger of becoming too relaxed is that, once you return to your high-pressure job back on this end of the Orange Line, you might find you’ve lost the reflexes you need to survive.

Our Readers Say

Great fun reading about Dingfelder's Korean spa adventure. Coincidentally my butt's numb and I may just go to sleep right here.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of all: Why does that fountain turn on and off?
Great article! Definitely captures all that I imagine spaworld to be. I feel like I've been!
Great story! I like how the writer really gets into the rhythm of the day. I'm curious if the soaking and the scrubbing had any noticeable effects on the bruises and shoulder injury...
I feelas though I've just gone through the horrendous 24 hours with Sadie Dingfelder.
Her witty descriptions of the atmosphere, guests, and surroundings kept me from checking out of there at the end of the first 12 hours. Only Sadie could go through all that, bad shoulder and all, and end up on a positive note! Great writer! Oh yes, why DID that fountain continually go on and off?
I have often heard about Spa World but never been. Thank you for saving me the trip with this hilarious account! Strangely, I still want to experience it for myself.
So it appears as if I'm the outlier among those commenting, but I found Dingfelder's article to be irritating. Could she have been more patronizing in her descriptions of the other guests? And what kind of idiot orders a massage with a shoulder fracture? If she's that clueless, it's no wonder she couldn't avoid a car reversing out of an intersection.

She comes across as trying so hard to be clever that she isn't witty, she's annoying and full of herself. Also, what Metro ride is she talking about? Centreville is miles from the nearest station.
The most important question is - how did you get there by public transit? I thought it was only car accessible.
Hilarious! Your descriptions are totally accurate. I have been to this Spa World once before and will be going back in a week. I had heard about this place from some friends, and their initial descriptions almost put me off...but having experienced it first-hand, you really do get over the whole "naked in public" thing pretty quickly. I did not get the body scrub, but I did have a "regular" massage upstairs. That was definitely not the soothing massage experience that I am used to, but I did leave feeling better. I can easily spend somewhere between 3-5 hours at Spa World...but no longer than that.
NOTHING beats experiencing this bizarre mecca for yourself. You just don't have to admit it.
Re: SpaSpa's question: My boyfriend Steve drove me, and then he shuttled me to the metro the next day. (
Just a quick correct. it should be jimjiLbang. An L before the B. Jim Jil Bang

Thanks!

Great article
it is indeed a pretty bizarre place. i've been several times with friends, but only for a matter of hours - can't imagine spending the night in the place, eesh. agree the food is eh compared to all the other great korean food you can get in the area.
Really great article! Though I won't be satisfied until I hear what happened in the sleep rooms -- please write a follow-up story getting to the bottom of that!
I found the article very entertaining and, if you separate the journalists tone from the content, pretty accurate. I do apologize about the fountain constantly going off and on. To be honest I didnt know that it was a bother to customers seeing as no one has every put a complaint in about it before; the problem will be fixed.

From the article I could clearly see that both you and your boyfriend were pretty bored within your first couple of hours. My main guess for why you didnt enjoy yourselves as much as our more regular customers is you came in with the wrong idea; the main benefit of SpaWorld is the unique variety of hot rooms we provide. Everything else is something to do with your time outside of the rooms.

Lastly I'll answer the mystery of the sleeping rooms. Now I'm going to start off by apologizing to the journalist whom wrote the article; I simply did not have the spare time to fully explain what had happened. The sleeping rooms had an infestation of bedbugs that was out of our control. With the amount of customer complaints and our futile actions at fixing the problem, we decided to close the rooms down. Now let me elaborate: We at SpaWorld called out Orkin, a pest control company to treat our sleeping rooms. We used different assortments of heat treatments and residuals to successfully exterminate the bedbugs. Despite the bedbugs being exterminated from both sleeping rooms, customers would constantly use the sleeping rooms without showering first, and brought in new bedbugs from their own homes. We continued calling out Orkin throughout the span of three months before we decided to close down the sleeping rooms.

Hope that answers some of your unanswered questions.
James: Thanks for the info! That's not nearly as sexy a scandal as Craigslist led me to suspect: http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/mis/3646009611.html
based on a recent yelp reviews, it sounds like they don't allow same sex couples anymore. really??!
Sadie is such an engaging writer! Great job!
Good article -- pretty much the same thing I went through when I tried to spend 24 hours at Spa World, minus the shoulder injury. She could have gone into some detail about who does and doesn't try to sneak a peek at you in the Bade Pool: the older Korean regulars are pros at pretending you're not there, while I caught this European girl staring at me almost dreamily while I showered.

24 hours is way more time than you'll need at Spa World, so I'm not too bothered that they shortened it to 12.

Lynn: That'd be awful if it were true. I hope James Lee returns to set the record straight on that.
SW:

It certainly seems to be the case: http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/article/20130222/NEWS/130228867/0/fairfaxTimes&template=fairfaxTimes

:(

I mean, forbidding sexual activity on the premises is one thing -- that's just common sense -- but forbidding gay patrons as a policy? Yikes!
Never going back there. The owners openly and clearly state they refuse admission to "homosexuals and transgender(s)" so the hell with that bigoted nonsense.
I was just telling a friend--who happens to be gay--about how great Spa World is. He had long heard about the place but was now considering going because of your piece. I just read the Fairfax Times piece and let him know. How disappointing and unabashedly homophobic. I'm straight and will never be going back.
Soaking in tepid water (how often is that changed, anyway), sleeping rooms (thankfully closed) invested with bedbugs (of course the bedbugs never go in other rooms, right :-?) - and now this:
http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/article/20130222/NEWS/130228867/0/fairfaxTimes&template=fairfaxTimes

Makes Spa World a completely unappealing prospect for me -- thank you, NO!

Joe: Wow. That's ridiculous. Until they change that bigoted policy, I'm not going back to Spa World either.

Thanks for the link -- I'll forward it to friends of mine who go to Spa World.
There's a petition for those interested - http://signon.org/sign/spa-world-stop-discriminatin?source=c.fwd&r_by=3410884
Spot on description! Could not have said it better. Heading there with a bunch of first-times this weekend. PERFECT TIMING!!

-C.
I used to enjoy going to this place. Their disgusting bigoted policies have made me change my mind. No more Spa World until they fully reverse their terrible LGBT policies.
Here's an update on their LGBT policy:
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2013/03/01/spa-world-rejects-gay-trans-customers/
They appear to be backpedaling. I bet by Monday they will be handing out rainbow towels at the door.
Now you just need to start a petition to get LGBT people included in Fairfax's anti-discrimination laws.
http://m.fairfaxtimes.com/fairfaxtimes/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Guw172Te&full=true#display

Homosexuals and Trans-People are not allowed in Spa World.
I've visited spa world four or five times and every time I've been in the pool area I've had gay guys unsolicited hit on me. Just check out the list of men advertising for spa world on Craigslist:

http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/mis/3650574358.html
http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/cas/3651335800.html
http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/m4m/3606059117.html
I read this piece yesterday, and I was going to post something here defending them against the rather condescending tone of the article. (And while entertaining, I do think that it's rather weird to judge any place based on whether you enjoy spending 24 hours there without seeing the sky.) I've been to SpaWorld and really enjoyed it.

But then I read the Fairfax Times article about SpaWorld's statement that, "It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s)." I am honestly, sincerely disappointed. I no longer want to defend this place.

James Lee, are you still reading this thread? Your policy is not only driving customers away, but it is honestly hurtful. Please reconsider.
Sadie: Great article, with plenty of terrific, semi-creepy details. But I gotta know: Why didn't you work out while there? It seems like that would have punctured the boredom a bit....
An excellent read, this good old jimjilbang experience from a North American's point of view. The further on you went with your spa thriller, the more of a revealing intrigue it became for me. And all of it boils down to this: America needs the real Euro spa - but perhaps momentarily only deserves the transitional jimjilbang. So be it.

As for everyone complaining about the same sex and trans ban, take a good look at yourselves first, guys and girls: the place is sex segregated for the bulk of its activities - and you are totally fine with that? Ouch.
Patrick: I actually did work out in the gym a bit, but I left that out of the story on account of it being Dullsville. Now, I do have a few good exercise stories, such as the time I sprained my ankle and got heckled by a homeless person. He said, "I see you running up those steps like you think you 20." I said, "I am 20." And he said "no you ain't, that's why you got hurt." He was, of course, correct.
Patrick: I actually did work out in the gym a bit, but I left that out of the story on account of it being Dullsville. Now, I do have a few good exercise stories, such as the time I sprained my ankle and got heckled by a homeless person. He said, "I see you running up those steps like you think you 20." I said, "I am 20." And he said "no you ain't, that's why you got hurt." He was, of course, correct.
Problem: unless I'm missing something, do people really go directly into soaking areas w/out washing? Ummm...hygiene? In Japan, people scrub themselves clean 10-15 minutes before going near the communal (and constantly flowing/naturally replenished) waters. And can you REALLY carry around your cell phone...so you get the "pleasure" of hearing others on their phones? In European spas--plenty of nudity, but no phones. Sounds like this place works for other people, and thank you for the well-written article, but this place ain't for me.
ps: Have you been to Japan and its on-sen inns (ryokan)? If not, go--you'll most likely love the experience--and I'd enjoy reading your impressions!
I hope you'll soon take down this article in light of Spa World's discriminatory policies:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/01/spa-world-virginia-discriminates-gay-transgender-customers_n_2792440.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009
Any male deluded into thinking he's a female and wanting into the female areas, show him the door. Stand by your principles Spa World.
Honest question here: If you define yourself as female due to various hormone treatments/plastic surgery and yet still are male below the belt, which area would you expect to be able to enter at spa world? If I saw this in the female area I would be very uncomfortable.
IF the LBGT policy is reversed then the Spa should just go entirely co-ed. No sexual segregation period, pick your locker room.

End of problem.
This article was incredibly similar to my experience there. I was bored after 2 hours but forced myself to stay a little longer out of curiosity. I thought I was missing something because I've heard how "easy" it is to spend 24 hours there and how wonderful it is.

The jets that shoot straight up your "skirt" grossed me out. The water was so cloudy that I couldn't see past my knees and since it didn't smell of chlorine it left me wondering just how dirty that water really is.

Didn't enjoy my experience. It's just weird.
Ive been to Spa world several times with my martial arts group -
Some hints :

-Friday is the best time to go (as mentioned on the website, they clean on Thursday nights).
-Gay people are all over the world including SpaWorld (I have been hit on several times in the mens Bath pool.) . I just say not interested and they move on.
-If you're Pre-op transgender stay out of the Bathe pool. Sorry, the world is not that progressive. The needs of the many outweigh the needs or desire of the one.
-

SPA World is great and not perfect, however I love it and so do many other people. If you don't like it don't go, or open your own Spa World competitor. Free country and all ..
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Kudos to Spa World for taking a stand against the gay bathhouse atmosphere. I've chided and reported men for masturbating in the pool while ogling the other men, and for fondling each other in the children's pool(!!!!!) There are gay bathhouses in DC, and no one goes into them trying to impose a family atmosphere on them (nor should they); why do gays believe they entitled to ruin everyone else's enjoyment?

Respect and tolerance are a two-way street. Lately, however, LGBT has become an acronym for "in your face, breeders."

Glad I had a chance to read this article and the comments. Was thinking of trying this place out today but the bugs, dirty water, children, terrible food and noise makes this place seem like some sort of amusement water park. No thanks!
Hands down the best Spa in LA is Le Petite Retreat Day Spa near Paramount Studios. Amazingly relaxing services at incredible values.
i really feel the need to respond for some reason people act as if being gay is NORMAL REGULAR ACTIVITY i am not gay and i do not feel as if open public affection between any couple is necessary i just want the world to realize some things should be private so if you gay OK OK OK just act normal around others and do your stuff at home gays feel the world should know i'm in this world and i don't need to know
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Hello ,

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Thanks
Hello ,

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Thanks
I visited Spa World for the first time about 5 years ago. I didn't know what to expect and wasn't told either by my sister's Korean friend. At first, I walked around the water/blade area with a towel covering my private parts but after getting a body scrub and full body massage, I forgot all about the towel. I became part of the culture and enjoy it! I tell my friends but I won't bring them with me. It's a place I go alone so that I can be comfortable b/c no one knows me. I LOVE IT! In fact, yesterday I spent all day at Spa Castle in NY and enjoyed it as well. In fact, I was sick with bronchial asthma and after both my scrub/massage and sitting in the saunas I felt like a new woman. I came home and slept like a baby.

To each its own! I enjoy it. Each sauna has a healing property and it works. If Korean women can live until they are 100 or so and look good than we need to recognize and honor that they are on to something that we Americans and African Americans have not yet discovered.

If I lived closer to either one of these spas, I would have a membership!
As far as the clothing, the orange is very bad color and forcing everyone to be naked is very disrespectful for many people even though men are separate from women. Bad idea and I do not respect nor like it.

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