|Image by FotoosVanRobin via Flickr|
We sat down to a nice Korean lunch on Friday in Palisades Park -- after our bodies were heated and cooled, scrubbed and showered at King Spa Fitness.
I counted eight saunas on two levels of the Korean spa, and tried most of them, but took only a few steps into the hottest before my burning bare feet forced me to leave.
I had forgotten to use the burlap foot protection provided in a bin outside the door. A sign warns customers to leave cellphones, eyeglasses and the plastic wrist band with their locker number and key outside the 250-degree sauna.
At one sauna, a sign says customers with heart conditions should not enter. Another sign cautions that drinking alcohol before using the sauna may trigger a heart attack. Most of the saunas are small, accommodating about 10 customers.
One Korean woman I spoke to said she took the day off and "left the kids at home." I also saw families and businessmen enjoying a few hours at the spa.
The ceiling of the Gold Sauna resembles the inside of a pyramid. The Mud Sauna is made of mud. Bags of herbs hang from the domed ceilings of other saunas. All have mats and wood headrests on the floor.
After you heat your body, you can sit on a log stool and cool off in the Ice Sauna.
Customers are provided with shorts and T-shirts -- pink for women, white for men -- but everyone goes barefoot. They mingle in the restaurant or common areas, which have reclining chairs, big screen TVs, chess boards and computers for surfing the Web.
Men and women use separate levels with lockers, showers, hot and cold tubs, and steam rooms. Messages and body rubs are available. No clothes are worn in the shower/tub room.
I paid extra for a 20-minute body scrub, which included rough and soapy scrubs, a back message, stretching of arms and legs, and rinsing with pails of hot water -- all while I lay on a narrow, slippery table.
The Korean attendant apparently didn't understand when I pointed to my 9-inch scar from open-heart surgery in September, and asked him not to scrub it. He did the opposite.
Still, I felt great afterward and spent some time in a hot tub before I dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and met my wife in the restaurant, where you order and pick up your food at a counter.
A counter worker scans a bar code on your wristband to add the meal to your bill.
We both had bibimbap -- julienned vegetables, rice and a fried egg in a steel bowl, with or without ground beef, and we both added gochujang, a vinegared red-pepper paste, mixing everything up and eating it with a spoon.
Four side dishes -- tiny dried fish, potato, eggplant and kimchi -- and a hot seaweed soup came with each entree. The kimchi was just OK, but the gochujang was among the spiciest I've encountered. We drank ice water.
A visit to the spa is a splurge. Admission with an e-coupon I found on King Spa's Web site was $28 each. My body scrub cost $50, including the gratuity. Our lunch was $22, and I tipped the parking valet $2.
King Spa Fitness, 321 Commercial Ave.,
Palisades Park; 201-947-9955.
Web site: Icy Hot Relaxation