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Why: Los Angeles is famous for body-care regimens ranging from the questionable to the overindulgent. The dozens of practical and affordable Korean spas are less known, tucked away in office buildings throughout Koreatown and beyond. Wi Spa is the granddaddy of them all.
What: Wi Spa is a modern bathhouse with roots in the ancient Korean tradition of communal bathing and sweating. For a modest admission price, you have access to a megaplex of relaxation with saunas and baths, hair and nail salons, a gym, a full-service restaurant, TV and lounge areas, sleeping rooms, a manga library, a skin-care boutique, open-air terrace, computer room, kids zone and a coed communal heated room known as jimjilbang (or sometimes jjimjilbang). Stay for an hour or lounge all day — you'll leave renewed. And you may learn how to fold a towel into a yang mori (lamb's head) hat.
Spa etiquette can be intimidating, but you won’t have any trouble if you follow two basic rules: Take your shoes off before entering the spa area and wash yourself in a shower before entering a tub or sauna, which includes rinsing after every sweat session. Nudity is required in the gender-segregated floors, but everyone receives a T-shirt and shorts for the jimjilbang. This is the living room of the spa, where patrons of all ages relax together on the heated floors. Here, specialty saunas — including the 231-degree bulgama and the clay ball room — line the walls.
After you sweat it out, try the signature Korean body scrub, called the buff, to experience a no-frills whole body exfoliation well worth the gruff handling. Top off your stay with the shareable patbingsu — a swell of shaved ice covered in condensed milk, sweet red beans, fruit and mochi.
Wi Spa never closes, and makes a great choice for a spa day if you are new to the experience, bringing the kids along, or want a wide range of spa amenities. Other nearby options include Natura Spa; Olympic Spa (women only); and Spa Palace, for a less crowded, smaller version of Wi Spa.
Where: 2700 Wilshire Blvd. in downtown L.A.
How much: $25 admission, waived with a service over $120. Children under 18 get in on Fridays for $15.
Info: Wi Spa