FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Seoul, Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul

Sep 1, 2014
2014 / August 2014

Between the traffic horns and the pedestrians rushing along Seoul’s sidewalks at a blistering pace, it can be easy to forget that Korea is known as the “Land of the Morning Calm.” But as I ascended Mount Namsan to the Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul, I was reminded that Korea is just as much a country of holy mountains as concrete cityscapes.

Rising above the flashing neon and blaring outdoor speakers around Dongguk University subway station, Mount Namsan provides an ideal location for an urban oasis within the city limits. The Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul, the country’s only Banyan Tree property, caters to busy Seoulites as well as luxury travelers with its four-floor Club building, housing the resort’s full-service spa, a fitness center, a private dining room and a traditional Korean sauna and bath area.

Though Banyan Tree resorts are known for their Southeast Asian influences, Korean touches were everywhere, starting with the traditional jujube tea served when I checked in for my spa appointment. The spa attendant fully explained each massage style, helping me choose among options ranging from Balinese to Swedish massage for my one-hour appointment.

Leading me down a candlelit hallway scented with lemongrass, the masseuse directed me to a private room equipped with a changing area, cedar bathtub and relaxation area. A green tea and honey foot scrub, featuring leaves from Korea’s beloved Boseong tea fields, begins each treatment. Known for its healing properties both inside the body and applied to the skin, green tea stars in many of the spa’s treatments, such as the signature Banyan Romance package including a green tea bath, green tea body scrub, herbal steam and sports massage.

Since my body ached from the bitter January winds, I opted for the lomi-lomi massage, an oil massage that uses pressure from the thumbs, palms and elbows to stretch the muscles. With an intense pressure that belied her bird-like frame, the masseuse combined long strokes with focused attention to pressure points, even using her knees at times to work out the knots in my lower back.

Afterward, she used warm, damp towels to wipe off the excess oil — a revitalizing mixture of black pepper, ylang ylang and geranium — and gave tips on how to relieve lower back pain daily. A soft clanging of cymbals indicated the massage was finished, and I lingered over ginger tea, coconut cookies and fresh yogurt while taking in views of the mountainside and the city below.

For visitors who have not yet visited a jjimijilbang (traditional Korean bathhouse), a descent to the sauna and bath area below the spa is a must. The gender-segregated facilities include three pools (warm, cold and hot), wet and dry saunas, rain showers, a resting area, a snack bar and a television room.

Public bathhouses in Korea arose out of necessity during the early 20th century, when showers were not a standard feature in the home, and quickly became important centers for neighborhood social activity. With the country’s newfound wealth in the 1990s came a surge of nostalgia for the neighborhood bathhouse concept — as well as the money to transform it into a full-fledged entertainment complex with saunas, professional body scrubbers, movie theaters and even golf driving ranges.

The Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul is Banyan Tree’s first combined urban resort and membership club, providing both a luxury getaway for travelers and a daily retreat for well-to-do Seoulites. But while its jjimijilbang includes many of the familiar features of a public bathhouse (body scrubbers, buckets, sit-down showers with wooden stools), the exclusivity lends a sense of privacy and serenity.

Visiting in the middle of the afternoon, I had the bath area completely to myself. The pleasant sound of rushing water filled the room as I sank into one of the tiled pools, allowing soothing warmth to slowly replace winter’s chill. On the opposite side of the room, an ice-dispensing alcove offered crushed ice for massaging onto the skin (alternating between hot and cold temperatures stimulates circulation and produces a feeling of euphoria).

In typical Korean fashion, the facility’s most touted feature, the “Experience Shower,” offers a high-tech dousing that includes nine shower heads, LED lights and jazz music piped in through speakers. After spending about 10 minutes at the control panel simply trying to turn it on, I managed to activate each feature and stepped into the spray for a truly pan-sensory experience.

When I stepped out of the shower, I thankfully discovered a stack of fluffy, white bath towels within easy reach (most Korean bathhouses only provide hand towels). Taking one, I made my way to the Resting Room, a dark, cedar room lined with soft lounge chairs and pillows for napping. Without intending to, I quickly fell into a deep sleep.

After my nap, an underwear-clad ajummah (middle-aged woman) led me to the curtained body-scrubbing area, where she proceeded to slough off my dead skin with a pair of bristly bath mitts. Unused to such vigorous exfoliation, large swaths of my dermis refused to give way, and the scrubber clucked disapprovingly at the paltry amount of skin left on the table. I proceeded to the rain showers to wash away any additional dead skin cells with the herbal Amini bath products then swaddled myself in a cotton robe and exited the bath area.

A bank of vanity mirrors was fully stocked with blow dryers, moisturizers, toners and hairsprays. Once I had gotten ready and was on my way out, I noticed a small room near the entrance equipped with leather arm chairs and newspapers. Not ready to leave the cocoon of warmth and relaxation, I stepped inside, propped my feet up and opened The International New York Times. Five more minutes, I told myself — but really it was 30.

Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul

5-5, Jangchung-dong
2(i)-ga, Jung-gu
Seoul, South Korea
tel 82 2 2250 8080
banyantree.com

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Mar 5, 2021

3 Recipes for Lent from New Orleans’ Top Chefs

The Lenten season continues through April 3. This year, New Orleans’ top chefs share some Lent-friendly recipes for at-home dining.

What To Expect When Flying: oneworld Debuts Information Portal

Though air travel slowed as airports temporarily closed and borders shuttered to stifle the spread of coronavirus, the airline industry — led by oneworld alliance member airlines — enacted enhanced protective measures to reduce risk and protect passengers.

January/February 2021
Mar 5, 2021

Indulge in the Seductive Splendor Bora Bora

I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.

January/February 2021
Mar 4, 2021

Set Your Sights on San Antonio’s Art, Culture and Green Spaces

San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.

Adventure Redefined: Volvo Overseas Delivery

Custom order your Volvo through the Overseas Delivery Program and receive round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, and a personalized delivery at the Volvo Factory Delivery Experience in Gothenburg, Sweden. Your experience begins in Sweden with insurance and registration included, enabling you to drive your new Volvo throughout Scandinavia and Europe. Create the adventure of a lifetime with the program named Best Overseas Delivery four years running, and return home with the ultimate souvenir.

Daily
Mar 4, 2021

SoJo Spa Club: Tranquility with an Urban View

When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.

eFlyer Deals
Mar 3, 2021

Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel’s Reopening Offers

Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.

Adventure Redefined: Volvo Overseas Delivery Program

Are you looking for a truly unique travel experience and considering a new vehicle? The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program is the perfect solution to create your own refined adventure of a lifetime. You can custom order your new Volvo, tailored to fit your needs and desires. They will fly you to Sweden to pick up your Volvo so you can drive and explore Scandinavia and Europe on your terms for up to two weeks.

eFlyer Lead
Mar 3, 2021

4 Travel Experiences for Women’s History Month

March marks Women’s History Month, and there are a number of ways to celebrate through travel. Here are just a few ideas to honor women in history.