It’s a cold and rainy day as I head out of Beotigogae Station and make my way toward Namsan Tower. Slap bang in the middle of the early May four-day weekend, it was a good idea (at the time) to make an appointment for a massage. A couple of hours away from the husband, a chance to relax and an opportunity to see exactly what the Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul’s massage service is all about.
As I turn up at the spa reception with a damp coat, dripping umbrella and steamed up glasses, I am certainly reconsidering my decision. However, my appearance doesn’t faze the check-in staff at all. Asked whether I would like a warm or cold tea, I order something warm – and then counter that with an additional request for cold water. Check-in is complete with a short questionnaire about previous health issues before I am asked if I am ready. At this point, I am curious about the types of massage on offer and, more importantly, how strong (read: painful) they might be. A selection of no less than eight massage types varying in strength, oils and scents are placed before me and suddenly I am a little confused. I ask about the difference in style and am guided through the list: Lomi Lomi, the most popular treatment, is medium strength where as the Swedish and Tender Touch are for softer strokes. I am recommended to have the Balinese experience before Ann, my masseuse for today, appears before me to lead me to the treatment rooms.
After slipping into some indoor slippers, I walk down a vibrant and incense-filled hallway. Ann informs me that the scent is changed every day and that today’s chosen fragrance is lemongrass. The rooms are also named after popular scents used in massage treatments as I make my way to the aptly named Lemongrass room to prepare for my Balinese massage. One of four couple rooms, there are two beds for my solo massage although five single rooms are also available for those coming alone. The couple option, however, does have the extra feature of a traditional circular wooden bath in the middle of the room which offers a soak after longer treatments.
Ann shows me to the private bathroom and asks me to change, motioning toward the wardrobe and the freshly cleaned robe and to come on through when I am ready. There is an option for a shower before but I opt for the foot scrub instead. The green tea and honey mix scrub is refreshing and is already putting to bed those soggy memories from the morning. Ann then asks me to choose from a peppermint, lavender or rose scent (of which I choose the lavender) which is promptly placed under the bed for a soothing aroma whilst being massaged.
Having spoken to Ann about areas needing attention, she gets to work. The room smells of my chosen lavender scent and I suddenly notice that some ambient music has been slipped on in the background. I speak to Ann a little, finding out she has worked at Banyan Tree for five years and then wonder if I have made the right decision about my medium to firm treatment. Curious, I ask Ann the difference between soft, medium and firm, and after a quick demonstration, decide that my choice of medium strength was the right one.
The Balinese treatment is an oil massage treatment which uses a black pepper and Ylang Ylang mix. The full body treatment is available in 60, or 90 minute sessions and also offers a revitalizing facial massage with oil. The hour and a half certainly passed quickly and it wasn’t long before I was directed toward the bathroom again to get changed. Although showers are available, it is recommended that with oil treatments, the skin is left to absorb it for at least 24 hours.
After changing, I enter the room again to find that a tidy up had already occurred. The massage table is all ready for the next client and a pot of ginger and honey tea with dried fruit awaits me. After a sit down and a few sips of tea, the relaxation finally hits me.
As I walk down the lemongrass passage again, my shoes are waiting and Ann says goodbye. I leave behind the scented corridors, ambient music and my stress and as I step outside, I don’t even care that it’s still raining.
Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul:
Address: The Club (3F), 60, JangChungdan-Ro, Jung-Gu, Seoul 100-857 Korea
Cost: Signature Program: Balinese Massage (60 to 90 minutes) KRW 200,000 / KRW 270,000