Wellness Weekend: Finding My Soul in Seoul, South Korea

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Rich with culture and deeply traditional but fashion-focused and technology-forward, this hip city mashes up cutting-edge architecture, design temples, palaces, and world-renowned hiking trails all to a fresh, funky K-pop beat.

Welcome to Seoul, South Korea. Known for its technology, skin care, spas, healing ginseng, and food, we wanted to see what the hype was all about. I can’t wait to discover more about South Korean Wellness!

Dedicating 48 hours to wellness in Seoul is like taking candy from a baby—so easy it feels wrong. You don’t have to look far to see healing properties for your skin, body, and mind. What Seoul boasts in confidence is actualized by action. The culture is dedicated to health and wellness and has an acute focus on healing from within. Skin care, spas, and fitness are in fashion here. It is true heaven for passionate wellness warriors.

Follow along with my 48-hour adventure as I play with the world in Seoul on my South Korean Wellness exploration.

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Day one:

Mt Bukhan Hike with Korean Style Spa

I started my first day with a rejuvenating hike in the Bukhansan National Park. Seoul is situated next to a national park, so it is only fitting to climb Seoul’s highest mountain, Mt. Bukhan. The park is dotted with adorned Buddhist temples tucked inside the forest. For my adventure, I booked my tour with Viator.com, which I loved because I was able to maximize my morning. They picked my up at my hotel and we headed straight to the mountain! We hiked for about two hours at a leisurely pace. Then we made it to a temple where we stepped inside to meditate and take in the calmness. It was a moment of inner peace. After the mini meditation session, we headed to the kitchen to scoop up traditional temple food. The rule is to only take what you need and eat everything you take. The temple offers lunch daily for free to guests who visit the temple; this is the traditional Korean Buddhist manner. My food is rice, kimschi, and fresh tofu. I sip on miso soup and drink green tea and I am very connected to my meal, because I know it was made with love.

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After lunch we hike up 108 stairs to the Buddha in the rock. One hundred and eight stairs stands for 108 human sufferings; as we step one stair at a time we are offered the notion to release our pain and suffering. By the time I reach the top, I gaze up at the oversized Buddha carved into a rock and I am overwhelmed with pure gratitude. Gratitude that I made it up those stairs but thrilled for life itself. It is hard not to be appreciative when you are in gorgeous South Korea. I look behind me and see a soaring city view off in the distance of Seoul. It is such a large city, but here up on the mountain it looks tiny. The hike is well worth it. I am sweating, panting, but then again, I am a little out of shape.

We head back down the mountain, careful to not slip as we pass locals climbing their way to the top. We nod and smile as we pass by. My guide tells me that growing up in Korea is wonderful and there is a huge focus on health and wellness. She tells me, “Our bodies are not our own, but we are raised to believe that they are gifts to us from our parents. So we honor our parents by honoring and caring for our bodies.”

After the hike, we head to a restaurant at the base of the hiking trail to try local Korean pancakes, a fried vegetable mixed with bean curd. It is lovely, and fills my soul.

Next we hop into the air-conditioned van and go to a traditional Korean-style spa.

We step into the spa and are asked to take off our clothes and put the pink robes on. I am escorted to the main room where I walk past medium pools of water, showers, and tables where bodies get scrubbed. I step into the steam room and sit for 10 minutes. After my body is painted with mud, then put into the sauna to dry the mud. After the spa attendant grabs my hand and pulls me to the shower and helps wash the mud off. I am naked and exposed, but so is everyone else in here. This is a traditional-style Korea spa, where caring for the body is beautiful. No one is insecure; we are all happy in our wellness routine.

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This treatment is a “jjimjilbang” — an authentic Korean-style approach to caring for the body. I then move into the hot bath and sit for about five minutes. The spa attendant escorts me to another bath with a slightly lower temperature. She then brings me to the table for a full-body scrub, an oil massage, face mask, and shampoo. As she scrubs my body, I see all the dead skin fall off. She is rubbing hard, but it feels good. It is refreshing, soothing, and surprisingly very healing. I imagine with each skin cell falling off that I am being cleansed of my limiting beliefs, fears, and old habits as well. I imagine myself being purified as she prepares my body for the next phase of my life. It is healing; I am safe; I am secure. After my treatment, my body feels like silk. I am cleaner than I’ve ever been, and I feel rejuvenated.

The tour included round-trip hotel pick up and drop off, so after the spa I return to my hotel for an evening of exploring Gangnam.

To maximize your time in the huge city, schedule a tour with an organized group. We used Viator, a trip advisory company, and it was an outstanding experience. They are well organized and friendly.

Book your adventure here and you will be one step closer to your South Korean Wellness adventure!


Day two of my South Korean Wellness adventure in Seoul:

AM: Explore Gangnam

Gangnam is often referred to the Beverly Hills of Seoul; K-pop millennials bounce to the beat in their head, interwoven with business executives and expat travelers. This part of town is hip, edgy, and worth a visit. Famous for shopping and street food, don’t forget to stop in the beauty stores for mini treatments.
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PM: In the afternoon explore LUSH Spa

After trying LUSH products, I was instantly hooked. Shopping at LUSH has become an addiction of mine. My bedtime routine feels like a mini spa, so when I discovered there is such thing as LUSH Spas and there is one in Seoul, I headed straight there.

At Healing Lifestyles & Spas, we love their products because they are cruelty-free, use ethically sourced ingredients and are 100% natural. Any ingredients applied topically to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream, so what you put onto your body is as important as what you put into your body, and finding a spa that shares this focus can be tricky. But LUSH opened a spa in Seoul four years ago, and it is worth venturing to.

From the LUSH shop on the main floor, go to the back of the shop and walk down the flight of stairs where the treatment rooms are. I am escorted to the large wooden table where fresh flowers sit in the middle of the reception area. Most spas welcome you into a Zen-like waiting area, but at LUSH Spa I am welcomed into the kitchen. It is 100% on brand and makes me love LUSH even more. Why a kitchen? Because everything is homemade and created with love in the kitchen. Soul, my spa attendant, smiles with her Taylor Swift red lipstick. She speaks excellent English, but she is shy and thinks her English is not super. I assure her it is wonderful, and she hands me freshly brewed herbal tea.

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We sit at the kitchen table, like two girlfriends having afternoon tea. She tells me about the treatments I am about to do and pulls out the ingredients so I can experience them right away.

While she prepares the room, I wander around to check out the products they have on display. The area is designed to look like a traditional English-style farmhouse, making me feel like I wasn’t in Seoul anymore. A full range of LUSH products are available to use and enjoy.

My first treatment is “The Good Hour,”  a 70-minute deep tissue massage. The massage therapists are trained in the UK and speak English well enough to make communication easy. Seoul tells me that the creator of this treatment was out at sea and on a sailboat when the idea came to him. The gentle rocking of the boat, the seagulls, the fresh salt air, all contribute to healing modalities of the massage. Naturally, as I walk in, a bath bomb is dropped into a bucket of warm water to create a steam effect. It smells like the salt ocean and fresh air. I hear seagulls on the overhead speakers and gently dive into my treatment. “Out on the Sea” is the theme, and every detail matches this focus. The music has waves crashing and seagulls then a complete soundtrack of Celtic sailor music begins as they cheer and sing in unison. It can become distracting if I am not careful, so I turn my attention to the amazing massage and pressure I am receiving. She is using 100% LUSH products and gives me a choice of which one to use for this treatment. It was a toss up between the Hot Tea Massage Bar, which is an oil-based, ginger-infused black pepper bar of soup or the Therapy Massage Bar, which has lavender and essential oil. I opt for the lavender to aid in my relaxation.

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My second treatment is the Comforter, a full-body scrub with a signature chocolate scrub and rose serum. As I walk into the second treatment room, pink cosmetic lights are rotating on the ceiling. I feel like I am in a galaxy. The music is sci-fi and a little trippy. I enjoy it because I imagine I am about to go into another world with my next treatment. As I lay onto the heated bed, the music turns into a soundtrack of beautiful, uplifting songs that are remixed. The lyrics echo, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” “Moon River” chant aloud. I take comfort that I am releasing old tensions and welcoming in the new. As I roll over for Soul to do my other side, I see bubbles fill the room. The bubble machine is fun and playful, true to all LUSH experiences. After my body scrub, my body is massaged again, and I float away mentally. I am in heaven. After my treatment, Soul tells me to use any and all products at my own leisure. I step into the bathroom, where lipsticks, soaps, body butters, and powder are at my disposal. I am Zen-ed out and perfectly pampered.

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Make no mistake, Seoul is a wellness warrior’s dream destination. Add it to your bucket list and make sure to visit these hot spots on your next adventure.

Want to go?

LUSH Spa: There are two locations: http://www.lush.co.kr/site/spa/spa_main.jsp

Viator Tours: http://viator.com/

 

 

 

Shannon Kaiser

Shannon Kaiser is the Wellness Coach and Travel Editor for Healing Lifestyles & Spas.

She is best-selling author of three books about happiness, including Find Your Happy and Adventures for Your Soul. She appears regularly as a happiness expert on AM Northwest and Huff Post Live, and was named among the “Top 100 Women to Watch in Wellness” by the Mind Body Green. Shannon's the founder of Playwiththeworld.com, an award-winning self-help and personal development website. She's an author, international life coach, teacher, travel writer and inspirational speaker who left her job in advertising several years ago to follow her heart and become a writer.

Her work has been recognized in media outlets across the globe such as HuffPost Live, Health Magazine, Australian Vogue, Women’s Health, Spirituality & Health and Entrepreneur magazine. Everything Shannon does is to help you connect to your true self and unapologetically live your authentic purpose.

Connect on Facebook @ShannonKaiserWrites

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