For my night at Spa World, I over-packed by two items: a bathing suit and my modesty.
Set in a strip mall in Centreville, the Asian-style wellness center soothes the mind and body with pulsating baths, desert-hot saunas, massages, scrubs and mani-pedi nail polish in pastel rainbow shades. The spa also frees guests of superfluous baggage that can clog the qi, or energy flow. In my case, it was a flowery bikini and a load of self-consciousness.
Unlike typical R&R venues in the United States, Spa World stages private activities (e.g., nude bathing, body rubs by a masseuse in black lingerie, sleeping) in a public forum and is open around the clock. For $35, guests can untangle the knots in their shoulders and their psyches no matter the hour.
"This is not a hotel facility, but it becomes a sleepover, " said one customer, a Korean-born acupuncturist who divides his time between Boston and Virginia. "People come here for the baths, restaurant and Korean-style beds. They end up staying long enough to take a nap, which becomes sleep."
To accommodate folks with deep issues in their tissues, the spa provides communal crash pads in two areas: a spacious, stadium-lit common room for coeds, and dark cocooned quarters for same-sex snoozers. The sleeping gear hews to the aesthetic of Asian minimalism.
In the main gathering place, which is encircled by seven fiendishly hot "thermotherapy" chambers (collectively called the Poultice Room), visitors can doze on wide mats tossed like rafts on the heated floor. Loaf-shaped "pillows" with a smooth dent in the middle provide head support, though many people simply drape towels over their faces as if they were sunbathing at high noon. The single-sex rooms upstairs provide more privacy and comfort, thanks to thicker mats that can be accessorized with a small blocky cushion and a thin blanket.