The entrance to Spa Castle is surprisingly utilitarian, especially for a place that claims to be where “your escape from the ordinary begins.” Check in, stash your shoes in a small locker, and enter the large locker room where you’re handed a uniform—a pink v-neck tee (blue for men) and knee-length gray shorts. No shoes. 

Perhaps Spa Castle’s low-key start is to keep guests from being overwhelmed. The 2-year-old Korean-style spa located in Carrollton is open 24 hours and includes 140,000 square feet of Asian saunas, European water spas, indoor and outdoor pools, relaxation areas, spa service rooms, and restaurants. There is a swim-up bar and a hotel, with rooms modeled after Korea’s W and Park Hyatt hotels. It is nothing if not stunning.  

I went to Spa Castle for a facial. So after a quick stop in the Himalayan Salt sauna, in which you can literally taste the salt, and a mango-smoothie break, I was escorted to Avenue S, where the private spa suites are housed, and instructed to remove my clothing. This I’m used to. A standard spa experience. Okay, I said, and turned to watch the aesthetician leave. Instead, she stood there, smiling, holding a small white bath towel. She wasn’t leaving.

“All?” I asked, confused.

“Yes, all. All off.”

Soon, there I was, nude, looking around the dimly lit, black marble room. What I didn’t notice upon arrival was the hot tub, where I was now being led. I’m not one for overly hot showers or baths. As the towel was yanked away, I dipped in a toe. As expected, hot as hell. No dice. Not happening. 

“In,” the woman said. “In.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t. It’s too hot.”

She waited me out. As the water cooled, I finally forced myself in, and off she went. For the next 30 minutes, I drank water and hot tea and ate fresh fruit. In reality, that probably accounted for all of five of the 30 minutes. For the next 25, I sat on the edge, running through my mental to-do list, scanning the room for my cellphone (where did that basket go?), and eagerly awaiting her return. When she did, I dried off and dove under the sheet.

The rest of the experience was quite enjoyable. She was a pro, executing a thorough facial (100 minutes, $250) and a relaxing massage. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I emerged refreshed and watched as families and friends went about their business, watching television, eating dinner, relaxing. The initial shock of the premises had dissipated, and I was developing an appreciation for the whole process—the culture, the healing properties, the bathing pools, even the uniforms. 

It was anything but ordinary.