LADIES really are able to live it up in Seoul, I thought, as I sat in a bronze-gold leather chair, in downtown Gangnam’s Jenny House, as Eun Che, a hairstylist to the stars, examined my tresses.
“Your fringe needs a trim. I will layer it such that your face looks sharper,” said Eun, who has styled the locks of award-winning Hallyu actress Jo Min Soo.
I nodded my head. Who was I to argue with her 10 years of experience?
Styled like a star
Her assistant whipped out an arsenal of hairstyling equipment. A plastic shield to protect my face was set in place as Eun sliced off bits of my fringe.
Next up came the curling iron and hairspray as my medium-length hair was teased, twisted and coiffed into a perky ponytail with lightly curled hair falling at the side of my face.
I was then quickly ushered to her colleague, make-up artist Hee Yeoun, who spent about 45 minutes dabbing and brushing what seemed like a million products on my face.
Next to me was a man, in his mid-30s, calmly having his eyebrows shaped and foundation patted onto his face for his wedding shoot.
Men, as I found out later, make up about 20 per cent of Jenny House’s clientele.
The luxe beauty salon, which has three branches in Seoul’s elite Gangnam area, provides hair, nail and make-up services and is frequented by celebrities like Park Shinhye and DBSG.
Together with my travel companions, I was at the Cheongdam branch for a makeover sponsored by the beauty salon.
Under Hee Yeoun’s deft fingers, I finally emerged from the salon with perfect hair, skin and scarlet-red lips.
With its contemporary art scene, trendy boutiques and booming beauty industry, Seoul is the perfect place for an indulgent women-only holiday, as I discovered during my week-long trip to the city.
Right after a six-hour overnight flight from Singapore, my tour group headed to Anacli Aesthetics, a dermatology and plastic surgery clinic under the Arumdaun Nara group.
The salon specialises in Korean rice wine facials and is the only place in the country where one can get such a facial done as the procedure is registered with the Korean government, Anacil’s manager tells us.
The 110,000 won (S$133) facial consists of a eight-step procedure created by Arumdaun Nara’s Dr Lee Sang Jun, including an ultrasound treatment and calming mask.
“The facial is moisturising, whitening and is suitable for sensitive skin,” she says.
For more on the abundance of Korea, visit www.visitkorea.or.kr
Shop till you drop
Armed with dewy complexions and a relaxed countenance, we made our way to Seoul’s famous overnight shopping district, Dongdaemun, where we shopped for made-in-Korea clothes, shoes and jewellery amid throbbing white lights and loud dance music.
Seoul is a true shopper’s paradise, with areas that cater to every fashion need.
Those seeking a respite from Dongdaemun’s crowds can head south of Seoul’s Han river to Gangnam’s Cheongdam and Apgujeong areas.
There, amid flashy cars, impressive skyscrapers, trendy restaurants, and plastic surgery clinics, lies the centre of Seoul’s high fashion.
You won’t miss the Galleria, one of Seoul’s most luxurious departmental stores boasting of international brands like Gucci and Prada.
Take a short 15-minute stroll over to the Maison Hermes Dosan Park, the fourth standalone Hermes shop in the world. The architecture of the store, with its outer wall made entirely of light-reflective glass, is enough to bowl even the casual pedestrian over.
For a less touristy and more relaxed shopping environment, Sinsadong’s Garosu-gil is the perfect place to be. Stretching less than 1km, its ginko tree-lined streets, dotted with trendy boutiques, fusion restaurants and cute cafes, are vaguely reminiscent of New York’s trendy Soho district.
Bustling Myeongdong, chockful of Korean skincare brands and street stalls, is a fun place to shop for those who like their face masks and cosmetics.
Outlet shopping fans will rejoice at the Paju Lotte Premium Outlet, which offers over 200 international and luxury brands, and also has a movie theatre, kids’ café and bookstore.
Seoul is also a foodie’s paradise, and those watching their waistline need not despair. Our tummies and taste buds were delighted by healthily robust cuisine like Bossam (steamed pork belly) and Yuhwang-ori-jinheuk-gui (duck slow-roasted in a mud bowl).
For a bit of relaxation after all the shopping and eating, we were taken to Spa Lei, a women’s-only jimjilbang, or Korean bathhouse.
There, some of my brave travel companions soaked au naturel in hot spring and mineral baths and sloughed off the city grime with full-body scrubs administered by strong, no-nonsense ajummas (Korean aunties).
The result? Smooth, fair and shiny skin that could rival that of a baby. Worth the pain, some may say.
We also visited Tea Story in Insa-dong, where we sipped dainty, carefully-brewed cups of tea in manicured indoor lawns.
For a spot of culture, we took in Korean traditional performance at the Jeongdeong Theatre, where we watched Miso, the story of the encounter between Secretary Bae and seductress Ae-rang.
Music fans will probably enjoy Music Show Wedding, a live music show that uses 23 different instruments, including the bass and hand bell.
Before long, it was time to exchange wistful goodbyes to the city that left us wanting for more.
We left with satisfied smiles —and tonnes of face masks stashed away in our suitcases.
Where to stay
Lotte Hotel Seoul in Myeongdong and Best Western Premier Kukdo in Dongdaemun have exclusive ladies-only floors. Both hotels have special toiletries for ladies. The Best Western Premier Kukdo provides complimentary leg massagers. The Lotte Hotel provides complimentary rentals of facial steamers and foot spas.
The writer’s trip was organised by Korea Tourism Organisation. For more information on ladies-only tour packages to Seoul, please call UOB Travel at 6252-6822.