Sing me the praises of sub­ur­ban bath­houses…

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This is 100 per cent less sketchy than it sounds. When the win­ter blues kick in, the best cure is a deep steam — and the best steams are of­ten in sub­ur­ban strip malls. Re­ally. Here’s a quick primer.


equipped with a steam room and a cold-wa­ter bath. For the full ex­pe­ri­ence, spring for a felt hat and book a venik mas­sage. A staff mem­ber will dip a bun­dle of leaves and twigs into hot wa­ter, then re­peat­edly strike it against your back as you lie face down (sup­pos­edly to in­crease cir­cu­la­tion). Peel­ing mas­sages that ex­fo­li­ate your skin with salts and cof­fee grains are also pop­u­lar.


Fin­land, home of even longer win­ters than Canada, has nearly half as many saunas as it does peo­ple. And the dry steam rooms pop­u­lar­ized in the coun­try tend to be clad in cozy wood. Nu­dity is cus­tom­ary if you’re vis­it­ing one in Helsinki (Finns have some idea about swim trunks re­leas­ing tox­ins at high temperatures), but less com­mon here.


The best part of these bath rooms is of­ten the tiles. Or­nate mo­saics of tra­di­tional Is­lamic pat­terns give you some­thing to fo­cus on if heat makes you drowsy. Ser­vices range from tra­di­tional mas­sages to aro­mather­apy ex­pe­ri­ences that em­ploy mul­ti­ple oils. Great for those look­ing for an ex­pe­ri­ence that feels both phys­i­cally and spir­i­tu­ally pro­found.


In South Korea, these 24-hour bath­houses are a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for partiers try­ing to sober up on their way home. Many of the ver­sions opened here em­brace the same latenight hours. Vis­i­tors are is­sued T-shirts and shorts upon en­try — a de­moc­ra­tiz­ing move that means you needn’t worry about your pals mak­ing fun of your Hawai­ian-print swim trunks.

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