Living it up in latherland

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It has been a slightly faster week than normal in the Fast Lane with almost as much time spent in the air as on the ground.

Last Saturday morning I dashed across the Golden Gate Bridge for a quick breakfast in Sausalito and then spent the rest of the day, and most of the day after, crossing the Pacific bound for Seoul. On Monday evening it was back in the air for a flight down to Singapore. Tuesday lunch was a short hop up to Bangkok. Wednesday was a jump up to Hong Kong. Thursday it was a late evening flight to Taipei. And Friday midday it was JAL to Tokyo.

I’m hoping by the time this paper hits the press I’ll be settled into a favourite bar in Ebisu surrounded by a few of my favourite people, a plate of nibbles and a very crisp glass of Japanese white.

Given the logistics involved, it was pretty close to a seamless week save for a cancelled flight to Taipei and a few pieces of hard-to-find luggage belonging to some amateur travellers who were clearly overwhelmed by the duty-free delights at Changi airport.

While I’m not a terribly superstitious person I do think most of the week is plotted – and its outcomes determined – somewhere between 6am and 7am on Monday morning. If you jump into the shower and get the temperature right at the first spin of the tap and then emerge with hair that needs little more then a dab of wax (or whatever your preferred product is) you can almost guarantee 85 per cent of the week will run to plan. If you then make it to your wardrobe and nail your look for the day ahead the first time around (no swapping shirts, no changing shoes, no readjusting of necktie) then there’s little that can stand in your way for the next seven days.

I’m rather convinced that my perfect Monday morning at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul had everything to do with setting the tone for the days that followed. It went something like this:

05.50 Beat the wake up call by 10 minutes and stumble to the desk to check e-mail and charge various communication devices for the day ahead.
05.53 Call room service and order a cappuccino and a mandarin juice.
05.56 Pull on sneakers, shorts and t-shirt, brush my teeth and try to make my hair presentable for the short journey down to the gym.
06.00 Emerge from the lift, sign into the gym and find a treadmill.
06.02 Break into a 10kph run and keep up the pace for 35 minutes.
06.37 Wind down to a brisk walk and search for a favourite song or two on my iPod before heading to the sauna.
06.40 Remove shoes, place them in a shoe locker and then pad up the short staircase to what might be the best men’s spa in the world. I’m not usually the biggest fan of hotel spas but the set-up at the Grand Hyatt is special. Most of the men shuffling around in black slippers and various outfits supplied by the club are either Seoul businessmen en route to work or Korean industrialists who look like they’ll probably be there for the entire day. And who could blame them? The space is all soothing blonde woods, mint carpeting and low lighting. Pacing around the interconnecting rooms are well appointed attendants who are constantly replenishing towels, robes and toiletries. In adjoining rooms other staff members are offering rather painful but satisfying body scrubs.
06.43 Deposit clothes in locker and wander through to what can only be described as a human carwash. The oval room features washing bays that borrow from Japanese-style seated washing arrangements (stool, rinsing bucket, shower attachment and a series of dispensers containing soap, shampoo and conditioner) but improve on the concept by offering a little more privacy. It’s puzzling why the rest of the world hasn’t embraced seated washing. I reckon once you’ve sat down to lather up, scrub, shampoo and rinse it’s difficult to think about standing up to wash ever again.
06.50 Move to one of three pools and opt to ease into the hottest, most bubbly of the bunch. Find a jet to blast a nagging backache I’m convinced is caused by aircraft seats that are angry because they’ve lost their identity as they’re neither a chair nor a bed.
06.53 Decide I’ve had enough thermal therapy for one morning and step over a low-rise wall into the breathtakingly chilly cold pool.
06.59 Dry off and choose from an array of lounging outfits to be worn for grooming, newspaper-reading and napping. I go for a light cotton robe and pull on some jumbo-size blue boxers underneath. I find a space in front of a large mirror and sample virtually every product that’s been laid out for pre-work personal improvement.

It’s tricky to pinpoint what made the whole experience so special but I think the simple act of bathing as a complete, well-engineered ritual put me in a perfect frame of mind for the following days. If Korea Inc is wondering how it’s going to boost exports, they might want to take their unique style of washing on the road and help the rest of the world start the week with a sparkle.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle
tyler.brule@ft.com
More columns at www.ft.com/brule

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