Warning: This post contains lots of references to nudity and none of it being the cool female kind.
Well for those of you wondering about the title and the warning, this post is all about my first experience in a Korean Jjimjilbang, which is a Korean bathhouse or sauna. Honestly I must warn you that you have to be very comfortable walking around naked because well, that's what you do there. Even if you're not naked, everyone else around you walks around naked as the day they were born. Luckily for those who are really shy the saunas are segregated by sex. Which sadly means that during all this nakedness you are enduring, all you see is penis. Yes, that's right folks lots and lots of it too. What makes it worse though, is being a foreigner and on top of that the only white foreigner in the sauna means that as soon as you walk into the sauna everyone stops for a second to stare at you. What can I say, we whities are rare here in Seosan.
Now many of you, including my father and sister are wondering why in god's name would you ever want to go wander around a naked sauna? Well, honestly when I came to Korea I wanted to experience as much of the culture as possible. Even if that means I have to sit naked in a room with a bunch of other dudes in the buff. Another reason for this experience would be the fact that for 5 bucks I left that sauna completely de-stressed, which that in itself was worth the experience. Now, onto the fun procedure and describing other things besides my hairy naked self. Sorry, I know that I could have done without that last comment, but seriously would you expect anything less of me?
After you have paid your admission fee and have found the proper floor, bear in mind that at this sauna you are not allowed on the naked female floor. DAMN. Wait, that's probably a good thing because something tells me that while I'd like to think that every gorgeous woman on that floor would be throwing themselves at the glistening naked foreigner with the body of a Greek god, lets be honest I'd probably get my ass beaten to a bloody pulp by all the enraged females. As you walk onto your floor, the first thing you do is promptly take off your shoes and store them in a locker. Hey guess what you don't even have to pay for the locker. It's included in the entrance cost. Next you receive a key to a different locker at which you get to store all of your valuables and clothing. Once again, no fee for the locker.
With your clothes and valuables stored in the locker, you get to begin that wonderful naked saunter across the room in front of ten to twenty naked strangers. After this glorious saunter, you come upon two double doors with the bathhouse and sauna's just beyond. You open the doors and are immediately assaulted by warm humid air. After the your fast adjustment to the interior environment, you walk over to a shower and take a quick shower. However, these showers are not taken standing, they are taken sitting. Yep that's right folks it's a sitting shower on a stool probably made for a two years old. After a quick shower you walk over to the first of many hot pools. The first hot pool is filled with bubbling, flowing ginseng water. The water is a paltry 39 degrees celsius. For those heathens amongst you who still use the outdated standard measurement system that water was simmering at a temperature of 102 degrees.
After spending several minutes in the ginseng hot pool you move to your choice of other hot pools, which are just regular water. These pools vary in temperature from 105-110 degrees. Not bad if I do say so myself. Now, here is where the fun begins. You have several more options from here. You can walk into several sauna's. The coolest of which has a low temperature of 131 degrees. The warmest of which 222 degrees. Yeah holy shit those sauna's are hot. I walked into two saunas and while standing around naked and sweating my ass off I found out that saunas are best when you only spend a short time in them. Lets just say that the second you walk in it's instant sweat. Not only is it instant sweat, but it's instant dripping sweat from every pore of your body. After my naked flight from the horrifically hot saunas I ran into the cool pools. These pools are a welcome 76 degrees, and after trying to bake myself in a sauna they felt wonderful. Included in these pools are several jets of water that allow you to target different parts of your body for some wonderful water jet pounding.
Now, while this may all seem like the local Y's swimming pool, let me continue on. If you want while you're in this bath house there are places for menthol massages and all kinds of other things that you can do, but I digress so let me get back into this wonderful exploration of Korean saunas. Well, there really isn't much left to do after you've sat in the cool pools, other then to shower again, dry off and get dressed. Yeah I know you were expecting some horrible description of myself getting a massage and smelling like vick's vapor rub for the rest of the night. Sorry didn't have the time. My buddy and I needed to get ourselves out to the bar. It was payday and the foreigners wanted some booze. When leaving through those same double doors you entered you are instantly accosted by the horrific feeling of cold air and your friends from down below are sent running for the cover of the north. I quickly dried myself and in a much more relaxed, although now cold state walked back to my locker to get dressed. We left about an hour after arriving at the sauna, and I have to say that I'm honestly headed back often. For five dollars I was completely de-stressed and honestly smelled pretty awesome. Who knows what I'll be up to next. The next few weeks offer some grand and horrifying experiences. I'm off to Daejon tonight, and then up to Seoul for a Wedding this weekend.