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There : JimJeeBang

November 10, 2007 Leave a comment

Today I went to a Korean bath house. It was a good experience; one I would suggest anyone partake in before leaving Korea. Unless you are really nervous about being naked around people, in which case, don’t.

It was an interesting time for me. I’ve pointed out that the Koreans in the bathroom tend to walk around naked with no real reason. I figured this was bathhouse culture applied to the bathroom. But inside the bathhouse, it seemed a lot more natural and less…affected. Even more than before, I now think the walking around naked in the bathrooms at school is an attempt to recreate that bathhouse atmosphere, but it comes across as creepy to me.

Anyway, about the bathhouse. It was a lot of fun. $5 got us in, a locker, and a workout uniform, for unlimited time. And I do mean unlimited. People sleep there. There is a restaurant, a game room, a gym, a TV, and, of course, a place to take a shower.

We started out in the gym, where we worked out on numerous machines and free weights. It was pretty well equipped, but didn’t have the fancy (unnecessary) stuff like TVs in front of the treadmills. Exercising is a pretty culture neutral experience, so aside from the Korean techno playing (which actually reminded me of home more than anything, because I listened to it more there), it was normal. Still, just $5 for all day at the gym is cheap, right?

Next up we went to the hot stone room. It was not a sauna. It was hot, dry air. It made me very thirsty. People slept in there. I wasn’t that comfortable in there. It was the dryness of the air. It was still interesting.

At some point either before or after the hot room, we paid $1 for 10 minutes in a massage chair. It was purely mechanical. It was at times really good at at times and at other times painful: like a team of angry midgets assaulting you from behind. Still, for $1, it wasn’t bad.

Next we went upstairs to the baths. I should point out that up until this point, we were in our workout uniforms, and it was co-ed. There were a surprising amount of older ladies and people with kids, and school girls and young guys running around. Anyway, up in the baths, it’s was just men, and mostly older men. The nudity was pretty normal seeming. It helped that I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and that no one did anything strange. It was what I would expect from a room full of naked, comfortable guys. It was pretty much all about the various forms of water-related relaxation.

First was the hot bath. It was really hot. It took a lot of easing into. Next to it was the Really Freaking Hot bath. We couldn’t get more than our feet in. I’m pretty sure it cooked most people. Then we went to the cold bath, which felt really good. I liked it quite a bit. Next we went into the first steam room, which was pretty normal, but nice. Both the hot room and the first steam room had dried herbs around and generally smelled pretty nice. Then we took showers (well, we rinsed off when we entered the main baths, but this was a pretty normal shower, sans-standing up).

Next came my favorite, we went into a steam room, similar to the first, but with a lot more steam. Medicated steam. The steam had “Chinese Medicine”, which at least was some very nice smelling herbs. It cleared out the sinuses and basically left me feeling very nice and fresh. I really enjoyed it, and could still smell the smells on the trip home.

We did a few more trips through stuff, bought some hard-boiled eggs, and headed out. I should point out that they had hairdryers, towels, hair gel, combs, even aftershave you could use, for free. So it was all set up minus some razors. And Korean guys don’t shave that much.

Walking home I felt really good. Now I feel really tired. But overall, I highly suggest the public baths. It might seem strange, because it is. But that’s why you’re in another country, anyway.

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Categories: Being There