Monday, January 19, 2009

Jimjilbang.... A day spent with hundreds of naked Korean women.

Yesterday was a first for me. I spent the day with hundreds of naked Korean women young and old at the jimjilbang.... The communal Korean bathhouse. A coworker and I decided to brave it out and experience jimjilbang together on Sunday afternoon.

When you first arrive, you pay 7,000 won (about $5) and receive 2 little bitty towels and a tshirt and shorts. The sauna is segregated between men and women so you then head into the women's only locker area. Then, you remove your shoes and place them into a little locker for shoes. There are 100's of these little lockers!

After you lock up your shoes, you then receive a key for a larger locker where everything else goes into. And I mean EVERYTHING. You soon give up hope of ever being able to cover up with the little hand towel you were given and bare it all just like everyone else.

For Korean people, the sauna is a normal place for families to go. Mothers and daughters are all around you, some with naked little babies, and there are saggy old ajumas, as well as rail thin 20-somethings. Everyone is naked and scrubbing one another like they haven't a care in the world. So much scrubbing!

Welp, after you are unclothed, you must first shower and scrub clean before getting into one of the baths or saunas. There are many baths to choose from of varying temperatures ranging from scalding hot to ice cold. There is one bath that contains salt and minerals that feels great. Another of my favorites is the bath with incredibly strong jets. Ahhhhhhhh......

There are also 2 saunas- a wet sauna and a dry sauna that is at a steaming 98 degrees Celcius. That is HOT, HOT, HOT! Whew! And there are little sitting showers that seem quite popular where women sit and scrub away at their bodies. I have honestly never seen so much scrubbing in my entire life! Everyone is scrubbing one another on every place on the body imaginable! I never knew people took being clean to this degree. Wow.

I think my coworker and I were about the most frightening monstrosities Korean people had ever seen in their lives, what with her being a skinny African American girl and me being pale and curvy and covered in tattoos. Like the odd couple. Besides the few dirty looks I received from conservate old ajumas and the curious looks received from children, I think I can handle the jimjilbang alright.

All in all, our afternoon at the jimjilbang was quite enjoyable and I came out feeling as if I had been drugged with something very good. I was soooooooooo relaxed. Whew!