Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jimjilbang Take 2

The first time I went to a jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse...think about the pictures you saw of Roman bathhouses) was at 6am, in the countryside, with a bunch of Korean climbing girls. The previous day had been spent rock climbing (~gasp~, yes there was a time when I was actually physically active) and the steam/hot baths/sauna were fantastic for loosening up sore muscles. I had no idea what to do, I just sort of blindly followed them through the paces. Many of you have encountered me pre-coffee...for those of you who haven't let me enlighten you:

Me: Ungh?
Any person attempting to interact with me: Wa wa wa blah blah blah...........
Me: Guh? ~Blinks blearily~ Coffee? Coffee have? Coffee.
Person: blah blah blah blah blah.
Me: Mmmmmmm, coffee.

I wake up almost immediately after putting the coffee in my hands--the placebo is almost as good as the real thing though I can almost always tell if my Dad has tried to be sneaky and pass off half-caf as 100 proof. Sneaky man! Evil half-caf.  Anyways, the point is that I'm a bit retarded before I really wake up. Not to mention that this is over a year ago and memories fade and all that.

Fast forward to earlier today: The Female Kiwi and the Partial Asian** and I decided it would be fantastic to laze about in a jimjilbang. They exist in every town but we decided to head into Busan and get Thai food in Haeundae (soooo spicy and yummy!) before going in. We actually didn't know which bath house we were going to...we just got in a cab and said 'jimjilbang ga yo.'  The cabbie got the idea that we had no idea which one we wanted pretty quickly and took us to one that he said was "best" and only cost the minimum fare to get there.
Things we did successfully:
1. Pay.
2. Find the locker room.
3. Take off our clothes and put on the litte jimjilbang uniform shorts and tee.
Things we failed spectacularly at:
1. Finding the showers.
2. Not giggling like loons while trying to find the showers.

Seriously, we had no idea where the showers were and this was a big luxury type jimjilbang--nothing like the small mountain town one I had been to previously. The one thing I knew for certain is that a thorough shower is mandatory before you get in the various pools. The Female Kiwi was brave and looked up the word for shower on her phone dictionary but the girl she asked just looked at her blankly. We probably mispronounced it and said something like pumpkin instead. Who knows. At this point the Female Kiwi and the Partial Asian were getting flustered and about ready to give up and go. It's super intimidating to have lots of butt naked people staring at you while you are trying to look for something. The last thing I wanted to do was go back into the rain after having traveled an hour to get there so I walked right up to a naked lady who was holding a shower caddy type thing and pointed to mine, pointed to hers, mimed the shower water coming out and asked 'where is it?' (SUCH a useful phrase to know in Korean). She pointed through some doors and to the left and VOILA! We were in business.

Most.Amazing.Thing Ever. I also paid 30,000 ($25.88) won for a full body scrub, facial and massage. They even did a deep condition and scalp exfoliation. I was in bloody heaven. Every cell in my body felt rejuvenated and I just felt so goooood for the rest of the day. Yes, it is a little strange to have a woman only in her undies massage you down and pour buckets of oil and such on you but if you just close your eyes and enjoy it's not a big deal. I still can't get over how smooth my skin is. Worth every single weird stare--I so want to go back more often. Not the one in my neighborhood though...nothing more awkward than running into your students naked. The Female Kiwi and Partial Asian chickened out...they were too weirded out by the nudity thing. I must say though, without my contacts I'm so blind I couldn't even tell the difference between Asians and the Female Kiwi from 2 feet away. I didn't see too much of anything though since I had an extremely weird dream about nipples I think it somehow worked it's way into my subconscious.

**The Partial Asian has brought it to my attention that I occasionally slip and write 'the Half Asian' instead. This is utterly incorrect, she is 100% Asian American.


Rachel S said...

I found a web site where you vote for your favorite blog about Korea written in English. If you get more than 2 or 3 votes then the name gets added to the possible list to vote for. This story, and many like it, had me voting for Alex's blog. Add your vote, and hopefully she'll end up on the list. Go to:

Alex said...

Hahahahah awww. That would be great for the hit increase but there are some super popular kblogs on there.

SuperFantabulous said...

I've been wanting to go to a jimjilbang, but I do not relish the idea of being naked in front of Koreans. :)

Alex said...

Yeah, that's the best thing about having glasses...I can't see them staring at the waegook.

Do it though, even if you have to have a couple of drinks or something first. It's totally worth it.