Thursday, April 9

Have I ever told you?

Have I ever told you about the time I went to a Korean bathhouse/spa?

It all started at the Seoul airport. My friend Lisa and I went to the info desk to try and find a traditional Korean bathhouse. This was much easier said than done. Because I didn’t have enough time or energy to learn even a word of Korean before I left (like this would have even helped) we had a hard time communicating our needs. After a few info desks we found someone who actually spoke decent English. She gave us a piece of paper with stuff written on it to give to the cab driver.

We had some idea of what to expect at the spa because of a friend who recommended it--from what I gathered it is a place where the women (or men) all get together and bathe. There are showers, different temperature pools, and saunas. Additional treatments are available at an additional cost. We were told to try the amazing body scrub.

The place we went to knew very little English, so it was difficult to figure out what we were supposed to do. At the front desk we got a locker key, towel, and jumpsuit.

We walked into the first room, which had a bunch of small lockers. As we tried to stuff all our things into the world’s smallest locker a woman walked out and laughed at us (the first of many to mock us). Apparently those lockers are only for shoes.

The next room was a huge more traditional looking locker room. In here were normal sized lockers where we could put our things. We took of our clothes and started to put on the jumpsuits, but the woman stopped us and told us to take them off. (Honestly, I'm not sure what the jumpsuit was for, we never used them.) So here we were walking around naked with our little towels (which were basically hand towels). Lisa and I were trying to stay covered still which I think they thought was funny.

We went downstairs into a huge room with the pools, showers, etc. I was definitely overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure what to do; I just really wanted my massage and scrub. Some of the women started to show us what to do. First we took showers. The other women were literally scrubbing and washing themselves for 15-20 minutes. I just couldn’t come up with enough to do. I was done in about 3.

We walked into the first sauna and just stood there looking around. We were both determined to get the “full experience,” but unsure of what that entailed. The lady sitting in the sauna seemed to want to help us. She motioned us over and started to vigorously beat her belly and yell. Lisa immediately started to do the same. Being the skeptical person I am, I questioned this immediate monkey see, monkey do. I couldn’t help but wonder if this woman was having a good time with the Americans. As she proceeded to beat herself over her entire body I decided that I should at least try the motions. I felt ridiculous, but hey let’s face it I was completely naked and obviously American, nothing was going to help that.

After the sauna beating, Lisa and I went into the other saunas. We couldn’t tell the difference between the different rooms and no one was in the other ones. Maybe they were actually all the same, who knows?

By this time the bath house had actually cleared out quite a bit. We tried out the different pools. One was so hot I couldn’t even get in; one was comfortable; one was freezing. We just decided to hang out in the comfortable temperature pool until it was time for our massages.

Two almost naked women (wearing just underwear) came and led us over to the massage tables. So the ladies giving us the massage were also pretty much naked, hmm...this was a little strange. They proceeded to put these special gloves on their hands and start rubbing our body. It felt about as good as someone rubbing you with a brillo pad. It killed! At first I thought I could handle it. I kept telling myself that it felt good getting rid of all the dead skin and getting a really good scrub. Then it just started to hurt. Did I mention I had some sunburns on my arms? Wow, I thought I was going to pass out. I’ve never been cleaned this well in my entire life. They rubbed and scrubbed for at least 30 minutes doing our ENTIRE body. She did not leave an inch unscrubbed. Then we were rinsed by dumping bowls of water all over us.

Then it was time for the massage. It was the most painful (why was pain such a huge component of this process?) but most amazing massage I’ve ever had. It was one of those massages where you feel fabulous after it is over. There was a lot of slapping involved in the massage. That hurt. There was a portion where she actually walked on my back. That also hurt. There was some intense stretching too. That was awkward-remember I’m still naked. After she finished in each area (arm, leg, back, etc) that area felt the best it had ever felt, which I definitely needed after all the biking I had done.

During the massage I had a cucumber facemask on—the only part of this whole experience that was pretty normal.

After the massage came the hair washing. No surprise that it was incredible. And then we were done.

It felt so good after to be completely clean and fresh for the journey home. The best part is that the whole experience was about $40! Despite the awkwardness and pain, I would say it is worth it!


Daniel and Leslie said...

I could never do that. Naked....NO WAY!!! I have had quite a few massages that were painful. It wasn't until recently that I found out they are NOT supposed to be that way. I'm glad that you had this experience. I will take your word for it that is was worth it. I will live vicariously through you....I wouldn't want to have to endure it. You are very brave :)

The Peton's said...

Oh the visuals!!! I can't stop laughing. Banging on your belly, while naked, and yelling - all while being surrounded by naked Korean people. Too funny!!! I feel like I just watched it through hidden camera. I've filed this story in the old memory banks. Good one!!

Prestwich Family said...

Stinkin' hilarious!!! I'm not sure I would have made it through that! Now at least I know what to expect, not that I will ever visit one!