Oct 7, 2012

Gettin' Naked: Part 1

Not like that.  Take your filthy mind elsewhere.

No, I have crossed off yet another rite of passage for living in Korea: the jjimjilbang. If you're too lazy to click the link, here's a snippet:

Jjimjilbang (찜질방) is a large, gender-segregated public bathhouse in Korea, furnished with hot tubs, showers, Finnish-style saunas, and massagetables, similar to a Korean sauna or mogyoktangJjimjil is derived from the words meaning heated bath. However, in other areas of the building or on other floors there are unisex areas, usually with a snack bar, ondol-heated floor for lounging and sleeping, wide-screen TVs, exercise rooms, ice rooms, heated salt rooms, PC bangnoraebang, and sleeping quarters with either bunk beds or sleeping mats.

In case it wasn't clear, the part with the hot tubs, saunas, and showers is gender-segregated, and participants are au naturale. That's right. It's nekkid time.

The ladies and I decided to check out the most famous jjimjilbang in Korea: Dragon Hill Spa. We walked in and were given a bracelet with a key and beep-thingy that acts as your credit card, locker for our shoes and jammies to change into later. We went to the women's locker room and stashed our stuff.

Then it was time to get naked, and subsequently seal our friendship forever.  It's part of the Girl Code. Once you've seen someone's lady bits, you have to be friends for life. That's the rule.

So, after several admonitions of "FRIENDS FOREVER," we stripped down and darted into the bathing area. Walking around naked is a very interesting experience for someone raised with American puritanical-like modesty.

You think Americans aren't modest? Think again. How much hell is raised over nudity on television? Answer: A lot. 

I think one of the most interesting things about it is that after about 5 minutes, it ceases to be an issue. That is... until you get a glimpse of yourself in the full length mirrors. WHY, SATAN?! WHY DO YOU PUT FULL LENGH MIRRORS IN THE JJIMJILBANG?! (On a related note, today I started the 30 Day Shred. More on that later.) But seriously, once you see all the little old naked adjummas scrubbing each other's backs, you kind of just get over yourself. Nobody cares.

Speaking of scrubbing, one of the staples of a true jjimjilbang experience is getting a full scrubdown. Jjimjilbang etiquette stresses extreme cleanliness. You're supposed to shower thoroughly and scrub down every inch of skin with a rough brillo-pad-thinger before you go into any of the baths. If you fail to do any of this, prepare to be yelled at by a naked adjumma.

To help you in this process, many jjimjilbangs offer a service where, for a small fee, you can lay down on a table and be scrubbed within an inch of your life by an adjumma in a black lace bikini.

Obviously, I had to try it.

I beeped my little bracelet-cum-key-cum-credit card against the beepy-paying thing, and a naked adjumma beckoned me over to a table.  She strapped on her lace bikini (I am 100% serious about that detail), and went to town with the brillo pad thinger. Within a minute, I was covered in little grey rolls of my own skin (EWWWW).

About 10 minutes later, I emerged raw, red, and soft as a baby's bottom. Even as I'm typing this now, I keep running my hands over my arms. So. Soft.

After we each got a scrubdown, we cycled through the various pools and saunas, raising and lowering our body temperatures in such rapid-fire succession that I'm surprised more people don't have heart attacks in jjimjilbangs. I certainly thought I was going to have one after going from the dry sauna to the cold pool. Talk about a rush.

After an unknown amount of time (there are no clocks inside, and obviously my phone was far, far away in my locker), we figured it was time to put clothes back on and see what the rest of the facility had to offer.

More on that later. I'm hungry and tired of typing. Stay tuned for "Gettin Naked: Part 2: Significantly Less Naked" 

No comments:

Post a Comment