Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Well, a jimjjilbang is s sort of spa that Koreans frequent. They are AWESOME! You pay about 5 bucks or less and you get access to all the facilities. They are coed but they have separate areas for men and women because...you're naked. That's right, you have to be NAKED inside!
Ok, let me explain the process. So I LOVE spas and have been dying for the Korean experience so one night Ajenai and I decide to check one out.
We went to Dragon Hill Spa. Just walking into the place you feel relaxed! So I pay 9 grand (about $10) for both of us. The lady at the counter hands me 3 things...4 towels a little bit bigger than a wash cloth, a locker key, and lite green gym shorts with a matching top. Yes, you have to wear a uniform inside. At least it's not pink for girls and blue for boys like most places here ! (I kid you not!).
So we take off our shoes and go into an open area that is packed with lockers. This is where you take your street shoes off and place them in the locker. Then we go around the corner to the "Womens" elevator. The "Mens" elevator is down the way a little bit. In the elevator I casually mention to Ajenai, "oh you have to be naked once we're inside." The look on her face...priceless. She very nearly banged into the wall in a full scale panic! But I told her everyone will be naked so it won't be a big thing! yeah, right.
On the "womens" floor, there is a dressing area and a locker area and a counter selling everything from bra's to snickers bars. There are also size 2 naked Asian women as far as the eye could see! Shocker! Even though I expected it...still a shocker! We must have looked a little confused because this little old lady dressed in a french maid outfit (for real) came from behind the counter to help us.
She told us that the bathing areas are downstairs. And massage was down the hall, common areas (shared with men and women) were down a different staircase. So, Ajenai and I went to the dressing area and proceeded to disrobe. Women were walking all around, some had those itty bitty towels we got at the front counter draped over their breasts, as if it could help!
Ajenai surprised me. She was trying to hide herself while taking her clothes off but then she was fine. While I, on the other hand, wore a towel I brought with me, so it covered all the naughty bits! Our first step was the bathing area. So we went down stairs and they had several huge pools all at various temperatures. Started at ahhhhh, cold, then lukewarm and went to boiling. Ajenai couldn't handle the middle temp but I dove in. She got into a lukewarm pool with other kids. They had shallow and deep pools so you could soak just your legs or swim if you wanted to. Of course, everyone stared at us, I'm used to it by now. And they weren't unfriendly so, (shrug) what can you do? I also saw a mud relaxation room but I wasn't brave enough to try that one out, yet. There was an awesome outdoor pool too. Actually, 3 pools, one cool, warm, and hot. Set in this beautiful garden, really pretty.
In the back of the bathing area were these stone tables called the scrubbing area. And they were covered with naked women and these old ladies in black bras and panties (lace too. straight outta victoria's *wrinkled* secret!) were doing body scrubs. They had wet salt and sand and these huge rough looking mits. They were picking women up by the legs and tossing them around and scrubbing and scrubbing. Scared me way too much for me to even think of trying that! But the women looked nice and shiny pink afterwards!
I decided I absolutely had to get a massage. So I go back upstairs and ask the french maid how I arrange one. She took me down this hall and this tiny old woman, (like maybe 4 feet and 60 lbs!) was sitting cross legged on the floor. So I ask for a 10 minute foot massage. And I say many many times, feet and calf only, 10 minutes. And I point to the area and mimic massage motions. Both old ladies say ,yea, yea. Which is what Koreans ALWAYS say. And then the old lady holds up 4 fingers. Everything is so cheap here I'm like cool, I can afford 4 bucks! So I lay down on the sheet. And she starts squawking at me. So I get up. She puts another sheet down, then she puts a blanket on top of that, then she puts another sheet down and a pillow. Then she grabs me with her bony fingers and pushes me down too. I'm like, uh oh, don't know how good those nubs are gonna feel on my body!
So,now she makes sure I'm comfortable, and she covers me with the top sheet and uncovers my feet. Then she starts the most amazing massage ever! I'm totally loving it! She has the oil and everything is working wonderfully. I close my eyes and just relax. Then she tells me to turn over, so I think, maybe she's gonna do the back of the leg? So I turn over. She does do the back of my leg and also my back and shoulders. Then I turn over again and she does my arms and shoulders, head, stomach. By now, I realize that it is way past 10 minutes, but it feels too good to stop. I decided to pay the extra 4 bucks if that's what it amounts too.
While I'm laying there on my back, I hear the woman talking. I know she's not talking to me cause, of course, I don't speak Korean. So I pop open one eye and there is another naked lady standing there talking to her. I assume she is signing up for a massage next or something. The lady has a baby strapped to her back, which looked pretty funny naked but anyway. I close my eyes and they keep talking...and keep talking...and keep talking! I open my eyes again and the woman is STARING at me. Both eyes, wide open, taking me alllll in. The funny thing is, the baby on her back is STARING at me too!!! Her little head is listing to the side to see around her mom so she can stare! I was like, yeah, this is what a naked black lady looks like! Look while the lookings good!
After the massage, we got dressed in our "womans" outfit, and followed the signs to the common areas. In these areas, men and women are walking around in the little green shorts and tops; dark green for boys and lite green for girls. There were also a ton of kids running around in yellow. There were many many common rooms and they had the different saunas in them. My favorite was the kiln room. There were 3 different kilns, mild, medium, and hot. These are wooden ovens and the entrance to each was a tiny round door. They were really like pizza ovens or an actual kiln where you fire clay. Inside the floor was wooden slats and they had a red heat lamp as the only light. They also had desert rooms where you go inside and lay on some hot rocks (not fun!).
Ajenai's favorite room was the ice room. Yes there was an actual snowman inside the room. Even the floor was ice cold tiles. I could only stay a short time and I had to go back to the kiln! But Ajenai and this little boy were trying to see how long they could stay in without leaving. If I hadn't come to get her, I think she would still be in there!
Anyway, we stayed there several hours and all in all had a wonderful time! I'll do it again real soon!