Saturday, January 27, 2007

The $6 D.I.Y. Spa

During my first week of being a Korean lady of leisure, I went to a public bath for the first time. It was a bit “ew” but mostly amazing. Mom says it’s her favourite thing to do here. She suggested I might be uncomfortable being naked and that I didn’t have to go with her but there was no way I was going to chicken out of my first public bath experience just because you have to be naked. I mean, there’s really no other way, is there?

Anyway, when you’re around a bunch of naked people it isn’t a big deal. I thought it was cute when two ladies who knew each other greeted each other by bowing. Naked!

No one looks at you but I did have to do some surreptitious staring of my own (couldn’t help it!). First of all, I realized that the only naked bodies I see at home are fake (i.e. lit for photos, film, airbrushed). It’s refreshing to see people’s real bodies. Secondly, older people in Korea are thin. Most of the women there were older ladies and there wasn’t a roll of backfat or big belly in the room.

The place is underground in a tall office building. It’s like walking into a gym. There's a locker room where you disrobe and then you enter the shower/bathe area which is clean, cool marble.

The first thing you do is hit the shower. This was an “ew” moment because you sit on a little plastic stool (that other people have sat on!). I just tried not to think about it.

You bring all your own supplies (shampoo, facial stuff, little scrubby) but they have soap at the shower. It was great, smelled like melon.

After the initial shower, you’re ready for the pools. There are digital temperatures displayed above each. I went straight for the hottest – 42 degrees. Less than ten minutes made me feel like a soft-boiled egg. I hauled myself out and hit a slightly cooler Jacuzzi. Comfy. After that I braved the cold pool. Yipe! Next, the hottest steam sauna on earth. Last stop was full-circle - back to where I started for my second shower.

This is where the scrubbing comes in. You take a little scratchy fabric pouch not unlike what you scrub your dishes with and go crazy on your skin. There’s a Korean word (“ddeh”) for the grey bits that rub off your skin like a pilly sweater. This is where my second “ew” comes in. It’s not that bad, though. In fact, it is just so Korean in that there is a little bit of pain for a whole lot of pay-off.

I have literally never been so clean before in my whole life. When else would you ever shower and bathe continuously for an hour and a half? I was seriously starting to run out of ideas after the 60 minute mark but every other lady in there seemed to still know what to do. I have also never had such smooth skin. It’s a D.I.Y. whole-body exfoliation (although if you want to pay extra, you can lie down in a sectioned off area and have someone do the “ddeh” part for you – no thanks!).

Afterward I was so relaxed I was almost tired. It ruled. I would say it’s the best $6 I’ve spent in a long time.


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