9.15.2008

holiday weekends are divine

This weekend was a big Korean holiday called Chuseok. It's the Korean Thanksgiving. People travel back to their hometowns and spend the holiday with their families. Not only did most businesses close down, but the streets were empty and quiet and almost eerie.
For me, I enjoyed a 3 day weekend of rest and absolutely no agenda. It was lovely.

I spent my entire Sunday at the sauna (called Jimjilbang). Jimjilbangs are big public bathhouses made into a sort of resort. It's a big thing here in Korea and I have decided to go on a weekly basis.

DSC02156

As a side note: When you travel and experience different cultures, you sometimes discover practices that are so extremely healthy and beneficial and you think "Why is this exclusive to one culture? Why doesn't the entire world get this?"

Actually, many foreigners are repulsed by the sauna. A combination of being naked communally, and making exfoliation a group effort somehow makes most of my American friends a little squeamish. I'm not sure why, but I find it enjoyable, relaxing, and rewarding.

But let me tell you about the Jimjilbang. You enter, put your shoes in a locker, and you're given a cute little uniform and some towels. You make your way to the appropriate gender's locker room and you are immediately surrounded by a massive crowd of naked people...in my case, women.

Every insecurity you have about your body is instantly forgotten. I mean, there were women with hair in the strangest places, big bodies, little bodies, uneven breasts, saggy butts, and then there were the Asian supermodels of course. And you just sort of fit in, in your own natural way.

I will admit, I had a few awkward moments being the only white girl, wandering around obviously a little confused about the flow of events. But I got over it, shortly after I walked into the wrong room...a room that generally requires clothing.

The sauna area is a giant bathhouse filled with a million tempting options. There are baths of ginseng water, natural sea water, salt water, cold water, hot water, intense pressured jets, and foot spas, and walking spas...and more. The best part was the initial exfoliation. You get these exfoliating cloths and some good body soap and rub the heck out of your body. But Korean women are very helpful. They don't like to see you left alone to scrub. I mean...how are you going to reach the middle of your back? I was surrounded by women helping me to get the best scrub and after wincing in pain a few times...I ended up so sqeaky clean it was astounding. I'm serious, my skin was squeaky! You can actually pay about $10 to lay on a bed and have an older lady scrub your entire body for you. From what I hear, it's worth the expense.

So after a few hours in the baths, I spent some time in the sauna rooms. There are so many options. I did accidentally sit down without using a towel and I scalded my butt cheeks. Lesson learned.

Then there is the common area of the Jimjilbang, where everyone meets. That's when you get to sport your cute uniform. You can get something to eat, enjoy the rooftop garden, rest on the floor, check your email, read a book, enjoy the ice room, get a manicure, or go swimming outside in the pool. I spent the rest of my afternoon wandering, reading a book, and taking a nap.

I'm sorry, but I didn't take any pictures for you...hopefully you can understand why. But in conclusion, the Korean sauna is a brilliant habit. It is one I shall cherish during my time here, and one that I will miss when I'm gone.

On to other things...

Did you know that McDonalds delivers?

DSC02163

And while I'm posting pictures, here are a few more things I see every day (or at least quite often). I finally took the time to capture them for you.

This is a building near my work. I'm pretty sure it's a home. I don't know what the grafiti says but I intend to find out.
DSC02172


The two business on the bottom "Family Mart" and "Paris Baguette" are two of my FAVORITES here in Seoul.
DSC02168

I make regular visits to the post office.
DSC02167

This is the intersection near my work.
DSC02166

I saw this van every day for a while. Now it's gone. I miss seeing it.
DSC02139

Yongsan Station is where I often see movies. There is a great sauna near Yongsan Station.
DSC02157

Inside Yongsan Station.
DSC02161

I don't even rememer where this was. But I thought I'd include it in this post.
DSC02124

5 comments:

Dustin and Stacey said...

Well you sure are a brave soul! I have a hard time getting naked in the locker room at the gym. You would think that all those years of quickly changing in the locker rooms at baton competitions would have gotten me used to it. But no. I'm glad you are taking in the whole culture. I love hearing about it!

Momma Amy said...

The Korean saunas sound so amazing and relaxing. Perfect for some pampering time. Enjoy!

Rachael said...

Odd as it may be, the sauna thing sound kinda cool. I heard that there's one over here somewhere. Maybe I'll be adventurous enough to try it out :-) By the way, you have a gift for telling stories in a humorous way. I LOVE reading your blog!

Jen said...

It sounds like a very lovely time. I am jealous of the whole sauna experience. It sounds great. Hope that it go you ready for this coming week. Miss and love you!!!!!

Ellie said...

hmmmm.....the sauna sounds divine. :)