I now hold the privilege of saying that I’ve bathed with old Korean women. May not sound exciting to you. But let me tell you – Korean jjimjilbangs are where it’s at.
A couple of my friends wanted to go a few days ago, so Alex and I joined them. Jjimjilbangs are basically large, gender-segregated public bathhouses with different hot tubs, showers, and sauna rooms. You can also get salt scrubs and massages. We just wanted a relaxing night, so the five of us – Anna, Von, Alex, my roommate Janet, and I – trekked on up to the 24-hour bathhouse of Jochiwon. It was about a 10-minute walk from where we were staying. We paid $6 each to use everything –yet another steal in Korea. I was thankful to have Janet with us girls, because she is Korean-American and speaks the language, so it really helped having her along for the ride. The boys, however, were on their own. But, eh, they managed.
“You girls are very beautiful. Where are you from?” they said.
“Umm… Texas. It’s in America. And Anna’s from Oklahoma. Also in America,” I told them.
“How long have you been in Korea?"
“A week and a half….”
“Korean women rub their larger areas with bowls to get rid of the fat,” one woman abruptly said without pause, as she pointed to my stomach and gestured with a bowl, requesting my permission for her to rub my belly.
Thanks I thought, as I reluctantly gave my consent. I was pondering the oddness of how she has just gone there. But then I thought to myself, hey—I’m in Korea! Why not let a slightly hefty, superstitious Korean woman rub my belly with a bowl?
So that was our conversation in the Salt Room.
After that, we rinsed off. There was a (freezing) cold bath that you could get into, which closes up your pores, but I passed. I figured I had had enough excitement for one evening. We threw on our clothes and it was then that I realized how incredible I actually felt. Maybe I can just get past the awkwardness. This might just be my new favorite place…