A quick post to describe the fantastic experience I booked through Airbnb.
The experience was a visit to a local public bath house, something which is very much part of every Korean’s lifestyle and something which the rest of the world could do with (though I doubt how much Malta would be adopt such.. the utter cleanliness, respect and abiding of rules is alien to many Maltese).
The experience – Pamper yourself with a Korean Sauna – was organised by Heni, a lovely and very friendly host who patiently explained all the various intricacies of a Korean Sauna/bath house, intricacies which are probably every day stuff for the Koreans themselves but quite new to me and my colleague, Agnes from Singapore, in exploration of this part of Korean Culture.
So, we met at the Metro Station and introduced ourselves before heading towards the local Jjimjilbang that, if I understood well, Heni frequently visits. Once there we are given a set of shorts & t-shirt (Brown for males, pinkish for females) and we head to our separate changing rooms.
I got quite a few stares, nods and the occasional smile in there, quite obviously a non-Korean is a rare sight in there, and one guy, Mr Park, stopped to chat curious about where I was from and quite impressed that I was actually willing to try something so typically Korean.
Once changed I headed over to the communal area to join Heni and Agnes. Here we were guided through the various communal saunas of various types and of heat settings. The first was the salt sauna – a room set to about 45° with a floor of rock salt over which a thick hemp carpet was placed. We lay down in there for about 20 minutes then moved on.
WARNING: Remember to duck when entering or exiting the sauna rooms. The doors are very low and you risk cracking your head if not careful. I learnt the hard way. 😵
We then went into a pyramid shaped room.. a bit hotter than the first but don’t exactly recall the temperature. The inner walls all decorated with Ancient Egyptian glyphs and images. The floor again is covered with a thick hemp carpet as you risk burning your feet if you step directly onto the floor. Again we law down for a while here.
I don’t recall, again, how long we spent here, you see – the heat is very relaxing and you feel it working through your limbs and muscles so time becomes secondary.
The next was a monster.. I called it The Furnace and with good reason. The temperature inside was set at a whopping 137°! Yep, you read correctly, that is not a typo – 137°c it is. We had to wear a special cloak to go in there ( I assume that would be because you would risk being actually cooked alive if you didn’t) and in we went, gingerly and rather apprehensively, and hunched down close to each other. I didn’t last more than 5 minutes in there. Don’t do this alone peeps..
That done and all the gasping and exclamations that it brought we headed for an elevated wooden sort gazebo while Heni placed some cooling cucumber strips over our faces. 😀 And we lay there as the cucumber worked it’s wonders. I think I may have dropped off to a light snooze here as the heat from the various saunas worked its way through the body while the cucumber worked it’s cooling effect on the face.
Next stop was lunch… a lovely array of traditional Korean food all very delicious (plus, some quite spicy). During the meal Heni went over the details of what would happen inside the baths (we would have to separate once again here – baths are separate male only & females only as everyone would be totally naked inside).
This was a nervous part for me but all are in the same situation and it is totally normal for Koreans so you soon relax.
First you must shower and wash thoroughly – there are showers all around the baths – then you can choose which bath to sit in. There were 5 different baths all set at different temperatures – the hottest set at 45°, one set at about 42°, the most comfortable one and the one I spent most time in was set for 37-38°.
Then there were two cold baths – one at 21° and one at 18°.
After that you rinse down dry up, change and head out.
From what I saw, you can spend as much time as you wish in there, the place is open 24hours and you pay on for amenities used inside, such as lunch, drinks or massage in the baths, on exit. Your locker key acting as your registration code against which services are logged and then charged for.
All in all a fantastic experience so thank you Heni for letting me experience that.