we just got back from the jinjilban (i think that is the right pronunciation) the sign on the wall said, “Official Korean Hot Spring.” I know Adam made a post before, but after we talked about it, my experience in the women’s bath was much different than his.
after paying 4800 won i went up to the 2nd floor. when you walk off the elevator there are little lockers to put your shoes in and then there is a matching large locker with your clothes further inside. i did not know truly what to expect after Adams experience. the minute I stepped into the main room, there were naked ladies. the room was large, they had a counter which sold trial size shampoos, scrubbies, soap, drinks and clothing. there was an area where women were putting on make up and doing their hair. i found my large locker, stripped down, sucked in my breath and walked out into the pathway to the baths. Inside the room with the baths were about sixty women or so, of all ages, and all sizes. There were 6 baths, three saunas, an area where a larger woman with underroos on was giving massages, and a huge area with showers and stools w/ faucets.
I tried the regular bath first. It was at a temperature of 42 Celsius. I sat in it awhile and then like the other ladies, decided to just put my feet in a sit on the ledge. They handed me a cup with ice and sweetened tea. After awhile I moved to the 40 degree bath which was much shallower. here you can lay down if you would like and put your head on the ledge. I was sweating at this point and didn’t lay all the way down, but did stay in for about 15 minutes. Then I ventured to the black tea bath. There are actual large canvas bags with the tea leaves inside floating within the tub. Each of the tubs has a fountain in the center and a faucet pouring in fresh water. The tubs are the size of a huge hot tub. After this bath I attempted to go into the cold water bath, but it was way too cold for me, so I followed the Koreans and poured a bucket quickly over me. I next went into the green tea bath which was also very warm, but smelled good. It was here that I remained until I was ready to go.
When I first arrived I found myself staring at everyone, watching what they all did. For such shy people I was amazed at how they all just sat there stark naked and chatted with each other. When the bathing was over, the women sat on the stools and scrubbed each other down with all sorts of bath salts and soaps. Younger women bathed the old and mothers bathed their children. They all wrapped their hair up in towels and brought these ribbed cushions with them to sit on. Many of the women had bruises on their bottoms. I am not sure if it was from riding a bike. Some of them had large oval shaped bruises up and down their sides. I know they give suction cup massages there, but I can’t imagine that would be on their sides. The women come in all shapes, just like in America. I wouldn’t say they were all skinny, or all muscular, or all chunky. It was a bit eye opening to me because here I am thinking that none of the women here are shapely, and I guess I was just not looking. Most of the women do not have any muscle mass, regardless of their size and the one or two that did, truly stuck out. Although the women scrub every orfice of their body until it is red and blotchy clean, they do not shave their underarms or anywhere else.
I hate to use the word liberating because that isn’t quite how it felt. It was more at peace with who and what we are. I guess it is something to the effect of we are all just humans. I could not tell who was rich or poor, or who was old and who was young. (except for the really old ladies and the young children) There was no judgement in the bath house. I did notice a few staring at first at me, but I think it was more just to see how I was different from them, just as I did to them.
After the baths, I went over to the shower area and although I did not bring shampoo or soap with me, I stood in the cool water for quite awhile. It felt fantastic. I did not save one of my towels to dry off with so, I went back into the locker room area, but could not stand on the floor because I was dripping wet. As I stood there waiting for the worker to bring me a towel, I heard, “Hello, Nicole Teacher.” Son-of-a…. yes, as embarrassed as I possibly could be in the states when seeing a student, nothing compared to standing there, stark naked, dripping wet, waiting for a towel and staring at a 13 year old student.
enough said. that was how my jinjilban experience ended.
We are now home and I am drained of all energy. I definitely will go back, often. My body feels refreshed, relaxed and exhausted. I’m off for a nap. Sorry there are no pictures.