Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bathhouse 목욕탕


Before I came to Asia, I was pretty unfamiliar with the concept of a bathhouse.  When someone told me they had actually been to one, I said, “Those are real”?  I thought the idea came from a trip Miyazaki had on mushrooms.  Yeah, I am that ignorant.  Anyway, the last time I took a real bath was when I was eight years old.  
                                         Bathhouse that inspired Spirited Away-Matsuyama, Japan

If you do BJJ, then something is probably hurt, injured, or sore about 99.9% of the time.  I′ve had a nagging shoulder injury for the last six months or so, and, recently, my neck has been feeling messed up (thank you Master Sung).  Usually, one part of my body or another is tender.  

Fortunately, I live in Korea where there are bathhouses galore, many open twenty four hours a day.   Usually there are about four to thirteen baths in a bathhouse, depending on the size of place.  The most basic places have a warm bath, a hot bath, a cold bath, and maybe a waterfall.  Usually a sauna, too.  One I frequent near my house has some interesting ones like a green tea bath, a salt water bath, and a philosophy bath.  The best part is that they are insanely cheap.  Smaller ones cost about 5,000 Won ($4.00) and higher end places will set you back about 12,000 Won ($10.00).      

The major thing that sets Korean bathhouses apart from Japanese ones is the jimjilbang (찜질방), some sort of heated room.    
                                                   Entrance to jimjilbang

Korean bathhouses have a bunch of wacky little rooms you can laze about in till your heart′s content.   There are ice rooms, oxygen rooms, charcoal rooms, ion rooms, Roman rooms, pyramid rooms, salt rooms, dream wave rooms...the list goes on.
                                        Color Ion room-I have no idea what the heck it does,
                                         but it looks cool.

You can even get a massage or pay someone about 15,000-18,000 Won (about $20.00) to scrub all the dead skin off your body while you lay on a bed buck naked.   I was feeling particularly daring today and decided to go in the oxygen tank I had been meaning to try out.
                                         Not as cool or fun as it looks.

Afterward, I went into the movie room and watched the beginning of Mission:  Impossible-Ghost Protocol.  I decided I′d rent it later and took a nap.
If you are hungry or thirsty there is usually a snack area and many medium sized places have full on restaurants.   Some interesting menu items are peanut butter squid, smoked duck eggs, and fruit vinegar.  So, next time you′re sore from BJJ, I won′t be...

                                         Hammam Room

How to Use a bathhouse:
1.  Pay at the front desk.
2.  Take off your shoes and put them in a locker (don′t step on the floor dummy) and then grab a key.
3.  Take off all your clothes and then take a shower.
4.  Stroll into the bathing area with your nose held up high like a Roman senator.  Enjoy a bath.
5.  Put your clothes back on to go inside the jimjilbang, because no girls want to see you naked.

                                         Onsen town-Takayama, Japan