Penguins, pyramids & more nudity: Korea 16

I originally started this post as one big long post covering the whole weekend. Then I realized that I had way too many stories to tell. Instead of one post, I'm going to break up the events of this past weekend.
Friday began like any other day with work from 9-6. I was a little weary of the first part of our commute: every morning we begin our trek to Yeouido by walking through Jungbu market. The market is just table after table after table of fish, from dried to whole. Thursday morning we commuted to work separately. I was minding my own business while cruising through the fish market. As I passed a table, the vendor was setting up for the day and moving whole fish around. Right as I passed her she accidentally dropped two of the fish. Somehow both fish managed to slap my leg with their tail fins on the way down. Even though both were no longer living they were both still slimy. The whole rest of the day my leg just felt dirty. Thankfully Friday morning I was not in fact assaulted by any dead fish. I did however swing wide when we got to the attacking fish stand.

Work was fairly standard. My co-intern and I were disappointed when our co-workers failed to take us out to lunch for the second day in a row. We'd gotten so used to being taken out for every lunch and usually also for coffee. Such a rough life we lead here in corporate Korea. (that was sarcasm, FYI)

After work the real fun began. It all began with a trip to a jjimjilbang. Jjimjilbang are traditional Korean bath houses. It's not uncommon for Koreans to go out drinking, sleep at the jjimjilbang and then shower and head off to work in the morning. The standard jjimjilbang has separate bath areas for men and women, complete with saunas and tubs for soaking at various temperatures. There are also co-ed areas for sleeping along with co-ed saunas rooms. While everyone typically hangs out in their birthday suits in the single sex sections, there are the jjimjilbang equivalent of PE clothes that must be worn for the co-ed section. Essentially they give you a cotton shirt and cotton shorts. Boys wear one color and girls wear a different color. After we paid we split up to dress out, just like in high school. Since everyone was starving we grabbed some dinner at one of the many restaurants inside the jjimjilbang.

Entrance to Dragon Hill (Source)
A quick word about the particular jjimjilbang we were at (Dragon Hill Spa). Dragon Hill is like the Vegas of jjimjilbang, complete with arcades. There are the tradition Korea style saunas, which look slightly like giant clay ovens. In fact Dragon Hill even calls them kilns which is such a comforting name, especially for someone who visited Dachau this summer. Turns out these kilns are actually beneficial to human health. There were also hot rooms shaped like pyramids: one was for your spirit and the other was for strengthening your mind at least according to the sign outside them. There were 6 floors of sauna glory at Dragon Hill and saunas of every sort. We sampled all of them, from the crystal salt room to the jade room to the ice room.

Pyramid hot rooms (source)
Yes the ice room actually has ice on the walls. Despite the ice on the walls and the snowmen in the corner, the ice room became one of our 2 favorite rooms. Every visit to the ice room was preceeded by a visit to the neighboring super ridiculously hot room. No. Seriously. It was that hot. My eyeballs felt like they were melting and within seconds we were all drenched with sweat. I mean, completely totally drenched. A friend's camera stopped working due to the heat. I have to admit, the first time we went in I hated the super ridiculously hot room. I mean how fun can it possibly be to feel like you're in an OVEN? It did smell good, mostly due to the frangrant wood stacked on one wall. From there it was straight into the ice room to return to a normal temperature. Did you know your corneas can fog up? Because I learned that on Friday night. The temperature difference is so stark between the two rooms that everything gets super foggy when you first arrive in the cold room. We would stay in the ice room (which was shaped like an igloo and had little penguin statues out front) until we could actually begin to feel cold. 
Super ridiculously hot rooms (source)
After a trip to every sauna, 3 rounds of super ridiculously hot followed by ice and a trip to a different restaurant than the one we ate dinner at to share some beers we finally split up for the bath part. I have to admit there's nothing comfortable, at least for me, about gettin' nude in front of strangers. There's something even less comfortable about doing it with friends. You know when you go to the Y how there are just women in the locker rooms without clothing? Imagine if everyone was doing that. I actually got yelled at for wearing my clothes. One of my friends got yelled at for wearing her swimsuit. Turns out you really have to be nude for the baths. We somewhat split up for the bath part, just to reduce the awkwardness. Once I was in the tub I was fine. After a soak it was time to head home. There is just something about this country and gettin' naked in public that I will never understand.
By the time we re-dressed and left the jjimjilbang I felt more relaxed than I have ever felt. All of my muscles just felt so deliciously unwound. There aren't even words for how good I felt. We all drifted home like stoned hippies after Woodstock

Never fear--there were absoluetly no actual drugs involved. Just lots of saunas and hot tubs. So if you ever want to feel that kind of relaxation forget the illegal substances and find yourself a jjimjilbang.

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