Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jjin jil Bang

Sauna!  The cheapest place to stay in Korea.  It's also an arcade and a spa and a bar and a cafeteria and a steam room place.  You can purchase a pass and then just sleep there.  And people do.  All over the tile floor, they lay down and go to sleep.  So that's what we did.  But first we played air hockey and basketball and sang karaoke in a really hot booth.  Then we went into this thing that looked like a furnace, and it was SO hot inside, hotter than the hottest sauna, and then we went into a cold room and sort of did a back-and-forth.  I had really planned on staying in the jjin jil bang until it was time to fly home on Monday. 

The karaoke booth was fun.  In Korea, karaoke is called Norae-Bang, and it can be dangerous because prostitutes sometimes offer their services at such places.  When we found the booth at the jjin jil bang, we were excited.  There were even like a million songs in English.  Of course we went for the old standards -- Total Eclipse of the Heart, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, Islands in the Stream, and Shawn and I belted out 18 and Life by Skid Row.  It was fun, but because it was located in a sauna, the booth was at least 95 degrees inside.  So we didn't pay for another 20 minutes.  The funny thing was that Koreans produced videos to the songs, so on the screen you didn't see Bonnie Tyler singing Total Eclipse, you saw a Korean woman, following a mystery man, through a forest.  She is crying, and his face is never visible.  There is a get the picture.  Same for all of the songs we chose.  The best part seemed to be the cheesy video that went along with the song.  The point of the song...well it just seemed to have been missed completely.

And then the boys went to the boys sleeping area and the girls went to the girls sleeping area.  Summer and I finally found a sleeping room with lights out.  We stumbled in, and Summer stepped on a girl who was sleeping in the walking area.  We found two mats.  Two half-inch flat uncomfortable mats, with brick pillows and they weren't next to eachother.  Somebody was snoring loudly.  There were at least 30 people sleeping in this room.  I woke up at one point and both women on either sides of me were on my two foot wide mat with me.  So I moved to another unoccupied mat.  Then I woke up and Summer had gone downstairs so I followed and I found her sleeping on a massage chair.  I layed on a sawed-flat tree bench next to it.  In all I got about 7 hours of sleep.  We decided we'd have to get a hostel for the next night. 

Then it was time to shower.  Which is done in a very large room and no clothes are allowed.  We knew this because we tried to wear our clothes into the shower area (obviously) and got rejected.  So we looked at eachother and shrugged our shoulders.  We shouldn't have bragged just yesterday that we had gotten away with 7 weeks together and never had seen eachother naked.  So, we undressed and grabbed the provided towels, no bigger than a dishtowel.  I held it up in front of me, and we walked the city block through the lockers to the showers.  Naked women everywhere.  Naked Asian women.  Naked Asian thin beautiful women.  ARGH.  We got to the shower area and found hot and cold tubs, and shrugged our shoulders again.  We couldn't beat 'em, so we joined 'em.  We sat in the hot water, then the cold water, all the while trying very very hard to look only at eachother's face.  After all that we had to shower, which is done seated on a plastic stool and in front of mirrors.  I have never sat on anything naked in my whole life, except the toilet.  And there I was, sitting on the hot tob bench and a plastic shower stool.

Facing fears!

1 comment:

Dan said...

Somehow I ended up reading Summer's blog after your trip but not yours. Well, now I'm staying home sick and it's fun to catch up. Excellent description of a *jjimjilbang* (for a moment your title had me concerned I was saying it wrong for years). Sorry that I slept so much better there than you. :)

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