I was so busy relaxing I didn’t take any pictures.
In New York there’s a place called Spa Castle. You can spend the whole day actively relaxing in saunas and hot baths. It was a spa amusement park. We were given bracelets that were scanned when we bought snacks so we didn’t have to carry around any money. Spending an entire day relaxing is hard work and leaves you exhausted.
I’m in Seoul for Christmas and New Years. We decided to try an authentic Korean bathhouse in actual Korea. I’ve spent the better part of the last 7 months in Southeast Asia, permanent summer. Winter in Seoul is a shock to the system. My daily wardrobe consists of 6 layers. A bathhouse is the perfect place to defrost.
For just KRW 10,000 (roughly $10) you can stay at the bathhouse until midnight. This would be a great place to spend a long layover.
The saunas are called fomentation rooms. The first result when you look up fomentation is: the action of instigating or stirring up undesirable sentiment or actions.
Upon further research we discovered the medical definition of the word: the application of hot moist substances to the body to ease pain. This sounds more like what we were doing.
The fomentation rooms at the bathhouse are varied. The different properties of each room are meant to purify and heal. The first room we entered was set to 86 degrees celsius (186 Fahrenheit). You know the saying you could fry an egg? Well I think it was actually too hot for that. The egg would have evaporated or something. You’re supposed to sit and sweat for about 5 minutes then run into the ice room. Apparently the shock of the drastic change in temperature is good for you.
There was an oxygen room, which supposedly had better, cleaner air. I didn’t notice a difference. The loess ball room is like a heated ball pit. The room is full of tiny red balls. It’s really warm, and you’re supposed to lie in the balls. Getting up was a struggle. The jade room and the salt room were similar: big pits of jade and rock salt. I think the loess, jade, and salt are heated from under the floor.
There’s a restaurant to get food, a place to have your hair done, a nail salon, and a place to sleep. You really never need to leave.
After fomenting we hit the baths. The upper levels are open to all, while the baths are separated by gender. There’s no room to be embarrassed. Clothes are not allowed and all of the ladies walk around baring it all. You’ve to shower off all of the outside dirt before you’re allowed into the warm mineral baths. Like the fomentation rooms, each bath has different properties. There’s a jade bath, a charcoal one, and a mugwort one. Each has medicinal properties. There’s also a few warm baths with jets for a nice water massage, and a cold pool to shock your system in between. I don’t remember the last time I felt so clean or smooth.
We got to the bathhouse at noon and didn’t leave until almost 9pm! Time flies when you’re busy relaxing.
Spending time at a bathhouse seems to be part of the routine for many Koreans. Is it a weekly ritual? Monthly? Maybe just whenever you can find time or feel the need?
After a lovely, warm day of active relaxing, I almost fell asleep on the metro.