Three Things Thursday…

It’s back! With three things you can do…..

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

…on holiday in Seoul.

With friends visiting over the Easter holidays, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. There’s been a lot of lovely food consumed, although we also egged each other on enough that we finally tried the grubs.

Grubs in a cup!

Grubs in a cup

You know how sometimes something smells disgusting but takes delicious, like a really strong cheese? Or how sometimes something sounds like it should be foul but is surprisingly tasty, like haggis, or black pudding? This was not one of those happy occasions. I can affirm that eating grubs is every bit as bad as it looks, smells and sounds, if not worse. I’m sure for some people, this is their Pringles (something I’m also not best keen on). Personally, it’s just fit into the spot of culinary loathing I used to reserve for beetroot. And Marmite.

To recover from The Horror, I’ve been to not one, but two spas this week and been roundly abused by both a school of tiny fish, and some scantily clad women. On Monday we took a day trip to Icheon and the Termeden spa, the first German spa in Asia according to its publicity. There, for a little over £16, we spent the day in indoor and outdoor pools, thermal spa pools with varying scents and essences, a Korean hot sauna (a little dome-shaped hut) and the ‘basher pool’. This is apparently the German part of the experience. The bashers are strong jets of water which pound your back and shoulders into mush. A bit like the scantily clad women who do the same thing, but all over your body, and with brillo-pads. But they came along later. At Termeden, I had my feet and legs nibbled by Garra rufas, or ‘Doctor Fish.’ For 20 minutes I dangled my feet in a fish tank and let the little buggers do their worst. Their worst was pretty ticklish and made me worried that I had a verruca, but I think it’s actually some niggly hard skin.

Yesterday I had my second spa experience of the week. This time, I took my mate to a proper jjimjilbang, or Korean sauna, much closer to home. My wonderful friend YY from Runsploring first took me to her local jjimjilbang a couple of months ago. Concerned that I didn’t have a swimming cossie, I messaged her in a panic beforehand to ask if I’d need to get one.

“Don’t worry, you don’t need a swimsuit,” she sent back. “Just remember to bring your socks.” I was mystified, but all soon became clear.

For a third of the (already nominal) price of the swanky Termeden spa, we swapped our clothes for what could be mistaken for faded Guantanamo uniforms and hit the deck. In this case the deck was a large hall with floor mats and sponge-block pillows to lie on while we gabbed for an hour solid. The last time I went was a Friday night and this hall was filled with families picnicking on the mats, following news or dramas on TV and generally chilling out. On a mid-week early evening, the hall was virtually empty, but still warm and relaxing.

From there, we headed into the bowels of the building to the kilns.When a friend tried to explain the kilns to me before my first trip, I assumed it was a poetic translation of sauna. However, it is almost exactly as stated – a kiln for firing humans. In the soft underbelly of the building there are a clutch of brick domes. Around them is a mud floor, some low wooden platforms with bodies strewn on them in sweat-drenched prison garb. There’s even – I kid you not – a small brick brazier, which even on a slow Wednesday was lit, although the potatoes in foil and ears of corn which covered the grill at the weekend were notably absent on this occasion.

In this dark, cavernous space, somewhat reminiscent of the lower levels of Babylon 5, or any other grilled rat-on-a-stick society living under a futuristic wonderland of chrome flying-machines and Jody Foster in pure white Helmut Lang style suits, enlightenment can be found. Tying our small towels on to our heads in Princess Leah as a sheep style (I’ll try and find a photo, but half the fun is in making the ear-buns out of your towel), we headed into the ‘moderate’ kiln to rest up against the earth walls, shoot the breeze, and gently sweat into our orange jumpsuits. After this we headed to the ‘healing fire’. This is another darkened room with logs to sit on around what is basically an indoor campfire with healing wood (I think, it might be healing herbs on the wood). We had to leave fairly quickly as I thought my regulation pyjamas were about to catch fire.

The crowning glory of this experience, besides the obvious thrill of getting to spend a whole evening with one of my oldest and best friends for the first time in possibly two years, was the bathing room. A jjimjilbang is a communal, family experience and a whole day or night out (there are also sleeping rooms in which you can hunker down on a mat for the night) and although the majority of areas are fully communal, the actual spa area is at the back of the extensive changing rooms. These huge locker rooms are full of naked people wandering around between massage rooms, a small general store, the hairdryers and mirrors counter (which often includes a range of hair products, brushes, hairdryers etc) and the spa area itself. For us sometimes uptight Brits this a novel and liberating experience. Once de-bagged, we went to the spa area at the back of the changing room to do some more quality chatting in various hot-tubs and cold baths, before finally being scrubbed raw by the toughest of tiny Korean women.

I have to point out that my tantalising teaser of scantily-clad scrubbers early in this post was somewhat misleading. As the only non-naked people in the area, being dressed in a bra and knickers (or just knickers in one case) these were clearly the most overdressed people in the room. And they wielded this mighty power to shave gobs of skin and dirt off us over the course of the mightiest half hour pummelling – with what I think was wire wool – that I’ve ever experienced. My skin still smarted when I got in the shower this morning. However, today I am glowing, both physically and mentally. And the best thing of all…..

I went straight there from work and so I just had to purchase…

my very own jjimjilbang socks!

 Jjimjilbang socks

Jjimjilbang socks

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Turquoise Compass
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 22:53:26

    NO grubs in a cup for me thank you very much. I can jump out of a place, but NEVER could I eat bugs. I took a big step in France and ate snails…eeeeks!

    Jessica, Turquoise Compass

    You are never too old to dream a new dream!

    Like

    Reply

  2. carolinepgcap
    May 28, 2014 @ 00:59:14

    We’ll jsut have to come back soon then….

    Like

    Reply

  3. Pieces of 8
    May 01, 2014 @ 20:55:06

    We just discovered another jjimjilbang ten minutes down the road, near Mapo food street (which is also worthy of further exploration), and it looks like this one might be quite fancy. Definitely going to have to check it out.

    Like

    Reply

  4. Caroline
    May 01, 2014 @ 20:04:19

    I want to go back to the Jimjjilbang and be scrubbed down again! My bad skin is returning. Miss you xxx

    Like

    Reply

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