October 23, 2012

One Night At The Korean Bathhouse

After the conclusion of the Mokpo Dancing Ocean Fountain show, I had some gimbap (Korean sushi) for dinner and then caught a movie at the theater, emerging outside again after midnight. I asked a Mokpo maiden for the nearest jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse) and she recoiled in horror. A helpful guy then told me where to go. The jimjilbang is a multipurpose facility, with a computer lab, exercise equipment, a canteen, and television area all available in addition to the saunas and massage rooms where I did not venture. When checking into one of these spas, the cashier hands over a baggy, and usually mustard coloured, set of shorts and shirt. These spas also have a communal sleeping area where people can sleep on the heated floor using hard wooden blocks as their pillows.

Photos: Tistory.com

In the changing room I saw more naked Korean men in one moment than naked Korean women I have seen in a lifetime. I placed my personal belongings in a locker, quickly took a shower, and headed to the co-ed sleeping area upstairs. Sleeping on the floor is a Korean tradition. It is highly uncomfortable for those not used to the practice. I continuously struggled to find a decent sleeping postion, squirming around like a severed tentacle of a recently living octopus. Many loud snores could be heard, drowning out the sound of the television that was on throughout the night. Jimjilbangs are the most cost effective way to catch some shut eye indoors in Korea. When I am not in the mood to look for a 24 hour McDonald's, Internet cafe, or ATM, there is no place like a jimjilbang to rest my weary soul when traveling solo.


“What hath night to do with sleep?” ― John Milton, Paradise Lost