Extreme tourism

Twelve hour layover in Korea on my way home from an epic trip and I decide to take the train into Seoul and spend the day at a traditional spa called a jimjilbang (찜질방). I used to hang at the Irish-Roman versions of these in Germany where I saw more flaccid white penis than I can shake a stick at and also a fabulous Korean one in deep Queens.

Having already learned the Princess Leia towel roll technique, I felt comfortable enough exploring a jimjilbang that the airport lady who recommended it described as “no western people there, only Korean, it not in very nice shopping zone.” Yesss, precisely what I want! With the help of a handwritten note in Korean and some charades, I finally get there and put on my pajama uniform, ready for hours of saunas, napping, eating, hot-tubbing and having as much fun as these guys:

As warned, all the signs were only in Korean so I was terrified that I’d accidentally open one of the many doors and walk nude into a forbidden area. Thankfully, my only gender faux pax was sleeping in the men’s nap room; I must’ve looked so tired, no one said anything. An old woman did yell and gesture at me as I was combing my fingers through my hair in a hot tub (’cause the jets tangled that shit up). Lesson learned, I got brave and negotiated a body-scrub-massage thingie. Back in Germany, I’d gotten a vigorous scrub from a mammoth lab-coat-wearing Estonian woman and when asked “Soft orrr Harrrd?” I mistakenly said hard, not knowing that she’d be using a porcupine-bristled brush. The Korean version was hilariously more gentle; my masseuse was a pudgy 60ish-year-old woman wearing (I kid you not) this little number except with the see-through lace panties grannie-sized.

She fed my skin cucumber face-paste, coconut oil massage and apple face scrub as she kept grabbing or tapping me to motion if I needed to flip over or something. At one point, I opened my eyes and realized I was lying naked in a pool of rice milk, little white beads of it all over my now oily skin. Zip-lining around rainforest canopies isn’t extreme tourism. Looking up to see a lace-clad Korean lady tugging repeatedly on your arms as your head bobs in and out of her gelatinous tummy… that’s extreme.


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