You've Never Been This Clean!
By Ania Trzecieski
Ulsan, Korea -- I'd
been to a bathhouse twice before. I just wash, shave my legs, (as my apt
is too cold) and I settle into one of the two hot tubs to enjoy the heat
and the experience.
The Korean women spend vast amounts of time meticulously
scrubbing every part of their bodies. I've seen women get massages from
the "agimas" (older ladies who work there). My body had been
sore lately because of my Hapkido classes so today I decided I would check
out the massage thing.
I lay naked on the padded table surrounded by steam and naked bathing
Korean women. I could hear the steady babble of Korean with the occasional
child's scream when he or she got some soap in their eyes. The agima came
and gave me a face scrub; she then applied some grape scented oil to my
face followed by beaten egg whites.
Mud and Grated Cucumber
After carefully removing this mask and cleaning my face, neck and deep
inside my ears she applied a mud and grated cucumber mask. She smiled
understandingly when I flinched, as it was quite cold. She mumbled something
in Korean and began to clean me - scrub me.
I've never been scrubbed so thoroughly before. I shower daily, of course
I wash with soap, but she insisted on how dirty I was. She scrubbed my
front, she asked me to turn on one side and then the other, and she scrubbed
the same limbs over again from different angles, at last she scrubbed
But the scrubbing was not finished, she turned me on my back again and
once more proceeded to scrub my front and my feet and my ankles and my
knees and, well you get the picture. The agima was sweating in the saunic
environment as she labored to exfoliate every pore on my body.
I guess Korean women routinely scrub their bodies so vigorously? I felt
like every crevice of my body was being scrubbed and cleaned. And the
thing is that before I came for the massage, I had bathed! When she was
satisfied, she directed me to the shower.
Pounding and Thumping
Upon my return to the padded table, my massage started. She covered my
body with the grape scented oil and the beaten egg whites. She pounded
and thumped my muscles. There was hardly any kneading involved, as people
from the west would normally expect in a massage.
There was thumping and pounding and audible but painless slapping. Lastly,
the agima opened a cup of blueberry yogurt and smoothed it over my body,
her hands running over and over my skin. It smelt and felt great. She
finished and directed me to the shower once more. My massage was over
and my body glistened. I don't think my body has ever been so clean before.
The bathhouses are one of my favorite things about Korea. The entire experience
lasted an hour and cost about $US 30.
Read more GoNOMAD stories about Korea