Thursday, December 26, 2013

Birthday Suits Me

I could not (and would not) have a planned a more poetic way to spend my 25th birthday but in my birthday suit at a jjimjibang, or Korean-style spa. There was something quite liberating about it -- somewhere between bath time with my sister when we were kids and skinny-dipping at the lake with friends. 

Jjimjibangs are public bath houses where yes, you strip down to the nude and enjoy the hot-water baths, cold-water baths, saunas, massages, body scrubs, and more. Open 24 hours, it's a great cheap alternative to a hotel or hostel, costing around 12,000won (less than $12) for an overnight stay. Leaving your shoes behind in the shoe lockers, you get a wrist-band key for a locker that also acts as a credit card of sorts inside the facility, a pair of pajamas, and two hand towels. The changing rooms and public bath area is gender specific and at Dragon Hill Spa, one of the famed jjimjibangs in Seoul, the entrances are in separate areas of the building (to avoid a terrible, terrible mix up).

stack o' pajamas
I had brought my swim suit I suppose with the intention of wearing it. Even the threat of an ahhgumma yelling at me for not being naked didn't phase me. But once I got into the environment, I was just like, whatever. When in a jjimjibang, it's not weird. Dragon Hill had around six different hot tub pools, all held at different temperatures and some with massaging jets, two saunas, and the body scrubs I had heard about in America. Scrubbed pink with my dead skin all around me, my skin has never been softer (except perhaps on my actual birth-day).

After the baths, we got dressed in our pajamas and headed to the main area, where we could hang out with our guy friends. Jjimjibangs are a culture of their own -- complete with snack stands, small shops, yoga classes, an arcade, a fitness center, an outdoor heated pool, and a floor labelled on the elevator as "horse riding." I'm not sure if that was a "bad" translation, if there were actual horses on that floor, or if "horse riding" is something else (I have a feeling I'm missing a joke here haha).

The designated sleeping areas at Dragon Hill were all three: "women only," "men only," and co-ed. Bringing a small pillow (NECK PILLOW YAY!) is encouraged, and if you're lucky, you can snag a sleeping mat and/or blanket. One of my friends and I chose a co-ed sleeping room because it was a bit more airy than the others we had scoped out. We grabbed a spot on the heated floor and said our good nights. Probably one of the strangest experiences I've had yet in Korea was waking up next to a Korean man. Good times, good times lol.

That was the end of my birthday night. We started out with tacos & makgeolitas!

Me & Ashley
with our makgeolitas & beanies!

I had been craving so called "urban tacos" since my first visit to Itaewon in October, so for my birthday, we hit up the cool Vatos Tacos, Sinsa location. Great atmosphere, great staff, and great food fusions, including kimchi fries, galbi & baja fish tacos, nutella nachos, and the ever important makgeolita -- a mix between the popular, fermented, and alcoholic Korean rice drink called makgeolli 막걸리 and a margarita -- mango (delicious) was the flavor I got; I was very happy about it. And for ordering the makgeolitas, free beanies!!! 

Birthday shopping, birthday tacos, birthday alcohol, birthday GIANT barrel of beer, birthday fruit platter, birthday body scrub, and birthday waking up next to a Korean man. Perfect 25th birthday!!

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