Elwood 5566

Bathhouse Basics (9): – The Hot bath (열탕)

Posted in bathhouse Basics, Daegu by 노강호 on September 29, 2010

 

A typical yeol-tang (열탕)

The yeol-tang, (열탕) is the hottest bath in a bathhouse with temperatures somewhere between 38-48 degrees. As always with pools that are at the extremes, bathhouses often keep them at around specific temperatures and these may vary depending on the season. Hence the hottest and coldest pools vary between establishments. If you have aching muscles, for example, you might prefer the hotter end of the scale.

 

Having fun in a yeol tang

Sometimes yeol-tang are built with health inducing stone and in some cases plated with gold or silver, in which case they will be small. The most common stone is probably jade. Sometimes they may also have a jacuzzi or contain medicinal herbs in which case they may be called a han-yak-tang (한약탕), but this may not necessarily be the hottest pool.

 

a hot pool in a golfing complex

Among the various bathhouses in Song-So, Daegu,  Migwang (미광) has one of the hottest yeol-tang which is usually between 48-50 degrees, whereas Hwang-So (황소) is usually much cooler but recently the temperature gauges have not been working. Han -Seong (한성) for many years had a very hot han-yak-tang but in the last few months the temperature has been lowered and the largest pool, with an intermittent jacuzzi, has been designated the hottest pool. I don’t know if it is intentional, but Samjeong Oasis (삼정 오아시스), at Yong-San-Dong,  has a yeol-tang which seems to operate between  between two temperatures and when the pool cools to a certain temperature, it suddenly heats up.

 

relaxing

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Bathhouse Basics (8): The ‘Special Event Pool’ (이벤트탕)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on September 19, 2010

a ‘special event pool’ (이벤트탕)

I’ve always found e-bente-tangs to be the biggest disappointment in bathhouses and always a tongue-in-cheek anti-climax. I can remember sitting in e-bente-tangs in the past, waiting for something to happen and rarely anything did. Most often, the ‘event’ I anticipated was already in play. Don’t let the title mislead you, e-bente-tang are much like the ‘Korean holiday,’ or ‘final exam,’ by which I mean they are usually the opposite of what they claim to be.

Special event pools outside

E-bente-tang are smaller sized pools which are usually mid range in terms of temperature and which  have some added feature  such as: coloured or scented water or coloured lighting radiating from within the pool. They may also uses a combination of features or have  the capabilities of a jacuzzi.The most frequent colours are green, red or blue and the most common scents are ginseng, lavender, berry, herb, mugwort (쑥) and pine.

Coloured water ‘event’ pools’

Despite being less eventful than the name suggests, e-bente-tang are great places to relax and are often one  of the pools in which you can languish for long periods without getting too hot or cold. The addition of coloured water or aromas adds  a touch of pampering to the experience.

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Hwang-So Sauna, Song-So, Daegu (황소)

Posted in bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews by 노강호 on September 9, 2010

Hwang-So Sauna (황소) Mega Town Complex, Song-So

First visited November 2008. Last visited on  November  25th 2010. Hwang-So Sauna is misleading because the establishment is a jjimjilbang which of course means it has an adjacent bathhouse (목욕탕). As yet, I haven’t visited the jjimjilbang and so this review is primarily concerned with the bathhouse (목욕탕).

This bathhouse is impeccably clean and modern and the only reason I prefer Migwang is I find the low ceiling in the changing area claustrophobic. Being 1.95cm tall, my head almost touches the ceiling and the changing area by the lockers lack poofes or benches. The actual relaxation area (휴게실) is more comfortable with a normal ceiling and sofas, television a barbers and shoe shine.

The bathhouse (목욕탕) is on the small side with low-level lighting due to the black marble walls. I like the floor as it is a rough texture and unlike many bathhouses, slipping isn’t such a hazard. The central features are three circular pools, a warm pool, (온탕), hot pool (열탕) and a the ever-present e-bente-tang (이벤트탕). Over the three pools, and matching them in size are enormous circular, low output lights. Beside the three circular pools is a therapy pool. At one end is a large cold pool (냉탕) which is accessed by steps which take you up and into the pool without having to clamber. This is the best designed cold pool I have seen and the steps give it a ‘regal’ appeal and very much make the head of the bathhouse a significant feature. Personally, I like a colder pool in summer.

On the far side of the bathhouse as you enter, are various sauna which I have yet to explore and to the right of these, a traditional wooden pool (히노끼탕), and a tepid, shallow pool. The wooden bath temperature was 36 degrees. The temperature of the other pools was mid range, (the gauges weren’t working) with no pool being very warm or very cold. The e-bente-tang (이벤트탕) contained coloured water, on this occasion red which made it look like a Ribena bath.

The therapy pool was very strange and indeed more of an ‘event’ that the e-bente-tang. The jets of water that were supposed to massage your back were quite weak but the pool made the strangest rumbling noise that resonated in your stomach and made you feel on the verge of releasing an enormous fart. Whether or not this was its purpose or it was just noisy, I am unsure.

The atmosphere of the bathhouse was intimate and I like the subdued lighting. However, I have visited this pool when it has been busy and found it too intimate, personally I prefer a larger complex but on my last visit, a weekday morning, there were only three ‘bathers’ and I really enjoyed it.

Plan

Hwang So, Song So, Bathhouse Design (Male)

Location – 3 minutes walk from the Song-So (성서) industrial Complex subway station, actually  on the same road, and situated in the Mega Town complex which also houses the Lotte Cinema.   (Wiki Map link )

Times – 24 hour jjimjilbang and bathhouse.

Facilities – 8th floor, reception,  women’s bathhouse.  Bathhouse and jjimjilbang

Jjimjilbang – to be reviewed

Bathhouse (men) – fifteen  stand up shower facilities and around thirty sitting down shower units, event pool, (이벤트탕), hot pool (열탕), warm pool with jacuzzi (온탕), large cold pool (냉탕) but no swimming is allowed, small tepid pool,  therapy pool and wooden pool (히노끼 탕), various saunas, relaxation area, no poolside sleeping area. Massage and scrub down available. Large changing room, very comfortable and attractive, with television and sofas.  Shoe shine and barbers. Comfortable, bright  ‘powder room.’

Cost – bathhouse 5000 Won, jjimjilbang – . Monthly all-inclusive -.

Others – Parking. Mega Town complex has numerous restaurants and a large seafood buffet restaurant. There is also the cinema and various sports clubs. Very close to E-Marte and Keimyung University )20 minute walk).

Ambiance – relaxing, and intimate though a little small. Black marble, very clean, very comfortable.

Waygukin –  Didn’t see any but I don’t frequent here on a regular basis.

Address – (see wikimap link above)

Hwang-So Updates

A Touch of Tranquility.

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Bathhouse Basics (7): The Naeng Tang (Cold Pool 냉탕)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on August 30, 2010

The naeng tang (냉탕)

If there is one pool, usually the biggest, you are guaranteed to find at every bathhouse (목욕탕), it is the naeng tang (cold pool – 냉탕). Naeng tang are also often the deepest pool in bathhouses, usually  as deep as an average adult’s waist and with the pool length, long enough to be able to swim in.

The cold pool (냉탕)

 

In summer, they are wonderfully refreshing and for many bathhouse goers, moving between a hot sauna or hot pool to the cold pool is a great sensation. Lounging in the cold pool on a hot summer’s day, before you exit the bathhouse complex to ‘powder’ and dress, will help delay the inevitable onset of sweating.

The temperature of naeng tang pools tend to vary between establishments though this is probably more noticeable in summer. Many bathhouse pools and sauna display their associated temperatures but this is not so common with naeng tang. Throughout the hot summer the cold pools are busy and their size and depth means they are often the playground of boys and even university students.

 

My favourite pool

In mid-winter however, the fact they are freezing means getting into one can require Spartan constitution;   they are cold enough to knock the breath out of your lungs. Often the pool has a large shower which can be turned on by an adjacent button and which is powerful enough to massage your back and shoulders. Its force takes a little getting used to.

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Danger! Donuts!

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, Blogging, Comparative, Westerners by 노강호 on August 19, 2010

Bathhouse

I enjoy reading other westerners accounts of the bathhouse experience as so often, and to varying degrees, they highlight how ‘fucked up’ we waygukins are. I’m just as ‘fucked’ as everyone else, though probably in a different way, as I only have a problem with nudity and changing rooms if I am in the west when I find they ooze a hostile atmosphere that seems a juxtaposition of hyper masculinity and homo-eroticism. And I am further ‘fucked’ because I now find semi clothed far more sexually appealing than totally naked and in you face.

I stumbled upon  a commentary of a guy’s experiences in a bathhouse that was both open-minded and yet humorously exposed some reactions to the stranger observations bathhouses provide. Quote:

much nicer

We then had to soap up and shower down. An old man saw me struggling and helped me adjust the temperature of my shower, and even got me a fresh cloth to lather up with. After cleaning, we chilled in various hot tubs and saunas for about 30 minutes. Contrary to what I had heard from a female friend, nobody stared at me because I was a foreigner. This might be because men don’t give fuck about seeing other men naked. Personally, I got over seeing other men naked thanks to hockey change rooms, which can desensitize you to male nudity pretty quickly. I was feeling good about remaining unperturbed by this excessive nudity, because my colleague was worried I would not be able to handle all the male genitals/being naked in front of a hundred men. Then I saw a man doing push ups naked beside a man doing disgusting stretches I will never describe to anyone. At that point, I emphatically informed Mun-Gi I was ready to go.

I had to laugh because, as stark and to the point as it is, his comments capture some significant cultural differences. Unfortunately, the author of: I’m In Seoul but I’m not a Soldier, returned to Canada this month.

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Samjeong Oasis – Lotte Castle (용산동) Daegu.

Posted in bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu by 노강호 on August 15, 2010

삼정 오아시스

First visited August 14th August 2010. Last visited July 2nd 2012.  This is a relatively new and very pleasant bathhouse with an adjoining health club located on the edge of the prestigious Lotte Castle Apartments. I have visited here several times and it is very clean. This is a good bathhouse to take a nap in as it has a pleasant raised sleeping area down the far wall and also a large sauna room in which the TV is located. This room is fairly humid and you can easily nod off laying on the floor. Next to this is a steam room with very high humidity. The steam must be pumped in or the boiler situated behind a wall as I didn’t see one. Personally, I love the enormous cauldron that bubble away in a corner and hiss out bursts of steam.

A smaller sauna with no humidity has a jade studded ceiling and the television in the adjacent sauna can be viewed through a window.

There are three central pools, basically a warm pool in the center with a hot pool at one end and a pool in which you lay and press a button to have jets of water squirted onto you spine and legs, at the other. The hot pool temperature varied between 38 degrees and 44 and it heated very quickly. This pool is at the hot and of the spectrum. Conversely, the large cold pool, is colder than some other bathhouses.

For my friend, this is his favourite local bathhouse with Migwang coming second. Personally, I prefer Migwang. Samjeong Oasis is certainly a great place to relax and nap but I find it a little bright and find the rectangular and very open plan, a little dull.

Plan

Sam Jeong Oasis. Yong San Dong. Bathhouse design. May 2011

Location – five to ten minute walk from the Tesco Home Plus at Yong San Dong (용산동).   Samjeong Oasis sits behind Home Plus at the furthest right hand corner of the large apartment complex that lays behind the supermarket. (Wiki Map link )

Times – Unsure of timings but I believe the bathhouse is closed on Tuesdays.

Facilities – ground floor ticket booth,  women’s bathhouse, men’s bathhouse, health club.

Jjimjilbang – none.

Bathhouse (men) – around twenty stand up shower facilities and fifty sitting down shower units, event pool, (이벤트탕), hot pool (열탕), large warm pool (온탕), large cold pool (냉탕), therapy pool, steam room,  jade sauna, humid sauna with television, heated sleeping area. Changing room with television and benches.

Cost – bathhouse 5000 Won.

Others – massage and rub downs, shoe shine, health club, smoking room. Many nearby restaurants and shopping facilities.

Ambiance – relaxing, brightish, somewhat open planned and symmetrical.  New and very clean.

Waygukin –  Only my second visit but no foreigners.

Address –

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Dream Sauna, Daegu, Yong San Dong (드림)

Dream Sauna (드림)

First visited in July 2010. Last visit 6th May 2011. Dream Sauna is a  smallish bathhouse in Yong San Dong (용산동), Daegu and is a five-minute bus ride from Song-So, Mega Town where the Lotte Cinema Complex is. Since my last visit there seems to have been a few changes and I found more to appreciate than on my first visit.

The bathing facilities are modern and clean with a large cold pool, large warm pool and smaller hot and ‘event’ pools. The saunas include a steam room, pine sauna and a yellow mud sauna (황토방) with a charcoal wall, interesting art work and a resident television. The salt room (소금방) is fantastic as the salt is ankle deep on the floor and at first you think you’re entering a room of snow. You can even lay in it though the room is not specifically designed for this. The salt ‘font’ and seats have all been decorated to look like they are encrusted in rock salt. Quite an enchanting room. The salt sauna houses the television which can also be viewed from two other sauna rooms.

The large cold  pool, beside a small jade, ondol sleeping area, has tiled artwork of dolphins above which three windows with colourful ocean scenes, are illuminated by sunlight. The smaller windows down the side of the bathhouse have floral designs. With bright tiling, the ambiance is light and roomy and a contrast to the black marble of  Hwang So.

Plan

Dream Sauna - Bathhouse design (male)

The bathhouse: has a large rectangular changing area with a small recess containing a television and sofas for relaxation. There are around twenty sit down shower units and a bout the same number stand up showers. Shoe shine and a barber are on site.

Cost: 4000 Won

Location: This is very easy to find as the sauna is right next to Tesco Home Plus in Yong San Dong. If you come out of Home Plus and turn left, you will find Dream Sauna less than 3 minutes walk on the left hand side. There is a large opening on the ground floor with a sign over it and the ticket booth is in the lobby. (Wikimapia Link)

Ambience – bright, very clean bathhouse.

Waygukin – none but only my second visit.

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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Bathhouse Basics 2 – The Jjimjilbang (찜질방)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on May 11, 2010

'25 hour' JJimjilbang (찜질방) Song-so, Daegu.

Jjimjilbang (찜질방) – while bathhouses often provide predominantly water related ‘entertainment,  jjimjilbangs provide a space where  families and friends, regardless of gender, can intermingle. There is no English term for a  jjimjilbang and as they contain saunas and adjoining bathhouses, they are often conflated with ‘saunas,’ ‘bathhouses’ or ‘spas.’ In practice, they are very different.

Common to all jjimjilbang are clothing,  ondol heating (underground), large sleeping areas, an adjoining bathhouse and a broad range of entertainment. Television are conveniently located, PC rooms, children play areas, a variety of  dry saunas using various minerals, mud or salt rooms, ice rooms, restaurants, libraries, refreshments and in some cases cinemas. Massage chairs, are fairly common and are coin-operated.  There are usually other features to provide both comfort and visual appeal – large tree trunks, for example, on which you can sit or play, and various levels of floor decking. Blankets are available in abundance. The size of establishments varies but very often can accommodate several thousand people and like the bathhouses, jjimjilpang may have restricted hours and or a days closure a week, or be open 24 hours.

When you purchase your ticket at the booth and you ask for the jjimjilpang you will be given some form of costume, sometimes a gown or t-shirt and shorts. Usually these are emblazoned with the establishments logo and the may be colour coordinated, one of my local jjimjilbang provides blue for men, pink women and yellow for children.

A selection of jjimjilbang photos giving you an insight into the range of facilities and individual establishment ambiances.

A group outing

Games

An ice room

Busy and buzzing

Tranquility

Early morning - weekday

With a library

Weekends and holidays are usually busy (spot the beer cans!)

It has to be a drama!

Baroque?

Mother's meeting

Poker?

Refreshments

Skinship

Even the kids can 'chill.'

Main jjimjilbang area with numerous side sauna, ice rooms etc.

Jjimjilbang uniformity

Colour coordinated

Crash out - wherever!

A children's play room

Bathhouse Basics 1 – What is a bathhouse? (목욕탕)

Aquatic Symphony

Bathhouse (목욕탕) – exactly as the name suggests. Simply a place to wash. However, while some establishments are not much more than a place to administer yourself a thorough scrub down, others offer the chance to wallow in luxurious ambiance. The range is broad and bathhouses often have their own distinct atmosphere shaded by the time you visit. What you will find common to all  are: nudity,  segregation by sex,  places to shower, both standing and sitting and a number of pools. This is the most basic I have experienced. Others will have a number of adjoining ‘rooms’ containing various saunas, steam rooms, ice rooms (어름방), salt saunas, yellow mud sauna (황토방) sleeping rooms, and a place to be scrubbed down by an attendant. Once again, the variation is extensive. Pools vary in size and number and like the various ‘rooms’ often utilise specific minerals which are believed to promote good health. The most common are probably hot pools (열탕 – yeol-tang), warm pools (온탕 – on-tang),  cold pools (냉탕 – naeng tang) but I have also bathed in pools of gold and saunaed in silver. Baths may contain herbs, or green tea or be built with health inducing minerals. In addition, some bathhouses have heated areas around the pools where it is possible to take a nap and these may be heated by ondol (온돌) heating (underground heating) or by infra-red lights.

Changing rooms

Chilling

In the bathing area, bathhouses often have:

conveniently located televisions

various types of massage

soap, towel, body clothes, toothpaste

a large stone on which to eradicate hard skin

In the changing area:

sofas, television

a room in which to dry and preen yourself

toothbrushes, shampoo, Italy towels, hair conditioner

socks, underwear, ties

soft drinks, some snacks, especially smoked eggs

In the steam room of the Kayasan Hotel Bathhouse

A typical seated shower area

Grouped around the bathhouse (목욕탕):

barber, hairdresser

shoe shine facility

shoe repair facility

a sports complex or some exercise facilities

a jjimjilbang (찜질방)

In the pools

Some may have outside areas or indeed, be located in outdoor settings. Finally, some establishments have limited opening hours while others are open twenty-four hours.

Variations are extensive and endless!

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Ten Tips for Taking the Plunge

So you want to go to the bathhouse but have reservations.? Read on…

Once you’re naked and the same as everyone else, the apprehensions that originally plagued you gradually, though not completely, begin to lift.  I wore my military dog tags and a watch on my first occasion and, for the next few months, continued to do so on subsequent visits. These became invested with a new sense of worth as for some ridiculous reason, I didn’t feel totally naked wearing them.  As psychological props, there came a stage several months or maybe even weeks later, when they were no longer necessary and I clearly remember deciding to leave them in the changing room and finally go completely naked. Initially, I missed them because I used to fiddle with them or glance at my watch obsessively, when I  felt uncomfortable.

You might want to avoid that white bucket seat on your first visit!

Ironically, my first visit to a bathhouse was on Independence Day, March 1st 2001 (삼일). I traveled with my best friend, my boss, whom I now work for, to visit her family in Changwon (창원). The bathhouse visit had been unplanned and presented to me as a choice, the other being to stay at home and play games with the women. I decided, for the sake of my image, to accompany the 5 men,  all related and one of whom my friend’s husband. They were all sympathetic to my novice status and were especially thoughtful and empathetic. Despite my trepidations and the fact I had been wanting to have this experience, my diary comments, were positive and my only apparent fears were bending down to pick up the soap, a little unease at being the only adult who wasn’t circumcised and  sitting in that ‘undignified’ position on the little plastic stool. One of my friends even scrubbed my back which though strange was endearing and made me feel both part of our group and  bathhouse community. What surprised me most however, was the depth of intimacy between fathers and their sons, an intimacy which went far beyond scrubbing backs.  It seemed there were no taboos.

No gigantic towels to hide under

Under the shower next to me, a boy of  13 or 14, lay on the floor while his father vigorously scrubbed him. This included holding aside the boy’s genitals while he scrubbed his groin and, when the boy rolled over onto his stomach, he scrubbed his buttocks. When this was finished, they traded places and the  procedure was reversed. I have since seen this performed countless times, in many other bathhouses and in all possible variations. Though no longer surprised, I’m always aware of the cultural differences that  in the West deems this intimacy, not just sexual, but a perversion. Yet  in Korea, I find such ‘rituals’ bonding, even cute.  When leaving the bathhouse, one of my friends proudly informed me, I was now  ‘a new man.’ I don’t know whether he meant physically or mentally and while there was no doubt I felt impeccably clean, most notable was a sense that I had overcome a  deep-seated fear.

One trip to a bathhouse however, wasn’t enough to defeat my inhibitions or to satisfy my curiosity about this cultural phenomenon. A few weeks later, another friend took me sightseeing in the mountains which culminated in a visit to some form of bathhouse. Of course, I had no idea of this at the time and assumed that we were visiting a mountain foot clinic, as my friend, Hyo-son, was a foot doctor. I imagined I was going to have a foot massage and then perhaps a meal at the small restaurant  situated on one side of the building. After being introduced to the establishment’s hosts and a teenager, I was ushered to a changing room and then, via  a series of  isolated English words and hand gestures, instructed to undress.  So, I began stripping off, assuming my friend, Hyo-son, was going to join me. Instead, the three of them stood chatting and ignored me until I was naked. Then, like a lamb being led to the slaughter,  Hyo-son coaxed me by the hand into a shower room. More hand signals follow and I take a shower while they stand in the doorway and continue their conversation. Meanwhile, confused, I begin muttering to myself, a habit  which manifests when I am in intense, embarrassing situations. Next, I am led through a small bathhouse in which there are perhaps 5  men. In the far corner of the room is what I now know to be a mud sauna (황토방 ).   Looking like a gigantic wasps nest, this is basically  a small room built out of yellow mud which when dried, houses a dry sauna.  I was instructed to enter the sauna through a flap on the floor – a flap similar to the ones used to allow the passage of a cat into  and out of its house, and not much bigger. Any remaining pride was dispelled as I got onto all fours and proceeded, pig-like into the sauna.  Beyond humiliation, I lay on the sauna matting laughing aloud in total disbelief at events. Sometime later, the teenager was sent to summon me and I re-emerged, on all fours. I was directed for another shower and then, in the bathhouse section, and with my little entourage all present, I was instructed to lay in an enormous stone bath which was already being filled with what looked like dark green slime.  The bath was hot, but every time I tried to dangle my arms over the sides of the bath, or move myself  out of the water, the boy pushed me back. Then Hyo-son began massaging my body with an enormous tea bag which smeared a herbal smelling paste over me .  I was thankful when the water rose to a sufficient depth to cover me completely. Even to this day, I don’t know whether this was a mud or herb bath  or perhaps even both but several showers were required to remove the slimy residue from my body. After a period of relaxation in the small bathhouse, I was finally able to dress and join the group in the restaurant.

And permanently accompanied by a symphony of water

I can empathize with anyone facing apprehensions about taking the plunge into this strange world. Ironically, even after such experiences, I remain apprehensive about swimming pools and changing rooms in the UK where there is always a sense that either something sexual or aggressive is about to happen. What shades and informs such experiences is the culture from which it stems. Back home, the body is dominated by a sort of fascism, predominantly external but also internally generated, which classifies and critiques bodies according various categories. Sometimes I hear myself commenting on individuals and not necessarily in a negative manner but negative ones I don’t like  partially as one target of criticism is my own body. The most obvious category for western men of course, is dick size. On this subject, I don’t truly know what significance Koreans place on penal proportions,  but I would imagine that bathhouse culture renders any pretty unimportant. There may be some variations in dimensions but you quickly learn they’re all basically the same and it’s all pointless and unfair anyway as the winners are  invariably 13-year-old skinny boys whose accompanying bodies  are still 10 and in which any triumph, if there is any, is temporary. When the clothes are off and we are reduced to our  basic components,  everything is demystified.

As an ex-gay man, I have to add that bathhouses are fairly unsexy. I’m not saying nothing  ever appeals  to me, on the contrary, I am very aware of attractive looking males, but what is most bizarre is that even from my first visit to a bathhouse, the experience was non sexual. Ironically,  this is one of the most fascinating aspects of  my bathhouse experiences, as my  sense of liberation stems not just from shedding my clothes, but from shedding that most dominant and basic urge. Necessary as that urge is to the proliferation of humanity, in individual terms it is probably the most wasteful, driving us like lemmings in the selfish pursuit of satiating our own chemical impulses, consuming our time, diverting our attention and draining our energies in the process. I’m talking as a single man, in my fifties, of course, were I  in a romantic situatiom, I wouldn’t be so dismissive; but I don’t think I miss the mark accusing this urge of being the most greedy in its wants and least rewarding once they have been acquired. And Oh! Isn’t it a merry-go-round; once satiated it’s only a matter of time before it rears its head again and we’re compelled onto that journey to nowhere.  What an utter waste of human energy! Well, don’t ask me how, but in the Korean bathhouse those urges are extinguished. Rent apart is that conflation of nudity and sex, for me at least, so that I can enjoy nudity and the equality and liberation it brings without the sexual urge kicking in and can do so while appreciating the occasional beauty that passes my way.  Cocks are really only interesting when hidden and once they are flopping about all around you, other things become of more interest – the trickling of water on old man’s skin, the contours of someones hip, the interplay of someone’s muscles,  someone with a belly fatter than mine, a father bathing their baby, the sounds of water – it can be anything.

Cute!

Friends often ask me why there are no such establishments back home or what might  happen if  one were opened. I could write a substantial amount in response but basically, I wouldn’t enjoy bathing in a western context and certainly not in a British one.  A gay bathhouse would terrify me but then I was never very good at being gay!!  Besides, I’d hate being eyed up by someone like me and I quite pity all my victims back in the days when I was lecherous!  My home  town has a spa facility but the need to wear bathing costumes immediately seems restrictive and puerile. Several years ago, when it ran single sex naked sessions,  it attracted so many gay men seeking sex, it subsequently reintroduced costumes. Recently, I’ve considered nudism in the UK as I am tempted to believe attitudes among nudists might be healthier. This consideration has grown out of an awareness that while in Korea, attending a bathhouse imposes no social judgment, in Britain it would label me either ‘gay’ or  as some kind of  ‘swinging nudey.’ Unfortunately, while we conflate sex with nudity, bathhouses, spas, and places of semi nudity will  continue to encourage  all mannerisms of sexual  activity, passive and active.

Ready to take that plunge? No doubt, many will have no worries entering a bathhouse but if the experience is likely to stress you, here are some tips.

1. Keep a watch on. It’s really useful as a diversionary play thing should you feel uncomfortable.

2. Choose a quiet time for you first encounter. Early morning, eg. 5 am, though anytime before 7am on the weekend is good. Alternatively, if the establishment closes, a good time to attend is on a weekend a couple of hours before closing time.

3. Avoid public holidays,  unless you’re prepared for a full house and avoid both  ‘play Saturdays’ (놀토) when there are no schools, and school and university vacation periods.

4. Sometimes, fitness centers have adjacent bathhouses and jjimjilbang. If this is the case, you can use the sports facilities a few times in order to familiarise yourself with everything, before using the bathhouse.

5. On your first encounter you’ll probably head straight for the bathhouse complex blotting out everything on the way. Try to remember to pick up a towel and a wash cloth, usually located around the complex entrance. These can be used the same way as your watch, when you get stressed or ultimately, to bury your face in.

6. Remember, if you head straight for the showers which are situated at floor level, you will have to sit on a bucket sized seat. All bathhouses have regular, standing showers which provide a good vantage point to familiarise yourself with the bathhouse layout and practices and don’t necessitate sitting in an undignified position.

7. Soap, towels, toothpaste are all provided. If you drop the soap and find this embarrassing, park your arse in a corner before bending down, or  with your knees together, bend with the  knees and not from your waist. Alternatively, rapidly kick the soap into the drain and ignore it.

8. If you remember to take a towel in with you, you can use this to dry off, prior to leaving. On your first visit you will probably want to escape quickly and this will be prolonged if you are dripping wet. If there is an ice room, five minutes sat in this, especially in summer, will quickly dry  you but this procedure has a detrimental effect on males.

9. Male and worried about willy size? Instantly add an extra centimeter by trimming surrounding hair. I once read that every forty pounds lost, assuming you are that fat to begin with, increases the appearance of  the size, by one inch. One the other hand, if you’re as fat as I am, an extra few stone would supply enough lagging to provide an overhang sufficient enough to hide it completely.

10. Of course, there is nothing to prevent you wearing a swimming costume and I have known people do this. They were women so I never actually witnessed reactions. I’d imagine you would attract far more attention wearing something than going naked and besides, no matter how good-looking you are, you’d look a total twat.

Good luck. If you too have suggestions, please add them here. Thanks

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