Saturday, January 31, 2009

Korean Spa

Last night some friends of mine, Allison and Sally, came up to Seoul for a visit.  The plan was to go to a show called Nanta which can only be described as Stomp but with kitchen stuff.  There was very little talking and lots of music and choreographed drumming. Well, the plan was to meet at the subway station and then go to the theater together.  Well as it turns out there was confusion as to which subway station is was.  At first we thought Gangnam which is on line 2 but the other option was Gangnam-Gu Office which was line 7.  So through a series of phone calls we discovered that Allison and Sally were headed towards Gangnam and I was headed towards Gangnam-Gu Office, and not to mention it was only about 20 minutes before the show was supposed to start.  Finally we realize I'm headed the right direction, but they have got to turn around.  Then to make matters worse we all decide to get in cabs and meet at the theater, should be easy enough, until I try to tell the cab driver where I wanted to go.  After 10 minutes of driving around and one phone call between my cab driver and Allison and Sally's, my cab driver informed me that he couldn't find where I wanted to go on his GPS and that I should change cabs.  So I get out, look for another cab and check the time, realizing that I'm supposed to be there now.  I hail another cab and this guy just rolls down the window and asks me where I want to go, I tell him and he tells me that he doesn't know where the theater is either.  Finally, I get a third cab and have Allison's cab driver tell him where to go.  Halfway through the conversation my cell phone dies, so frustrated I pull out my American phone and hope that the $2.50 a minute will be worth it and get me where I need to go.  Thankfully the cab driver stops and tells me we are there.  I very appreciatively thank him and get out, except I don't see a theater anywhere.  There's a huge Galleria with lots of designer stores, but no Nanta sign.  I call Allison once again and she says she's still in the cab too, and doesn't know where it is either.  So I proceed to walk up and down the street stopping in a 711 and ask if the two girls working speak English, they said a little, and so I ask them where the theater is, but they don't know.  So I thank them and continue my search.  I stop a family on the sidewalk and ask them if they speak English, they said a little and I ask them if they know where the theater is, success, they do and they tell me to turn oruncheok, which means right.  I head in the direction that they instruct and still don't see it.  Once again I call Allison and she says she's there and she gives me directions.  Thirty minutes after it's started we all arrive and head to the ticket counter, which is now closed.  We go inside and the sweet Korean ushers tell us to wait a little bit and then they'll let us in.  About 2 minutes later she walks us into the small dark theater to the third row!  My reaction was yay third row and at the same time, embarrassing third row.  From this point on we enjoy the show, funny and really cool.  Allison even got called up on stage to make Mandu, which is like a korean dumpling, and that was really funny.  After the show we decide to go to the jim ja bong which is the Korean Sauna.  Now, the Korean Sauna is somewhat similar to an American Spa, except it's only women and everyone is naked.  You go in and get a locker and put your stuff in it; then you undress and put on a robe that they give you.  Let me just tell you what all this specific jim ja bong has: 6 hot tubs one that is outside and one that is salt water, 1 cold tub because they think going back and forth between the hot and cold is good for your circulation or something.  They have 2 saunas that are super hot, as well as lounge rooms to just sit around and watch tv.  They have 2 rooms for massages and a nail salon, they also have this one area where they put this mud stuff on you and scrub you down.  Then there is a room that is like a primping room where you sit and dry your hair or do your make up.  There is also a snack bar and a restaurant and also 2 sleeping rooms, one of them is just mats on the floor, but for less than $5 more you can pay and get a bed, which is what we opted to do.  So after a sports massage at 1:30am I got into the hot tub for a little while longer and then went to bed.  The next morning I got up and got back in the hot tub for a bit before showering and heading to the orphanage.  I knew before I came to Korea that I wanted to visit one of these spas but just hadn't had the courage to go alone and so when my friends came up and took me I began kicking myself for not going sooner, and I think until it gets warm outside this might just be a weekly ritual.  If I hadn't gotten the massage it would have cost a total of about $12 to sit in hot tubs for 12 hours and enjoy the most relaxing evening I've ever had.  So if ever you get the chance to visit Korea, the jim ja bong is a must!