Monday, 26 March 2012

Surviving the Jjimjilbang

Do you live in Korea? Are you a foreigner? Do you need a bath?

If you answered 'yes' to the all of the above, then you need a trip to the JJIMJILBANG (follow link for a beginner's guide). But jjimjilbangs can be strange and scary places, to the uninitiated foreigner. So how do you deal with the ajumma stares, snoring and public nudity? Here's my ultimate guide to jjimjilbang survival.

1. Nudity

After stripping down in the locker room of the ladies' sauna a few weeks ago, I contemplated that my arse had gotten saggier since the last time I went to the spa. I suspect this had little to do with me gaining weight (unlikely, given my deplorable diet of cereal bars and milky coffee), but more to do with sitting on said arse for long periods of time, for example, now as I write this blog. A visit to the spa is for some an opportunity to peruse one's naked body in the reflection of a full-length mirror, and of course there are dozens of other naked bodies around to compare it with. As I put my clothes into the locker, a mother and daughter started stripping down next to me. When the mother lifted up her top, the young girl exclaimed, 'Oh, bet-sal!', the Korean term for 'tummy-fat'.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Ant Village 개미마을

'개미마을' translates into English as 'Ant Village'. This cluster of homes at the base of Inwangsan mountain (인왕산) in Seoul seems altogether rather shabby and drab, except for one thing that makes it special. Just like Suamgol in Chucheongbuk-do, this village has been brightened by the brushes of artists, who, at some point, decided to come along and paint all over the walls of the houses.