KOREAN SPA: INTROVERTS PARADISE - PART 1

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This week feels more like travel blog than something directly related to Coaching, but I believe there is an indirect link, in particular when it comes to taking care of yourself, giving yourself space and quiet time to reflect and breathe. But also it is about pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.

I had to do this blog in more than one part, because I wanted to give the experience justice, and didn’t want to bore you with a looooong blog!

So, as some of you may know I have just come back from my second trip to South Korea. I really love this country because of it’s unique culture, history and natural beauty.

One of my favourite aspects of Korea is the spa culture (known as jjimjilbang). Here in the UK when you think of a spa, you think of some country mansion or division of a hotel, where you pay through the nose for 2 or 24 hours of ‘bliss’. It will probably feature a tiny pool, with a jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam room, a massage room and probably a cafe/restaurant selling expensive, organic, 'detox’ food. Maybe not much more than this.

A jjimjilbang however, makes a UK spa look like some sort of unfairly exclusive, rare and rationed experience, compared to it’s incredibly accessible and overly generous setup.

A jjimjilbang will offer 5 floors of therapeutic experiences and activities, where you can stay for up to 24 hours at the cost of around £10. Of course the different spas vary, but the one I am talking about is Siloam Spa in Seoul. To me it is the introverts paradise, because it is designed to be peaceful, relaxed with no pressures, no judgements, very little talking, and no-one is paying any attention to you. For introverts, that can be bliss!

So, let me begin the tour!

On entry into your respective changing area, you take off your shoes and put them in a little locker. Then you give this locker key to a man at the desk, who exchanges it for a bigger locker key. You find your locker, that contains some cotton pyjamas. But you don’t change into them yet, because first of all you have to get naked and then get clean! I told you this was pushing your cultural boundaries!

So, yeah, you literally have to strip down to nothing and then walk down some steps into the basement bathing area. It feels so strange, but all the locals are doing it and nobody is batting an eyelid.

Passing through a vanity area that contains hair dryers, hair products and grooming utensils, you grab an exfoliating washcloth and head into the baths.

In the middle of the room, are showers, where Koreans, caked in soap, are busily scrubbing themselves all over or brushing their teeth, or having a shave, some standing, some sitting on little stools. You take a shower and use the cloth to lather and exfoliate.

Along the walls are a selection of baths, some warm, some very hot and one very cold. There is an ochre bath, a jade bath, a hydrotherapy bath, a charcoal bath, so you spend some time trying them all out. The cold bath is bigger, for standing in, and there are railings around the edge that the older Korean men are using to do stretching. It’s actually a very refreshing experience after the hot baths.

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There are also 3 sauna/steam rooms: one jade, one charcoal and one salt. I liked the salt sauna because the floor and seating is literally covered in salt and you can grab a handful from the bucket in the corner to rub over your skin, which is apparently good for your circulation! Fun!

There is a small foot pool filled pebbles to step all over for reflexology and a chamber where you stand under heavy spear of water that pummels your shoulders – great for a neck and shoulder massage!

If you want to rest in between, there are some heated tile beds to lay on, and in another corner there are some masseuses to give you a rub down, if you so wish.

By the time you’ve tried all these fun experiences an hour or more has passed, and that is just the basement! There are four more floors to explore at your leisure! So you get dry, moisturise your skin, put on your pyjamas, and head upstairs.

Part two coming next week!

Thanks for reading!

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TravelOliver Murrayintrovert