Monday, July 8, 2013

Traditional Sauna in South Daegu

I've never been to a sauna even while I was still in the Philippines. I don't think there was one near the place where I used to live.Well, if there were any, I don't think I would be so bold enough to wear just a towel around my waist and mingle with other people while my chest stare point blank at them. (lol). I was pretty much firm with my belief that I wouldn't like sauna until yesterday.

David, our good friend, dropped me off at Sunny's place in South of Daegu. We were (I believe) scheduled for some good slow hiking up in the mountains but it didn't fall through. The rain prevented us from doing the activity. So we had tete-a-tete instead. We talked about the weather, movies, music, until our conversation trickled down to relaxing activities that Sunny liked doing. Among them was sauna.

Road leading to the Traditional Sauna in S. Daegu
Sunny told me that she goes to public saunas quite often or whenever possible. The only information I have about saunas came mostly from movies and soap operas such as in the Sopranos (where men go together with small towels to cover their crotches lol). I know.. I know.. I should have just simply looked it up on the internet while I had the chance lol.. but hey.  Sunny, being a great host, described to me how saunas are done in Korean style.

First right off the bat is the public sauna. Without beating an eye lash, Sunny told me that  people go  there nude. Mind you though, men and women are segregated for obvious reason. Of course, I couldn't imagine myself in a place where even the slightest patch to cover the exposed crevice or two is sort of 'a no-no' (even unusual to most Koreans) for sauna goers.

The other type, which I can find myself comfortable with, is called Sutkama (traditional sauna) and they are usually found in the mountains.  It uses specific trees to heat up the different bang or rooms. The sutkama, according to Sunny, is the only one traditional sauna in South Daegu. Unlike the public saunas, people wear robes and both sexes can stay in a bang (room) of their choice. There is a certain temperature set in each bang. The one we had gone to has 4 bangs. And yes your guess is right. Each bang is equipped with certain temperature -  from low heat, mild, hotter to hottest.

Without dillydallying, Sunny and I bolted right out her house and drove to the traditional sauna house.

A man stepping out from one of the bang in the house.
It took us about 15 minutes or less (from Sunny's house) to get to sutkama house. Once we arrived, Sunny went to see the lady at the counter and handled the rest. She gave me a small towel and robe (courtesy of the sauna house). We marched into the ladies' room. Without much ado, we removed off all of our clothes and took a  fast, clean shower. The bathroom btw was big and can hold as much as 10 or more persons all at once. Nudity of the same sex is not a big deal among Koreans.

We put on our robes, took a bottle of water with us and got in the bang with the lowest heat temperature. We were welcomed with musky scent plus hot temepature coming from all sides of the room. We sat on the wooden slats spread across the room. This was done so that we wouldn't make (or hurt our skin) a direct contact with the (hot)pavement. Minutes later, we were joined by elder Koreans who were supposedly set for hiking but held back by the rain.

Sunny introduced me to them and started talking about the Philippines. I would say I was one one odd ball from the group but it feel like that to me. I was pretty much at home with the crowd. I shared with them tidbits of my country and Sunny acted graciously as my translator. We chitchatted while sweating ourselves out. After 5 minutes or so, we stepped out from the room in order to cool ourselves down.

The second time we went back in the bang, the sweating came out much easier. Sunny said that sauna is good for removing harmful toxins from the body, curing muscle aches and cramps. She also added it was also good for complexion.

We went back in the room for our last sauna of the day. I sweated profusely and it was a very good sweating. I felt lighter, relaxed and revitalized. After that we rested for a few outside the bang and then took a hot bath together with other female Koreans before finally saying adieu to the sutkama.

I loved it.. and I wouldn't mind going back in there... like everyday. Tee hee 

Ps: The Traditional Sauna such as in South Daegu is more affordable than the public saunas in the city.It roughly costs about ₩5000 or less per person. This comes with clean towels, robes, slippers, and hot showers. As for drinking, the house also provides potable water. They are placed in ceramic jars where you can scoop up as much as you want to drink. The house also has its own restaurant were it serves authentic Korean dishes (e.g. BBQ and daenjang jjigae .)

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