Seoul is the capital and largest city of South Korea . A mega-city with a population of over 10 million, it is one of the largest cities of the world.  The topography of Seoul is impressive.  Due to its high density, there are thousands of buildings that are only 20 or 30 stories high, of similar size and color, and huge skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline.

In the center of this bustling metropolis, I decided to visit a Korean spa or “Mud Sauna”.   I heard that this could be daunting for the uninitiated but I wanted to experience this aspect of traditional Korean life.

After undressing and showering,  I embarked on this journey by entering their famous kiln sauna known as the han jeung mak.  It is a dark cave-like structure with a small low opening maybe 4’high by 3’wide.  I left my dignity at the door while I crawled naked through the hole listening to the giggles behind me.  I was given a small jute blanket to sit on and also to protect me from the heat that can be as high as 200C (nearly 400F).

The han jeung mak reportedly increases your metabolism as well as helping to relieve shoulder, head and neck pain. It also improves skin quality and loosens stiff muscles. You perspire profusely and hope that the toxins are leaving through your pores…otherwise, why are you putting yourself through this torture??  (I almost fainted after five minutes)

This was followed by a number of other saunas and baths:  the charcoal sauna, jade sauna, full body and face mud paint, geranium and red ginseng baths; all of which aim to achieve more or less the same result as the Mak…removing the toxins from your body.

This eventually led to the “piece de resistance” which was the full body scrub.  I felt and probably looked like a slab of meat on a plastic table while an “ajuma” dressed in black bra and underpants took a brillo-type glove and scrubbed my body from head to toe, all the while laughing and showing me how many layers of skin she had removed.  Having a natural tan, I was afraid that she was working on making me whiter.

Nevertheless, by the time she finished… I was definitely a few shades lighter.

All in all, it was a terrific experience that I highly recommend.  After four hours, you leave feeling refreshed, healthier and squeaky clean!

~ by latanaphotography on January 16, 2011.

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