Because my school tells me as little information as they possibly can, I found out that I had a two-day break the week before it happened. So, I stressed myself out because I knew that this was one of the few opportunities I would have to travel somewhere for longer than a weekend. Since my school is private and driven only by money, it has the power to tell me when my vacation days are. I have no say.
I looked for last minute flights somewhere abroad like Japan or Thailand, but there were no good deals remaining. Luckily, my good Judy Nick had me covered. He had the same days off and proposed a trip down to Busan (pronounced Poo-sahn) to stay with his friends. Korea’s second largest city and the fifth busiest seaport in the world (according to Wikipedia), Busan is located on the country’s southeastern coast. Although the city has beaches, the temperatures were not ideal swimsuit weather while we were there unfortunately.
That gives me more time to be up in the gym and work on my fitness (he’s my witness).
Nick and I woke up early Sunday morning to take the four and half hour train ride down to Busan. There is a high-speed train that could have gotten us there in half the time, but it’s twice as expensive. Neither Nick nor I are classy or rich, so we were perfectly fine taking it slow and steady. I surprisingly slept for a good chunk of the ride down. Nick, on the other hand, had been feeling sick, so his train experience wasn’t as relaxing.
Once we arrived in Busan, we made our way to the Seomyeon area where Nick’s friends, Stacy and Rob, live. They took me to see some of the city while Nick stayed home and rested.
We went to Jagalchi Market near the port.
Then we went to Yongdusan Park and the bottom of Busan Tower (because we didn’t want to pay to go up).
So we went to the rooftop of a nearby mall, which offered great views for free.
The weather was perfect for walking around, a nice break from Seoul’s brutal winter. Stacy and Rob were great hosts/guides. Both have been in Korea for a while and are really knowledgeable and involved in the community. Stacy’s all-encompassing personal website is here. Rob’s part of a band called Robsanity. Listen here.
My most memorable experience of this trip was going to my first jimjilbang. A jimjilbang is a public Korean bathhouse. Conan O’Brien even went to one.
Many foreigners get nervous because the JJbang is segregated by gender and you must be completely naked in the bath area. After acclimating to dat Korean gym lyfe in Seoul, I was pretty immune to the fear of being naked in front of other people. I kind of wanted to be naked all the time.
Beforehand, I did feel a little weird about being naked in front of Nick because he’s a friend. But I didn’t want to go to a jimjilbang by myself at first, so I had to suck it up. We went to Spa Land, which is attached to (allegedly) the biggest department store in the world. After paying 15,000 won (about $12.50) to get in, we went to the locker rooms, got naked, and then headed to the baths.
This is what they look like at Spa Land:
Before getting into the baths, you have to take a shower. Then you just basically lounge around for as long as you want. There are multiple tubs to choose from. They have different water temperatures and some include salt, minerals, or tea. There are also sauna rooms with different levels of heat. The two temperatures at Spa Land were hot (40°C/104°F) and Satan’s ball sack (80°C/176°F). After the baths and saunas, you can also lounge around the common area for both sexes (with clothes on) and buy snacks and enjoy more heated and therapeutic rooms.
My first jimilbang experience was great. It was a super relaxing and fun to just hop around between the different pools and saunas. I even splurged for a scrub where an old man wearing only a pair of shorts and white rain boots wrapped cloths around his arm like a cast and then scrubbed my entire naked body.
I saw a lot of dongs at the jimjilbang (thus the title) and learned a lot about Korean men’s bodies. I would like to complete some further research on this topic before I come to any conclusions (wink wink), but here are my initial findings based on both my JJbang trip and the time I’ve spent in my gym’s locker room:
- Koreans don’t typically trim their pubic hair. Like at all. As my sister warned me, they voted for President BUSH. Their body hair isn’t as course as white people’s so rather than curl, it just sticks straight out and forms a bouffant that leads the way when they walk. I’m not judging it. It’s just different than what I’m used to. Especially the gay guys I’ve known who treat their pubes like bonsai trees, ever so carefully shaping and preventing them from growing to their full potential.
- I feel more comfortable about my body in front of Korean strangers than other white people. Nick and I were the only foreigners when we arrived. However, while there, two more pink dicks* showed up, and I instantly felt more insecure. I think I compare myself less to Korean people because their bodies are so different than mine. Back in the U.S., I always wonder if other guys are fitter, cuter, or have better skin than me. But with Korean guys, I just know I’ll never be as tan or have the same thick hair (on their heads) as them. So, I guess I’ve realized there’s no point in comparing myself to them. That should be a lesson I take home with me. Stop comparing.
- The Korean booty game is strong. I guess I had just assumed that Asian guys were stereotypically short and skinny and that’s about it. But, butts here are so bubbly and not just the buff guys who are always at the gym. Maybe it’s because they walk everywhere. Maybe it’s a magical side effect of eating kimchi all the time. Either way, I am in awe and now insecure about my sad pancake booty.
So thanks to Busan – for new friends and new experiences. I’ll be back when the weather’s warmer and my Korean ass grows in.
*One of the white guys had completely shaved his pubes off, which contrasted SO MUCH with the rest of the bushes there.