Naked and Afraid: Korea Edition


Get ready: today’s post has 50 + pictures.  No, not nudie pics as the title might suggest – we’ll get to that later, though.

I had planned on heading out to the beach yesterday.  Blanket, towel, water, and sunscreen in tow, we headed out to Haeundae early Sunday afternoon to pick up a cell phone a friend had left behind at the marina.  That’s right – honesty level: Korean, she lost her phone at the marina and someone had picked it up and held it for her to be retrieved the very next day.  

Lucky for us, the marina is near Donbaek station which is coincidentally right near Sushi Berry!  Head out exit 4 and walk straight until you see an underpass on your right hand side with paintings.  Up the street you’ll find Sushi Berry on your left hand side.

We were able to get a table within minutes seeing as we arrived around 1:30 PM (they break from 3 PM – 5 PM).  

We shared an order of tempura which was a GREAT choice and was enough for the 4 of us.  

We were also served cabbage salad and miso soup with our meal.

The Shrimp Tempura roll was my favourite with avocado and tons of roe.  It was fresh-tasting, easy to eat, and will be my choice next time we visit Sushi Berry.  The sushi here is North American-style so expect some non-traditional ingredients.

The St. Louis roll was much more decadent and just too much seafood for me.  A deep-fried roll with salmon, crab, avocado, and cream cheese it would be a seafood-lover’s paradise but was just a little too much for me.  It’s also COVERED in raw onion so if that’s not your bag you might want to ask them to leave it off (our server’s English was pretty good!).

The group had tried to dine at Sushi Berry the night before but they ran out of rice.  The chef remembered my friend and treated us to an order of Philadelphia cream cheese deep fried cheesecake bites (say that 5x fast!).  

As you may remember, I had planned on getting some rays at the beach.  With a giant sale at H&M Centum City and a proposed trip to either the movies or Spaland (a jimjilbang…we’re getting closer to naked times), I tagged along to Centum City (a $4 cab ride from the marina).  We spotted an ice-cream truck and some tents and decided to participate in some social-media promotion for “belief” skincare line in the hopes that we would win a prize.  We got some samples so that was cool, but the real prize was the ridiculous picture we got on the promotional bike (above).

On the top floor of the Lotte Department Store at Centum City there’s a magical viewing deck with an “African Village” a “Black Ghost” Pirate Ship, and a Dinosaur Land.  This was the perfect spot to take B & O who were heading to see Jurassic World in 4D later in the afternoon.  The weather was amazing and the views were stunning.  If you’re in Busan this is a great spot to take in the sights – free of charge!

My friend G has been encouraging me to check out a Jimjilbang for just over a month now.  These are places where men and women go to get naked and soak in a variety of baths set at different temperatures with sea salt or baking soda or chlorine.  I was incredibly nervous to get into my birthday suit not in front of the Koreans, but in front of my friends.  Isn’t it weird to be enjoying pool/ sauna/ steam room times completely in the buff with your gal pals?  Turns out – not so much.  My two Spaland companions showed me the ropes (pay $18 admission, get your wristband so you can put your shoes away, get a locker, and pay for your spa treatments, snacks, and other amenities as you go) before stripping down completely and heading into the shower area.  

Photos c/o Spaland and Onsen Soaker 

After rinsing off, we waltzed into the ladies only bath area where (not surprisingly) nobody cared about anyone else’s nudiepants bodies.  There were freezing cold baths, warm baths with jets, hot baths, and a couple of ponds outside (yes – I was naked in the light of day yesterday!).

After soaking/ hitting the saunas for about an hour we headed back to the locker room to get changed.  The lady handing out the pajama-style clothes had given me ladies Medium clothes so my insecurity was already pretty high that the Korean clothes wouldn’t fit.  That didn’t really matter because right after I dropped my wet, tea towel-sized towel in the hamper we found that my electronic key wouldn’t work.  I was naked, cold, and afraid in a Korean locker room.  I stood in front of my locker desperately trying to open the door.  The key clicked, a delightful little jingle played, but the door just would not open.  Panic set in briefly as we tried to find an attendant while entirely in the buff.  Thankfully, we found someone to clean out the water from my lock, the PJs fit, and we headed into the co-ed area with a variety of cold, warm, and hot saunas with a variety of pleasant decor and tons of spaces to stretch out and relax.

In the Relaxation Room you can lay back and watch TV on your own individual screen.  They even have DVD rooms with giant leather recliners and massive screens.  Food and Drink (they even serve Cass and Max, but we didn’t imbibe) are allowed in these areas.     

We took some time in the massage chairs ($2 for 15 minutes) before heading into the restaurant for dinner.

We sat on the floor by the window (there are no chairs at the restaurant, but there are many at the cafe).

Beef and Cabbage Soup.

Bibimbap (unless you love fish sauce be careful which of the varieties of kimchi you toss into the mix)

Donkatsu with an awesome soup, wicked cabbage salad, rice, garlic, and raddish.  I think this was the best choice, but I’m a little bibimbap-ed out.

The beautiful cafe (note: you can only get individual ice creams at the downstairs snack bar).

My classy Spaland ensemble 😉

This outdoor co-ed foot bath has soft pebbles to massage your feet.

The cold sauna was…not that cold.

This sauna changed colour and had a few areas where you could lay down and enjoy the show.  I’d like to spend more time in these saunas next time!

This sauna was one of my favourites.  With low lighting and soft music, the marble floor was actually really comfortable and relaxing.
This sauna was really hot – so hot that there was a warning saying not to bring in your cellphone because it might explode.  We walked in to find 4 Koreans playing games with full sound on their cell phones.  Not exactly the relaxing experience for which we were hoping, so we headed out to quieter areas.

After 4 hours (the limit before they start charging overtime) we changed, paid (I had an additional $18 to pay for 30 minutes in a massage chair, my tiny Haagen-Dazs, and a wonderful dinner), and headed out on the subway back to Hwamyeong.  If you’re in Korea and missing your North American bath then this is the closest you’re going to get to full water immersion (you know – other than the pee-filled kiddie pool or the ocean!).  Here I am fresh-faced and with sauna-dried hair smiling and giving you the thumbs up!  I would definitely recommend SpaLand for your first jimjilbang experience.  It’s classier than the experience Conan had in LA (google the video to be scarred for life), and really comfortable.  I’m naked and afraid no longer!

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