Hey Banya Men! So we all love hanging out with bros getting our sweat on and self inflicting pain by jumping into icy cold water. But how do we invite the uninitiated without coming across as creepy?
I invited my Dad to come once on a trip. He wasn’t bothered by being nekkid as so much as paying $20 for a shower. I tried to explain to him the cultural experience and the steam room, dry sauna, etc.
Other friends I’ve shared the idea with and they just can’t get past the idea of it somehow being kinky. Another friend was open to the idea and I may invite him to join me at a Jjimjilbang in San Diego when I go visit this weekend.
So how about it men? How do you invite the uninitiated? Have you ever had someone have a bad experience their first time?
The only bad experience I had was in China. After a day-long mountain hike, my classmates and I returned to the dorms. One of my classmates, from Japan, heard me say that I was going to the local bathhouse and asked if he could come along.
He was not happy.This wasn't a "destination" bathhouse--there are plenty of those in China--this was a real (lower) working-class bathhouse for people who may not have had the best shower facilities in their apartments. It had only 8 shower heads, a steam room, a dry sauna, four attendants who would give you a scrub if you wanted or perform moxibustion ("cupping") if you wanted that. There were also two soaking pools and therein lay the problem. They were clean by local standards, but from Japanese standards he was appalled. I should have warned him before hand, but I thought that since he'd been living in China for a while he would know. Anyway, he was unhappy. I had no problems because I liked having a hot shower, a steam, a scrub, etc. (My dorm only had hot water two hours a day, so I often went to the bathhouse for a long hot shower). BTW, the cost of the bathhouse was about 30 US cents. A full-body scrub about 40 cents.
The next day when we got coffee at the little "espresso stand" near the school (basically a shack that had been set up over night that served instant coffee with flavorings), I didn't point out that the person making us our coffee had just stirred both cups with the eraser-end of his pencil. He might just have gone home if he'd seen that. As for me, the coffee tasted fine. :-)
Dang, I'd love to go to a real authentic bathhouse. The ones I've been to in So Cal are no where near the same price as what you paid. That moxibustion sounds interesting. I Googled it.
So, have you ever introduced an American to an eastern bathhouse?
No, I'm afraid I haven't. I've certainly talked a blue streak about how great they are, but when it comes time to asking a fellow American to go with me I shy away. No matter how I phrase it in my head, I can't help but imagine all they hear is "want to hang out naked?" And yet, I don't have this problem with friends from countries where there is a custom of public baths.
If you're interested to see what a "traditional" Chinese bathhouse looks like, take a look at the movie "Shower" which is about father who owns a bathhouse and his two sons. Also, the American movie "A Great Wall" (directed by Peter Wang) about a Chinese-American family that visits Beijing. One of the cousins finds a job working in a bathhouse. Both of these movies are available from Netflix. I know that I rented "Shower" from Blockbuster once upon a time, too.
i can't contribute much to this group, but i joined out of curiosity. i've always wanted to try something like this. closest thing i have done is a few hours at a typical american spa. full-body massage, fully nude, but always covered up, steamroom or sauna, shower. that's it.
Ive walked by this place, curious. Ive never been to a turkish/russian bath and dont wanna look like an idiot. I wouldnt know the first thing to do.........anyone been here, and can tell me the process?
Well, I haven't been to the Russian Turkish bath in New York, but in general, going to a bathhouse is fairly straightforward. In a Korean bath, you buy your entry ticket, go into the locker room, give your shoes to the guy who'll polish them for you, and then strip. Put your clothes into a locker, take the key (no coin operated lockers--just regular keys with an elastic loop--, put the key around your wrist or ankle--lots of guys put it around their ankles--and then walk into the bathing area. You'll be expected to scrub down really well before you enter any of the pools.
That's pretty much it. For anything else, I'd just watch the other guys and do as they do.
Like I said I haven't been to the Russian bath in New York (they're called banya in Russian) but I imagine the drill is somewhat similar. Be sure to check their schedule as there are only limited times when men can be nude (who wants to wear shorts in a sauna?). Although it says its a Turkish bath also, this is used in a very broad sense. In a real Turkish bath nudity is forbidden as Islam has a restriction against "revealing" one's genitals. In a hammam, you'll be given a wrap that you wear even in the pools.
I'll the Russians I've talked to brag about how hot their banyas are, so I'm guessing they're pretty hot. My only experience has been with public baths in Korea, and China plus a hammam. In Asia there will be a pool that seems hot when you get and you're going to grab your balls because you'll be afraid they'll be scaled, but after a few seconds the water feels comfortable. Then there will be two hotter pools. I've never been able to stand the hottest of the three as it is (to me) unbearable but there's always a bunch of men sitting in it, so I guess it just takes practice.
The cold pool is really cold. Your balls won't fall off but they might disappear from shrinkage. I've only jumped in the cold pool once--it was hours before I felt warm again (despite sitting in the hot pools).
Also, you'll sometimes see men wet wash cloths and put them over their noses. This is in rooms where the temperature is so hot that it starts to bother the mucus membranes inside your nose. Also, a wet rag on your head may make some of the saunas more bearable too.
I hope this helps.
Thanks for the fantastic description. The only hammam I've been to is the one at the Paris mosque which is modeled, I assume, after the North African hammams. There was a communal changing room, a shower room, a room with nothing but steam, a room where people were resting on the warm floor, and a room with a cool-water pool. There was a massage table in the first room--the same room where tea was served and there was a fountain. I was hoping for a scrub and and a wash but they didn't do that. Perhaps if I had spoken Arabic I could have requested it--nobody I talked to there spoke French or English. I was also curious about depilatories. I know that in Iran at least up until the 50s, men's bathhouses had lye-based (so, I'm told) depilatory cream in the private changing areas so that they could, in accordance with customs about hygiene, remove pubic and underarm hair. I didn't see any evidence of that here, but it could just be an Iranian custom. (The reason I know about it, is I read someone's memoir where he talked about visiting a public bath in Iran when he was young and didn't know he was supposed to wash off the depilatory--hours later back at his host's house his skin starts burning; the family has to rush him back to the bathhouse which is closing so he could wash off the lye).
I'd like to visit hammams in a variety of countries just to see what the similarities and differences are.