When my friends told me that going to a natural hot spring was on the itinerary during our trip to Busan, I was mildly intrigued and started to look forward to it. Then we found out that it was the largest natural hot spring in South Korea and it suddenly became a big deal for me. So we headed there on our last night with slightly high expectations. Looking back, I believe we should have done more research on what the acceptable behavior/attire was because we didn’t know what we were getting into to be quite honest.
Our group of four arrived and we were first given a waterproof bracelet with a number on it. We quickly learned that this was the key to our shoe locker, regular locker, and can also be used to purchase food and other amenities/services. I believe there was a chip or magnet of some sort that the workers would use to log purchases. At the end of our stay at the spring, the total amount spent would have been recorded and we would pay as we leave. I thought this was convenient!
Before you leave reception, people are grouped by gender and enter completely different entrances, as there were 2 completely different hot spring areas for women and men. So, we were first directed to take our shoes off before a platform and walk with socked feet to put our shoes in a little locker that we could open and close with the key on our bracelets. I thought that was convenient little way to continue to ensure that outside dirt isn’t getting into the hot spring. After walking through that area, we were immediately met with a much grander locker space and many naked women. There was a locker area as well as a resting area and drying off area, which was fascinating to me. This was all new to me at the end of the day. Now, I don’t know why it didn’t click immediately, but I thought it was just a preference of many of the women to walk around nude before/after changing to shower and such. It slightly shocked me for the first 30 seconds, but I really didn’t dwell on it too hard to be honest. So after receiving towels, our little group had gotten ready to hit the hot springs in our bathing suits but were quickly stopped by employees who told us no articles of clothing were allowed in the hot spring. You would think that I would have been scared or hesitant to go in completely naked when I was mentally unprepared to do so, but I surprisingly took it in stride. It really didn’t take me long to process what was said and become nude, while my friends were kind of just like “uhh what’s going on, what.” I think there was something about seeing the community of women be collectively comfortable in their own skin and fully exposed that made me feel very mentally comfortable doing it as well. It was a new and cool feeling for me! But it was also a little funny looking back.
One of the interesting things to point out as well, is that there is an entire culture surrounding cleansing oneself and helping each other cleanse as well, which I thought was wholesome. There were three communal showering areas because you are supposed to shower before and after you use the hot spring. The shower beforehand is to ensure you don’t bring dirt in and dirty others and the shower after is to also ensure you are completely clean before leaving. The hot spring provides shampoo, conditioner, body soap, lotion, blow dryers, towels; really everything you need and plenty of space to do everything properly.
Our little group very quickly fell in love with the hot springs here. There were so many different tubs with different types of healthy mineral waters (i.e., jade, ginseng, yeast) and they all varied from scorching hot to mildly cold. There was even an open-air bath!! I believe it was because we were there late in the day, but usually (considering Covid as well) the hot spring would serve food and beverage. It is actually typical to spend an entire day at the hot spring to treat/cleanse oneself. It’s also very affordable and we each ended up paying only 10 USD for 2 hours of being there.
This experience was so life changing for me. It made me fall in love with the idea of hot springs and communal bathing. It made me realize that cleansing is such an important act as well and taking time to go to a hot spring can be very physically and mentally renewing. It made me wish there was a hot spring culture in the west similar to how it is in the East. I definitely will continue to live my life searching for new hot springs to go to!
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The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.