lørdag den 29. december 2012

Korean Bath House: Jjimjilbang (찜질방)

Jjimjilbang -  The bath house taken to the next level!

If one should ever go to South Korea, not going to a South Korean bath house would mean missing out on a great experience. The place that one especially should look for is a (24 hour open) Jjimjilbang (찜질방 = "Heated bath" - room).

A Jjimjilbang contain all the normal facilities of a bath house, such as:
 - Hot tubs (usually three different temperatures)
 - Steam rooms
 - Massage facilities
 - Showers
 - Saunas (Usually from 30-90 degrees, but it varies)

But also some of these facilities as well:
 - Common areas with heated floors to relax
 - Snack-bars and sometimes restaurants
 - Workout facilities (Gym)
 - Movie theater
 - Computer-rooms (pc-bang)
 - Arcades (area with gaming machines)

Along with many other creative additions, this is only between 10-15 dollars!

Think of a bath house, but taken to the next level.


Not so long ago I went to a 찜질방 (Jjimjilbang) once again, and I must say it was a special experience - especially since it was the first time I went alone. In the shower- and bath-area people were looking a lot for the first five minutes, but after that it was okay.

After going into the first sauna i went into the next, apparently filled with middle aged women and their children. When I opened the door all conversations suddenly stopped. It did not feel awkward at all, especially not they started their conversations again and I could hear the term "외국인" (foreigner) in at least 10 of the fifteen conversations.

A married couple went came in about 20 minutes later (the husband laughed when he saw that is was only women - I guess he also felt a bit out of place), to whom I gave my spot and proceeded into the hottest sauna. I underestimated the heat to such an extent that I literally ran outside again, resulting in everyone outside laughing at me. The same happened to a Japanese guy just after me.

It said 90, but the heat was different from a normal sauna. It was literally an oven that radiated heat on to one's body, and judging from other people no one really used that sauna unless they wore tons of towels (wet), and foot wear as well.

Besides the small bumps I really enjoyed it^^


Simple "How to" for a foreigner:
Firstly, upon entering the Jjimjilbang you buy a ticket. Then you will receive a set of clothes (usually a pair of shorts and a t-shirt) and a locker key.

After receiving the items you continue down a hall leading towards the shoe-locker area. Here you take off your shoes and lock them inside the room to which your locker key correspond. From this area there will normally be signs towards the changing rooms for women and men.

Once you enter the changing room, you will see a lot of lockers, naked people and people wearing the set of clothes you also got handed. You better get used to the "naked" part, because that is something you will have to get used to.

Find your locker. Take off all you clothes and put it there along with your stuff, no exceptions! Then proceed to the showering and bathing area.

The showering and bathing area is were the showers, hot tubs, massage facilities, steam rooms and gender seperated saunas will be located.

First, go to one of the showers, take a scrubbing towel and wash thoroughly. Koreans will both be standing at the showers, but will also be sitting on small chairs and showering in a more traditional way.


After having properly cleaned yourself from top to toe, go to the hot tubs, usually stationed in the other end of the hall. Normally there are three different temperatures, 40°C, 42°C and 46°C, unless really used to the heat people will start from the hot tub heated to 40°C.


This usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour depending if you also want to sit in the gender separated sauna or steam room, which is highly recommended. A rule of thumb would be that whenever you change facility, it is customary to go and wash.

When done, change into the clothes you recieved at the counter, and continue to the common area. Here is where you will find all the things besides what usually belong in a bath house - cinema, restaurant, nail-shop, arcade etc. and of course the saunas.


 From here you should just explore the place and experience as much as possible to get an idea of what you like and dislike.



Travelers often use Jjimjilbangs as "motels" (with luxury bathing facilities), and stay there for a night or two while finding an actual motel/hotel. They place their luggage in the reception and get it back when leaving.

Office workers also stay at Jjimjilbangs when their work day becomes too long. Which, one from the west, would deem everyday since South Koreans have the longest work day in any OECD country.

Happy holidays everyone!

onsdag den 12. december 2012

Old Korea

Being from the west, one particular part of Asian culture that I for a long time have wished to experience, is traditional architecture - Old Korea.

Having seen replicas made for movies shoots or in documentaries, seeing the real deal for the first time was a really special experience. In Seoul you can find a lot of different historic sites, since the Korean government and people are really keen on preserving what is Korean, and tied to Korean culture. If one dive deeper into Korean history the previously mentioned is easily understandable. Koreans are very nationalistic.

Changdeokgung (창덕궁)

This palace ground is one of five palaces in Seoul visited during August.


The guides all wear traditional Korean attire, the Hanbok (see woman on right)

The following pictures are from Deoksugung (덕수궁 = deoksu-palace) visited in december.

The contrast between the back ground and main focus is astonishing 

Since this is not a history class, I will spare you the details and instead link you to a movie explaining the fascinating parts about Deoksu-gung. Whether you want to watch it is up to yourself.

 * see bottom of the page before watching!

Pictures of the small roads in the traditional villages located in Seoul, called Hanok Maeul (하녹 마을 =A Village of Traditional Houses).

These villages are made for preserving culture and history, therefore a place that one must visit if coming to Korea. A lot of the Houses in those areas are open to visitors, and some of them even conduct small workshops for people to give a feel of what some things may have been like in traditional Korea (I plan to go there and try stuff out next summer if possible).


Galguk-su (갈국수) and Mandu (만두). I like this.

This may have seemed kinda random, but I see no reason for you to read a lot of random stuff that will just sound like gibberish when not familiar with the historic contexts.

* The video is about the area "jeong-dong" in which Deoksugung also is to be found. It was made for a history class focusing on modern Seoul, and may not make any sense when not familiar with the subjects.

In short it is about the area surrounding Seoul city hall in both a historical and contemporary context. It includes a lot of points regarding the area and Korea's modern history all the way up until today.

fredag den 30. november 2012

Traffic and stuff in Seoul

Hello there gentle people.

After having been in Korea for some time now, some of the things in the Korean society really stand out compared to back home. The following contain different things related to the traffic in Seoul, that I could recall from the top of my head.

Traffic in Seoul:
Have you ever been to Paris? Seoul is just the same. The driving regulations are different, a lot different. To the untrained eye of a foreigner, this may seem like random chaotic movements integrated into each other and magically avoiding accidents. Of course this is just the normal regulations from the government regarding the traffic, but it is still baffling when being a person from one of the Nordic countries.

 It seems like everyone here has agreed to drive in completely different ways from the ones known to foreigners, unless they are from France. 
Cars drive in between each other with no lights to show if they are changing lane or turning. If driver A sees an opening spot between driver B and C, driver A will take it. If this means that driver B have to pull the brakes, it is B's own fault for allowing space between him and C. Had driver B driven faster there would never have been room, which makes it driver B's own fault that a car "slipped" in front of him.

Metro system:
Since driving may be a bit inconvenient due to the heavy amount of traffic, especially in the second biggest metropolitan area in the world (23+ million inhabitants), it is luckily also possible to move around Seoul in other ways. Another popular method of transportation is the Seoul metropolitan system (metro/in-city train - system).

It has 326 stations and is 406 km in total accumulated length. Compared to the Danish S-train and metro service which only has 84 stations and is 170 km in

Korean metropolitan system
Copenhagen S-train and metro system
On average 357.000 people utilize the S-train and metro system in Copenhagen every day. In Seoul the amount of users every day is 7 million. I takes around 3-5 minutes between every station, with the exception of rush hour (2 minutes).

From: theguardian.uk
Avoid rush hour

Some random stuff:
  • As a pedestrian you get approximately 30 seconds to cross the road and then the second the pedestrian light changes to red, the cars will start moving. The waiting time is then  2 minutes and 30 seconds until it becomes green again. 
  • In the subway you will rarely see people not looking at a screen of some sort, or be on the phone. Even couples will a lot of times sit right next to each other without uttering a word, but look on their own respective phone.
  • You do not simply take your bicycle and bike around on the roads of Seoul, which is why people often bike on the sidewalk. Scooters and motorcycles also drive on the sidewalk from time to time.
  • Because of the waste collecting/recycling system they have in Korea, trash is simply put out on the streets in plastic bags to be picked up on certain days. This way can make the streets really smelly when people put out trash on days when it is not picked up.
  • The smaller streets do in fact look like the "Korea/China towns" seen in movies

torsdag den 15. november 2012

The weather and what it brings along

When I arrived in Incheon airport back in august, compared to the danish weather, the heat was almost unbearable. Coming from a country with an average of 20 degrees Celsius during the summer and 1-2 degrees during the winter, this change was particularly noticeable. 

The summer in Korea varies depending on region, but in Seoul and the surrounding areas, the temperature during day time was usually hovering at about 30 degrees Celsius every day. During the night time it could come close to plus 25 degrees. I must admit that I to some extent was pretty annoyed about the heat, being sweaty and having to remember to drink loads of water all the time was a hassle. It reminded me of my second trip to the states - hot, humid and a lot of sweaty t-shirts. To all you gentle people reading this, remember to bring extra pairs of shirts and shorts during the Korea summer. I only had 2 pairs, and that was no way near enough.

The heat during the summer naturally promotes sales of cold drinks, ice cream and what ever that may follow in that category. When talking about ice cream, I should perhaps mention a popular Korean way of overcoming the heat. It is called Patbingsu (팥빙수), and is really popular in Korea. It is made by crushing ice into small pieces and putting them in the bottom of a bowl. Here after it is topped with various fruits, ddeok, red bean paste, frozen yogurt and maybe some jelly bits and cereal flakes.

Many different types of Bingsu are made, and therefore appeal to a lot of different people.

Ice cream stores do not close during winter, and from what I have noticed on the street and in class, people also continue eating it during colder times. This, compared to danish customs, may seem a bit weird since ice cream sales are seasoned in Denmark, but here it is considered somewhat normal.

There is one store near the campus with people always waiting in line to eat Patbingsu, unfortunately I have never had the experience of going there. Keep in mind that the sales of seasoned food of course diminishes, but it is never completely gone.

This was how it looked literally every day during the summer. 

And this was how it looked every night during the summer.

Last week the school turned on the heaters in the class rooms. Everywhere in Korea they are very keen on saving energy by turning off automatic doors, not turning on the heaters until November, and many other things. Some also might say that they are a bit too keen on saving energy, since you have to sit with your jacket on in class to not freeze you ass off.

This morning I went out running, and my breath was visible. It was -1 degrees outside last night, and will not be warmer than 5-7 degrees from this week and onwards - from what I have heard. Compared to the gradual decrease in temperature back home in Denmark, it dropped from about 20 to 5 in just a month here in Seoul, Korea.

Talking about this morning and the weather. When I am out running, I usually take a route on the small mountain just behind campus, which brings me to hiking. Seoul is surrounded by mountains so hiking is natural thing to do, either with family or along with friends.

06:00 in the morning

Since the temperature started dropping, there has been a steady decrease in young people out hiking, but the elders stay strong, even at 06:00 in the morning. The following pictures are from this morning.


Temple places like this are found all over Korea, not just in the mountains

You can actually see the forest line

These exercise grounds can be found everywhere, since walking up the mountain is not enough

Sorry for the late updates, will improve in the future!

lørdag den 6. oktober 2012

SK Globl House - Guided tour to room #142!

SK Global House:

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. You have chosen to attend the 24 hour guided tour at SK Global House, and will be briefed shortly after this. The guided tour primarily focuses on the trip from the entrance of the dormitory to Room #142, but will also cover some of the amazing and outstanding features his lovely and idyllic place has to offer. You must know that refunds are not an option after receiving your ID-card, and that a 100 point penalty system is in place of any of you breaking the rules. Please continue to your briefing.

We start out with some basic rules, just to establish a baseline that makes everyone comfortable. Breaking the following rules can have grave consequences, and may resort in termination of occupation (you will escorted away from the tour).

  1. Breaking the law - theft, violent behavior, use or distribution of illicit drugs
    Termination of occupancy.
  2. Tresspassing, duplicating/transferring ID-cards, allowing non-residents to stay overnight
    Termination of occupancy.
  3. Entering other genders floor or building (after 10 pm) or visiting rooms of the opposite sex
    Termination of occupancy
  4. Rejection and dishonest recording of passing
    Termination of occupancy
  5. Loss of ID-card
    Minus 10
  6. Staying out overnight without permission
    Minus 10 points
  7. Excessively staying out overnight
    Termination of occupancy
  8. Drinking in SK Global House
    Minus 50 points ~ Termination of occupancy
  9. Inappropriate behavior after drinking
    Minus 50 points ~ Termination of occupancy
  10. Smoking, cooking (except in the guest room or downstairs kitchen) and prohibited electrical appliances
    Minus 50 points ~ Termination of occupancy
  11. Damage to in-house facilities
    Termination of occupancy - NO RE-ADMISSION
  12. Failure to clean before checking out
  13. General uncleanliness, decorations and painting the room
    Minus 20 points
  14. Not distributing trash properly or abandoning trash
    Minus 20 points
  15. Failure of payment before deadline or submitting false personal information
    Minus 30 points
  16. Attempting suicide, murder, blackmailing or disobeying
    Termination of occupancy - NO RE-ADMISSION
  17. Viewing pornography publicly, raising pets, singing loudly and selling of merchandise - conspiracy
    Minus 50 points ~ Termination of occupancy
With this established, please take your ID-card at the desk and wait in a line at the entrance.

Dear visitors! You are know familiar with the rules in this facility and may proceed to the elevators.

As you can see we are now standing with the elevators. Down the hall we have the washing rooms, gym and computer room. We will take a closer look at that once we get back. For now I would like you to go through the blue door, take the stairs to the first floor. Since we are way to many to use the elevators, I will take a group with me in the elevator and meet you upstairs.

I hope you did not sneak off to any of the other floors on your way here, we have video surveillance on every floor.

As you know this is first floor, and like all th other floors it has a "guest room" when having guests over, or if someone would like to watch some TV and relax. Korean television off course. This room can be found at the end of the hall to the right.

As you can see you have plenty of room and fantastic facilities if a friend should stop by. A computer for browsing or checking your e-mail, a nice television with numerous Korean channels, a shared refrigerator with the other 150+ people on the floor, and a mini-kitchen, all for public use.

Now please turn around everyone and continue down the hall towards room #142.

Please, take a look inside. After all, this is why you are here.

Here you have it, a perfect example of how you will be living for the next 24 hours. You will be split in pairs and live under these conditions with no exceptions.
Please keep quiet everyone, remember that other people are living here as well. It would be a shame if we would have to give you penalty points already. You can take turns to look at the room, and I will meet you downstairs at the elevators (B2) in 5 minutes.

Hello again everyone, or should I say almost everyone. That will be our first penalty points distributed today.

I case you would need more than one computer for, which I highly doubt, then you can either go in to the study room located right across from the guest room, which I purposely missed since the students living here do not like being photographed, or go to the computer room.

If you continue down the hall and look to the right you will see it right before we reach the laundry rooms.

Please continue forward to the laundry rooms.

Should you feel like exercising you are free you use the gym at any point in time except from 01:00 to 02:00 pm due to cleaning. One thing that you should be aware of is that if spit on the floor in the gym, it will have grave consequences. Luckily we have made it such that you will not forget.

Now everyone! Follow me to the Lobby. I thought that you might be hungry after all this walking around, so we will end the tour in the basement at the stores, and afterwards you can go to your rooms.

Since everyone is now gathered, please proceed from the desk, to the right and you will be finding yourself in the "eating"-basement.

I will be leaving for now,  have a nice day everyone! 

* Guess my side in the room, it has a big tell, maybe even two.