To celebrate my friend Salima’s birthday, a trio of expat women trekked to Seoul’s Dragon Hill Spa. This spa, or jimjilbang, is the biggest one I’ve been to in Korea. They offer a bevy of services such as hot and cold tubs, wet and dry saunas, the ajumma scrub down, Thai massage, waxing, and the infamous “hip bath” or 채욕 (chai-yok).
Before I left for Korea, my sister-in-law sent me an article about “V-Steam” services being done in California.
Apparently, this antiquated Korean practice is an up-and-coming trend in modern spa culture in the USA. I promptly told her that it sounded absurd and there was no way that anyone was still doing this in Korea. I admit that despite my skepticism I was also intrigued. I vowed to keep an eye out and said I would do it if I had the chance. What exactly am I going on about, you ask? Have a look for yourself.
When I read the description of this service it sounded simple enough. A pot with water and herbs is placed under a special chair with a hole in it that you sit on to steam your vagina. From the picture above, it looks like you don a huge cape, sip a beverage, and laugh jovially with your girlfriends while the herbs do their magic. When you’re done, your vagina should be as good as new. Except… That’s NOT what my experience was like at all.
You see this contraption?
It’s the devil! Whereas this one appears to have an electric pot underneath the chair so you can control the temperature, the one I sat on did not. It had a hot stone pot – kind of like the one you eat dolsot bibimbap out of – and was placed on a stone pedestal.
Translation, that thing had one setting and one setting only – hot as hell! That was theee most tortourous 40 minutes of my entire life.
When the ajumma approached me with the pot of herbs, I eagerly scooted up to the front of the chair awaiting a warm sensation of steam to gently caress my nether regions. What I got instead was anything but gentle. My first reaction was to squeal and jump back. After she finished laughing at my punkassness, the ajumma encouraged me to move forward and get into the proper position to have my vagina scalded. I alternated between straddling that evil chair and sitting back against the wall while I sweat profusely.
About 5 minutes in, the ajumma offered me some tea. Despite the fact that I was already melting, I accepted because sometimes I like to act like I have some damn home training. Plus, I figured a bit of green tea would help me to relax. Except she proudly served me a steaming (noticing a theme here?) cup of corn husk/silk tea. If you remember The Corn Incident, you’ll recall that I have sworn off all corn products made in Korea. And if you know anything about etiquette, you know that I had no choice but to sip that tea a few times anyway to be polite. Gag!
Obligatory tea sipping done, I looked at the clock. Dammit! I still had 30 minutes left. The ajumma returned to check on me and I told her I was hot. She probably said the Korean equivalent to “Suck it up, heffa!” before she smirked. She then told me that I could cool down a bit by airing out my cape. Tried it. Still didn’t stop the intense heat from assaulting my lady bits. The next thing she told me was to put my head in the cape to steam my face. Now, that I could do. I couldn’t have those good herbs going to waste could I? I moved my bum back and pulled up the cape. I lasted all of 1 minute before I had to come back out from heat exhaustion. I continued my routine of futilely airing out, scooting back and forth, and peeking my head under the cape for another 10 minutes.
I watched as a Korean woman came in for the same treatment. She sat her happy ass on that death chair and had the nerve to even look relaxed. Damn her! She sipped several cups of tea and never broke a sweat. She chatted with her daughter and contentedly watched the K-drama that was playing overhead. All of this while straddling the pot from hell. Watching her non-reaction let me know that I wasn’t really cut out for chai-yok. I spent the next 20 minutes leaning on the wall wondering what magical superpowers Korean women possess that allows them to withstand the heat from Hades on their vaginas…
And then I remembered a key difference between myself and 99.9% of Korean women I’ve seen at the spa, gym, and yoga studio. While I was bald from getting a Brazilian wax the week prior, homegirl was sporting a full Amazon jungle bush. I’m now convinced that her vagina bangs were protecting her from feeling the full wrath of the steam. Let me tell you something, regularly subjecting my private parts to hot wax while having hair ripped out of the follicles is much more pleasurable than a chai-yok treatment. I was elated when my time was up and couldn’t wait to dunk in the cold tub for some relief. Why didn’t I get up and leave if I was so uncomfortable? If nothing else, I figured at least the experience would make for excellent blog fodder. You see the things I do for you people? Appreciate me, dammit!
Would I recommend chai-yok to other women? Sure. Try it. Maybe your experience will be different. Would I do it again? Nerp!