Chim chil pong

No, the title does not refer to slot machine sounds even though slot machines can probably be found in some chim chil pongs. The term refers to a Korean spa, which in my case was Dragonhill Spa in Seoul.

Soaking, steaming and chilling for 24 hrs? Sure!
Soaking, steaming and chilling for 24 hrs? Sure!

This particular Chim chil pong was apparently one of the best in Seoul. It consists of separate bathing floors for men and women; in addition to 3 different temperatured baths, there was ginseng, herb and seasonal herb baths, massage bath as well as additional beauty services such as massages, body scrubs and hair removals that could be purchased for extra cost.

Directory of Dragonhill Spa
Directory of Dragonhill Spa

When entering the spa, you get clothes for the public area, and a locker key that works as money inside the spa. After soaking in the baths and enjoying the saunas (infra red and one that had mist spraying from the ceiling), most people go to hang out in the arcade, public space, cafes and various hot/cold rooms that are located in the common areas.

Christmas feeling and sleepy people
Christmas feeling and sleepy people

You can spend 12 hours in the spa with no extra cost, so people go there to hang out and spend time with family, sleep after going out to party, or to go on dates (some of the small rooms seemed to be very nifty for that purpose). Our initial plan was to sleep in the spa but since it was crowded (Saturday night) and home was near, we opted for a good solid sleep, though there was also a sleeping room for women only.

Spa tombs
Spa tombs

Going to chim chil pong is definitely worth it, since you get to experience the way Koreans spend time. It is a cheap option for hotel (12,000 won: approx. 10e) and definitely interesting! If you intend to stay for longer than 3 hours, I suggest bringing a book or something to occupy yourself with. During the wee hours of night, the atmosphere might get gloomy.

Koreans seem to share the Japanese ability to sleep anywhere, anytime
Koreans seem to share the Japanese ability to sleep anywhere, anytime
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Spicy Korean life

Korea is known for its’ spicy food, specially kimchi. I think in most of the restaurants you get a free side of kimchi with your meal, which usually is not that expensive to begin with.

Side dishes to hotpot

The meal is a social event, where it is not uncommon to share, grill food together or to eat from the same small plates. Usually food is eaten with metallic chopsticks and a spoon. Scissors are used to cut meat and other food into pieces before serving.

Korean bar food: various fried stuff such as fish paste cakes, washed down with soju and magkeolli

 

Koreans eat a lot of meat. And by a lot, I mean a lot. However, it is possible to find non-meaty foods as well. There are numerous Korean barbecue restaurants, since meat is cheap and apparently rather good quality, too. And when Koreans go drinking, unlike in Finland, they order food as well. Healthy? Could be, if the food wasn’t all (deep)fried.

The bar food is similar, if not the same to the food that can be bought on the streets.

Tokbokki, fish paste and meat skewers and savoury pancake

There are food vendors and stalls in almost every street, and oddly enough most of them seem to sell the same stuff: rice cake stew tokbokki, skewers with fish paste&rice cakes and/or meat, savory pancakes, fried dumplings and the “sushi” rolls.  Generous amount of oil is used for everything, and most are probably rather spicy, too.

“street cooked” dinner, washed down with magkeolli (white fermented rice alcohol)

The “restaurant” stalls are also located in the various markets of Seoul, and in some streets and parks.

Market food
Market food

When a sweet craving hits, not to worry! On the streets, you can easily find the solution.

Fried “fish”cakes with sweet chocolate or bean filling

No pictures of the most famous sweet treat: hotteok pancake.

I wanted to end this post with the Korean equivalent of the Japanese “ittadakimasu” which can be translated to “bon appétit”. Unfortunately I have no clue how Koreans begin their meals.

 

Another tea ceremony

There are so many ways to drink tea.

Tea set, some of the tea selection and mikan fruit

More chilled atmosphere than the previous time, this tea sampling was followed by a delicious Vietnamese-Korean dinner (pictures of which I accidentally deleted). No rules, no cup turning, and no bowing included. Just friends, chilling and talking.

Master at work

If you buy tea that’s worth 200yen for 52grams and import water recommended for tea, I guess you are a tea master?

Special water for special drinks

Drinking tea does not have to be in perfectly harmonized environment, it can also be harmonized with the atmosphere.

Drinking from small cups allows room for more tea varieties

We sampled some 7 different teas, including Chinese green tea, Japanese sencha, Chinese black unflavored, and white tea (my favorite).

Delicious Vietnamese ice coffee was also sipped and sniffed (ahh, the aroma!)