A mud treatment and seaside photography - an unpredictable day in South Korea
I stood still as a middle aged man applied mud over my back and buttocks using a broad paintbrush. With a poker face and oval belly, he noticed I had covered the rest of my body and couldn’t reach.
My eyes flickered backwards as he continued slowly, seemingly with a fine eye for detail. The white of eyes and teeth were the only blemishes on an otherwise dark body.
Daecheon on the west coast of Korea (W7000 two hours south of Seoul) is famous for its high quality sea mud, containing minerals such as germanium and bentonite. As a result it is said to stimulate blood circulation, slow aging, reduce wrinkles and remove excess oil and dirt from skin.
I had been invited to a local health spa (www.mudhouse.co.kr Telephone 931 2930 10am-3am) for a complimentary mud treatment (usually W20,000) after sticking out like a sore thumb being the only westerner in the area. The treatment started after stripping and leaving possessions in a small locker. Where was I to put my key?
A high pressure shower blasted water, the perfect tonic for a traveller who hadn’t showered in several days. Looking up at the large, round shower head it occurred to me that it could be used for rinsing circus elephants. Facilities were state of the art.
Choking, dry air engulfed a sauna. Beads of sweat protruded from my skin until I couldn’t bear the heat any longer. A shallow pool omitting steam resembled a witch’s potion as I entered its bubbling water laced with mud. Muscles became placid; limbs limp.
Ice cold water of a plunge pool quickly removed all mud, restoring me to a shivering white Caucasian. Skin tingled while gasping for breath.
White sand lined the coastline, a cool breeze supported kites swooping unpredictably. I felt revitalised looking out upon the Yellow Sea. The name didn’t seem appropriate, dark blue waves gently rolled in on the shore. I pondered what Daecheon would look like in July when the annual mud festival (http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=293029) takes place turning the town from a tranquil retreat into a large mud melee.
At my back were kitsch bars and seafood restaurants boasting neon lights with touts prowling for custom. I turned my attention to small vendors on the seafront selling an array of snacks who wore hats with large visors and long sleeves/pants for protection from the sun. For a mere couple thousand Won there were plenty of options, tteokbokgi (spicy rice cakes), dakkochi (skewers of chicken marinated in chilli, ginger and soy sauce) and godung (roll shells) to name a few. The tteokbokgi proved to be a good choice.
In western society people would be embracing the opportunity to get a sun tan but nobody was of that ilk here. Locals had incredibly white, pale skin that almost looked unhealthy, distinctly different from neighbouring China and Japan. Families and young couples featured heavily, it seemed that if one wasn’t helping a toddler walk then hands were held and a baby wouldn’t be far away….
Clothing was worn tight and had a strong emphasis towards well known brand names. American baseball caps were common. Those not wearing caps exhibited hair an array of outlandish colours and metro sexual styles. Robust spectacles completed a trendy, sleek look. It seemed mandatory to take photographs with the most up to date camera. I chuckled as females battled sea breezes tossing hair while partners tinkered with tripods in a bid to get the perfect shot. Some scurried to embrace before the camera timer elapsed.
Despite my new revitalised skin, nobody took pictures of me.