Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Happy Lunar New Year everyone. It is one of my three days off and unfortunately I have been simply lazing around. I have a big expensive tip planed in three weeks and I decided it would be best to keep it simple and save money. On that news I'd like to introduce you to a new member of the family, the North Face Tera 65 backpack. This fine friend will be my new companion in Japan, China and the rest of my future travels. It's my Selloal (New Years) gift to me.

Korea, like most of northeast Asia celebrates Lunar New Year as one of the most important holidays of the year. Selloal is a family holiday that spans three days. Unlike most western holidays there doesn't seem to be a exact date to do each event. The most common schedule seems to start on Saturday, peak on Sunday and end on Monday.

Most of my friends are traveling this weekend to see their family. The Grandmother's or oldest Uncle's house are common destinations. At some time during the weekend the family will get dressed up in a traditional Hanbok for the Sebae ceremony. The Sebae ceremony is when family members do one deep bow to show their respect. Adult siblings to the oldest son, Wife to her new mother-in-law and most commonly, children to parents. This is often rewarded with some money or sweets.

My Neighborhood Hanbok Shop

My students have be talking New Years since my first day of teaching as it is a much larger holiday than Christmas. They have been telling me about the huge amounts of money they receive today  (about 200,000 won seems about average) from friends and family members.  This money is then offered or to quote my students taken by their mothers and placed into a bank account for the child. Many kids get to keep a little of the money which results in crowded PC-bangs (internet cafes). 

Another New Years tradition is going to the public bathhouse or jimjibang. My friend Hannah and I decided to celebrate today by going to Home Spa World. This is by no means my first trip to a jimjibang. I've had old women scrub sheets of dead skin off my body and ask me awkward questions on numerous occasions. This was however, our first trip to Home Spa World and I hoped to get something a little different for my 8,000 won.  The basement of the spa is the actual jimjibang, filled with families dressed in blue for the Dads, pink for the Moms and green for the kids. This jimjibang was the best I have visited in Korea as most have little more than a few saunas. Home Spa World had nine different rooms.The hottest room was shaped like a giant tandoori oven and had a time limit of 15 minutes. The coldest room was freezing and had snow falling from the ceiling. My favorite room was the one with the small heated ceramic balls covering the floor about four inches deep. I buried myself in them like a kid at the beach. Other rooms included black rock, jade, salt rock and ceramics. After Hannah and I had our fill of all the various rooms we went upstairs to try out the many hot pools and steam rooms. We emerged very clean five hours after we arrived. It was a great way to welcome the Lunar New Year of my birth sign, The Tiger!


  1. I haven't been to a jimjibang yet, but after this last weekend I think I could use some serious jimjibang rejuvenation...

  2. Nice pack. Perfect for traveling.
    And the warm balls sound very soothing - something I would like too. I want to go to Spa World.

  3. May I use your picture for a digital maganize focused on oriental new year uses?
    write me to revista_bamboo_editorial@live.com
    Thanks a lot, nice info.