Some Like It Very Hot: Relaxing in Korean Bathhouses

For foreigners, it could be a daunting experience as you lie completely naked on a table covered with plastic vinyl. Then the "ajummas" -- a Korean term for middle-age women -- in black bras and underwear scrub you from head to toe, at times tossing you around like meat on a butcher's table.

"It is every single inch of your body, scrubbing with something that looks like a Brillo pad," Leadbitter said. "I clung to the table thinking I'm at a slaughterhouse. And then I opened my eyes, I see the bed covered in black dead skin. I've never seen anything like it."

Her friend Rica Abbott, 45, nodded in empathy and added, "But you come out feeling blessed and a whole lot younger."

The scrub is $2, including head massage and shampoo. For an extra fee, the ajummas, in their distinctively rough style, offer an oil massage to tone and moisturize the skin.

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