Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

Budapest's Baths

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

"Mennyi?"

"Tízezer forintok."

For 10,000 Florins we gain entry. I take the ticket.

Turn right. Walk through the turnstiles. The gent at the stiles gives you the once over and hands you a large bib/small apron. The feeling of uncertainty, adventure builds. You walk through Soviet style, spartan but functional tiled rooms lined with rows on rows of lockers past partially clad men.

It's a men only day.

Walking down a spiral staircase only heightens the sense of adventure. Of uncertainty. Of not knowing what to expect.

It opens up into a surprisingly modern chamber. Straight ahead you see an archway which disappears into an uncertain gloom. The staircase continues downward.

The use of the bib/apron becomes obvious at this point.

'Why even bother' sort of flashed through my head. If it was to protect your modesty it wasn't doing its job at all. If anything it was calling attention to the very part it was supposed to draw attention away from. Imagine a grown naked man (fat, thin, muscular, whatever), dripping wet, with this bib/apron made of thin cotton draped around his crotch. Where are your eyes going to go first?

So it was with great hilarity that we went down to changing rooms and donned this peculiar garment designed to preserve one's modesty but in effect had all the men, gay or otherwise, checking out everyone else's lunch box. The only thing that was preserved was the air of slight homo eroticism which the bib/apron was designed to lift from the proceedings. Especially, after you went into the water.

Class in session! "Children, what happens to a tight tshirt when you wet it?"

"Teacher, teacher, me, me! It becomes wet and you can see EVERYTHING under it. And it makes everything more obvious because it outlines everything."

"Very good, little Johnny."

Or in this case, maybe not so little. For some at least.

Walking from the changing rooms through the archway into the shower area gave you a greater glimpse into the next chamber, which was where the hot springs were located. You had a shower, and then you walked through a final archway and this is why portals are considered powerful and mysterious objects.

The minute you take that last step through the arch, the tiling beneath your feet abruptly changes to medieval granite, worn away by centuries of naked feet rubbing them down to a smooth finish. Vaulted ceilings replace functional plaster. The light dims to the level of a gothic cathedral during winter. Damp, humid steam replaces cool, dry air. Once through the arch, you're transported from Soviet Chic to a space which is taken out of time. Everything is aged granite. The smell of slightly rotten eggs creeps into your nostrils. You're faced with eight pillars holding up a vaulted ceiling complete with small, dirty glass windows which allow in shafts of sunlight to shine like small searchlights on the glistening, wet bodies meandering their way across the large central pool. To your left and right there are 2 smaller pools. Beyond the large pool, there are another 2 small pools. If you connected all the dots, you'd have an X, with the large pool taking up the point of intersection.

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From the internet
It was Alice through the looking glass.

You could have been in the 15th Century. There are no clothes to give you a frame of reference. Everyone is naked but for the bibs/aprons. It's like a place which is out of time.

rudas-bath2.gif
From the internet
Each of the five pools was at a different temperature, denoted by a blurred out 25C or 32C or, in the one which poaches you, 42C. You can't escape the feeling of being checked out. Being given the once over. Whether by straight men or by gay men or those who say they're straight but whose eyes give lie to that fact, categorisations almost don't matter. It's a strange feeling and you would need a certain amount of security in yourself to be there alone. In my case, I'm glad to be with Allan and Keith. Security in numbers for me!

To the right of the X, you walk into the showers, steam rooms, and sauna. In the sauna you're shoulder to shoulder with other men. Ostensibly, to protect their arses from being burnt, they turn the bib/apron around and sit on that. Frankly, I think some were just there to show off. From chippolatas to what reminded me of a 2m bratwurst that we had in Vienna, they were all on display. The funny thing was, it reminded me of a recent study that was done. I can't remember which university it was but the hypothesis from an empirical study done on men and women to improve the effectiveness of news article design showed that women look at faces first while men (straight or gay) looked at crotches first. It concluded that there were different gender imperatives during evolution that made us evolve that way. Personally I think it's to see whether or not another guy has larger tackle than you!

Rudac (pronounced Roo-darsh with a silent R for you American types) was my first foray into a world of thermal baths that I'd never seen before. The Baths itself were built in the 16th Century and Turkish artisans were imported to build them. Which explained the slightly oriental flavour of the whole place.

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During our time in Budapest, we managed to go to another called Szechenyi Baths which had a totally different ambience. It was mixed for one. Everyone was in swim suits and it was family day. Hundreds of citizens of the city are soaking for therapy, exercising, socialising, playing chess in the pools, steaming, sauna-ing. The outdoor pools reminded me of a time when skiing in Austria, we would be swimming in an outdoor pool, run out, roll around in snow, and jump back in. It was cool that day. Around 10C. The pools were steaming. Enough to lightly poach kailan.

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Furthermore, it was grand. It looked like a Royal Summer Palace. Light, airy, bright, everything that Rudac was not. Don't get me wrong. I loved both experiences. It was just as night and day as you could get.

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It was amazing. Culturally, Budapest-ians(?) use the baths as social outlets. For their aches and pains and for meeting friends. Much like we Malaysians do over food. Frankly, I think it's a healthier way of bonding. But for the drama of a first time, Rudac was hard to beat.

7 Comments

wooo.. this is so cool , i think i gotta plan a trip there as well. Japan had open Ofuro like that. BUt i guess , it's jus different country difference experience. :)

Are you allowed to take shots in there? :S

The descriptions wrt the bib were mighty sizzling! :P

Don't tell me you didn't enjoy being checked out? Eh? *nudge nudge*

I love your storytelling skills. So mesmerizing. May I sit at your feet and hear somemore?

janvier; no lah, downloaded those off the net. Where would I hide the camera with just a bib for protection? ;-)

LL; thanks much for the compliment. COming from you it is an honour. I feel uncomfortable being checked out actually! ;-) And I'll write more.

Finally!An update!Hahaha...

Trying to imagine how it would feel like to step out from water hot enough to lightly cook vege into 10 degree chill.

Makes certain bits shirnk. No?

And then you have a low sperm count from sitting in 42C water. ;-)

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