Adventurous Kate Gets Naked in Public

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Getting naked in public is not the kind of thing I set out to do on a regular basis, but in Istanbul, I knew I had to experience a traditional hammam, or Turkish bath!

These communal bathing facilities are an institution in Turkey.  A traditional hammam includes a bath, a heavy-duty body scrub, and a soapy massage.  There are additional services like oil massages and spa treatments, but most people just stick to the basic three services.

You can do hammams for very cheap – think 20 lira ($12) – but only if you leave the touristy neighborhoods of Istanbul, of course.  That sounded like a good price to me and my friend from the hostel who decided to join me, a fun and spritely gal who shall heretofore be known as the Aussie Ginge.

However, general laziness beat out our desire to save money, as it so often does, and we ended up walking to the cheapest hammam in our neighborhood, right across from the Sultanahmet tram stop, “TURKISH BATH” written in giant neon orange letters.

An Icelandic girl staying at the hostel had been telling me about her hammam experience the day before.  She took the metro to a random neighborhood, found a hammam, and was the only foreign woman there.  She wore a bathing suit, as did a few women there.

Did she like it?  She loved it – up until the point when the lady gave her a wedgie so that she could scrub her butt cheeks.

That did it for me.  There HAD to be an adventure in a visit to a hammam!

Part One: Getting Naked

Aussie Ginge and I paid our admission fee (a somewhat painful 50 lira, or $29) and changed into our bathing suits.  We were each given a small red and white plaid towel just barely large enough to wrap around ourselves.

And then the hammam lady took a look at us and shook her head.

“No bathing suits.”

Really?  But the Icelandic girl –

“NO bathing suits.  Wear nothing.”

All right, then.  Aussie Ginge and I lost the bathing suits and waddled out into the hammam lobby, the tiny red plaid towels barely covering what they needed to cover.

“Follow me.”

We followed her through a maze of hot, steamy rooms into the women’s section of the hammam.

The hammam lady turned to us, smiled, and without saying a word, PULLED THE TOWELS OFF US as naturally as one would pluck a tissue from a box.


And suddenly Aussie Ginge and I were standing fully naked as the lady put the towels on the ground for us to sit on.

Well.  Hanging out with your new friend from the hostel just got awkward.

AG and I sat on either sides of an overflowing basin and were each handed a bucket.  And so commenced part one of the hammam experience, the bath: scooping out the hot water and pouring it over yourself as you sit in a steam-filled room.

As strange as the hammam may sound to the average prudish American, it’s not weird or uncomfortable at all.  For 30 minutes, we relaxed, chatted about our world travels, and poured hot water over ourselves.

That’s when the massage ladies sent for us.

Part Two: Scrubbing Down

AG’s masseuse was the lady who had plucked the towels from us earlier, only now she was wearing a bikini.  My lady, however, was only wearing bikini bottoms – some might say for ease, but I’m convinced it’s because there exists NO BIKINI TOP IN THE UNIVERSE that could contain those swinging things before me!

My summers as a bra saleslady at Victoria’s Secret gave me a lifelong ability to accurately gauge a woman’s bra size with only a glance.  This lady, in my estimation, was a 42F, and they were not unlike two cantaloupes dangling in a sack of cheesecloth.

She put my now-drenched towel on the table and indicated for me to lie down on my stomach.  I turned me head to the left and panicked.

Turning to the left meant that I would be facing her dangerous breasts, which surely would careen straight into my face at some point.

Turning to the right meant that I would be staring directly up my friend AG’s butt crack.

I turned left and closed my eyes tightly.

The next step was the body scrub.  The lady put on an exfoliation glove and scrubbed hard all over my body, even my face.  YEOUCH.  It felt like she was scrubbing each pore free of decades and decades of extraneous skin.

I’ve had body scrubs in the past, and the result of a particularly intense exfoliation session has always the same – sticky gray-brown lumps of dead skin rolled together.  I expected to see this when I sat up – and gasped.

My skin was covered in black, wavy lines of dirty, dead skin.  THIS is what a real exfoliation looks like!  My God – how much dirt was on my skin?!  Was this dirt from Jordan last week, from Mexico last June, from Cambodia last year, from Ireland ten years ago?!

We are so dirty, and we have no idea.

Part Three: Massage Time

I lay down, still shocked from the exfoliation, as my lady began the soapy massage.  She filled a perforated bag with soapy water and squeezed it over my body before brushing me with the bag – and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the softest thing I’ve ever felt in my life.  Newborn babies, you’ve just been one-upped by a plastic bag.

And then the massage came, the massage felt great, and for a moment, it felt like one of those four-handed massages of which I’ve heard so much.  Nope, it was a hand and a hand and a boob and a boob.

There was nowhere else for them to go!  Of COURSE they would be hitting me all over.

Call it instinct or call it common sense – I knew what was going to happen the moment I saw exactly how large her breasts were.  The lady leaned over to massage my right arm and BOOM!

Giant boob smacked me RIGHT in the face!

“Oop!” the lady said quickly, almost apologetically, and went about her work.

Disoriented, I just decided to let it go and chalk it up to the experience.

A final hair wash and rinse-off from the lady and I was ready to go on my way.  I thanked her for providing me with an experience I’ll never forget.

Part Four: Recovery

Finished, my lady bundled me up in dry towels and hustled me out to the lounge area.  It was time to hang out and drink delicious apple tea.  Though an appletini would probably have been a better tonic at that moment.

Aussie Ginge and I met up again, gossiped about our sessions – her lady was not nearly as well-endowed as mine, and thus her face was not a casualty of swinging bazoongas – and took advantage of the free hair dryer before heading back out into chilly Sultanahmet.  I then decided that I hadn’t abused myself enough for the day and went to see Breaking Dawn.

The Overall Experience

Yes, this hammam was a strange experience.  But I wholeheartedly recommend it – there’s really nothing like it, and I can’t imagine going for long without having all of that black dirt scrubbed off of me again!

Just be cautious with the large-chested women.  Believe me, they’re dangerous.

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106 thoughts on “Adventurous Kate Gets Naked in Public”

  1. HAHA this post made me laugh-out-loud, Kate! I love the first picture, too!

    I wonder what the men’s ones are like…I ended up in a gay hammam which was, erm, eventful! The steam room was full of middle-aged guys molesting themselves…then again, I don’t know whether I’d rather have that, or giant boobs smacking me in the face.

    I’m going to have nightmares about those 42Fs tonight.

    1. Yes Tom, there are gay hamams and as a Turkish person I ended up in one of them.
      I or lets say we go to hamam on regular basis and once I had to use a hamam that out of my town, and the moment I entered hamam everyone was looking at me but with wierd eyes you know.
      And then I realized its gay hamam and I played nice until I escaped from there. Nope I’m not homophobic but I had to protect myself!

  2. The hammam I get. But Breaking Dawn? …why? WHY?!

    Also, fwiw, you aren’t meant to be exfoliated very often. Seriously, it’s unnatural and is not how your body is designed. For a fun read on the subject, look up “7 Basic Things You Won’t Believe You’re All Doing Wrong” on #6 is bathing.

    Every once is a while it’s great (it’s why I have my hammam mitt from Morocco :D), but too often is baaaad. Very bad. My skin cleared up after I stopped using anything but water on my face, except in the most dire of circumstances.

    On another note, one of the highlights of this story is that you knew what bra size she wore. That was HI-larious! Also, Boobsmack sounds like a band name…

  3. Ah! I just finished laughing, and now I’m adding a hammam to my list of things to experience. I love your story telling skills, and this was a good example!

    42F’s. I’m gonna have bad dreams about those now. Eep.

  4. yuck, now I feel a LOT more uncomfortable about having to go braless in your presence for an entire week after the shipwreck :-)))) (online bra size converter rocks. sounds like this lady edged me out. only just.)
    I would DIE on the spot if something like this happened to me. nakedness and boobs (someone else’s) and all. or, at least I hope I would die on the spot 🙂

  5. I still need to see Breaking Dawn. Shaun refuses (for good reason, the movies are terrible but I can’t help it). We almost went to a hammam when we were in Spain although I’m sure I would have been laughing like crazy with the boob woman.

  6. Hahahahaha! It was simply hilarious to read your extraordinary hamamm-experience, Kate. It seems like you got much more than expected and probably value for the money as well!

    I only wonder what the men’s department are like ? Well, next time I happen to be in Turkey, I’ll might give it a try 🙂

  7. Which hammam was this? I went to Cemberlitas, and didn’t have a bathing suit so I went topless. Every iteration of bathing suit to birthday suit was acceptable there. I opted for the DIY price, and I’m glad I did. My sensitive skin would probably still be red 3 months later!

  8. I’ve heard horror stories for Mammam experiences on the men side. Experiences that they’ll never EVER forget in their lifetime. I picture Anthony Bourdain getting his ‘massage’ in Turkey.

  9. HAHA! Your funniest post yet. Had me laughing out loud. Is it odd that I strangely want to experience the hamman even more now? Something like this happened to me in Bangkok, though maybe not quite as extreme. It was the day before I was leaving to go home and I needed one last massage and just stepped into some random place. The masseuse told me to get naked and she wouldn’t leave the room! So I told her I wasn’t going to take my underwear off. I was well on my way into the massage and then she just pulled down my underwear to start massaging my butt. It was somehow liberating though.

  10. Haha, as everyone else has said, this is hilarious and awesome. The closest I’ve come is bathing with dozens of old people at the baths in Budapest at 8 in the morning….I think it’s more shocking when clothing is optional instead of not allowed at all, because you never know what you’re going to see when you turn around — full bodied nakedness, or just a tiny bikini? It was quite the adventure. Hope I get to try this sometime too!

  11. Well Done! You are a crack up (no pun intended!).

    Nearest for me was at Japanese hot baths in NZ. Full of naked Japanese women when I arrived, so I followed suit (no suit). Then in walked a heap of NZ women with kids and they all had bathers on. Then I had to get out of the water in front of them when it was time to leave. It is OK if everyone is naked.

  12. I find this website while searching for Thailand packing lists and the next thing I know “two cantaloupes dangling in a sack of cheesecloth” is rattling around in my brain. That is some imagery.

    You would think with the giant ta-tas and the job she would have packaged those things up by now, unless she likes going home and telling her friends about how many people she boob-smacked at work on a given day.

  13. I did one of the turkish baths in Istanbul and it was the highlight of my trip! LOVED IT. We went to one of the two super popular ones so it was a bit pricey. Tops were not allowed but they gave us black bikini bottoms to wear (though a few local women went without). I was with my mom, so that was a whole different level of awkward. But I would go back in a second!

  14. I am laughing so hard i’m all teary eyed. An experience of a lifetime. Come Christmas, I will be glad to see the real you under all that road dirt.

  15. Funny post. Not sure I could do this, would be scared of making a boob of myself 🙂 I would have told the woman with the wobblers to put on a well-supported bra!

  16. No offense, but how exactly did working in Victoria’s Secret prepare you for gauging breast size when their bras only go up to DD? Not all breasts of the world conform to Gisele Bundchen’s poor example of a woman’s figure.

    You would think for someone as traveled as you, you would learn that nudity really isn’t as big a taboo in other parts of the world as it is here in the States.

    1. Jeff, if you read the post more carefully, you would see that that was the exact point I was making — that nudity is not as taboo as in the United States! Relax.

      As for the bras, I suggest that you visit any Victoria’s Secret on the first morning of the semi-annual sale.

  17. OMG! I don’t know how you sat through that with the big breasted lady!! I couldn’t even begin to imagine how awkward and unfortunate that was! hahahaha

    I wrote a naked post too about when I was wearing my birthday suit at a spa in Iceland but no spa services like the above were included haha I would like to get a good scrub down someday though 🙂

  18. Ahh, this post is amazing. I was cracking up the whole time. Like I tweeted, this has to be the same place I went. I had the massive boobed-woman (why no bikini top, why??) who scrubbed the CRAP out of me. I definitely needed some recovery after that experience, too. I only wish Twilight had been around back then!

  19. This is my first time reading your blog, but it definitely won’t be my last. Funny stuff here, especially this line: “This lady, in my estimation, was a 42F, and they were not unlike two cantaloupes dangling in a sack of cheesecloth.” Thanks for the morning laughs!

  20. Haha, power to you. I resisted tooth and nail the demand that I visit a Korean bath house (which involves similar levels of nudity) when I lived in South Korea and I kind of regret it now. You’re a ballsier person than me, which would have made the whole nudity thing an awkward proposition.

  21. Such a funny and well written post. Really made my morning. Also made me curious to try it for myself when I get to Turkey this winter. Hilarious and useful!

  22. The bath is the only thing I didn’t try in Istanbul because I was a little scared, after your tale I’m even more scared 😛 Nice experience though, not sure if as relaxing as advertised but I might face my fear and try out 🙂

  23. Vahap "Bob kelso" from Agora GuestHouse

    Sooo funny and so well written! I think you are coming back to Istanbul after a major hit post like this. You could probably end up with a few more hilarious posts like this one. I would like to see this post picked up by some big name travel publisher or a newspaper…Me selling hamams at Agora had no idea what actually takes place behind closed doors in the female section. Thanks to this post I cant hold a straight face when providing information to my guests at the hostel!More people should read this hilarious post! :))) Been a pleasure meeting the three of you. Whereever you might be in the world now, take care and thank you for such a well written and hilarious post. You made me interested in reading more travel blogs now…

    1. HA! Thanks, bud. So glad it made quite the impression on you — you better warn your guests about the place right across from the Sultanahmet stop! We all had a great time at Agora and I’m glad to see you sticking around for more posts. 🙂

  24. Hi Kate,
    This was absolutely hilarious reading! A friend of mine posted the link on Facebook – we are a bunch of girls that have as a tradition to travel to a new place together for a long-weekend every fall. In fall 2007, our trip went to Istanbul. We had an amazing time! Anyway, your blog reminded her of our own experience at a Turkish bath and copied us all in! It was soooo funny to read your blog- you are a great writer!

    If you are curious about my (similar) experience, although nowhere near as wittily written, check out my old blog post here: – scroll down to the sub-heading “Turkish bath house.”

    Can’t wait to now read more of your blog posts! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

    Best regards,
    Mimmis in Sweden

  25. Americans need to loosen up. I go to the naked beach all the time and I’m in somewhat chilly Canada. I can’t imagine wearing a bathing suit for swimming in the sea or any kind of massage. My daughter has visited hammams in Paris and banyas in Russia, always naked. Why would anyone want to wear anything in is beyond me. Naked is definitely the way to go and believe me, nobody cares what you look like. :-))

  26. Katy, I just discovered your blog via iam jewelery and I cant stop reading!!! I just read this post and I’m getting strange looks from my collegues because I’m giggling over “Giant boob smacked me RIGHT in the face!”. This is just tooo funny!

    I wish I could live your life! You are so blessed! Do you make your money with only ads and links or anything else like working occasionally in a hotel or something?

    Keep on going!

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I’m glad you liked this story…it’s one of the good ones!

      I make almost all of my money through my site ads, and I do occasional random freelance work — haven’t done any in-person work (except a single baby-sitting job and one day as an extra in a movie) for nearly two years!

  27. 42F’s hmm reminds me of a strip club I went to in Panama City, that my friends thought would be funny to buy me a lap dance from…1 terrifying boob smack out of my chair later, I ran away as fast as I could and never ever will go back to Panama City again.

  28. Just found your blog today, and I’ve gotta say, this is the most hilarious post I’ve read so far. I went to a bath house in Taiwan a few years ago with my family, and while it was a much different experience, I think the first moment of awkward nakedness is universal, haha!

  29. Ha ha ha, I am beyond overjoyed that someone had the same ridiculous experience as myself! I tried hammam in Morocco, after it came in very recommended by all the previous guests of the lodge- I’m sure that was their way of ensuring they weren’t the last fools to fall for the “relaxing” description of this, ahem, “procedure”. Albeit my lady wasn’t quite as busty and did manage to have her parts covered, the rest of it was very much military style, going through the motions. The scrub was the worst! I thought I was being skinned alive! And there was no “third phase”, she directed us to the shower, afterwards pronouncing that we were, indeed, done. I’ve never felt so cheated in my life! But I guess it’s something to be experienced at least once in your lifetime, ha ha.

  30. I had my headset on (listening to music while reading) and so I couldn’t hear myself laughing. My daughter came running into my room–she was wondering if I was ok (that probably means she heard me laughing like a hyena ;)).

    Turkey in on my travel bucket list, but I’ll steer clear of such hammams! I’m a too much a prude!
    But thanks, it was a fun read!

    1. oops, that prev comment got posted before I had finished writing it. dunno how to delete it.

      I had my headset on (listening to music while reading) and so I couldn’t hear myself laughing. My daughter came running into my room–she was wondering if I was ok (that probably means she heard me laughing like a hyena ;)). I must say that laughing while reading this article was one of my guilty pleasures! My bad.

      Turkey in on my travel bucket list, but I’ll steer clear of such hammams! I’m too much of a prude!

  31. Good way to get readers! But no naked photos Kate! I have managed to get my kit off in every continent so far and written about it need to be so shy! Safe travels and good blog. Jonny

  32. Oh man I remember my own Turkish bath experience. Big strong Turkish man vs. skittish, wimpy American. I just felt I was being pounded into submission with skin rubbing off everywhere and buckets of water when i least expect. Overall, an A+ experience!

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