It's the start of spring, a time most Finns in the cool, northern city of Helsinki, consider warm. Looking lame in a woolly hat, leather gloves, and bandana over my mouth to keep whatever little heat in , I make my way to the public sauna. So, being the stereotypical kiasu Penangite , I have to try it. A Google search lists five places that offer the cultural tradition of getting hot, wet — and nude — with total strangers.
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The majority of finnish women seem at first glance not very appealing. Many of them have round grayish color faces, snub noses, a rare straight hair, short hairstyle, medium height, even excessive fullness and lack of waist. Their feet are full and short. They have large bones, wide back and knees, big palms of hands and soles of the feet. Such structure of the body better retains heat. They does not wear shoes on heels. Sneakers and moccasins are favorite shoes in this country.
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Few traditions are as rooted to the Finnish way of life as the sauna experience. This means that while the same swimming hall or sauna is open to both genders, they will not be in the sauna at the same time. Public saunas by the lake tend to be mixed, but everyone wears swimming suits. There is, however, one exception, which you can learn more about here.
Steam hisses from hot coals in the corner of the sauna, almost in chorus with the deep exhales of 10 nude women lounging around me. I've never met these women before, and I can't even talk to them in their native tongue, but here we are without even a towel to cover ourselves, laughing, panting, and chatting in broken English in a 19th-century locally run sauna in Helsinki, Finland. If I'd completely understood what the night would entail when I agreed on a whim to visit Kaurilan Sauna with a fellow travel writer, I probably wouldn't have gone.