On a musky day we drove to Garður, the town we had never been to while travelling the Reykjanes peninsula. Bogi Jónsson and his wife Narumon Sawangjaitham (Nok) greeted us with welcoming gestures. Me and Bogi sat down with hot coffee and cookies to discuss the seaweed spa, Peace- garden, their lives together, and how they ended up with the hot tub spa in this windy and exotic place.
What is this concept about and how did you get this seaweed spa idea in the first place?
Actually, this was an accident in the beginning. I had a hot sea tub in my old place, in Álftanes where I started out with the thai- spa. I managed to set up the hot tub on the roof with heated sea in it.
“They day after I thought to myself, why is my hair and skin so soft, did I go overboard with the conditioner?!”
Anyways, then I wanted to surprise my wife with something extra special, went to the coast and got a lot of seaweed to add to our spa experience, for making it a little mystical for her. They day after I thought to myself, why is my hair and skin so soft, did I go overboard with the conditioner?! My wife felt the same, so we figured out that it must have had something to do with the seaweed.
This drove me to try this again, and I found this to be the case, my skin was soft as a baby´s bottom. Then I got online and did some research, and found out that this is an old tradition in Ireland and some other places too.
My father spent most of his life examining marine animals, and he always talked about his hands getting very soft after he had been all in the seaweed, looking for interesting things. So my thai-spa in Álftanes turned in to the hot seaweed spa, and then the adventure started. Today I´m still trying out different kinds of seaweed and so on, and this has also to do with seasonal magnitude of seaweed in the nature.
“We think about seaweed as something unpleasant, but when you are in the tub it is just lovely, you just want to hug the seaweed and rub it all over your body”
What is you relations to the seaweed?
Well, I was born and raised by the costal line and had many around me that were doing research on the coast. Actually, my plan is to evolve my usage of seaweed through experience and information seeking. I´ve tried this both on psoriasis and cellulite skin, and we mark that this spa is having good effects, but I don’t want to give out statements before I have had more experience with this. Ill have to change the seaweed every day, to offer the same effect. I use seaweed and fresh kelp in the hot tub, sometimes I use kelp flour to have the flora in the spa just right.
Sometimes we think about seaweed as something unpleasant, but when you are in the tub it is just lovely, you just want to hug the seaweed and rub it all over your body. We just want people to try it because we think this spa has so many good elements, without talking like a cheesy salesman.
Hah, that’s a good vision you have. Tell me, what is this gel in the seaweed?
At first I thought this was some kind of a frost protection, but it actually is a seasonal thing, so there is less of this soft gel in the seaweed during the winter.
The seaweed has a lot of iron, d-vitamin and b12 and this is exactly what we need in the north where we live sunless lives. I´ve been reading a lot about the seaweed, and this is a magnificent plant actually. There is no other plant for example that has as much iodine as the seaweed plant has.
Well, I will have to ask you, how do you feel about being placed just beside the blue lagoon, do you see them as a competition?
Well, my business is small and I want to offer a very homey feeling to our visitors. We want our message to be “Welcome to our home and to our seaweed bath”. Then it will be a personal experience, to have a bath at our place, and that is quite different in comparison to the blue lagoon.
I think I am more into this hippie style of bathing in nature, but I do not dislike the lagoon in any ways. But the focus point is the expensive set around the lagoon, but that suits many guests that come here. I think its just two totally different things in itself.
What about bathing in nature, do you like to do that?
I have a lot of interest in bathing in nature, Its all about your personal experience and how you feel about things. We are always being controlled in our travels nowadays. And you are “supposed to” experience and feel this and that, that is a box that I don’t like.
But on the other hand, there are many tourists that want to be controlled, and have no interests in taking changes. That’s valid, and has to be on offer actually. Most tourists want to do something that is knowned and see sights that are advertised for the masses. Some travellers know beforehand what they are going to do, but that is not my style when I travel. I love surprises!
So to turn to your business, do many know about your seaweed spa, is there a traffic?
Well, not exactly. The traffic goes up in the summer time though. I have been very quiet, and our advertisement has been low- key. There is this word of mouth element, I think that is a more honest way of building up a good business.
” I have always been a fan of the concept “enjoying the moment” “
Well we have customers that drive a long way, especially to come and bathe here in our seaweed spa. There is a guy from the North, he has skin eczema between his fingers, and he tells me that it disappears when he´s done bathing in our spa.
So what, you think of yourself as a hippie?
Well, I have always been a fan of the concept “enjoying the moment”, what life has to offer. We don’t have to have everything new and fancy around us, to score higher than our peers, or something like that.
For example, if you look at our kitchen interior, I bought it online from someone that was going to throw it away. I think things have more charisma if you multi- use things. Also, in my opinion, there is this culture of throw-away that I don’t like. You are not respecting the materials, you are not respecting the nature and you are not respecting the blood sweat and tears that went into making of things if you just throw them away constantly.
But as for the hippie concept, well I like to stir things up. If people get shocked or are in any way surprised, it simply tells me that they have taken a minute to look outside the box, and that’s a good thing.
Wow, that’s a great family portrait that you have on your wall! When did you and Nok meet, and how did it all happen?
Well, I was not looking for a wife actually when we met. Back in 1984 I decided to go sober in life, and started to think about what life is all about. I really wanted to experience other cultures and travel at this point in my life. There were two things that dragged me to Thailand originally. I wanted to see the joy those people have in their hearts, despite they live in some sort of poverty as it is defined and I wanted to meet girls but I had been shy in my life so I thought this would be fun.
“They are used to this, they know that I´m not “a usual” guy anyways, they are not surprised about anything anymore”
Then I met Nok, and fell in love. I came back to see her a couple of times, and then we took one year a part to test if this was really something, if this was real love. We couldn’t evolve our relationship in Iceland without marriage, so we got married and we are happy to this day. Nok had two boys before I met her, but we have one son together also. The family portrait is of us all.
What do the boys think about your business, your adventure having this seaweed bathing spa?
They are used to this, they know that I´m not “a usual” guy anyways, they are not surprised about anything anymore.
I´m looking out the window, what is that I see in your big garden, this strange metallic object? Is this the Peace- globe I´ve heard about?
Well, I´ve been studying my faith a lot. When I joined others in relations of being sober, I thought to myself “ugh, that’s a hassle”, when they told me that faith had something to do with this life without alcohol.
When I started to look into various faiths, I realized that it was all the same thing, for me at least. This metal object represents peace, because I believe that all humans on earth are living in the same bubble, and we are all the same at the end of the day.
The only thing we need, so we can have peace in the world, is that people take responsibility of one self by being peaceful. Then we can be peaceful and we don’t have to judge others if we think about it, really. You can write peaceful notes and place inside the Peace- globe, that’s a ritual that I really like, asking the greater force to give us peace. God for me is some kind of a life force, this energy that binds us together is the force, and we have influences on each other.
Do you read those notes people put in there?
No I don’t have the desire to do so.
So how do you like it in this town, is it strange for you?
Well, to be honest, I haven’t landed here quite yet in my mind actually. I´m loosing my other place in Álftanes so that has been taking a lot of our time. I´m very proud of what I did over there.
But this place, well, I haven’t been living in this small and quiet town before in my life. The energy is good, its more personal and the people are united. Last year we had many artist staying here making art, as we will again this summer. We have movie screenings, a man that made a documentary and invited the whole town to come and see it and so forth.
“Ideas are floating all around us, you just have to reach up and grab one”
How are they accepting you guys, into their community?
They are very polite. But many must scratch their heads and think, what is this spa about? But I´m not shy of being different.
Lastly, are you afraid of others stealing your idea of this seaweed bath?
Not at all. I think that ideas are floating all around us, you just have to reach up and grab one for yourself. If somebody would copy my idea, I would think to myself “Well my idea is good, I really like that somebody else is doing this too, can I help?”
What does the future hold for you guys?
We are here, and we will also be offering home made dinners soon in our other house. Maybe we will have a little hotel here somewhere along the way. The future is hope, goodness and seaweed bath! Now I see Nok has made us thai- dinner. Do you have any more questions? No, thank you very much, umm this looks amazing!
We drive away from Bogi´s and Nok´s place with warmth in our hearts and belly´s,
and when I look in the review mirror I can see Bogi standing on the steps,
still waving goodbye. His eyes are engraved in my memory, honest and lively.
Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photographs: Nanna Dís