Jjimjilbang or Korean Spa & Sauna
One of the first things foreigners notice about Korea is their famous ‘pali pali’ (eng. fast) way of life. But nevertheless, Koreans also know how to relax. Jjimjilbang is a perfect example of a popular getaway for Korean families, friends and couples to spend some quality time with their loved ones during the weekends.
The word jjimjil derives from the Korean word heating and bang from the Korean word room. But the jjimjilbangs we know today are so much more then just a heating room. At this place you can find not only saunas but also relaxing hot and cold soaking pools, bathing and massage areas, entertainment lounges, and communal sleeping rooms. Some fancier jjimjilbang will also offer you noraebang (singing rooms), PC rooms, hairdressers, exercise rooms and many more! What’s more is that these jjimjilbangs are open 24/7 and are very affordable (also as place to sleep)! The cost is between 6,000-10,000 won to enter (and for a 24 hour stay!) and at that point you can freely use saunas, swimming pools, showers and communal resting areas.
1.1 Pay & receive clothing and towel
In the entrance you will find a table at the front desk with different prices, so just say ‘jjimjilbang’ to the person working in the front desk. You will then receive a key or an RFID tag to wear around your wrist, towel or two and clothes to wear inside (the clothes are usually color-coded to your gender). After leaving your shoes in the locker you can head to the appropriate section of the bathhouse designated by curtained doors labeled either yeoja (여자, women’s) or yeotang (여탕, women’s bath) for the ladies and namja (남자, men’s) or namtang (남탕, men’s bath) for the men.
1.2 Enter the changing room
Find the locker that corresponds to the number on your key, which should open it and leave all your clothes in the locker.
1.3 Shower and bath
This part might be a little squeamish for those who are not comfortable with nudity, since at this point all visitors must be naked. But believe us, no one cares if you are naked and they will not pay any special attention to you. So once you gathered all your courage you can now enter the bathing area where you will find a pool section: lukewarm (미온탕, mi-ontang), warm (온탕, ontang), hot (열탕, yeoltang), and even icy-cold (냉탕, naeng tang)! Sometimes there are massage pools (안마탕, anmatang or 마사지 풀, masaji pool) and other specialty baths, like the gold bath (금탕, geumtang), charcoal bath (짬나무, jjamnamu or 목초탕, mokchotang), and the hinoki bath (히노끼탕) where you can soak in a tub fashioned from Asian cypress tree!
For the braver one’s you can also try the Korean scrub treatment. We must say…..they are vigorous.
Or the communal area of the jjimjilbang! This part is a unisex area, so before you enter, you need to go back to the locker and put your clothes that were given to you and then follow the signs saying “fomentation”, or 찜질방. It may be on another floor or just through some hanging curtains. Now it’s time to sleep or socialize! In this area you can find all the entertainment your heart desires! Saunas, TV, video games, computers, screen golf, comic books, exercise equipment and massage chairs, snack bars, restaurants, and more grooming facilities like nail and barber shops! If you really want to experience the Korean jjimjilbang culture be sure to pick up some of the famous jjimjilbang eggs, slow-baked in the sauna! Yummy!
1.4.1 Sheep head or Yangmeori
Make sure to protect your head with the oh-so-cute sheep head look popularized by many Korean dramas. It just looks adorable and it’s also very easy to make:
1. Fold towel length-ways 3 times
2. Fold the ends over themselves until secure
3. Turn towel over and find opening
4. Pull opening apart
5. Place on head
When you’re ready to leave, just head back into the changing rooms and get back into your street clothes while throwing your jjimjilbang clothes into the bin provided. You will probably be shocked when you realize how much time you managed to spend in there ^^.
So what do you think? Will you give it a try?