Butt Naked in a Korean Jimjilbang

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 in Destinations, Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 21 comments

Jimjilbang

Earlier this week we took a deep breath and got butt naked at a Korean Jimjilbang (also known as a Korean sauna). Welcome to week 317 (2/16/2017) of Travel Photo Thursday. Join me as I take you into the nooks and crannies of the Dragon Hill Spa in the Yongsan area of Seoul. No need to cover your eyes. I didn’t think it was a good idea to capture any nudes during the visit. Blogger shut down for Jimjilbang nudies; no thanks!! 🙂

 

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Entering the Jimjilbang you pass by a lion, and what appears to be a Korean warrior; not very welcoming if you ask me! Then you come to short walkway flanked with bamboo and by the time you get to the door you can feel the relaxing vibes. The walk in also shows you a number of the spa items on offer. There are three or four places in the jimjilbang offering spa treatments. Most offer traditional Korean treatments, but there is also a spa offering Thai massage.

 

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

Jimjilbang

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

 

Once inside you pick up your t-shirt and shorts plus two postage stamp size towels. Be sure to bring your own towel if you want to dry off properly after your spa.Then on the left, there’s a desk where you pay your entrance fee of 12,000 Won, and receive a bracelet which tracks your spending for any extras like massage or body scrubs. The first thing you do once you’ve passed through the turnstile is to remove your shoes and place them in the locker with the number matching your bracelet. The Koreans are obsessed with no shoes inside and will take you to task should you not remove yours.

 

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

 

Then it’s up to the third-floor ladies locker room. Don’t worry; all the signage is in Korean and English. You shouldn’t end up with the men.

 

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

 

There are close to 1000 thousand lockers in this room. I was able to sneak this quick photo. There’s also a makeup and hair drying area. The locker room is both clean, modern, and comfortable.

 

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

 

Our first stop was to the saunas which are shared by both sexes, clothes mandatory. This was where our not so sexy short outfits got their workout. Our first sauna stop was the salt sauna. I was looking forward to this so I could compare with the salt cave/sauna I visited in Karlovy, Czech. Completely different!

Here I am in the Czech salt cave with, as you can see, salt covering the walls.

 

DSC_0130

 

You can see a photo of the Korean salt sauna here. The salt looks like large pinkish white pebbles, and surprisingly quite comfortable to lay. There are no chairs in the Korean salt sauna. Instead, a blanket and wooden pillow are provided. Even the wooden pillow which looks like something out of a torture chamber is comfy for your head. (No photos from me. The sauna was quite full, and many people would not appreciate their photo here on my blog!). I spent about 20 minutes here enjoying the warmth of the salt on my body.

Next, it was into the sauna fired by traditional hardwood charcoal kiln. There are a number of these saunas available, ranging in temperature from 50 degrees Celsius to 100. I opted for the one marked HOT and that was probably 90 degrees. I left the extra hot for another day. Then, it was the ice room where I cooled off with Frosty.  According to the jinjilbang website, the cold temps contract your pores and revitalize saggy skin. I went back and forth between the heat and cold for 15 or 20 minutes, enjoying the temperature extremes.

Then, it was off to the pools with temperatures ranging from a cold 22 degrees to a high of 40 plus. This is a mandatory NO CLOTHES area and for ladies only. Most of the pools have jets, which get rid of any of the aches and pains of traveling. Each pool also contains some type of medicinal herb. The most popular seemed to be ginseng, which the Koreans farm. They also believe that it can cure just about anything that ails you. Pools are located both inside and out. It was refreshing to sit outside in hot water on a cold day and brought back memories of enjoying the Banff hot springs on frigid winter days.

This is also where you can choose spa treatments ranging from an oriental hip bath to a full body scrub. If Thai massage is your thing, you’re in luck. I almost mistakenly opted for the hip bath, but quickly changed my mind when I realized that I would be sitting on a pot of hot water draped in an orange rubber “tent” for 20 to 30 minutes. There’s something about having my insides steamed that was just a bit scary. Instead, I opted for the traditional Korean body scrub; not for the faint of heart either! Close your eyes and imagine a gurney with a pink plastic mattress. You’re laying prone and your female masseuse dressed in her black bra and panties hoses you down with warm water. Then, she proceeds to scrub your skin with what feels like a brillo pad for the next 25 minutes. Doesn’t sound very relaxing, does it? Believe me, your body will be tingling, and you’ll be shocked at the number of skin cells you leave behind. One word of caution, the mattress gets slippery so hang on tight! The cost is 25,000W, and for an extra 5,000W, you can have your scalp washed and massaged.

We ended our jimjilbang experience with a traditional Korean lunch from the cafeteria-style restaurant on site. I chose the galbitang (beef rib soup), and it was delicious.

 

Jimjilbang, Dragon Hill Spa, Seoul

 

The Dragon Hill Spa is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you’re in Seoul and need a place to sleep for the night, you can opt for the warm jimjilbang floor. Especially on the weekends, you’ll find many Koreans from outside of Seoul taking advantage of this cheap accommodation option. Remember, the admission price is 12,000W, and that allows you access for 12 hours. Beyond that and you pay an additional 1000W per hour.

The spa is located next door to Seoul’s Yongsan Station. You can find location details with maps, and phone number for English, Japanese, and Chinese speaking staff here. 

Experiencing a jimjilbang is one of the most Korean experiences you can have here in Korea. Many people are shy about taking their clothes off in front of strangers. Trust me; people are polite. In fact, way back in 2010, I wrote: “Are Koreans More Polite When They’re Naked – A Visit to a Korean Bathhouse.”

Have you ever experienced a Korean jimjilbang? Would you? Let us know in the comments.

 

Please welcome our co-hosts this week: Jan from Budget Travel Talk Ruth from Tanama Tales Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations

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21 Comments

  1. I find the extremes of temperatures in hot springs invigorating too. I’ve been in Radium Hot Springs and I don’t think I could have stayed in the hot water without the cold outside air to regulate it. It was lovely standing up and cooling down before re-submerging again. When travelling it is also nice to have a hot shower afterward, shampoo your hair and blow it dry in the facilities. I’d like to try the ginseng baths.

    • Hi, Jan. The ginseng baths are nice, especially after the saunas.

  2. Great article! I haven’t been to this one, but I’ve been to the one in the bus station. It’s not nearly so elegant. But it’s still a nice experience and always handy if you miss the last bus. Although you won’t get much sleep, for all the teenagers talking and babies crying in the sleeping room. I’d opt for the Dragon Hill Spa for a real treat when you are up for a splurge.

    • Hi, Joy. I remember using the one at the Express Bus Terminal a few years back. I really liked it. The only time I stayed in a jimjilbang overnight was at the one on the bottom of the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon. It was an experience!

  3. Where did Thursday go? Sorry I am late to the linkup this week but sure did enjoy your trip to the sauna. I’d love to try this one as it looks quite inviting, especially that entryway photo at the start of the post. Of course that food looked pretty inviting too at the end of the post!

    • Hi, Jackie. I know what you mean. The days are flying by. The saunas/jimjilbang is the perfect Korean experience for any visitor. The food was delicious, too.

  4. I wish I had done this when I was there! It sounds wonderful and relaxing (except for that scrubbing treatment!).

  5. Hi, Rachel. You’ll have to come for another visit. Even the scrub is relaxing in a weird sort of way 🙂

  6. That sounds like an awesome experience! I am totally terrified by semi-public-nudity, so this would be a character-building experience for me 😀 Food looks awesome too!!

    • Hi, Monica! It is liberating. I remember the first time I went to a jimjilbang. I was terrified. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to realize that people don’t stare, and it ends up being a natural experience. You always have the postage stamp towel for a bit of cover while your walking to the pools 🙂

  7. What an interesting experience! A body scrub actually sounds rather therapeutic in a way. I love that so many ancient cultures cherished spa time as an important part of health and wellbeing, because it really is!

    • Hi, Danielle. The body scrub is fantastic. The ladies can get a little over zealous with the scrubbing, but when it was finished, I felt fantastic. I’d been missing my spa time. When I’m in Thailand, I have full body massage at least twice a week and in between foot massage. I was long overdue!

  8. You wrote your experience so well, I didn’t need photos! But, while the body scrub sounded like it “did the job”, it also sounds like it was a tad rough! I’ve had a Thai massage and liked it and can imagine I’d like this too.

    • Hi, Janice. Thanks for your kind words. Yes, the scrub ladies can get a tad over-zealous, but I felt fantastic when it was over. I’m not a big fan of Thai massage. I don’t like the pulling and stretching. When I’m in Thailand I like oil massage, which I find much more relaxing. I missed my full body massages this winter!

  9. I think it would take me a while to relax if I had to be nude in public. I guess it’s that prudish, American upbringing coming through. The warm water and the jest sounds heavenly, though. I’m guessing that postage stamps aren’t super huge in Korea either.

    • Hi, Michele. It is a pleasant experience once you get your head around the naked part. The postage stamps don’t help much 🙂

  10. What an interesting experience! I have never been to Korea, but I remember going to a spa in Budapest and getting a full body scrub. It was a very vigorous scrub… ha ha… and I feared that I would have no skin left, but it felt soooo good afterwards. My whole body was tingling!

    • Hi, Birgit. I love the end result, but I do check for missing patches of skin once finished 🙂

  11. I have never experienced or heard of a Korean jimjilbang. It looks interesting. I’ve never cared much for saunas because I feel as if I can’t breathe, but I’d certainly give the salt sauna and the hot pools with medicinal herbs a try.

  12. I haven’t been to a jimjibang but after reading your description I’d sure like to try one. I’d be intrigued by the salt sauna and the body scrub. Thanks for introducing me to this Korean spa.

  13. Well, Nancie – that’s quite an opening sentence that had me laughing! You did such a great job of describing this experience but I’m kind of glad there were no photos accompanying it. 😁 The sauna sounds amazing and I’d love to try a scrub. All that and some beef rib soup add up to a perfect day in my book!

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