Jimjilbangs or bath houses are usually have a love/hate relationship with expats. Some love them, some hate them. When I first heard a jimjilbang being described, I was certain I would never step foot inside the door of one and now, it is one of my favourite places to go.
Here’s the low down on a jimjilbang for those of you living abroad or not familiar with them. A jimjilbang is a place where you can go to enjoy different baths, saunas, steam rooms, massages, eat and/or sleep. They are all different and apart from the baths, offer different facilities. For example Dragon Hill in Yongsan offers different types of massages as well as having outdoor baths. Siloam at Seoul Station is not so big on baths but has a great sleeping area.
Basic prices range from 10,000 won to 20,000 won with additional costs for the massages and food. You pay at the front desk and are handed a uniform and key. Shoes are taken off and put in a locker (usually corresponding with the key number). Men and women have separate areas. If you wish to you the bath, you must be naked. This is the part that expats usually find strange at first. I admit that sometimes it is awkward as hell to have a load of naked adjummas staring at you but the trick is to remember that they’re staring not at you but at your skin because it’s so different (or that’s what I tell myself). After a few minutes though, it’s usually fine. Then you enjoy the baths for as long as you so wish. One of the best things to get done is a skin scrub. This crazy random scrub is done by an adjumma who literally scrubs all the dead skin off your body. While it’s a little painful, it’s totally worth it for the great skin afterwards. Going with a group of friends is a great idea as it’s fun, relaxing, and oh so warm in the winter.
Afterwards, you can put on your uniform and head back out to the communal area to enjoy the other facilities. This could be as simple as sitting on the floor chatting with your friends or using the different saunas. Should you happen to be a fan of the norebang, some (like Siloam at Seoul Station) have one, there is usually a P.C. Bang, sometimes a gym, a meeting room, there are big t.v’s or you could just go to sleep. Some Jimjilbangs are huge places spanning 7 or 8 floors (like Dragon Hill) and others are more basic 2 or 3 floor ones. I’d literally be here all days telling you what you can get done at a jibjilbang. Just to name a few things, there is usually a nail salon, hair dresser, massages area, massage chairs, norebangs, pc bangs, meeting rooms, shoe repair, if you can imagine it, it’s probably in a jimjilbang in Korea somewhere.
Sleeping for the night at a Jimjilbang is cheap and cheerful if you need accommodation. Most of the time, it’s just a mat and head block on the floor with loads of people around but some jimjilbangs now have separated sleeping rooms. The best sleeping rooms I have found so far are in Siloam near Seoul Station. I recently stayed there with friends and we were all suitably impressed by the entire place. The sleeping room there (separate men’s and women’s) has cubicles so you get enough space and privacy to enjoy a good nights rest. The only down side to them is that they have no plug points so you can’t charge your phone while sleeping but with literally a hundred to choose from you’ll never be stuck for a space.
Jimjilbangs are, in my opinion, best in winter. There is nothing like escaping the intense cold and spending the day enjoying the jacuzzi or the sauna, having a nap and a little snack before heading back out to the real world. So, if you haven’t already tried one, don’t fear, get out and do it! Here are the details of two of my favourites in Seoul,
Siloam Spa- Seoul Station-http://silloamsauna.com/site_en/main/main.asp
Dragon Hill, Yongsan- http://www.dragonhillspa.co.kr/hill/eng.html
As ever if you have questions or comments, leave them below!