Learn to love the Jimjilbang!

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!

Sleeping in Incheon Airport- Spa on Air, a review.

I don’t make a habit of sleeping in airports. I also don’t make a habit of sleeping there for the good of my blog, I was actually leaving on a trip. Now that we’re clear on that here’s how it all happened.

My conspirator, Olivia, and I were heading to the Feis in Shanghai. So, as a result of not wanted to get up at ridiculous o clock to catch a bus, to the train to get to the airport, we decided to give Spa On Air, the jimjilbang in Incheon Airport a go.

It was a Thursday night at midnight by the time we arrived. The airport was eerily quiet and we set off on the journey to find Spa on Air. Signage for the place is a joke. Couple this with the fact that I can’t read those ridiculous “you are here” maps and the whole thing was a special experience. Eventually, we found 2 adjummas having a break and we were grateful to find signs of human life. We thought we left it behind when we got off the AREX. They were good enough to point us in the right direction and we headed further into a land of nobodies. Eventually, we stumbled onto an area with flags for the much sought Spa on Air and with great relief approached the nice lady at reception. The only thought was that, with this many people not in the airport, there couldn’t possibly be too many people wanting to sleep in Incheon on a random Thursday night in March. I was wrong. No private rooms left (although at that random hour, I wasn’t surprised) but it would cost me 20,000 for a sleep over. This is definitely more expensive that regular jimjilbangs. (It is possible to ring ahead and get a reservation. Here is a link to their number http://www.airport.kr/airport/facility/efalicityInfo.iia?carId=39)
As we changed into our uniforms (the shorts and t-shirt provided at reception, mine could have fit a small family), it was clear that you were paying for quality. The dressing room was beautiful, lockers were large and the toilets were clean and new, ( No squatters here). We also had cleanser and cotton wool to remove makeup and hair dryers and all the usual things to make you look normal. There were mirrors everywhere (possibly so you could enjoy how great you looked in your uniform?) and it was all nicely decorated with signs in English and Japanese.



Next task, find somewhere to sleep. They have a lounge room with reclining chairs that look super comfortable, I wouldn’t know since everyone else had taken them and we had to make do with mats on the floor. Not to worry, sleep is sleep. Until someone leans too far back on their recliner and the entire chair falls with the loudest crash, just centimetres away from your head at 4am. There’s the usual coughing, snoring, talking, walking etc. going on during the night so although I caught a few hours shut eye, Olivia didn’t.

Next morning, up, shower, ready and what do you know, you’re already in the airport so it took us about 5 minutes to stroll to the check in desk.

All in all, I definitely would stay here again if, 1) I arrived back too late to take public transport and 2) I arrived early enough to get either a private room or a recliner. It’s the small things in life.


*Update- August 2013.

I’ve just stayed at Spa on Air before my trip to Malaysia. I rocked up around 7pm and there was loads of space. Although the recliners are very comfortable I just couldn’t sleep so I found a small sleeping room and slept on a mat on the floor. It was a surprisingly great nights sleep. Quiet, peaceful, and comfortable. The showers and baths here are lovely. They keep your suitcases at the front where they are safe and supervised until you leave.

What I liked;

  1. The place is super clean and new
  2. The staff speak English
  3. The lockers are big enough to fit a small suitcase.
  4. The showers and baths are great
  5. The changing room is spacious, quiet and well stocked with beauty products.
  6. There are loads of places to sleep. The lounge chairs, the public sleeping rooms and the private but public sleeping rooms.

What I didn’t like

  1. If you arrive really late, you might have to sleep on the floor in the lounge area which can be a little noisy with people coming and going and snoring etc
  2. The signage for the place is really bad.