When you think of a sauna, the first image that may come to mind is that of sweltering-hot Turkish and Swedish saunas or Japanese hot springs. However, it seems Koreans have also mastered the art of soothing their muscles – if one visits Korea’s jjimjilbang (sauna house) experience can’t be missed!
I had no idea what to expect because I have never even heard of one. Which is ironic since I did go to South Korea, Seoul.
This jjimjilbang is a healing journey I did not expect. All gold trimmings for a royal treatment. Here in Vietnam is where I discovered this healing gem.
The floor was super hot and gold tiles with salt walls are why I am now only going to a Jimijilbang spa and wellness house.
What Is A jjimjilbang?
South Koreans, and many visitors to South Korea, are enamoured of jjimjilbangs (“bubbling baths”). These facilities feature natural hot springs and leisurely steam rooms as well as aqua-rooms that feature a pool filled with warm water. They provide an escape for businesspeople who want some downtime after work or romantically inclined individuals seeking seclusion during dates – even close companions can come together in the comfort of this soothing environment.
Jjimjilbangs are renowned for their carefully curated gender norms and segregating features, boasting both hot and cold pools as well as dry-heated rooms. You can even indulge in a soothing body scrub before tucking into a sumptuous dinner – or even get an entire night’s slumber!
If jjimjilbangs are something you’ve got your eye on, don’t let their inherent awkwardness hold you back! Though this may be exacerbated if one is a foreigner, everyone is naked when they take these off so in the end it’s all just fleeting moments of garish depravity.
Seoul is known for its plethora of jjimjilbangs, and Dragon Hill and Spa Landin Busan are the most renowned examples. But don’t be surprised if you come across a spa in your travels – it’s almost impossible not to! Just take advantage of Naver searches like ‘spas’ to discover numerous establishments all around Korea.
If you are based in Korea and plan to visit any of the country’s renowned bathhouses on Sundays, I suggest arriving at around six or seven o’clock in the evening – upon leaving these establishments, you’ll find yourself feeling revived and relaxed, with a restful night ahead.
What To Bring To A Jjimjilbang?
Before you embark, it is advisable to pack a few essentials. Should the need arise, or if you forget your toiletries in transit, don’t fret – Jjimjilbang vendors sell sundry items for an exorbitantly reasonable amount!
Here are the things I recommend you bring:
- Face mask (optional)
- Loofah or exfoliating glove
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Soap or body wash*
- Body cream*
- Empty water bottle (for the baths)
Most jjimjilbangs provide soaps and creams at their establishments, yet if you prefer having your own supplies perhaps bring them along. Alternatively, you can purchase the items at the jjimjilbang itself.
Entering the jjimjilbang
This includes two small towels, as well as a change of clothes to be mentioned soon. You will receive an irremovable key equipped with a specific number along with your locker number – it’s imperative that you don’t forget to put away your footwear and settle on whichever side is indicated for jjimjilbangs – male or female respectively
Put only your shoes in this small locker.
Navigating jjimjilbang can be a daunting prospect if you’re unfamiliar with Korean culture. However, taking off all your clothes in the locker room is an absolute must! You’ll quickly realize that being naked there won’t elicit any reaction whatsoever – and this should ease any anxiety before hopping into the baths!
Hot And Very Hot
Are you ready to take your first plunge into the bath? Each one has a unique temperature ranging from 10C to 40C, which is usually indicated above it. While I recommend alternating between hot and cool baths so as not to become lightheaded, it’s equally important that you stay hydrated! The locker area just outside offers coolers with refreshing water. Additionally, bring along your own bottle filled up – it’s ideal for keeping yourself refreshed during the entire session!
I really loved this as I could just immerse into the salt rocks.
If you don’t have the confidence to experience a Jjimjilbang. Then bring a group of you, wonderful for a hen’s night before your wedding day.
If you travel with a group of companions, refrain from creating too much clamour. Even the slightest noise could lead to stares or being hushed; if you must speak up, do so softly! Visitors to this serene location seek peace and tranquillity above all else; don’t disrupt other patrons’ relaxation by speaking loudly.
I had it all to myself which was truly amazing. I came out so healed and energised and my body was so relaxed and I could breathe so easily.
Towelling Off After Bathing
After ridding yourself of all the impurities from your baths, head back to the lockers and don those appropriate garments that were provided. Then make your way over to the main room where both men and women lie down on cushions in order to relax while ingesting their favourite TV shows. The TVs were not turned on which was really nice.
Some rooms will go up to 40C, 50C or 60C. Depending on the room, the floor will either have hot salt crystals or a wooden floor. You can doze off on the mats or rest your head on a pillow in the cooler rooms.
Each room’s walls are embellished with a diverse assortment of rocks. Those rooms might be adorned with salt, jadeite, quartz or gold-plated stones; this serves as a purification method enabling occupants to inhale the air emanating from these precious objects.
Salt Room And Volcanic Room
I had a salt room, a volcanic room with tiny balls that I could lie on. Be careful when entering as the balls are very slippery and I fell over. There were also wooden blanks to rest my head on and just take it all in. The feeling is like no other and the healing begins. I have always had sinus issues and breathing problems. The instant relief was life-changing. Also, I am going through menopause and my body is always stiff, this destroyed all aches and pains.
These are tiny small balls of volcanic rock, and the smell was lovely I did fall due to the unexpected ball movements. So be mindful of that.
I loved all the hot rooms as they took away my aches and pains and relaxed my muscles.
After each room, I liked how I had a view of the miniature iconic landmarks such as Paris to peer out to.
The Igloo Room
At minus seven this helps balance the very hot other treatment rooms. It was my least favourite of them all but essential to balance your blood circulation. But it was still an experience. Make sure you lie on the cold stones or place your feet on them. This is all about body soul and mind.
Not comfortable the least of my favourites but skincare in Korea is one of the world’s best. It seems I needed to go with what my body was craving and this was not it for this time round. Follow your gut instinct when in this spa and wellness listen to your body and go in that direction.
Hygiene After The Treatments
I strongly suggest taking a shower following your visit to the heated rooms, so as to rid yourself of any perspiration accumulated in such an environment. For those jjimjilbangs that provide hairdryers for free, yet another 100W fee may be required; whereas others might require patrons to invest in their use with commensurate charges of roughly $3 USD per 3 minutes.
After all, is said and done, Jimjilbangs provide a plethora of lotions and creams to slather on your skin. They also provide hair brushes which are sterilized; however, I recommend you bring along your own.
In order to depart, simply retrieve your locker key and venture back to the shoe lockers. From there, remove your footwear and present it along with any accrued fees toward front desk personnel – freeing you from any further obligations!
Jimjilbangs are an ideal destination for solo travellers and groups alike, providing a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation upon arrival. Whether you visit once per week or once per month; no matter your frequency of visits, you can be sure to have loads of fun!
Are you familiar with the procedures? Peruse our guide and set off for your nearest jjimjilbang!