Ever since I arrived in this country, fellow expats have been telling me I should visit a jjimjilbang. It's an essential Korean experience, they say. You should definitely check one out while you're here.
Well, it's taken a while but I finally went with Angela to one here in Seoul a couple of weeks ago. In case you're not familiar with the concept, a jjimjilbang is essentially the name for a Korean bathhouse, though it offers much more than your average spa or sauna back home. In fact, some of the larger jjimjilbangs have so many extra amenities - shops, cinemas, arcades - that they feel almost like miniature holiday resorts. There are also many different scented rooms, beauty salons and massage parlours where you can preen yourself.
At its heart though, the jjimjilbang is a place to unwind and chill out after a hard day's work, whether that means taking a hot bath, sweating it out in an aromatic sauna, or sitting and chatting with loved ones in an oak-panelled lounge. Most establishments are open for 24 hours and are popular for families and individuals alike, especially at the evenings and weekends. They're also extremely cheap, and during the weekend many drunk revellers will sleep off their hangovers in a jjimjilbang for less than $10 a night.
The jjimjilbang that Angela and I visited was Dragon Hill Spa, one of the most famous and popular jjimjilbangs in Seoul.
|Dragon Hill Spa is located just near Yongsan Station. You can get there by leaving the station by Exit 1, and turning right at the bottom of the stairs.|
|Here I am just before we headed inside.|
|Dragon Hill Spa has over 6 floors of various luxuries.|
|Although there are gender-segregated areas where you bathe in the nude, we started out in the shared section, where everyone wears a loose t-shirt and shorts.|
|This is the main hall, or healing zone, where Koreans chill out and chat with friends, or indulge in the bruise-inducing splendour of over-ferocious massage chairs.|
|All the Koreans look super-relaxed in these massage chairs but Angela and I were constantly squirming as our muscles were churned like butter.|
|This was the hottest sauna in the building. It was so unbearable we could only stand it for two or three seconds.|
|The amusement arcade.|
|Back in the commons area.|
|Boiled eggs for lunch.|
|Inside the salt-sauna.|
|This one was pretty sweltering and we could only bear it for five minutes or so.|
|Fortunately there's an ice room where you can cool down.|
|There's a rooftop area though it's pretty dead in the winter.|
|We came across a tree where people can post messages and wishes. Most were in Korean, as you'd expect, but we did find this one written in English.|
|There's a gym though no one was using it when we visited.|
|This mirror was in the stairwell as we headed back down to the bottom floor.|
|A heated swimming pool. Pity we didn't bring swimwear.|
|Inside the Finnish-style sauna.|
|Me eating frozen "dippin' dots" to help cool down|
|We spent a little while in the jjimjilbang's cinema and watched the end of a pretty Japanese anime.|
|Heading home during nightfall.|
I don't know if I'll do any more blog posts on jjimjilbangs as I feel I've covered the general gist of them with this post. But rest assured, I'll be visiting them a lot while I'm here.