Well, I am living abroad...yet again. After Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Korea the Netherlands (and returning to Spain for a Masters) I've unpacked my backpack a little closer to home in Mexico. I live in Culiacan where I am trying my hand at teaching English to University and high school students. Below you'll find random updates as I go to festivals, explore my city or just feel like sharing a random story.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Jim Jil Bang 101

A jjim-jil-bang is a truly cultural expereince that everyone should enjoy, it is a place for family, for couples, for the younger generation and the older generation. The most recent jjim-jil bang I went to (and the one photos are of below) is actually rather famous and much fancier than the little one near my house.

"The Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa is a charcoal sauna permeating an oak fragrance created by heating the facilities through traditional techniques.
The jjimjilbang and spa facilities offer a sweating room, open-air bath, seawater bath, salt room, swimming pool, and a health center. The main hall of Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa boasts a Chinese concept design and luxurious interior designs that have been used as a filming location for various Korean television broadcasts."

To give you an idea of what to expect (and so you have no reason NOT to go) the following is a quick jjim-jil-bang introduction. When you first arrive at a jim jil bang go to the counter and pay for entrance. Sometimes it is a flat fee, sometimes they charge more after a certain time (8pm or 10on or so). Sometimes you pay less if you don't get the clothes to change into in which case you'd only be using the hot tubs and steam rooms and showers. (Easy Korean: Han-myeong juseyo Translation: One person please)

They will give you a key with a number that you wear like a bracelet (or those with really small wrists anklet). In fancy places you'll need to tap the number (as you would in the subway or getting on the bus with your t-money card)

Then you take off your shoes, and find the little cabinet matching your number. This is where you will pull your shoes.

From here we head into the lockers. These are obviously separated into women and men.

There are usually a few halls of lockers.

Find the one with your number.

And put all your fun stuff away.

From here you only have your towel and your key card.

Obviously scenes from here on will not be photographed...needless to say you're naked. You'll probably want to cover up with a towel at first, but really no one cares. No one stares (well ok a few people will). While I am not a male I have heard that most western men leaves jjim-jil-bangs feel very...umm... hmmm... content with their self esteem?

After you've soaked in the different tubs (some of them filled with teas, or scented oils, others of varying heats. They have some steam rooms, one is usually filled with salt; if you start exfoliating with the salt be aware that older women will be likely to offer to scrub your back...and they will usually scrub your booty while they're there...its normal...and a cultural expereince! Once you're done with the naked part you can head to whatever your heart desire. This jjim-jil-bang was pretty nice and had a lot of options: PC Bang, Media room, Pool, some co-ed saunas, massage rooms, and more!

In these photos you'll see the very attractive outfits they give you. You wear these anywhere where both sexes congregate. They have options like salt rooms. They are so hot you have to wear socks. The 100 percent pure salt is subjected to 1,800 degree heat for 42 days. It is supposed to penetrate into the body, eventually purifying troubled skin. Some say it prevents osteoporosis; honestly...not one of my favorite rooms.

The jade room is a room that is supposed to help you refocus. It is also heated, though not as much as the salt room.

They aren't all jade and salt; they also have traditional saunas made from Korean pine wood.

If you are tired of being hot and sweaty, check out the pool (outdoors), if hot and sweaty is your thing then check out the outdoor sauna as well. The pool is comfortable(it is warm but not hot), the hot tub isn't too hot and overall the entire experience is enjoyable.

If you decide to spend the night at a jjim-jil-bang, often cheaper than staying in a hotel, you'll use one of these brick looking like things as a pillow.

Head to the common area and you'll be sure to find a spot. Otherwise check out the oxygen room, or some of the saunas that are turned off at night for more room to sleep.

Now throughout the jjim-jil-bang expereince you may buy food, massages and extras. You either pay for these on the spot, or in fancier jjim-jil-bangs you use your key. It will tally your total and when you leave the person at the counter will tell you how much additional you owe.

I spent a lot of time in Korean bathhouses and truly loved it! If you give it a shot, let me know what you think!


surfchic1983 said...

Hey, thanks for the info! i've been here 5 mos and still have yet to go to a jimjilbang...knowing all the details in advance makes me even more determined to go...although i must say I'd still prefer to go with a buddy the first time!

brian.j.bowers said...

Thanks for the detailed coverage! :)