First Jjimjilbang

Last weekend in Busan, I experienced my first “jjimjilbang”.  A jjimjilbang is basically a Korean spa/sauna.  They are very popular here for many reasons.  Most of the good ones are open for 24 hours, and you can sleep there if you want.  They usually cost between $5-$10 for 24 hours.  I’ve only been to one, so I’m not sure what all the differences are between different ones.  I’ve heard some of them have different types of saunas, and aroma therapy type baths. 

Chris and I were still awake at 6am on Sunday morning, so we decided it would be fun to try a jjimjilbang.  After we found one at a hotel on the beach, we went to check in at the front desk.  Of course they didn’t speak English so once we paid and got our clothes and towels we had no idea what to do.  After a bit of charades, we gathered that in the first locker room we were supposed to put our shoes away, and then go to the next floor to changes clothes.  We also found out that the 8th floor was the relaxation floor and was co-ed.  The rest of the floors were separated by sex.  We agreed to meet up at the 8th floor after we figured everything out. 

First, I put my shoes away, and then headed up to the next floor.  It took me a long time to find my locker.  This place was HUGE.  Once I got up to the changing area and found my locker, I was really confused about what to do.  I walked around without trying to be creepy (everyone was nude).  I found the shower and sauna room, but I wasn’t sure how to get up to the 8th floor.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous walking around so confused.  I decided to shower first before putting on the clothes they give you for the same sex area.  I felt really awkward walking around nude at first.  I was the only foreigner there so I was getting a lot of stares.  I took my shower, and then went back downstairs to put on the clothes.  Then, I had no idea how to get up to the 8th floor, so I walked around until I found this weird hallway to the elevators.  I found Chris waiting for me on the 8th floor, and he looked so relieved.  Soon, we figure out that all that was in the co-ed area was the sleeping room and a little store to buy water, etc. 

The sleeping room, was basically a huge room surrounded by windows with a panoramic view of the beach.  It was pretty amazing.  We both agreed that we should have just “slept” here instead of paying for a motel room where we had to sleep on the floor anyway.  It was packed full of people though.  I even saw some children.  We both discussed how confused we were about everything, but we decided we wanted to see what it was all about, so we agreed to meet back by the elevator in a half hour.  I would have liked to stay longer, but we both agreed since we hadn’t slept in over 24 hours..we didn’t want to risk falling asleep in a hot tub. 

So, I went back to the changing room to disrobe again. I’m sure anyone watching me was really confused.  I must have been back and forth at least 3 times by this point.  I quickly realized all the pools and hot tubs were in the shower room, just a little further in and around the corner.  There were probably about 9-10 different pools of different temperatures (ranging from really cold to really hot).  First, I got in the 40 Celcius pool and stayed in there for about 10 minutes.  Nearby, I saw the “salt sauna” and the “wet sauna”, so decided to try those.  The salt room was really good, but I only stayed in for about 5 minutes.  I tried the wet sauna, but it was too hot so I only stayed in for about a minute or two.  Then, I found one pool that was outside.  This one was my favorite and I spent the remaining time here.  It was amazing.  It was an outdoor hottub, but it was enclosed in glass so the other side couldn’t see through (it was too high up anyway).  There was something so liberating about laying nude in a hot tub overlooking the beach at sunrise.  I didn’t want to leave, but I had to go meet Chris.  As soon as we saw each other we both were exclaiming how amazing this place was.  I can’t wait to go back!

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