Standing in a room full of strangers completely naked is most people’s idea of a nightmare. Our latest adventure put us in that nightmare but what surprised me most was how relaxing it was! Why was I naked you ask? It was all part of the jjimjilbang experience, or Korean baths!
The jjimjilbang is used as a social, relaxation and sleeping space. It is split into two sections, the baths (or naked section) which is separated by gender and the saunas and relaxation zone which is where you meet up with the boys and try different saunas, loungers or even have dinner and a manicure!
Whilst in Busan Andy and I decided to try a jjimjilbang out, the one we went to was in Centrum City called spa land which is on the bottom floor of the world biggest department store, Shinsegae. We paid our 12,000₩ ($12/£8) and went through to the first set of lockers which was for our shoes, the key was registered to our own ‘account’ which when in the jjimjilbang is used as money. We were given an outfit and the tiniest towel you have ever seen!! (More like a face cloth) Then we went our separate ways into the baths.
It was time to get naked and I will admit I was terrified, not only would I be naked in front of hundreds of strangers but I would stick out like a sore thumb with my white skin, blonde hair, tattoos and the twins! The key from my shoe locker also correlated with another bigger locker for my clothes, which to my dismay was the longest naked walk to the baths!
They are very strict on how you enter the baths, you must have a full shower (in full view of everyone of course!) making sure you are clean and do not contaminate the water. Then you are free to chose from 14 different baths all with different properties and temperatures. Baths ranged from 20°C to 43°C with different types of water including natural hot springs (which were outside!) to sodium chloride (salt, said to benefit the muscles and joints) and another with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, said to “improve beauty of the skin”).
After a few stares and points I slowly started to relax and enjoy myself. After 10 minutes I didn’t even notice I was naked. It was so relaxing going between baths feeling my body go into complete relaxation mode! I then went into the Finnish Sauna followed by the plunge pool, then onto the outdoor hot spring. 20 minutes in and I was all but strutting around! As this section is gender separated Andy and I agreed to meet up 30 minutes later in the ‘meeting zone’ although I could have stayed much longer in the baths.
Looking around women were chatting and laughing with each other, washing each other in the showers and relaxing. The layout was really cool as the baths all connected together in almost a paisley pattern with showers (most sitting, some standing) all around the room. Just as I was at 100% relaxation… it became awkward. I looked up and saw another foreigner. Now usually this would be an opportunity to make a friend, however sitting there naked I was out of my comfort zone to make a new friend. We both glanced at each other then both pretended not to see each other! Luckily it was time for me to go so I went to the showers gave myself a good scrub and went to get changed.
After the baths the genders come together and many of the girls will dry they hair with the many hair dryers (and I mean ALL of it) and do their make-up in preparation for meeting up with the men. Personally I just towel dried my hair and went out to meet Andy so we could swap stories.
The next part of the Jjimjilbang had loads of different saunas all with different properties and temperatures again. There was the salt room, (sauna with lots of salt around) Roman Room, (replicates the feeling of a traditional Roman sauna room) Hammam Room, (replicate a Turkish-style bath sauna) The pyramid room (room is at an angle of 52 degrees which is meant to be the best angle at which to absorb energy from the universe) There are about 16 saunas in total and they all have an English explanation so you know what temperature and properties the room holds.
Andy and I then went upstairs to the relax room which was an amazing 3-tiered arc-shaped space with reclining leather chairs together by two’s, each one equipped with it’s own mini TV! We skipped past this and went through to the last area where there was a cafe, restaurant, beautician, massage chairs and o2 tanks. Andy and I went in for a 30 minute session in the O2 tank which looked like something out of a space movie!
Andy didn’t enjoy this however I LOVED it, I lay down with a face mask on listening to the music I was given by the lady which happened to be a mix of Westlife and the Titanic soundtrack (clearly she had done her homework on me!) At first it felt like there is too much pressure in the tank but once it settles down it feels almost like you can breathe deeper and fill your lungs more! The O2 tanks were 15,000₩ each for 30 minutes ($15/ £9) which we just ‘paid’ for my beeping our keys.
For the next 2 hours we tried out everything the jjimjilbang had to offer including the AMAZING massage chairs which are unlike any other 2,000₩ ($2/£1) for 20 minutes. Unlike most massage chairs these ones are intense and literally massage right down to your fingers and toes… they were so good that we went on them twice!! (again paid for by beeping your key!)
Before finishing up we decided to go to the outdoor foot spa which was outside (duh!) and again were sourced from the natural springs 100m below, it was lovely!
Finally it was time to go as unlike most jjimjilbang’s Spa Land has a four hour limit, and longer will cost you. (usually you can spend the night in one!) We went to get changed then met out the front to hand in our keys which you then paid for what you used. In total Spa Land cost us 30,000₩ each ($29/£17) which I think was a bargain for four hours of spa time!!!!!
Despite the naked part, I enjoyed this WAY too much and came out feeling so clean and relaxed. It will defiantly be something we do again…. just maybe not on Geoje in case I bump into someone I know!!