*This post is based on the trip I took to Korea, September 2014. This post was not sponsored in any way, and merely serves to share my own first experience of the Korean bathhouse*
One of the things I REALLY wanted to do this time around, was to go to a JimJilbang.
What is a jimjilbang you ask?
Basically it is a Korean Bath House/Sauna. With a lot of the smaller single room residences, it means that there is only a shower head atop the toilet. No bathtub. Not a huge deal, but there are times you just want to soak. Also, culturally, its a fun bonding thing for families through their gender specific sections. I mean, my friend used to go with her mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother!
Now, the thing is…you gotta be nekkid as the day you were born. Yes. Nekkid.
Before getting there, let me back track.
Silloam Sauna is located near Seoul Station. You walk down/take the long escalator the back entrance (not the side with the long escalator), and walk towards your right. You will have to walk under an overpass, to the other side of the street. Then you have to walk up a slope, and around the building to get to the entrance. It isn’t as difficult as my instructions make it. If my cousin wasn’t with me, I totally would have taken a video haha.
The Cost/The Locker
Once you enter, you tell the person at the desk which you want, bath, or bath + Jimjilbang. Depending on the time of day that you go, you will be charged less or more. Since I wanted to enjoy a relaxing time before my flight the next day, I was there for the overnighter. I paid 15,000 won (very loosely $15 CAN). You walk in, and met with the raised floor. TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES! Then pick a box, and shove them in, and proceed to the counter with the key you have removed. At the counter, you will exchange the key with another one, which will give you your locker key (which also corresponds to your shoe locker number).
If you have a passport/wallet/valuables like I did, you want to leave it with them. You will sign a document, and they will give you another key (this is the reason why I had two keys with me my time there). You will WANT to do this, as the lockers are not sturdy at all. Make sure you take out some money before leaving your wallets and stuff with the counter locker though.
You will then be given clothes to eventually change in to, and a small towel. You will notice that this towel is not a huge body towel.
Proceed to the locker with your number. Make sure you have your stuff, and don’t need to buy certain things…as it can get awkward to do it after the next step. STRIP DOWN NEKKID! Shove your clothes in the locker, take your cleaning stuff, take your towel, and head downstairs.
There you will meet double doors, a VERY accurate scale, and lots of mirrors. Did I mention it was also super bright?!? haha
Enter the double doors, grab a stool, grab a small basket, and find an area to clean yourself. I chose to use the sitting down ones, as I was tired from my day.
Now the fun part. It is very steamy inside. Rinse down the body, and use your scrubber to scrub off all your gross dead skin. It actually gets a little fun, seeing the skin pill up. If you don’t want to do it yourself, and don’t mind being nekkid as an older lady scrubs you down, there is also a paid service where they will scrub you good. I obviously opted not to do that. I spent a good 15 minutes making sure I was squeaky clean. This is not a mandatory option. You really should clean yourself due to the other offerings of the area. I washed my hair, washed my face, and brushed my teeth. I then placed my stuff to the side, and climbed into one of the baths.
The baths…were…luxurious. A little hot for some of them, but damn good. My favourite was the Mugwort Bath, which smelled very herbal-y, then the Charcoal bath, and then the cold bath. Seriously, if you ever find a Mugwort bath…do it. I can’t say really why, but it was just AMAZING. Quite hot, but super soothing at the same time.
Now, apparently it is good to jump into the cold bath, and back out to something else. Something about circulation. Even if that was not the case, I did it anyway as I wanted to cool off my skin. The other thing is, you want to rinse your body off before entering a new bath. Get a small bucket, and do this before you get in. I forgot to do this in the beginning >_<
They also had massage baths. I think the two on the website were only for the guys bath, as I don’t recall seeing them. But they were nice cause I had basically hurt my lower back the day earlier (a kid dashed out of nowhere and I twisted to avoid knocking him over…meaning I pulled something in my back. It was pretty painful, and I couldn’t walk too much…and yet I over exhausted myself from the touring this day).
There are also saunas, if you can tolerate it. I usually don’t mind dry saunas, but DANG these were HOT. I mean, I really wanted to survive the Salt Sauna (rub it on you, and let it dry off), but it was just too hot. I wanted to use the slightly less hot one, but a woman was doing weird stretches…remember…we are all still nekkid.
The Bathing Exit
I probably spent a little over an hour here. Wished I could have stayed longer, but I needed to eventually get some sleep. So I made my way out of the bath, to the room with the scale, crazy bright lights, and huge mirrors. OH! I forgot to mention that this area also has a water machine. Make sure you hydrate properly, especially if you are using the hot saunas.
Anyway, here you will pat yourself dry (there are extra towels if you need them), fix your hair a bit, clean your ears etc. Clothing and hair drying is done up stairs, after you access your locker.
I stepped on the crazy accurate scale. I know I have gotten way heavier than I would like. It is something I am working on, since I finished school. I want to be back to my pre George Brown College days. I was fine with that. Probably need another 20 pounds to go though. But, it is something I need to do since I am getting older, and I am starting to feel the weight. So, the scale is scary, but hey, also good at the same time.
The Return to the Locker
If you need an extra dry towel, take one before you climb the stairs. Head to your locker, put away your cleaning stuff, and dress in the clothing that they provide you. The shirt is heavy enough that you could go braless…depending on how busty you are/comfort level. I’m not very big, and I didn’t want to make mine all gross. Dry your hair (there are machines you put coins into to use). I chose to air dry. I brushed my teeth. Oh, there is also a smoking room should you want to smoke.
The Upper Level JimJilBang/Wifi Access
As you are getting ready to leave, put your towel in the big garbage looking this, then head upstairs. Check your face out in the mirror if you like, as the stairs all have mirrors. The other thing is that there are mini lockers/cubbies with locks, that you can stash your phone or whatever inside. You don’t have to leave them downstairs. I chose to leave my phone in my pocket. There is a separate wifi system for each floor, so you will need to reconnect if you move. The connection was fairly good.
As you noticed up in the beginning, in order to access the Jimjilbang/Sauna, you need to purchase the bathhouse fee. I mean, you want to be clean while you sweat.
Since I was there on a Tuesday evening, it was pretty empty. There were a lot of people, but at the same time, there wasn’t.
I didn’t take many pictures, as I was usually in rooms with other people. I didn’t want to be creepy.
Since I couldn’t tolerate the Salt Sauna in the Bathing area downstairs, I wanted to use the Salt Sauna up stairs. Huge rock salt, that I buried my legs into. I lay down and chilled there for a bit. The attendants for the floor will come in once in awhile to ensure you don’t fall asleep, but telling you not to fall asleep.
There are different rooms, but my favourite were the Salt, Jade, and Charcoal. The Charcoal was nice and cool, yet not so cool that you would be cold. The Jade was fun because of the stones that you can lay down on.
The Grotto was nice. There is a light in each individual one, and you have your own space. Unfortunately there was an older lady who was snoring away, so I didn’t stay there too long. I would have loved to sleep peacefully like her though.
The Sleeping Rooms
I went up to the sleeping areas, which was the main reason I selected the Silloam to stay before my return home. The fact that there were price little sections really appealed to me. However, it was REALLY empty, and though there is security, I opted to sleep downstairs in the mixed area of the Blue Jade room. I got the end spot in a row, and it wasn’t too noisy despite some snoring people. Got a few hours of sleep. If you have your phone with you, tuck it in somewhere. I tucked it under my side, so I could feel the vibration of my alarm. If you don’t need to wake up at a set time, you could just lock it in the floor locker.
The Wake Up
I woke up a little early, as I wanted to dip in the baths again. Once I got back to the lockers, I took off the clothes, and dropped them off in the Garbage like container. I washed up, then soaked in the baths again.
Check out Grrrl Traveler blog for more info/pictures.
Check out the other posts
Korea 2014 Flying with Delta
Korea 2014 EG Sim
Korea 2014 Sleeping Accommodations
Korea 2014 Wandering Around Dongdaemun
Korea 2014 Naminara Republic
Korea 2014 National Museum of Korea
Korea 2014 Bing Bing Bing + Misc