Jjimjilbang…Korean Spa Land

What does one do on a rainy day in South Korea? Well Kitty and Santa went out searching while in Busan for the weekend and found Spa Land, a Korean jjimjilbang. We had heard previously about these spas also known as public bath houses, but everyone said if you live in Korea its something you MUST experience….and was it ever an experience (always is with us).

We tracked down how to get to Spa Land from our hostel, got off the subway and were greeted by the immaculate Shinsegae, the worlds largest department store. Well there was no way we were going to pass this kind of shopping up so we spent the first few hours making purchases with our well earned Wons (Korean $). We felt like we were flying around the Shinsegae in pretty red dresses, OH look. This ad matches our emotions exactly.

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After shopping we decided to find Spa Land. We were on our way to leaving the Shinsegae when a map told us it was located inside the mall. Perfect! A few escalator rides up, down…back up again and we arrived at the front desk looking like the infamous bag ladies.

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Kitty and Santa paid a whopping $12 USD each to get into this amazing land of spas. We kindly asked the receptionist if there were lockers for us to store our bags in at the Spa and she nodded yes. Great. Kitty and Santa were handed little bracelets that would allow us to make purchases inside the spa, we weren’t really sure what that meant but we headed in.

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The first thing Kitty and Santa do in every Korean establishment is take off our shoes, so I have no clue why we would forget this time. Our first set of lockers were meant only for our shoes before entering the Spa Land, but being the bright individuals we are Kitty and Santa sat staring in confusion at these mini lock boxes. “How in the world are we going to fit all of our bags in this shoe box?” Kitty asked. Santa started grabbing items and shoving them into the tiny tiny box. “This can’t be right” she said. “What about our clothes? Do we wear our jeans into the spa? What are we suppose to be wearing? Do you see any naked people around here? What are people doing? This is weird. Should we just leave?” Kitty and Santa became a box of questions before putting their shoes back on and retracing their steps down to the reception desk. Politely approaching we asked again, “umm, excuse me. All of these bags here, is there somewhere where we can fit all these bags?” The woman politely nodded yes and pointed up the stairs, so back up we went. This time we followed someone to their locker and watched. AHH. Just our shoes! Got it. We locked them up and in we went.

Upon entering we were handed matching jumpsuits to change into and 2 small hand towels, then we’re directed towards the women’s side of the spa. We walked in and awkwardly scurried around trying to find our lockers. The first thing that Kitty and Santa noticed was that nobody was wearing their pretty jumpsuits. Maybe its just a locker room thing? We walked around a little bit (this place should have come with an instruction manual) and then figured it out…

Step 1: Get naked

Step 2: Take a shower/scrub until your raw. Easier said than done (we can spare the details here)

Step 3: Explore the soaking tubs

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: We found it funny that Koreans go to the beach fully clothed because wearing a swimsuit in the sand would be a ridiculous idea, but walking around naked in a bath house full of woman is like taking a stroll in the park. Us Americans on the other hand have no problem showing some skin while getting our tan on at the beach, but acted like middle schoolers forced into the shower after PE when we had to walk around naked. Kitty and Santa thought that all the people staring at us on the streets were bad, well take off all our clothes and you’ve got yourself Asia’s favorite sitcom. HA!

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We enjoyed a few hot tubs and then ran back to the lockers with our hand towels to put some clothes on and check out what else this place had to offer.

Kitty and Santa would do it all again just for what awaited us around the corner. There were over a dozen different hot sauna rooms, all at different temperatures with different themes and benefits for your health. Snack bars around every corner. There were places to nap…every where. Beds on the floor, reclining beds, massage chairs, reclining chairs, rooms with different lighting. The entire spa area is covered with glass windows, so on a rainy day this was absolutely the most relaxing thing we could have ever asked for. We ate at a delicious Korean restaurant on the top floor, used our little bracelets to pay, Cha Ching! We watched movies on a personal flatscreen in lazy boy chairs. Had a message. There was a full salon available, an outdoor foot soaking pond and shopping! The best part was we did it all in matching jumpsuits with towels wrapped around our wet hair. We looked ridiculous but felt amazing, and that my friends is why the lady in red was flying.

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