From the moment I set foot on Korean soil there was one thing that I was absolutely dying to try and I finally crossed this experience off my bucket list. That's right ladies and gentlemen; I have at long last visited a jimjilbang!!
........................................................*crickets in the distance* ...................................................................
A bath house y'all. I visited a bath house.
I think the Doctors response runs the gamut of everyone's reaction. For anyone who was not aware of this about me; I have a particular obsession with bath time. I rate hotels and campgrounds according to their bathing facilities. A quality bathtub must be able to cover boobs, knees and toes all at once. A good book + a steaming bath full of bubbles = hours of bliss. My friends and family have to put up with pictures like this from me.
I really love bath time. So when my friend asked me if I wanted to go to a jimjilbang with her it took all of my self control not to pack my rubber ducky right then and there. She wanted to go after church which was grand with me. Jesus and bath time. I can't think of a more perfect Sunday. Needless to say I loved every moment of it.
So this is the view from outside of the one Lisa and I went to. There are a couple of things you can take away from this picture. First, this is a 24 hour attraction. For 10,000 won (about $10) you can walk in and never leave. Not a bad life for a hobo that's for sure. Second you see the girl in the white hoodie? Her pink bucket? This is a BYOBW type of place. (bring your own body wash for those of you who didn't get it:) Before climbing in a tub you had better soap up and rinse off. No nasty goats allowed. Inside there was an area where you could buy toiletries but still...It's better to be prepared. Third: Do you see the distinct lack of windows? (The ones you see are for ventilation purposes) Voyeurism is frowned upon in most civilized countries. Which brings me to a very important disclaimer for anyone wanting to try this. If you're not comfortable going completely starkers in front of an audience............This is not the experience for you.
We walked in and stashed our shoes in the designated lockers. Turned the corner and were right in the middle of the common area for women. We picked a locker for our clothes; stripped down and joined the crowd headed for the showers. To the right of the glass double doors was a line of standing showers. To the left was a line of sitting showers. The center of the room was dedicated to the baths. They were freaking huge. A couple were easily the size of back yard pools. Each pool was a different temperature. Some had whirl jets for your feet and back. There was an ice bath and one that could parboil you. In one corner was a couple different saunas. In the other corner was a station were you could get a massage or be scrubbed raw. (Whichever was your preference so long as you didn't care that the women doing it were as naked as you) In between it all was about a hundred women and children chillin and going about their business. Pretty freaking nifty.
Naturally I tried every single tub and temperature. My personal favorite was the pool with the whirl jets for your back. That one had stone (tile) benches with armrests that you could lounge in. There was a button you could push that would start and stop the jets anytime you wanted. I also really enjoyed the super hot one. I definitely sat in that one until I was lobster red. (Which took all of five minutes.) Once I was satisfied exploring the tubs; Lisa and I toweled off and dressed in the prison orange shirt and shorts combo the spa assigned to us and went upstairs.
The second level of the jimjilbang was dedicated to the Dry saunas. (I don't actually know what they're called other than sweat rooms.) This area was coed. Basically the second floor was where families reconvened after taking a bath. Everyone was chilling on floor mats and pillows. Dads were sprawled out taking the dad nap. Moms brought their books or knitting and what not. Children played with the toys they brought or ran in between mats and in and out of saunas. Basically it looked like a typical beach scene without the sand and water. There was a third level dedicated to people spending the night but we didn't go up there.
Where I was sitting when I took this picture my back was against the wall with all of the saunas. The saunas themselves were a unique experience. Honestly any time I watched a Korean drama that had a jimjilbang episode I thought the prop and set people manufactured some uber cool but not really true fabrication of a jimjilbang. I didn't think there would literally be a room lined with geodes and other shiny rocks. Boy was I wrong.
I'm a sucker for rocks. Specifically warm rocks and shiny rocks so this was my favorite room hands down. If I had brought an actual paperback book with me that joker would have covered my face and it would have been lights out for me. There were a few other rooms as well and each one was a different temperature and theme.
There was one more sauna. I didn't take a picture of it because I was afraid the heat would fry my cell phone. Do you know those goofy hats that one band wore? These ones?
This sauna was shaped exactly like that. It was HOT. Holy crow Lisa and I sat inside for one minute. (ONLY ONE) and came out looking like this.
Massively sweaty and bright lobster red. There were a few crazy women (I didn't see any men in there. They were probably smarter than us.) who had blankets and towels wrapped around their heads taking naps. I think if you have to have a timer strapped to your wrist to remind you to get out before you die of heat stroke.......You should find a better place to snooze. ( and anyone who wants to chime in with how healthy it is to sweat your fat off......... I don't believe you.)
If all of that wasn't enough this place also provided snacks, beverages and dinner options. Being the foreigners we are, Lisa and I opted for fried chicken but I saw plenty of other families sitting cross legged on the floor with bowls of soup and rice. Lots of choices and dirt cheap to boot.
After one final dip in the baths we went home feeling boneless and relaxed. I have conflicted feelings about where I live now. I would kill to have a jimjilbang in walking distance of my house but I also know that I would probably be bankrupt because I would go literally every day. I know some of you are probably thinking "Wasn't it weird to be naked in front of so many people?"
Ehhhhhh.......No. I'm pretty confident about my body so it took me less than a minute to go with the flow. But you know what? Even if you're self conscious about yourself there's no reason to be because people of every shape, size, and age were there. When everyone is roaming around in the nude you're nothing special. Basically it's only weird if you make it weird. Also God knew what he was doing when Adam and Eve enjoyed life in the Garden sans undies. I usually try to get away with wearing as little as possible so having the chance to enjoy my natural state as God originally intended was simply a pleasure for me. Maybe I should just join a nudist colony.....
What do you think of my latest escapade? Have any questions about anything I said? Hit me up in the comments. Did I make you laugh or gape or horror? Do you feel slightly educated? Spread the joy and share my blog!
My name is Arielle. (Not actually named after the mermaid, but a character from Thundar the Barbarian) I am an English teacher in South Korea.