Jim Jil Bang 101 – Korea Photoblog

Ever been caught in a Jjim Jil Bang and not known what to do?  Technomad Carissa shows you what to expect!

A Jjim-jil-bang (찜질방) is a large, gender-segregated public bathhouse in Korea, and it is a legit cultural experience that everyone can enjoy.  It is a place for families, couples, and individuals, both young and old. The most recent jjimjilbang I visited (and the one referenced in the photos below) is actually rather famous and much fancier than the little one nearer my house. 

“The Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa is a charcoal sauna permeating an oak fragrance created by heating the facilities through traditional techniques.  The jjimjilbang and spa facilities offer a sweating room, open-air bath, seawater bath, salt room, swimming pool, and a health center.  The main hall of Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa boasts a Chinese concept design and luxurious interior designs that have been used as a filming location for various Korean television broadcasts.”

To give you an idea of what to expect (and so you have no reason NOT to go), following is a quick jjim-jil-bang introduction.

When you first arrive at a jjimjilbang, go to the counter and pay for entrance.  Some establishments charge a flat fee, and others will charge more at peak times of day (more expensive later in the evening, after 9 pm or so).  Sometimes you pay less if you forego the change of clothes, in which case you’d only be using the hot tubs, steam rooms, and showers. (Easy Korean: Han-myeong juseyo; Translation: One person please).

They will give you a key with a number that you wear like a bracelet (those with really small wrists could sport it as an anklet).  In fancy places you’ll need to tap the number (as you would in the subway or getting on the bus with your t-money card).

Upon entering, take off your shoes, and find the little cabinet matching your number. This is where you will store your shoes.

From here, you will head into the locker room. These are obviously separated for women and men.

There are usually a few halls of lockers.

Find the one corresponding to your number.

And put all your fun stuff away.

By now you only have your towel and your key card.

Obviously, scenes from here on in will not be photographed…need I tell you, you’ll be naked?  You’ll probably want to cover up with a towel at first, but really, you’ll come to realize that no one cares.  No one stares (well ok a few people will).  While I am not a male I have heard that most Western men leave jjim-jil-bangs feeling very…umm… hmmm… content with their self esteem?

After you’ve soaked in the different tubs (some are filled with teas or scented oils, while others are of varying temperatures), try a steam room.  One is usually filled with salt; however, if you start exfoliating with the salt, be forewarned that the older women (in my case) present will be likely to offer to scrub your back… BONUS: they will usually scrub your booty while they’re at it.  Smile!  This is normal.  Plus, it adds some authenticity to your cultural experience!  Once you’re done with the naked part, you can explore the amenities offered. This particular jjim-jil-bang was pretty nice and had a lot of options: PC Bang, Media room, Pool, co-ed saunas, massage rooms, and more!

In these photos you can catch a glimpse of the very attractive outfits the bath staff loans to bathers. You will wear these anywhere both sexes congregate. This is the salt room.  It is so hot you have to wear socks.  The 100 percent pure salt is subjected to 1,800 degree heat for 42 days. It is supposed to penetrate into the body, eventually purifying troubled skin; some say it prevents osteoporosis.  Honestly, not one of my favorite rooms.

The jade room is intended to help you refocus. It is also heated, though the temperature is not as extreme as in the salt room.

This is a boy going into one of the traditional saunas lit with real Korean pine wood.

Check it out — they have an outdoor pool and sauna as well.  The pool isn’t too cool, the hot tub isn’t too hot, and overall the entire experience is enjoyable.

If you decide to spend the night at a jjim-jil-bang you’ll use one of these brick-looking things as a pillow.

Scope out the common area for a spot to retire for the evening.  Otherwise, check out the oxygen room or some of the saunas (they are turned off at night to allow for more sleeping space).

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Throughout the jjim-jil-bang experience you may buy food, massages and extras.  Some establishments will have you pay for these on the spot, yet in fancier jjim-jil-bangs you can use your key to keep a tab.  It will tally your total, and you can settle up with the person at the counter when you are ready to leave.

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