Korea is known for their traditional spa experiences, or as the locals call it – Jimjilbang. The jimjilbang is a mix between a sauna, a steam room, and a Turkish bath house. Here is the breakdown…
Here you will pay for your experience, receive two towels, a key chain and get an outfit to wear. The outfit will be faded, but clean. The towels will also be clean. It is essential for these places to keep a good reputation, and usually hygiene will be good. Trust me, you will not look hot or sexy in your outfit…there’s only a limited view who can pull that off. Also, men don’t get towels- don’t let the K-drama’s confuse you.
First Lockers/Shoe lockers:
As the name suggest, these lockers are meant for your shoes. In the Korean culture shoes are not worn indoors (house, restaurant etc.). The same applies to the jimjilbang. Put your shoes in the first locker, the number will be indicated on your key chain/bracelet. Proceed to the next section.
Second lockers/Clothes lockers:
Here you will change your clothes and put on your jimjilbang outfit. This outfit is worn without any undies. No socks or slippers are allowed. You can do the traditional towel on your head (Sheep head). Follow this link to a video tutorial of the sheep head towel: How to make a sheepshead.
You can now proceed to the sleeping area, restaurant area, massage area or the Sauna/hot room.
After these, you can undress, put everything in your locker and proceed to the ‘wet area’.
Wet Area, steam rooms and baths
This area is strictly naked. Only you, your bath towel (the size of a hand towel back home) and your toiletries. Inside this room, you will find many different baths and steam rooms. The temperatures of these will be indicated on a digital thermometer. When you go into the steam room, sit on one of your towels. Try to keep the other towel dry for showering and getting dressed. After the steam room, rinse yourself under the shower before proceeding into a cold tub. You will find various showers in this area (seated, regular and chain pulled). Repeat the process twice, moving up the to the second coldest tub. Take a long shower and wash before relaxing in the various warm baths. Be sure to do the massage tub where strong streams of water will blast against your neck, shoulders, and back.
When you are done, give your key to one of the scrub ladies at the massage tables. She will call you when it’s your time to get a scrub down. These cost extra, usually around 20 000 Won. It is rather painful but really good for your skin. You feel very bright and light afterward.
After the wet room
Take one last shower, and dry yourself outside of the wet room. You will be able to see a designated drying are with special drainage grids.
Now you can proceed to the vanity area where you will be able to dry your hair and put on your makeup before getting dressed.
You can also dump your wet towels and jimjilbang outfit in the laundry baskets typically found around this area.
Remember to take all your belongings from the locker, and to get your shoes on you way out. Drop the key at the reception.
How to overcome your fear of public nudity? Just do it. You will get used to being stared at on the streets because you’re a foreigner. At the jimjilbang just imagine all the stares are for the same reason- because they probably are…