Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jjimjilbang and Public Bath

Last night, I went to Spaland inside Shinsegae. It was the first time that I had ever been to a spa. I knew that there were public baths, but I did not know what else to expect. I had not planned to go there until I got to work. One of the Korean teachers asked me if I wanted to go to the spa with her and one of the Korean staff members. Since I did not have any other plans, I decided to go.

The first thing one does is check-in and get a locker number. Then, one goes upstairs to where the shoe lockers are and puts the shoes inside and takes the key. Then, one goes through the entrance and gets a uniform and towels. The women's uniforms are faded olive green shorts and a maroon t-shirt and the men's uniforms are very burnt orange shorts and a tan t-shirt. Then, one goes into the locker rooms and gets changed. After that, one goes out to where the rooms and outdoor foot baths are. The water was around 40 degrees Celsius. Some of the rooms are very hot, around 60 degrees Celsius. These hot rooms are called jjimjilbang (찜질방). There is a relaxation room and on the third floor, there is a room full of recliners and televisions. The speakers were in the head rests and it was impossible to hear the televisions of anybody else. The spa also has a restaurant, business center, nail salon, hair salon, and massage room. When one if ready to leave, it is time to take a bath. The public baths are entered from the locker rooms. One has to wash before getting into the public baths. The baths are not too different from a hot tub, except that everybody is naked. There is also an outdoor hotsprings. After one gets dressed, one checks out and gets one's shoes.

I was a bit nervous about going into the public baths for the first time because I'm not an exhibitionist, but then everything was okay. I was the only Westerner in the locker rooms. Unlike in many locker rooms in the Western world, nobody went out of her way to cover up in front of everybody, and there weren't really any private showers. The public baths is an experience that is not so bad after experiencing it; however, I would not want to go to a public bath in America.


AnnG said...

There's a very popular women's spa in Tacoma, in which the women are naked for everything. The newspaper did a story about it one time. I would not be comfortable going there; I'd be too worried about seeing someone I know -- even if it was just another female! I'm curious why you wouldn't go to a public bath in America, but found the Korean one to be OK once you got into it?

Debbie said...

Maybe because it's unlikely she'll see anyone from Ephrata there?

Tony said...

Interesting reading. :)

I googled "public bath Pusan" to find your blog, since I was trying to find the name of the public bath I went to in Pusan this summer. I actually see your post is dated only 2 days before when I went there!

Anyway, it didn't help me in finding the name of it, but it was interesting to read about your experiences (which was very similar to mine)