Wednesday, 2 May 2012

My first jjimjilbang


For those of you that don't know what a jjimjilbang is, I'll explain. A jjimjilbang is a Korean spa. It pretty much has the same facilities as a spa back home, except there are certain parts that you have to do in your birthday suit. Because of this, I don't have any pictures to show for our spa visit really. Sad times.

It'd been loitering on our list of things to do amongst the other things with thick black marks through them. It was something that veteran foreigners and co-workers alike told us it was just something you had to do while you were in Korea. So after an impromptu day off on Tuesday was announced, we decided to go for it.

We settled on going to SpaLand. A luxurious spa based in Shinsegae Shopping Centre, which is the world's largest department store. 

We got as far as paying, taking off our shoes, being handed our lovely maroon and grey spa pajamas before I had my first freak out. We were in the changing room, there were naked bodies all around us and I looked at Natasha and said to her 'I don't think I can do it'. By that time Tasha was already down to her underkegs and in a proper seargeant major style she turned to me and said 'You have to, but don't look at me'. 

My main worry was that in half the facilities you had to be covered with your pajamas, in the other half you had to be naked. We can't read Hangeul and I had visions of us strutting into the restaurant naked while everyone else gawped at us.

Maybe a bit of a digression, but it doesn't help that Koreans use tea towels to dry themselves here, so even the towel we were provided with didn't offer much coverage as we cautiously walked towards the sliding doors of the lady's spa.

There was an awkward moment when I whipped off my bottoms, then realised i needed to tie up my hair, Tasha pointed out I was doing a Tony the Tiger by only having my top on, which I then had to point out that it was more Donald Duck as Tony only wears a neck scarf. Eugh.

Well as my eyes adjusted it was like a scene from Gorillas in the Mist. Except there were only one or two gorillas, outnumbered by gorgeous asian women who didn't bat an eyelid as the two tattooed westerners that lumbered in. They were far too busy doing a manner of things, scrubbing each others backs, ped egging their feet and one was limbering up for god knows what by touching her toes. But most were just lounging around in pairs or groups, chatting and having a grand old time. I think the relaxing atmosphere was contagious because soon enough we were not so self conscious and dipping in and out of the hot baths, cold pools, jacuzzis and even braved the outdoor spring.

My main concern before I went was how different I would look from everyone. I already feel like a giant here, but as soon as we got in, it was apparent that there were all shapes and sizes there, shaking their bootays around and not batting an eyelash at us.

One tip I would say is that make sure you eat, either before you go or when you're there. I hadn't had anything before i went, and had gone quite heavy on the Makgeolli the night before so kept going really light headed. Because of that we decided to rock our PJs and go and check out what was happening in the mixed section.

A caramel latte later, we were ready to explore, there was an outdoor foot spa with heated pools and cute little log stools you could sit on, a few lounges where some people were taking naps, a relaxation room where every lazy boy-esque chair had it's own TV and a bizarre room where you were supposed to lie down and feel the vibes of the music being played, at the time Fame was being played and the lighting made me feel like I was in Blue Monkey, so we left. My favourite was a hot but dry heat, the building was made out of logs and looked like the shape of kiln and made me feel like I had stepped into The Shire.

A few hours later we left, looking like bedraggled rats as there were no hair straighteners, and really tired after having such a strenuous day. Although I am super proud of us for being able to cross this off our list, I'd also like to go back and have a treatment as well. Only a couple more hundred things to squeeze in now...

I'd recommend this to anyone toying with the idea of a jjimjilbang but we made the mistake of not taking our own products. Everyone there had WAG style shower bags packed with products, including toothbrushes, that they groomed themselves with all afternoon long, I was particularly jealous of the exfoliating mits
For those that want to give it a go:

- Take the green line on the metro to Centum City.
- Inside the station, head to exit 12 and you can enter Shinesgae from inside the station.
- Head up the escalators and Spa Land is on that floor.

It cost us 12,000 won for a 4 hour pass. I think there is an additional charge per hour after this time, and it's cheaper in the evening. Our coffees came to 4,000 which wasn't too bad. Scrubs ranged from 10,000 upto about 70,000. I don't think it's the cheapest of spas but it's worth the experience.