Saturday, November 17, 2012

I love Korea #3

Jim Jil Bangs

I love Korean saunas/spas.  I recently joined a gym/spa and it makes going to the gym actually seem enjoyable.  Most of the information I got about jim jil bangs have been from my co-workers, and random posts online.  If any of this information is incorrect, I apologize in advance.  I also took all of the pictures in this post off the internet.  I did not take any of them, but I tried to get as many as possible to give you a good look at what the spas can offer.  Some are very fancy with tons of rooms, pools and massage tables, while some might only have 2 pools and some showers.  

Korean spas or bathhouses are amazing.  They are segregated, but usually have common areas to eat, watch TV, lounge, and sleep.  Often, you can sleep in them overnight instead of going to a hotel for about 5000 won to 15000 won ( $5-$15 depending on how nice it is).

Korean spas have many different rooms and uses.  The main spa areas are segregated and very clean.  It is thought that wearing clothing may be unhygienic, and if you are wearing any type of cover up, you may be hiding something!   Ideally, you are supposed to scrub all the dead skin off your body before entering the hot tubs.  You will often see Koreans scrubbing each other for what seems like HOURS before they even get into the water.  You are always supposed to take a full shower before getting into the pools.  No rinse and go!  It's funny that as an American, I always prided myself on being able to take a quick shower - and as a Peace Corps volunteer, I could bathe with a glass of water!  HA!  I seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum, now!  Most people are there for hours!
This picture I found was staged since they have on shorts.  But please note the green scrubbie.  I bought one of these and it feels like sandpaper!  They srub each other for hours with this!  This has nothing to do with sexuality.  It is a common practice for friends, and family.  I see young daughters scrubbing moms, and young women scrubbing their elderly grandmothers!  It is not seen as anything but a community bath, and people getting CLEAN!  Men do this too, purely platonically.  I guess Koreans don't have the same hang ups about personal space and sexuality as we do.
The spas include saunas, steam rooms, scented pools, different temperature pools, and washing stations.  You can get massages from ladies wearing black bras and panties (not sure about what the men wear) or just a good ole scrub anywhere from 1000 won to 60000 won.  I even saw one masseuse bringing in a giant cucumber and a pot of something gooey! Talk about relaxation!

Before you come in, you are given two hand towels, a pair of shorts and a shirt.  Hand towels are used as main body towels and notoriously rolled into 'lamb horns'.  This is mainly seen on Korean dramas.  Most people just wrap them around their heads, dry off, and put on the clothes. It's still a pretty neat way to wrap a towel around your head!

After bathing, you can then go to the common areas which usually include tv rooms, eating areas, PC rooms, arcades, kareoke rooms, ice rooms, and the large ovens.  The large ovens get so hot that you are only supposed to be in them for 5 minutes max!  They can range anywhere from 42 C to 90 C!  I can only imagine it would be like taking a walk on Mars!  Ugh!

The cold room is up above, and below are the common rooms and sleeping areas.  Note the square blocks are the pillows.  They are actually a little spongy, but not much.  This is a traditional Korean pillow, and they are great for sleeping on the floor.

 Traditional Korean snacks in the Jim Jil Bang include baked eggs and and iced drink.  The eggs are baked in the ovens, and the brown spots are the cholesterol leaching out during the baking process.  Healthy eggs and iced coffee anyone?

So there you have it.  I put as many pics as I could in this post to give you a good idea of what the Jim Jil Bang is like.  At first, I had trouble with the naked thing.  But after going a couple times, you realize that no one is looking at you, and everyone is just relaxing in the hot water.  As I've continuously gone after my spinning class, I see that it is a very social event, and families go with their great grandmothers to babies.  It's a part of Korean society that I really love, and I definitely don't feel awkward because I'm naked.  It's almost freeing!  Most of the guide books tell you to visit a spa, and I agree.  Go with friends, or go alone.  If you love relaxing in the bath - this is the place for you!  If only I could bring in a book, I would be there for hours!


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