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I finally experienced a Korean jjimjilbang (찜질방)! They are best...

I finally experienced a Korean jjimjilbang (찜질방)! They are best described as large, gender-segregated public bathhouses. Admittedly, it was a little nerve-wracking because a good part of it is spent naked, but I had a really good time. I enjoyed hot baths and saunas.

Seoul, Sinchon - Sinchon Rest

Sinchon Rest has a very old feel to it.  For some reason they don't give the women keys at the desk, but the give the men some.  Instead you go in, find a locker, and grab the key from the locker.  The wet area had an assortment of standing and sitting showers.  There were two saunas, one stone and one wood.  For bathes there was a hot, a hotter, and a freezing.

In terms of sleeping this jjimjilbang is amazing, especially for women.  There were sleeping areas right there in the wet area if you didn't feel comfortable going to the mixed area to sleep.  The sleeping room was on the fourth floor and had a large mixed area, as well as a glassed off area with bunks for women only.  There was a small room just for men on the floor below next to the gym and nail/hair salon.

Shinsegae’s Spa Land

Relax At Home: Premium Massage Chairs

For our first trip to a Korean spa, we choose one of Busan’s biggest and most modern — Spa Land, in the Shinsegae department store. Twenty-two baths, thirteen distinctively-designed saunas, relaxation rooms, steam rooms, foot baths and more were ours to enjoy for four blissful hours.

Gyeong-nam, Tongyeong, Hangnam-dong - Tongyeong Haesu Land

Seoul, Gu-eui dong - Gangbyun (Riverside) SpaLand

After reviewing a post and comments from you lovely readers I found a new 24-hour jjimjilbang not far from the Jayang-dong Happy Day Spa. This new find is called Riverside SpaLand (강변스파랜드) and gets 10 stars on Daum, but only 5/10 on Naver. You can find it just behind the East-Seoul intercity bus terminal (동서울 종합터미날), out exit 4 from Gangbyun Station. From the looks of the building it seems like a nice, large facility. The jjimjilbang shares the building with Sungjin Leisure Sports health facility. Check out the Official Site of Korea Tourism's page about Riverside SpaLand as well.

Jeonju, Joonghwasan-dong, Hyoja Bridge – Spa LaQua

Wow. I will have a lot of words for this Spa, and “wow” is a good place to start. Firstly, it’s hard to get to by bus. I would not really recommend that since Jeonju is so small anyway. I just took a taxi from the Gaeksa Area (main old downtown, not far from Hanok Village and the fun walking streets). If you cab it, just say “Hyoja da-ri, Gwang-jin Het-bi-chan Apart” and get out near building #101 (효자다리, 광진햇비찬 아파트 101동). I know that's not easy, but it will be well worth it. You can’t miss the giant orange rectangular building on your right from there!

Jeonju, Deokjin-dong, Jeonbuk University - Lespia Sauna

This sauna didn’t look like much from Daum Maps’ street view, nor did it when Iwalked up the street in person, but it’s in a great location just off tons ofbus lines and on the skirts of the busy, popular Jeonbuk University area. But Ithought I’d give it a try~ and I’m glad I did! It turns out it’s a nice,neighborhood jjimjilbang with friendly staff and quiet weeknights.

Donghae, Chun-gok-dong - Hwajungwon Sauna

The weather in Ulleung Island turned rough and I had a hard time getting a boat back to the mainland. All the ships were canceled on Monday which caused a slight backup in the number of people leaving on Tuesday, and on top of all this Wednesday, being the last day of the holiday, was booked full. I chose to depart the island to a different city than where I arrived from (in lieu of staying an extra 2-3 days) and that's how I wound up in Donghae... thankfully!

Pohang, Buk-gu, Jangsung-dong - Pohang Oncheon

I was overnight in Pohang recently before my trip to Ulleung Island - 울릉도 - and took the chance to find a local hot spot. After dinner and some drinks with a friend, I headed up to see what this large oncheon had to offer. It was just an overnight with an early morning, but it was a nice one. I'd highly recommend anyone spending time around Bukbu Beach in Pohang to check out this place. It is large, clean, with all the usual amenities for a very usual price.

Life in Korea: enjoying the jimjilbang to the fullest

Author’s note: ‘Life in Korea’ posts are dedicated to the newer expats among us. If you have a more experienced perspective to offer, the comments are wide open!

Ask the average foreigner what they think of the 찜질방 (jjim-jil-bang, or Korean’s public baths / spas), and you’ll get a polarized response. Some foreigners (like myself) love them, while others have either avoided them or had a bad experience in the few times they’ve gone. I’ve already written about how to get around the jimjilbang – if you’ve never been to one, read that article first. If you’ve gone a few times and are wondering what ELSE there might be to do, read on.

How to enjoy the jimjilbang to the fullest

Destination: Damyang Spa (Damyang-gun, Jeollanam-do)

It’s a rare place that offers an outdoor hot spa for the naked people and a pool for the swimsuited.

Beyond the Juknokwon bamboo forest, Damyang Spa (담양온천, or Dam-yang on-cheon) is one highlight of visiting the Damyang area in Jeollanam-do. The spa isn’t open 24 hours a day, however. The connected tourist hotel is a bit on the fancy side but convenient.

Pay your way in (note that the jimjilbang portion of the spa is only open on Saturdays and Sundays), then figure out whether you’d prefer to get hot and steamy (in the jimjilbang) or cool off in the outdoor pool.

The Road Home

The road back home after any trip abroad is often one filled with mixed feelings. Part of you is probably happy to be returning home and another part, often larger, is sad to be leaving behind what has hopefully been an eventful and enjoyable time in your life. Even in the case of my four months in Korea, which had definitely been more pain than pleasure, I left Korea with a great deal of sadness.


Dog Café

I found something new!  Well, experienced something new anyway.  I read about these “dog cafés” in an ESL text book with one of my classes a few months back.  Sounded brilliant!  I tried with all I had to make my middle school boys care about people drinking coffee with other people’s dogs in English – a futile attempt that could make an unanesthetized leg amputation feel like afternoon tea.  Though it did get me excited about the prospect of one day coming across one.

I had a terrible dream last night that I was out to dinner with some people who decided to order dog meat soup.

Destination: Siloam sauna (Seoul)

After a recent post about jimjilbang, I was informed of another excellent place worth checking out. Two trips later, I'm happy to say this is a place I'll be headed back to a third time. Located within walking distance of Seoul Station, it's a great place to crash if you're on a budget. Above is a 산소방 (san-so-bang), or oxygen room - a room-temperature relax-on-the-floor place.

Greenvill Jjimjilbang & Sauna - Banwoldang, Jung Gu, Daegu

In my search for new jjimjilbang I found a nice place conveniently located just outside of the Banwoldang subway stop (transfer) in downtown Daegu. The staff were helpful and spoke a bit of English, even put my extra baggage behind the counter for safekeeping since it wouldn't fit in the locker!

As you exit the subway at gate 1, you'll see the Samjung Greencore Apartments (삼정 그린코어) and a sign for the Greenvill Jjimjilbang entrance.

Question from a reader: hygiene at the jimjilbang

A reader writes in about my recent article on enjoying the jimjilbang:
great article on jjimjjilbangs! i have been wanting to go for such a long time, and your article just moved it to the top of my list of things to do. the single reason why i have not yet gone, however, is that i am really concerned about hygiene - more specifically, i'm concerned about catching a skin illness such as a foot fungus or even something like an STD....

Destination: The Spa in Garden Five

Author's note: this is the 4th in a series of jimjilbang (day spas or saunas) worth visiting in Korea.

The Spa in Garden Five (더스파인가든파이브) - one of the newest jimjilbang in Korea, the brand new modern facility delivers everything you'd expect. Constructed as part of the Garden Five behemoth-to-be, this area offers much of the standard stuff in a high-class way.

Destination: Wolgok Land (jimjilbang)

Author's note: this is the 2nd in a series of jimjilbang (day spas or saunas) worth visiting in Korea.

Wolgok Land (월곡건강랜드) - Don't knock a place just because it's far off the tourist track. With modern facilities, plenty of room, and some English signage, this place wins the 'most variety' award. In addition to the plentiful saunas and multiple ice rooms, there's a salt room to lay down in, a phytoncide room (산림욕방, or a slightly humid room) and a Loess oxygen room to breathe deeply in.

The jimjilbang lifestyle

I was naked, yet I felt no shame. After emerging from a HOT hot tub, I cooled off by jumping into a tub of cold water - it's great for the circulation. Quick! Jump back into the hot tub to really get your blood moving. Put some clothes on, then head into a dry sauna guaranteed to make you sweat. Welcome to the jimjilbang - a bathing experience unlike any other.

Not all public baths are created equal. Enter a 목욕탕 (mok-yok-tang) and you'll find little more than bathing areas. A 사우나 (sa-u-na) will offer saunas / steam rooms as well as the bathing experience. A 찜진방 (jjim-jil-bang) earns top marks for offering bathing areas, saunas, as well as common areas for snacking, watching TV, napping, or any number of other things. Some are open 24 hours (look for the 24 시 on the sign), which enables overnight stays and a cheap place to rest your head.

Busan, Jung-dong, Dalmaji (Haeundae) - Vesta Spa & Fitness

Vesta Spa & Fitness is currently under construction. It is scheduled to be completed on June 1, 2010. I believe they are closed for business during this time; I'd recommend calling ahead if you plan on visiting this month.

This large, well-located spa has a long reputation among foreigners and Koreans alike in Busan. Since I've heard so many good things about the place, I had high expectations. Luckily, I had the treat of visiting with someone who had been there many times before, including once long ago. She was able to offer some well-needed insight on my experience.

Busan, Gwangan - KA (Kwang An) Sporex

Recently, a friend of mine told me his parents own a jjimjilbang near Gwangan. We got to talking about it and I decided I ought to check it out for you. I mean, I have a list of places I need to visit, but he is my friend after all, and I wanted to see what kind of place it was.

Seoul, KTX Station - Silloam Sauna & Jjimjil

I would never have found this place for you guys if I hadn't missed my train back to Busan recently. Just so you know, the last Busan-bound KTX leaving Seoul on any given night is at 10:30. Anyway, 10:40 is too late ㅠ.ㅠ

Fortunately, the helpful lady at the information desk in Seoul Station was able to direct me out the back of the station to Silloam Sauna, which I definitely had my doubts about. I mean, how many cheap and still nice places have you ever seen around a big station? Though I was worried, my other option was to stay in a motel, and I'm really glad I took the chance on Silloam.

Busan, Millak-dong - Gwang An Haesuworld

This nice place is tucked away near the coast, north of the Gwangali Beach area but, unfortunately, a long walk from the subway (Gwangan station or Millak station will do). The good news is, it's right outside the Gwangan Amusement Park, Mi World. Bus number 210 will bring you right by the building and 38, 62, and 108 also come along one main street (closer than the subway line), stopping on this side of the Suyeong 2 Bridge. Find it here, or in the center of the wikimap below.

Busan, Oncheon-dong - Hurshimchung Spa

Said to be the largest hot spring spa in Asia, Hurshimchung can accommodate up to 3000 guests. It's located just up the street from Oncheon-jang subway stop on line 1. The hotel also houses a brauhaus, several restaurants, a wedding hall and a night club.  At the sauna's reception desk, you'll be given a key and instructed to pay upon leaving.  You can use this key to secure your shoes, open your locker, and pay for anything in the spa.  Towels and jjimjilbang clothes are available inside the locker room, then you can head to the sauna. 

Busan, Centum City, Shinsegae Department Store - SpaLand

====** For the month of December, parts of the sauna are being renovated (repaired?) so some discounts or time extensions may be offered**==== 
It is advertised that regular service will resume on December 29th.

Unfortunately for them, Spa Land has no English website.  Unimaginable, I know.  I mean, after all Shinsegae is one of the world's largest department stores.  Whatever guys, don't worry about it...

Actually that's one of the few complaints I had about this place.  5 to be exact; shall we get them out of the way, in a classic bad-news-first way?
1.  The aforementioned lack of a comprehensive English website.
2.  Not enough showers.  Maybe 30 sit-down and only 12 standing ones.  Even on a Thursday evening, there was a short queue at times to rinse off.

Daegu, Sinam-dong - Goongjeon Lavender (궁전라벤더)

This is a nice, big jjimjilbang near Dong Daegu KTX station (동대구역).  Just by the looks of the exterior I have wanted to go inside since I first saw it a few months ago.  Quite a few bus lines pass by this building including 156, 401, 414, 521, 618, 650, 708, 808, 937, 980, or the express #1 (급행1).  It's quite a walk from the subway, but would be a basic cost ride from either Sincheon station (신천역) or Dongdaegu station on Line 1.

Busan, Haeundae, Jung-dong - Rodeo Jjimjil Town

I'm expanding the overview on Haeundae.  This entry will include a personal review and more details.

Rodeo Jjimjil Town (로데오찜질타운)
You can find this place in the Rodeo Outlet shopping area south of the Jung-dong subway station. Naver users rated this place 10.0 out of 10 (17 ratings)!

Seoul, Itaewon (Hanam-dong) - Itaewon Land (이태원랜드) Jjimjilbang & Boolgama

Itaewon is a tough area for jjimjilbang or saunas.  I recently went out there and just resorted to the Happy Day spa near Hongdae.  I don't even care to try out the love motels in Itaewon, since there are so many seedy areas around there.  So, I vowed to search for some places you can utilize next time you're in this popular shopping and night-life district.

Haeundae Area Jjimjilbang Overview

In this post, I will give you an overview of 6 saunas and jjimjilbang in the Haeundae, Jung-dong, and Jangsan area of Busan.  I'm looking for ratings, and comments about these places as I haven't been able to go to all of them yet.
This map link below will show the whole area with all places tagged.  (The individual map links below will show a zoomed-in view of each building.)

Map of Haeundae area spas

1. Vesta Sauna & Resort (베스타 사우나 & 리조트)

Excellent spa on Dalmaji Hill just north of Haeundae Beach.  A bit off the beaten path, but once you see it you won't regret the walk.
부산 해운대구 중동 1509-6

Seoul, Ja-yang Dong - Happy Day Spa

Another Happy Day jjimjilbang. I found this one while searching for more resources to add to my previous post, Hongdae - Happy Day Jjimjilbang. This spa is located near Gu-eui subway station on Line 2. Take exit 4 and turn right at the first large intersection you arrive at (Jayang Sageori / 자양사거리). After walking about 10 min (~800 meters) you pass the Jayang Apartments (자양아파트) on your right, then you'll see the sauna on your left just ahead.

This 7-story sauna looks equally as nice as the one in Hongdae, certainly with greater space and more services to offer. Firstly, it boasts 365 days (which is not unusual for saunas) of excellent services that include fitness and an indoor screen golf system with pose clinic.

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