Saunas are very popular in Korea and they are popular places for Koreans to go and relax. There are mainly two types of saunas: mogyoktang and jjimjilbang. They both offer Jacuzzis, showers, dry and wet saunas. Jjimjilbangs are one of the truly great aspects of a unique Korean culture. These are large, gender-segregated public bathhouses complete with hot tubs, showers, Finnish-style saunas and massage tables, similar to what you might find in a Korean sauna or mogyoktang are in separate segregated areas for men and women and no bathing suits are allowed.
|Going to dressing room|
However, in other areas of the building or on other floors, after donning your robe, you will enter the unisex areas and will usually find a snack bar or cafeteria, ondol (heated floor) for lounging and sleeping on, wide-screen TVs, a PC bang (bang a.k.a room), a noraebang (karaoke room), and sleeping quarters with either bunk beds or sleeping mats. Jjimjilbangs usually operate 24 hours and are a popular weekend getaway for Korean families to relax as the parents spend time soaking in tubs or lounging and sleeping while the kids play away on the PCs. Some Jjimjilbangs are themed.
|Main sleeping hall|
|TV hall with floor mats|
Korean saunas or jimjilbang usually have excellent facilities, such as many types of hot baths, of which some are made with clay, ginseng or green tea. There are also different types of saunas and afterwards it is possible to have facials, body scrubs (in the Korean tradition bathers scrub each other’s back with special sponges, but in some places there are also beauticians available) and massages (traditional Korean massage is called Ji-ap). Also, typically Korean is a kiln sauna, called han-jeung-mak, which is a heated stone dome with a small low opening. The most popular and exclusive saunas and massage centres in Seoul are located in areas like Myeongdong, Itaewon and Apgujeong.
In Jeju-do in the south there is a Coffee themed Jjimjilbang that has a coffee bath. Many have what can be called an international style with a general theme but no set look to it. It can seem random until you uncover the inspiration.
|Dry sauna entrance|
|Inside the dry sauna|
|Gravel floor sauna|
|Gravel floor sauna entrance|
|Hottest sauna crawl entrance|
|Inside the ice room|
|Jacuzzi and cool pool|
Jjimjilbangs are also a great deal for the cost-conscious traveller in Korea. For 6,000-10,000 Won, one can sleep overnight there and enjoy the bathhouse and sauna, and wake up fresh and ready to travel the next morning. If you have bags and backpacks with you that are too big to fit in the lockers, the front desk will usually watch over your bags at no charge for the length of your stay.
There are many words to describe Korean bathhouses and most usually mean the same thing. However, keep in mind that while a place that says 24 hour sauna definitely will have a bathhouse, it might also have the recreation facilities of a jjimjilbang. And a small jjimjilbang might not offer the full services of a larger one. Check for a "24" on the sign, and make sure they have sleeping facilities if you're planning on staying overnight.
|24 hours sign|
Jjimjilbangs are always to be kept very sanitary and are often cleaned constantly. This must be done as for the overall health of patrons, no harsh chemicals are used in the waters or saunas.
All wet areas are nude for safety. With the extreme heat of the baths and steam rooms, it is believed that chemicals can leach out of swim apparel and toxify the body. It is also believed that if you are in a swimsuit or cover up you may be trying to hide a disease.
Recently, the hygienic quality and healthiness of some jjimjilbangs were questioned, especially about the jjimjilbang clothes not being washed properly. Concerns about the clothes increasing a topic symptom in patients, or even of accidentally hosting parasites, were voiced, although inconclusive.
It is customary to fold the towel into a "Mickey Mouse hat" or "Princess Leia hat" as seen in popular Korean dramas. This can be done by folding the towel into thirds lengthwise and then rolling up the ends to form buns hence the "Princess Leia" name.
Nearly all jjimjilbangs will sell the traditional Korean drink iced sikhye (sweet rice drink) is a popular drink sold in Jjimjilbangs and it normally costs from 1000won to 2000won and it is very refreshing after sweating in a hot room.
|Iced sikhye (sweet rice drink)|
|Iced sikhye in cans|
Most will also sell hard boiled eggs are another popular snack and as seen in dramas, Korean teenagers like to crack the eggs on their heads before eating them. These are slow-cooked in the hottest sauna. The spots on the outside of the eggs are the cholesterol that slowly leaches out during the baking process, making the eggs a cholesterol free snack.
|Hard boiled eggs before peeled|
|Hard boiled eggs after peeled|
Other foods that are offered in jjimjilbangs are Miyeok guk (Korean soup made from the seaweed), Patbingsu (shaved ice dessert), iced coffee and etc.
|Miyeok guk (Korean soup made from the seaweed) ~ Mashisseyo|
|Patbingsu (shaved ice dessert) ~YUMMY...|
If I get the opportunity to try this Korean sauna it should be fun, right? Hopefully... (^,^)v