Guest Post by Patric Penny:
[Editors note: do to the nature of this post, no photos will be included]
Imagine a megaspa complete with multiple types of hot tubs, messages, and saunas, now throw an arcade in there with some minigolf, a PC bang, a couple of restaurants, sleeping rooms, and some stores. You have now basically imagined a Jimjilbang. Jimjilbang is more than a spa though, Jimjilbang is a way of life, a way to relax and to bring yourself into the present moment. A Jimjilbang is really the height of Korean leisure culture. My first experience in a Jimjilbang was at Dragonhill Spa. Dragonhill is one of the nicer Jimjilbangs in Seoul and is decked out with all the top amenities. After entering through a dimly lit bamboo path I came to the front desk where for 10,000 won (a bit less than 10 USD) I was given 12 hour access to the Jimjilbang, a locker key, and a uniform/towel. After stripping down in the locker room I first headed to a showering area where I and other patrons scrubbed down with scratch pads and soap. Its important to be really clean before entering all the hot tubs. From there I dipped into the first bath of a 4 bath cycle. The first was a sulfur bath at about 41C, the water was a greenish tinge and I immediately felt all the strain from the past couple days of travel fade away. The next bath in the cycle was a bit tougher though, its an ice bath. If you think an ice bath doesn’t sound enjoyable your right, it isn’t. However this 17C bath is necessary to complete the cycle. The entire cycling principle is based on yin and yang and so both hot and cold are necessary. From there I moved into the 43C hot bath. Jumping into the hot bath right after the cold bath sends your body into a tingling euphoria, but i could only handle the heat for so long and after a couple of minutes I jumped into the event bath. The event bath is about 40C and is infused with minerals and bath soaps. This is the bath that you really relax and hang out in. After finishing the four bath cycle I hit up the cedar wet sauna. This sauna was a blazing 54C, upon entering your nose is assaulted with the smell of cedar and its so hot and moist its actually hard to breathe. Since Dragonhill is pretty high end there is a cold foot dip next to the bench to keep you from melting. After exiting the sauna you take a really quick dip under a huge blast of icy water to get the sweat off and then comes the best part. Jade pillow infrared beds. These things were amazing, after going through the whole cycle you just get to lay down on jade pillows and really feel the cycles effect on your body.I don’t think I have ever been so relaxed in my entire life. The entire process takes about 30 minutes or so if you’re really taking your time and you can repeat it as many times as you want, I did it about twice and then proceeded to the co-ed area. After throwing on the uniform I walked downstairs to the main hall which has an arcade and some restaurants and proceeded to the co-ed sauna hall. The saunas in the main hall include: a traditional pine wood sauna, a charcoal kiln sauna, a rock salt sauna, an ice sauna (pretty much a giant freezer), and two sleeping saunas one of which had sound waves flowing through the entire room and was in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid. I think my favorite was the pine sauna, it smelled great and I don’t think I’ve ever sweat more before in my life. I also fell asleep in the pyramid room! quite a relaxing day indeed.
After leaving the Jimjilbang my body was filled with euphoria. Jimjilbangs are a part of Korean culture that I think needs to be integrated into America. A Jimjilbang transcends the plane of a normal bath house. Its truly an experience, one that needs to be felt to understand why its so wonderful and special. I look forward to hitting up more Jimjilbangs during the rest of my stay in Korea!