Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spaland and the Beauty of a Jimjilbang

In a fancy department store called Shinsegae, there lies, nestled on the 2nd floor near the scarves and sunglasses section, an entrance to a magical land...
The pearly gates...
Like in other Asian countries, public bath houses are commonplace. Here they are called jimjilbang, and the greatest of them all (in Busan) is Spa Land. Of course, I'm biased because Spa Land is the only jimjilbang I've been to (so far), but oh how it's made a devoted follower. 

Basically, for the price of about $11, you can spend 4 hours in a wonderfully hot bath (indoor or outdoor), have access to several sauna rooms, an outdoor foot bath and for about $1.50 you can sit in a massage chair for 20 minutes and get worked. When you're ready to leave, you can dry and style your hair, apply lotions and creams, even buy new underwear from a vending machine. It is fucking incredible. 

If you're like me, then you love to pamper yourself and Spa Land is the place to do it. In the states, going to the "spa" is nothing like this and it is triple the price. Here you can get a facial and rub down for $20. This is perhaps the greatest place on earth. Where you can go and unwind after a long day (entrance is cheaper during the week, and early in the morning/late at night), and love on yourself just a little. If I could go to Spa Land every day, I would.

Now the etiquette is standard, you must wash (standing or sitting shower) before you get into the hot tubs and you have to keep your hair up. This hot tub area is separated by gender, so the women's locker room leads to the women-only washing area. And yes, in order to get into the hot tubs, you will be naked. I personally don't take any issue with this, and I feel like even if I were skittish about being naked around about a hundred other women, my fears would be quickly calmed by the fact that nobody cares. You will see little girls (ages 7+ allowed) and old women and women of all shapes and sizes walking around, just tending to themselves and their kids/moms/friends. As a foreigner, you may get one glance or two, but no one is going out of their way to examine you, because they don't really care, because this is totally normal. 

For someone like me with tattoos, some rather large, you may get a few more glances, because people are prone to staring in general at them, but you just shrug it off and go about relaxing yourself. Quick note about tattoos: The sign when you enter SpaLand says that people with tattoos are prohibited. However, if they are covered when you pay your entrance fee, you can rest assured that you don't have to worry about getting thrown out once you are inside. People stop caring once you're in the locker room and beyond. 

I don't know how often I try to convince people to go to SpaLand with me, but it must be a weekly occurrence because I love it. The thing I will miss most about Korea will definitely be that! So to all those visiting or who are living here, I advise you go to SpaLand or a jimjilbang every chance you get because it is wonderful.

안녕
Sam

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