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Naked Relaxation: Korean Style

November 24, 2011

Certain hidden treasures of Korea are still yet to be experienced even after 8 months here.  One of which was the infamous “jjimjilbang”.  My best friend came to visit in the first week of November, and I figured it would be a great thing for us both to experience.

The Jjimjilbang

A jjimjilbang is a 24 hour Korean spa.  It is unique to the Korean culture and we don’t have much to compare it to in the U.S.A.  At most of these places you pay a flat fee, around $10, and then get a comfortable uniform to wear.  Once changed, you can take advantage of the amentities each individual jjimjilbang has to offer, or just spend the night.  To some it is a better and cheaper option to a hotel.   The jjimjilbang is a community place, so there are no individual rooms to sleep or bathe.   At the larger jjimjilbangs people can eat, get a massage or facial, swim in the pool, watch movies, rest or experience the saunas and jacuzzis.   Did I forget to mention that some of these activities are done…naked?  Yes, the most notorious aspect of the jjimjilbang is the gender separated naked area.  Clothes are not allowed in this area, and Koreans come here to sit in the many different jacuzzis, saunas and pools.  Older women exfoliate and scrub themselves down in the shower area and younger Korean women can be seen chatting away and enjoying the different pools.  Younger Korean women will also scrub each other’s backs as a sign of close friendship.   Others can pay for a full body scrub to be done by one of the employees dressed in underwear.  To most Westerners, this concept is extremely weird.  I kind of thought so myself.

Trying it out ourselves

So Shanel and I decided to get the full Korean experience and go.  We picked Dragon Hill Spa, the famous 7 story jjimjilbang.  Upon arrival we paid the entry, were given an electronic wristband for any future charges and then were provided with the uniform.  We went upstairs to the ‘women only’ locker room/ floor  to put on our uniform.  We wandered around a little while, exploring the area, and taking advantage of the fact we had clothes on.  Both of us feeling very strange about entering the nude area.  We didn’t see any other foreigners and we watched a few Koreans strip down in the locker area and then walk naked through the dressing area, past a little shop and down some stairs into the nude floor.  It seemed like such a big area to trek across before entering the nude area, it was a bit intimidating.  So after we couldn’t put it off any longer, we stripped down to everything except our wristbands, and in single file (heads down)  darted for the sauna door.  Down the stairs we entered the large area full of different pools, jacuzzis, showers and saunas.  After a shower to make sure we were clean enough, we starting exploring the hot tubs.  It didnt take long to feel comfortable in the area.  Even being the only foreigners, we weren’t stared at particualry much.  We probably did more of the staring ourselves.

A naked scrub

After soaking, we decided we were ready to be scrubbed.  Anxious to complete our last (uncomfortable) goal before leaving, we walked to the massage/scrub area.   An older Korean lady in her uniform (matching bra and underwear) asked what we wanted and told us to wait.  Shanel was summoned to a table first and I watched as she had a Korean lady get a scrub brush and scrub away dead skin.  Then it was my turn.  While lying on my back, naked on a table/bed, I couldn’t help but laugh a few times.  For about 15 minutes they scrubbed and scrubbed and I could see my skin peeling off.  They didnt miss a spot.  They literally (uh huh, really) scrub every part of your body.   At one point we were asked to lay on our sides in which they lifted up one leg and scrubbed our inner thighs.  After the body part was finished they poured huge tubs of water on us, washed our hair and lightly scrubbed our faces.

For about $40 total I paid for one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had. Anywhere.  Good thing my first time experiencing this was with a best friend.

Below are some of the only pictures we were able to capture…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. larry wray permalink
    December 3, 2011 2:11 am

    jessica, wish i would of known you were headed to Dragon Hill Spa, as i was reading in the Korean magazine “High Cut”, and it told of how many of the young boys were changing their gender so they could give the girls a good rub down, even some of the old timers from Guryong-sa, have become transfigurred so they could take off all that old skin from the young women who come in. Hope you enjoyed the experience, not wanting to ruin your trip there, but thats why the rub down is so good, and for 40.00 the inner thigh is what the old men/women like to rub the most, thanks for sharing peace and love, take care……larry

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