This past week, I went to a public bathhouse, or 찜질방 (jjimjil bang), with two of my friends. It was quite an interesting experience. The entrance fee to the place was about $7 plus an extra $1 to rent clothes. When you enter, you take off your shoes and put them inside a small locker. Then, you go to the correct gender section, where you see more lockers. The second locker room is full of mirrors, and this area is where you strip down and get completely naked. Yes, completely naked. One of my friends had already gone to the bathhouse several times while my other friend and I have never been to one before. It was extremely awkward to say the least. I haven’t even seen my real sister naked since we were 5 years old, which was when we both got chickenpox and our mom put us in an oatmeal bath together. Now, my two friends, who I’ve known for only two months, have bared everything to me.
After getting naked, we went to the shower/sauna area. Sorry, no pictures! Inside, there was a section for stand-up showers and then another area for sit-down showers. The sit down area was quite intense because the women there were scrubbing themselves really hard. There was also a corner for toothpaste. The back of the room had a place for massage and scrubbing by the workers if you paid more money. The right side had three sauna rooms with different temperatures. And then the rest of the room was filled with pools and hot tubs.
At first, it was really awkward, but after seeing everyone else naked, i realized it was okay, and you get used to it. No one cares how you look anyway. Most of the women in the room were ahjummas since we went on a Wednesday night. We first showered before jumping into the hot tubs. There were various hot tubs with different temperatures, and there was also a cooler temperature pool that had pressure jets to give you a back massage. It also had a button that would turn on a spray on the ceiling, and it would spray your shoulders with powerful shots of water. I thought it was too painful to withstand, but one of my friends really enjoyed the water jets.
We then ventured into one of the sauna rooms, which was extremely hot — I began to sweat almost as soon as we entered. It was actually too hot for me, so I went back out to soak in the hot tub. After we finished washing and playing in the hot tubs, we left the wash room. Right outside, there was a place with mirrors, combs, lotion, and qtips.
We went back to the locker rooms to put on our rented clothes and then went to the shared meeting area for men and women. Along the way, we bought a cooling drink that was sweet and made out of rice. In the shared area, there were snacks, restaurants, and a large area with many tvs. The guests just lounge, eat eggs, sleep on the floor, or watch television. There were even five sauna rooms where people were laying on the floor together.
The bathhouse was really interesting and fun, and I would definitely go again! Guests are allowed to stay overnight too… so it’s cheaper than a motel! Next time, I will drag my sister to come along.