Thursday's {travel} Tidbit

Thursday, November 15, 2012

About a year ago I was lucky enough to be included in a delegation to South Korea. The purpose of the trip was to represent San Francisco at an international environmental conference - yada yada it was amazing and an honor. Truly, but that's not the focus of this post. After the conference concluded a few of us decided to do as the Koreans do, so we headed to a jimjilbang!

A jimjilbang is sort of like a spa. There are gender separated wet spas (saunas, communal baths, etc), and a dry spa area that's for everyone to mingel together. When you enter the jimjilbang, you head to your respective locker room and change into a uniform (see the photo above of us in the locker room, that's me at the top right). The dry spa is full of different sauna rooms (warm, to too-hot-to-stand), plus other rooms for meditation, or karaoke  or video games, some even have bars and restaurants  Crazy, right? People even sleep there! The wet spa has showers, bathing pools, and an area where you can get a scrub or massage. Naturally, we all got scrubs.

There really isn't a comparable experience in the US. Or so I thought ... 

This past Monday, I was the only one of my friends with the day off of work, so I did what one naturally does. I went to a Korean Day Spa. I'd heard about the Imperial Day Spa before, but had never been - I was not disappointed, the place is awesome. It was actually really similar to my experience in Korea, except smaller. It's basically the two gender separated wet spas with less of the other various "rooms."

Upon entering, I was ushered into a locker room, where I disrobed (no uniforms here) and headed into the female spa area. Yes, you read that right - no clothes, if you go you will be naked in front of strangers. But it's okay, they're all naked too. Once you get past the "I'm naked and I don't know you" shock, it feels kinda fine and you sort of forget about it, plus no one else cares. It's really liberating actually.

I had an appointment for a scrub and massage, but made sure to arrive early and spend some time in the steam sauna, and the hot and cold baths. This softens your skin and get's you ready for the scrub. When my time came for the scrub, I was called into the room and directed to lay on top of a narrow plastic covered massage table - this is area is also communal. There were several other ladies getting scrubs and massages on their own tables in the same room. Then I was scrubbed thoroughly with-in an inch of my life by a very strong little lady in black underwear (this seems to be the "uniform," consistant with my experience in Korea). After you shed about 5 layers of skin, you are washed with milk, and massaged with oils until you are slippery and softer than you can imagine. It was awesome. I completely recommend trying it. It's relaxing, rejuvenating, and feels totally productive. Plus, what a unique experience, right? It was like stepping off the San Francisco street and entering a mini jimjilbang.

So what about you? Do you have a Korean Spa in your town? Will you try it? (I think you should)

Top photo of me at the Mugakasa Temple, Gwangju S Korea, second photo of my friends and I at the jimjilbang in Gwangju, last image via


  1. i have never heard of this, but it sounds pretty amazing...once you get past any awkwardness! i'm going to check and see if there is anything like this in my town!

  2. sounds so relaxing! I have been thinking about getting a massage lately, so I will check it out.

  3. Never heard of this either, but it sounds awesome! I would love to try it :)

  4. It's a really unique experience, but really fun actually! :-)


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