Oh, I forgot, in english it’s Jjimjilbang
What a trip. What an experience. Rejuvenating, invigorating and healing.
Water. It’s amazing, isn’t it?
So, my friend and JD were told about these Jjimjilbangs or Korean bathhouses and to go visit one. Now, I’ve been to a couple of bathhouses in my day, some in the states, which are mostly spas at nice hotels, then there’s the mineral spas I’ve been to in Switzerland, the hot springs in the natural forests of Oregon and the Pacific coast, and I’ve been to a couple in China as well.
This isn’t your ordinary bathhouse, and you’re not here to just “soak.”
Bathing here in the Jjimjilbangs is communal and they have bathes for the men and for the women. So you’re gonna get naked with your fellow gender and after you’ve finished soaking, you put on the complimentary jjimjilbang shorts and t-shirt and proceed to a myriad of different options for everyone, of which I will shortly explain here.
First off, Let me say that Korea is a collectivist culture, and that sharing life in community is extremely important. All of us humans look at the world different, you know? And perspectives in the east are quite different from perspectives in the west. So, for instance, if I was to ask a Korean and an American to look at a fishtank with a fish swimming in it, the Korean may describe all the backgrounds about the tank and rocks and filters, while the American may describe the fish in detail and not mention one thing about the tank. My point is, people look at things differently and it’s all beautiful. So, this bathhouse, the Jjimjilbang, really makes Korea unique and wonderful in its own way because of what it is and how it’s experienced.
So JD and I go to a Jjimjilbang that comes recommended by a couple of locals. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of these bathhouses around the country and city. We proceeded to go to the Spa at Garden 5, and paid $10 a piece, to which we were given bracelets with an electronic key and clothes.
We get showered and get soaking in the warm tub, then the hot tub (109 F , 44 C) to the cold tub (70f) to the steam, to the sauna, to the cold shower, to the warm tub, to the sitdown shower, to the sauna, to the laydown tub with jets, to the warm tub, to the cold tub, to the sitdown shower, hmmmmmm, I think I want a massage…Charge my electronic key, 30 minutes later I feel I’ve had all my sins forgiven.
I was feeling great, and so was JD. We enjoyed conversation and all these Korean men were enjoying talking and sharing life with each other. There were also a few little boys, running around having a blast. I would have loved this as a kid! As I watched the kids jump from the cold tub to the warm tubs to be with their Dads, the thought dawned on me that probably most of these older men in this Jjimjilbangs had been doing the same thing with their Dads back when they were little ones as well.
We put on our provided beige shorts and shirt and proceeded to walk to the communal area of the bathhouse. This wasn’t a wet, tiled area, but an area that had more saunas, “resting huts,” movie rooms, restaurant, cafe, communal family floor areas, ice rooms, and yeah, there was salt rooms, yellow charcoal rooms, and the theme overall was Relaxxxxxxx. Relax, relax, and enjoy family and community.
We went to the movie room, watched some of a movie on nice Lazy-boy chairs, went up to look at these odd clay ovens that people were walking in and out of. It literally looked like an OVEN. There was no way I was not gonna go in there and experience it. I grabbed a mat and walked in…..
As I sat in this Pine tree sauna, sitting in a circle with 4-5 other participants, my body began to sweat almost immediately, and as I sweated I noticed my body had never sweat like I had seen before. Instead of the normal sweat that one would receive from working out, or laying on the beach for a long time, my skin started to sparkle and each little pore in my body let out the smallest mass of water. I was staring, fascinated, while smelling and feeling the heated pine, which was coming from these clusters of pine wood leaning against the circular sauna.
It didn’t take long to feel hot and good, so after 7-8 minutes, I split and proceeded to go to the “Ice Room.”
Picture a massive refrigerator, and move into the next room, you’re in the freezer. 🙂
Again, refreshing. My body is thanking me. Patting me on the back, saying, “You’re a good man, Shawn Saleme.”
I lay on some rock salt, understanding the healing properties of salt in general. I lay down on a floor, I drink some water. I watch as the families are enjoying fellowship together, couples laying holding each other, kids laughing and playing. It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful and I am thankful.
It’s really experiences like these, that make me want to continue to travel and live life beyond. It reminded me why I love to travel, to experience life of others in other countries. The cultures, the histories. We are a community of 7 billion on this planet and we have lots to learn from each other and lots to share with each other. Thank you Korea for sharing the Jjimjilbang with me. It truly was, one memory that will stay with me for quite some time.
Let’s add a song to this post: