Jimjilbang – Naked Spa Time!

14 Jan

For obvious reasons there isn’t a photograph to accompany this post so you’ll have to use your own imagination; the implications of this statement do worry me slightly.

I’m the kind of girl who always uses the changing room at the gym or swimming baths. I don’t have one of those ‘if yer got it flaunt it’ kind of mentalities. I’m just naturally slightly uncomfortable about being naked in front of people. I’ve never really thought greatly about why I feel this way. I wouldn’t say I was particularly insecure about the way I look. I guess I just feel more comfortable about my body when the possibility of it being scrutinized is removed. Maybe I’m prudish or uptight or Western Society, media and legislation, has made me think that the way I was born, in the flesh, is somehow either sacred and therefore private or indecent and therefore should be hidden. I don’t know. Either way, the idea of being complete and utterly starkers in a spa full of other women filled me with trepidation and fear.

So why bother do it then if it makes you feel uncomfortable? You might ask. Because, I know the fear is slightly irrational. It had also come recommended to us by fellow ex-pats in Korea who told us it was a very relaxing experience. Plus, I’ve come to experience another culture after all. So as weird as it seems to us Westerners getting your naked on in a spa is part of Korean culture. It is as much about having a thorough clean to them as anything else. It’s as natural a thing to do as eating dog or live squid. Which I also plan to getting round to doing too eventually! Back to the case in point; It is very popular in Korea. It isn’t unusual to see three generations of Koreans all together helping each other scrub one another’s backs in a sauna or steam room or just chill in a jacuzzi and chat. Obviously, they are two completely separate spa’s one for men and one for women. So separate in fact they are on different floors and your not even able to share the same lift.

So finally, despite my angst I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer. After a  pint one week night at our local bar Lawson suggested we get it over with and go. I decided, with the help of a second lager, to stop being such a pathetic wuss and get my nuddy on – KOREAN STYLEAA! I’d already done the necessary female grooming. The blades on Lawson’s razor may need replacing sometime soon.

I entered the spa in all my nude glory like a proud lioness roaming the jungle, taking big strides around the place and swishy my hair around like I was in a Loreal advert. I was maintaining the façade of being an ivory goddess of beauty rather than the quivering wreck I felt and pimply wobbly thing that I am. But actually, after a quick cursory glance at the other women in there I suddenly  felt very normal. In fact, I actually wished I hadn’t bothered grooming. The nice part of me says they were ‘very real looking‘. The cruel part of me says ‘they looked like they had road kill stapled to their lower stomachs‘. Also, since it was fairly late there wasn’t that many people in there. No more than maybe fifteen minutes in did I start to really enjoy the experience. I had a nice soak in the jacuzzi, chilled in the sauna for a while and tried the various different temperatures of the pools.  It’s very clean and fairly luxurious in there actually. The inside of the sauna walls are decorated with semi-precious stones depicting flowers, trees and clouds in mosaic.

My ex-pat friends had been right, it had been a very relaxing experience and I left feeling clean, contented and strangely very calm. What’s also great about it is it also incredibly affordable at just 5000 KRW (£3/$5).  You have the option to pay extra for a massage to if you so wished.I have been two more times since this first occasion and will no doubt go again. It’s great! I find myself wondering why we haven’t adopted a similar idea in England. As for the whole being naked issue – like  suspected, it was all in my head. It was no big deal at all.

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7 Responses to “Jimjilbang – Naked Spa Time!”

  1. Isaac bickerstaff January 15, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Thanks for the road kill metaphor- at least we men can feel we aren’t missing out on anything by being segregated- as a former nudist colonial and avid jjimshil banger I’ve certainly had my share of stares and whatnot, but still continue my search for the biggest and best saunas in the country (Siloam in Seoul station is the current fave- have you found any good ones?). Anyways got a nice chuckle from this article- thanks!

    • licensetoroam January 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      Haha! Jjimshil banger – I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to adopt that title but it does amuse me. I have only been to my small local spa, I live in a small town, (it’s a village by Korean standards), in Chungcheongbuk. I have heard that some in Seoul are fabulous, (I don’t know which ones in particular unfortunately), and I’m yet to spend a night in one so I’ll definitely have to give that a try before I leave Korea. Sounds as though you’ve lived a colourful life and I’m very glad you enjoyed my post!

  2. grannie January 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I Iove your blog, very brave I could never do it , but i am very proud of you, .make rhe most of every new experience. I am so pleased you are having so much fun.
    L ove Grannie.

    • Tamsyn April 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

      I didn’t do it alone. I’m sure you would have if you were my age. Hiking is a national institution here almost, all the families go walking regularly. There are many mountains, you would have loved it in that respect.

  3. Kate & Goose January 24, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    “looked like they had road kill stapled to their lower stomachs” hilarious!

    May I link to you for a completely non-related post (about getting my dog groomed in Korea)? haha I am cleanin up the ole blog and my last link was broken for the keyword “jimjilbang”… after googling “jimjilbang naked,” I found your perfect statement which related to, well, groomed lady parts! haha

    My post: http://gooseinkorea.com/new-groomer-review/

    Please let me know if it’s ok. Thanks!

    • Tamsyn January 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      I’m chuffed to bits! No problem at all, thanks very much! Your post is a good read by the way. I loved that you googled “jimjilbang naked”, although I’ve discovered far ruder searches have brought people to my page. I’m convinced I have some confused perverts reading my blog but hey every hits a hit! Thanks again.

      • Kate & Goose January 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

        Awesome! Thanks so much ^^

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