Having had done time in several Vietnamese Nail Salons, I conjured up my vision of what I thought would be 'the Korean Spa' experience: A Nail Salon with massage and facial options...
I was so totally wrong.
My first indication that it was so not a Nail Salon was when Kim advised me to bring a swimsuit and large towel - she said we would be there "all day".
I met her at 1 pm.
The 'Jjimjilbang" is a traditional Korean bath house. A place of serenity, health and harmony. Very Zen. I am aware of two Jjimjilbangs in the Dallas area (The King Spa and Spa Castle) but there are spas in L.A., San Diego, Toronto, New York and a host of other cities - just Google 'Korean Spa' to find one near you.
So for all of those out there who have never visited a Jjimjilbang...here's the scoop from my experience at Spa Castle...
- There is a flat fee of $35 to enter. You are given a waterproof wristband (with a four digit number on it) to wear which doubles as your locker key and cash (I'll explain later). If you plan on enjoying an adult beverage while spa-ing...ask for an alcohol band as well. It signifies you are of legal age.
- Upon entering the spa, your first stop is the T-shirt/shorts desk where you are issued clothing for your stay. Notice how immaculately clean and quiet everything is. No Music. No one talking loudly. Cell phones are respectfully silenced.
- Next stop are shoe lockers. Your locker number corresponds with your wristband number. Just open or close the lock by touching the lock with your wristband.
- Barefoot... continue on to the Ladies Locker Room. This time, look for another locker (with the same number as your wristband) for your clothes. Changing into your shorts and T-shirt, a bathing suit ...or not... is your choice at this point. It depends on where you want to go next.
Ladies Bathing AreaComplete nudity is required in the 'ladies only' pool area consisting of several hot, jetted pools and showers. The rationale is to promote a healthy environment. Wearing a swimsuit could hide sores etc. and the culture requires full disclosure. Body scrubs are available here at an additional charge. FYI: The ladies who are doing the scrubbing will be wearing bra and panties - I know - but it's warm in there. Show them your wristband - they scan it - added to your bill.
Sauna & Steam & Ice Rooms
There are several rooms with temperature settings displayed above the doors and potential health benefits listed outside. Wear your T-Shirt and shorts to these dry areas that include both men and women.
Wet AreasIndoor and outdoor pools are also open to both men and women. Bathing suits are required. All pools have various jetted spas.
Rest AreasLook around. There are several spots where you can just lie down and go to sleep. I tried out one on the 2nd floor. Mats were placed on a hot floor - heat emanated through the mat - I was in heaven.
Aqua Bar/Pool Shack Snacks
1st Floor: How cool is this? A swim up bar, hot tub and in pool seating are where you can have drinks and snacks! Just show the bartender your wristband and you are good! Tip is included.
Sushi Bar/Juice Bar/Froyo/Starbucks
Spa Services and Treatments
Include manicures, pedicures, massage, facials, waxing, body scrubs and reflexology treatments at an additional charge. Just show them that wristband of yours.
Treadmills, Ellipticals, etc.
As if all the luxury I've described was not enough...a hotel!
Although this Jjimjilbang is open 24 hours a day, it was 7 pm before we reluctantly had to leave. Six hours of quiet relaxation was just not enough.