I spent today lying in kiln-shaped sauna rooms and relaxing naked it giant hot baths at the Dragon Inn Spa. No, its not some shady establishment I’ve taken to frequenting, but one of Seoul’s most famous jimjilbangs, Korea’s answer to the Japanese onsen.
Jimjilbanging (an excellent verb I will claim as my own) is a brilliant way to reduce stress and relieve tension, especially after a night out. Thus after waking up this morning in pain, armed only with the courage to face hoards of Koreans naked, I left my apartment at 2pm hungover and headed for the ‘bang. Once inside you get a keycard that acts as a key for your various lockers, and a credit card on which you can buy many extra things- water, snacks, whole meals, massages. I headed up to the bathing area on the 5th floor, where you strip (no towel as in Japan), scrub yourself clean then move between the 6 baths they have available- some at different temperatures, some with special water. After bathing for a while, I went down to the 1st floor where they have a large area of floor for people to sleep, and various hobbit-sized doors around the edges of the room leading into saunas built of bricks and shaped like ovens. There were also two larger saunas shaped like pyramids, massage chairs, big tv’s, restuarants, in fact everything you could want. After sauna-ing until my Spa clothes were thick with sweat, I headed back up to the baths for one more relaxing soak.
The whole experience cost me 15,000 won (£7.50), and was a great way to spend a hungover saturday. It’s a more comprehensive experience than Japanese onsen’s, though you do have to put up with whole families (too many kids!) and a general mass of people, meaning that finding a good space to lie down, drink your Cass beer and listen to a podcast on your MP3 player can be difficult. Nontheless, you can’t beat soaking in hot baths, interspersed with sauna visits, especially when you’re hungover as I was today.
I’ll be going back!