Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Jjimjilbang the cheapest way to travel (South) Korea, but the travel guides are clueless . . .


samaria_sauna_scene_good
Originally uploaded by seaniz.

Travel guides of Korea have really missed their mark! Only the briefest mention of the Jjimjilbang (gathering room sauna) is made by any of them. Yet, if you are on a low budget and you want to see much of Korea they are your best bet for $6 to $11 Canadian a night you cannot possibly stay anywhere for a better price -- and these saunas are everywhere in Korea. This picture of the sauna section of a Jjimjilbang would not be an uncommon sight if you were female and living in Korea! Sorry, men aren't allowed in this part of the Jjimjilbang, but put on a T-shirt and a pair of shorts (price included in admission fee) and you will see these women or women like them often with their boyfriends or family. Whole families come here to bathe and sweat in the variety of warm to hot rooms and hot tubs available. Families also sleep in the common rooms where food, drink, internet, movies and big screen television are all available -- you can often workout in the gym too or crunch your feet in the real grass in the open air!!!

My favourite Jjimjilbang is Maxtown in Ori. Come out of Ori station (on the Bundang line) at exit 2 and walk straight ahead (same direction that the stairs take you) about 10 metres. Look up and to the left. At the top of the building in front of you, there will be a sign that says "Maxtown". Take the elevator to the 7th floor. Admission: 6000 won before 8pm 10,000 won after 8pm. Maxtown has a small gym, big screen for movies at night and a grass field (on the roof) for the joy of your bare feet.

Hamilton hotel in Itaewon also has a Jjimjilbang that I hear is quite nice (there is one near the Fire Station too). It could make a good alternative to a taxi ride home at the end of a late night drink-fest, if the taxi costs more than the admission (about 10,000 won).


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