Monday, November 27, 2017

Sauna and Thai Massage Trip in Korea (jjimjilbang and spa recommendations)

Daegu, South Korea
Relaxing Trip: My Weekend Getaway in Daegu
Blog by Jenikah Joy

Everyone deserves a break.
Now that fall is in full effect, and the idea of settling in for the winter has become a reality, many people start to feel blue, wishing they could re-live their summer fun and ignore the ever impending cold temperatures. However, if the stress of the cold and the monotony of your work week is setting in, sounds like you could use a weekend away, just like I did. Now I’ve spent a lot of weekends exploring and having fun, but I have not had a real “spa day” since moving to Korea. I had heard rumors of some great places in Daegu and decided to check it out for myself, because sometimes you just have to:

Treat Yo’ Self!

PART 1: Relaxation, Korean Style
Now, spas are a bit different in Korea than in the U.S. You can, of course, go to a luxury spa to get that pampered feeling, but it’s going to be quite pricey to get an American spa experience. But, if you want to try an affordable way to relax, the way most Koreans do, then you have to go to a 찜질방 jjimjilbang! JJimjilbang’s are infamous in Korean dramas, popular among Los Angeles celebrities, and a regular part of any native Korean’s life. 

Saengwhal SPA 생활온천 수목원 What I paid: \6,500

Although there are several jjimjilbang’s to choose from in Daegu, some which are more popular than others, I decided to check out Saengwhal SPA in Dalseogu, located near Jincheon Station exit 2 or Daegok Station exit 3. Located in a tall building, with parking, it is easy to find and quite nice looking as you walk up. Upon entering, we were warmly welcomed and helped with purchasing our entry, and although the staff were limited in speaking English, they were more than happy to help us and show us around. Since this was my first time to come to a jjimjilbang, I had a lot of questions, and a lot of worries about doing things “right”. In any case, everything is quite self explanatory. Once we paid, we were handed a towel, an outfit to wear around, and a key which is used to lock your shoes and then also your locker once you get to the locker room, brilliant!

Free spa uniforms and towel sin different colors for men, women, and children.

Once you get your key, you enter the main facility, after taking off your shoes and putting them inthe lockers assigned to you according to the key number. The lockers are split by men’s and women’s, so you know where to find it when you come back to the lobby. 

There’s also a waiting area in the lobby, and then an elevator which takes you to your locker room. From the first floor you head up to the 2nd floor for the women’s locker room and the 3rd floor for men’s. The spa offers other services and various add ons, you can access a fitness center on the 4th floor and during summer there’s a children’s pool and garden on the 5th floor.

I, of course, only needed to access the women’s locker room which is quite an experience in and of itself. If you’ve ever had a gym membership in the US, you’re probably used to seeing other naked people, but somehow this feels a little different. There are people of all ages, no private changing stalls, but rather just an open room with only lockers and one bench in the middle of the room, so be prepared to see a lot but be sure not to stare!!

There’s a small shop inside the locker room, selling any immediate necessities. How convenient!

Relaxation Rooms
For this trip I decided to spend most of my time in the co-ed spaces, using the relaxation rooms and other amenities provided there. I headed down to B1 to see what I would find. 

Before heading into the main relaxation room, my husband and I decided to browse the selection of treats available at the snack bar. There’s also a small restaurant if you’re looking to have a bigger meal while you’re there. Some people spend all day at the jjimjilbang, so you can work up quite an appetite, you know... while laying around and doing nothing.

구운계란 Baked eggs are a jjimjilbang necessity.

After getting ourselves some baked eggs and 식혜 Sikhye, a sweet refreshing rice drink, we headed into the main resting room. Right outside there is a pile of neck pillows which you can take to rest your head on while laying on the mats inside.

The room is comfortably warm but not hot, however, there are several other “hot chambers” connected to the main room that you can go in and out of as you please. Along with those is the ice room, which seemed quite popular among the children, who enjoyed the faux snow inside. After spending time in a hot room, it is a great change of environment.

Relaxation Rooms

There’s several different rooms to choose from, each offering a different level of heat. Some are hotter, some are dryer, some are just plain unbearable... if I’m being honest! 

Inside the Stone Chamber which gets up to 60 °C, that’s 140°F!
I tried a few different ones, but I have to agree with the kids, the ice room was the best! There were water droplets falling that built little stalagmites on the floor. This was kind of nice for foot reflexology, as long as you’re careful not to slip!

Ultimately, it was a great experience and an inexpensive way to relax. Although this is not the biggest spa in Daegu, it was nice because it was not crowded at all so we could experience all the rooms without feeling rushed or uncomfortable. I would definitely recommend this jjimjilbang too because it is very clean, easy to navigate, and the staff is exceptionally friendly.

PART 2: Massage Me

마사지 매니아 Massage Mania Located 574-1, Jincheon-dong, Dalseo-gu, Daegu 5 Floor

Although you can opt for a massage at a jjimjilbang, I wanted to try a specialty massage place. Massage Mania was recommended to me and is walking distance from Saengwhal Spa. Although the managers do not speak English, they tried their best to book me an appointment and I was able to get a female masseuse upon request.

A Real Thai Massage
I’d had what I thought was a “Thai massage” many times in the U.S. before, but apparently whatever I had been receiving is nothing like a real Thai massage. The menu was a little difficult to decipher, so I just picked a basic treatment which was only 40,000 with cash payment. 

Thai style massage in their Business Room

After being given a uniform to change into, and heading into the Business Room to receive my treatment, the lights were turned down low, and what happened next can only be described as a once in a lifetime experience!! The woman who came in to give me my massage, began by slowly stepping on me and then eventually standing on top of me. She used her feet and weight to work out all the knots in my back and surprisingly did not cause any pain, but instead sent me into a wonderful world of relaxation. There were a few times, I thought that I might be crushed under her feet, but that was not the case at all. Sadly there are no photos of this event, but believe me when I tell you, it’s a truly unique experience! After an hour of being kneaded and rolled, and put in some very strange positions, I left feeling completely relaxed and stretched out.

Changing room with shower

Afterwards I headed back to the locker room where there is a shower and other toiletries for you to get ready. Unlike the U.S. there’s no tipping, so you simply change and show yourself out. This location offers a variety of services, including foot baths, aromatherapy, sports massage, and more.

A Worthwhile Weekend

All in all, I had a great relaxing time in Daegu. I know there are many places you could go to try a spa or massage, but there’s something extra special about getting away for a weekend somewhere out of town. Of course if you live in Daegu, it’s even more convenient for you to go to these locations! In addition, if you’re visiting from another country, this is a great way to recover from jet lag or too much shopping. Don’t hesitate, because everyone deserves a little pampering!


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