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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Hathaway

Body Positivity & Bliss: My Jjimjilbang Experience in South Korea

Step away from the everyday and into a world of pure relaxation. Korean jjimjilbangs offer an escape for body and mind. Leave stress at the door and immerse yourself in healing saunas, revitalizing baths, and a culture that cherishes well-being. Imagine a haven filled with the scent of herbs, the gentle sound of water, and the warmth of heated stones. This is the jjimjilbang experience, a journey towards ultimate rejuvenation the Korean way. But what's it actually like? Let me tell you about my first foray into a Korean jjimjilbang, and how it transformed my understanding of wellness.

Two female friends smiling in front of the sign for Spaland
Two girls fully revitalized after the jjimjilbang!

I lived in South Korea for 3.5 years, and my friends always wanted to go to a jjimjilbang. But let's be real, I had my concerns. As a plus-sized girl with a large tattoo, I wasn't sure how welcome I'd feel in a space where I'd potentially be taking off my clothes. I managed to avoid the experience for years with creative excuses, but before I moved back to the USA, I decided it was time to face my fears and treat myself. We headed to Spaland, a popular wellness spot in Busan's Shinsegae Department Store. We got our wristbands (which double as locker keys!) and free drink coupons for Sikhye, a delicious traditional Korean rice drink – score! Then, we received little instruction cards in English and headed towards the locker room. I was worried that they wouldn't have clothes in my size, but I shouldn't have worried. The lady at the laundry counter gave me a quick glance and handed me a set of clothes that were the perfect size. Now, the locker room situation might be a bit of a culture shock if you're used to American locker rooms where people tend to walk around in towels. Most people in Korea walk around in the nude after changing for the baths.  It felt a bit awkward at first, but I quickly learned that everyone was minding their own business.  We slipped into our VERY fashionable (okay, maybe not so fashionable) spa outfits, grabbed our drinks, and headed for the saunas. There were more than 10 different ones, each with its own vibe and temperature. Some were blazing hot, others were themed with things like ocean sounds/lighting and salt – it was like a whole sauna wonderland! My personal favorite had lasers, because… why not lasers? We explored, laid on the heated floors, and generally basked in the warmth. Next, we braved the chilly air for the outdoor foot baths, armed with little coats provided by the spa. The warm water, different bath types (lavender, anyone?), and even reflexology trails were pure bliss. We stayed out until our faces were cold before heading back in.

A Korean salt sauna
One of the many sauna options!

Back inside, the spa unveiled a whole new world of pampering possibilities. Rows of massage chairs beckoned for relaxation, while tranquility zones offered a chance to unwind in calming environments. We could have treated ourselves to manicures, pedicures, full-body scrubs, or other rejuvenating treatments – the options were endless!  Bidding farewell to a full day of indulgence was tempting, but evening plans forced us onward. However, my bestie had one final spa experience on her must-do list: the baths. This was the moment I'd been dreading, but I wasn't going to let anything spoil her fun. We swapped our outfits for laundry baskets and grabbed towels specifically designated for the bath area. Following spa etiquette, we showered thoroughly using the provided shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Then, it was time to explore the various bath options! From jetted whirlpools to invigorating cold plunges and steaming hot tubs, there was something for everyone. While initial nerves fluttered, everyone was focused on their own well-being, and there wasn't a judgmental gaze in sight. Soaking in the warm water was the perfect finale to our spa journey, leaving us feeling utterly relaxed and rejuvenated.  We finished with another quick shower, then headed to the powder room stocked with hair dryers, curling irons, and a variety of moisturizers, lotions, and even some skincare products. Refreshed and ready to face the day, we stepped back out into the world, my anxieties replaced with a newfound appreciation for Korean wellness.

Despite my initial nerves, I had the best time! I left feeling refreshed, rejuvenated,  and way less self-conscious than I expected. It was a lesson in how sometimes the things we fear end up being amazing experiences.  Wellness in South Korea goes beyond jjimjilbangs. From world-renowned skincare to hot springs, temple stays, and tea ceremonies, there's something for everyone seeking a little self-care. It's a land of luxury wellness experiences, waiting to be discovered.

Which Korean wellness experience would you most like to try? 🤔

  • 🧖‍♀️ Jjimjilbang: Traditional bathhouse with saunas & baths

  • 🌿 Skincare Clinic: Get pampered with a skincare treatments

  • ♨️ Hot Springs: Soak in mineral-rich waters for relaxation

  • 🙏 Temple Stay: Experience tranquility at a Buddhist Temple

If this story inspires you to try a jjimjilbang, Spaland in Busan is a great place to start. It's foreigner-friendly and offers a comfy intro to this tradition. Here's the lowdown:

  • Location: Shinsegae Department Store in Busan.

  • Hours: Open daily from 9 am to 10 pm (last admission at 9 pm).

  • Price: Basic entrance is 23,000 won (~17 USD) for 4 hours. Overtime is 5,000 won (~3.75 USD) per hour. Spend over 10,000 won (~7.50 USD) inside, and you can stay up to 6 hours.

Ready to embrace Korean wellness and create your perfect luxury vacation? Contact us today and let's start planning your unforgettable journey!


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