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✈ 서울 T R A V E L O G U E ✈ Jjimjilbang (찜질방)​ with new Korean friends!

Wordy entry ahead on one of our most interesting experiences in Seoul!

One of our plans in Seoul was to go a Jjimjilbang (찜질방), which is basically a large public bath house. The lockers and shower rooms are gender-segregated of course, but there is usually a large heated area for lounging and sleeping, complete with wide-screen televisions and everything. They also have heated rooms, ice rooms, PC bangs (a room where you can use the Internet), noraebangs (karaoke rooms!) and mats for you to sleep on.

A lot of Koreans pay about 10,000 won to go in, then spend their entire night there. They have everything from food to entertainment to shower facilities, so it’s pretty much a cheap place for people who need somewhere to sleep overnight!

The whole idea of sleeping with a bunch of people in a bath house might sound incredibly weird, but it’s really the norm in Seoul, so go with it!

Entry is cheaper at certain times, though I can’t remember which.

We actually planned to go on our last Saturday if I am not wrong, but we ended up going on a Friday instead by complete coincidence – because we randomly made new Korean friends!!!

Dinner at a street stall at Dongdaemun! It was our first time there and Chong Aik’s second (he met a friend for dinner here some other day) and so he recommended all the dishes you see here – which are super yummy! Kimchi pancakes,  ddeokbokki, udon and some soup thingy. We also had other really delish stuff which I didn’t manage to take since everyone was busy eating.

So beside us, there were four other students eating at the next table, and at first we didn’t really take notice of them at all until we saw that they were playing some sort of game. And then somehow at one point we just KNEW that someone was going to come over because we saw the others egging this one guy on.

And…he really did come over! We were a bit like ‘Err…’ but then we offered him our makgeolli (Korean rice wine, which we happened to not be able to finish) and somehow after that we had both our tables joined and we were doing our best to talk to each other in broken English/Korean.

Haha took this picture before we deduced they were coming over because I was just trying to take the insides of the tent. But those are the four students!

And somehow somehow, we ended up talking, going to a sleazy-looking place to drink together (was totally decent and safe though!!) and then making plans to go to a jjimjilbang together after we found out they were going there to stay that night!

It was also really funny because throughout the whole time we were conversing, the girl was trying her best to teach us drinking games they were playing and she kept checking her phone – that she was actually CHARGING in the tent pfft – and translating words.

So after eating, they suggested hanging out (minus the guy who came over to us in the first place cos he had to leave :()and none of us really knew where to go – but we wound up at this place with plushy booth seats to continue chilling. Like I said, it looked really sleazy to us at first but it isn’t really expensive (paid about 20,000+ won in total) and it’s comfy! And it seems to be the sort of place that is open all night.

Haha check out that fringe curtain-like thing. It does look like of like a dodgy place right? 😛

And the next day Chong Aik pointed out that the girl, the youngest out of all of us, was the one pouring us soju shots all the time, and he realised it was because that’s the culture in Korea – to have the youngest pour for the others around the table.

Some other etiquette info I got off Wiki, highlighted portions are the things we actually experienced without knowing it!

“Soju is usually consumed in group gatherings while eating, unmixed and portioned into individual shot glasses. It is against traditional custom in Korea to fill one’s own glass. Instead, it must be filled by someone else at the table.

In Korean culture, using two hands to offer and accept items is considered an act of respect. Accordingly, if one’s glass is going to be filled by a superior, one should hold the glass with both hands. Similarly, when pouring soju for an elder, one holds the bottle with both hands.

Koreans often say “one shot“, a challenge to everyone in the group to down their glass in one gulp. (!!!!!!! THIS WAS SO TRUE HAHA ALL OF THEM KEPT SAYING THIS 1000X TIMES)

A glass should not be refilled unless completely empty and should be promptly refilled once empty; it is considered rude to not fill someone else’s glass when empty.

Some special rules apply when drinking with someone of much higher status, i.e. greater age or rank. When drinking in front of elders (people older than you), the junior is expected to turn away from the elder first. Drinking the shot while directly facing the elder is considered disrespectful. However in recent years, the prevalent practice has been to drink the shot without turning away from the elder (but still using both hands to drink), as most Koreans view the practice as archaic and a detriment to camaraderie, irrespective of the age groups involved.”

So yeah!! Really interesting experience. To them it might be already a cultural norm, but it was still a first for us despite watching it on TV etc. They also told us that they usually finish a bottle each, and that they hold their alcohol well heh.

Btw, soju is seriously cheap there. Like 3,000 won a bottle. And the same goes for most of the alcohol we saw.

Verryyyy trigger happy.

And pictures from when we went to the jjimjilbang!

In the ice room hahah freezing our asses off but still happily camwhoring.

We had to change into the outfits they gave us when we got there and keep everything else in lockers, but I kept my phone and money with me since I knew I wanted to try the eggs I always watched people eat in dramas at jjimjilbangs! All photos from my iPhone since the DSLR was stuffed into the locker, and mostly of just me and the boys since our new friends and Mel went to sleep.

Our keys to our lockers. Haha I realise how ridiculously happy everyone looked that night, and I swear it was not the alcohol because I only had like three shots.

THE HORRENDOUS QUALITY OF THIS HAHA. We were sitting at the heated lounge area chatting, but got told off by an ahjusshi for being too noisy. Same thing happened in the tent when we were playing screaming games (seriously wth were we doing??).

In one of the heated rooms…we were actually dancing inside but it was too hot so we got out.

One of the noraebang booths! It’s like 100won a song I think. And those two were seriously monsters!! I left the booth to go to the washroom and I COULD HEAR THEM SINGING ADELE’S SET FIRE TO THE RAIN ALL THE WAY FROM THE TOILET.

Not even singing it, SCREECHING it like banshees. -.-

Eggs! I ate like three..but they seriously taste healthier than normal eggs ok! I’ve no idea how they do it.

They also have a gym!

I think we spent about two hours in total there before cabbing home at around 4am, exploring and hopping from room to room. It’s really somewhere I would recommend going if you are in Seoul! The experience is totally unique, and although you feel awkward at first being so ‘at home’ somewhere so far away, after awhile you just get used to it.

Everyone’s so comfortable there that people just walk around naked in the respective locker rooms (we didn’t though, since we were conservative and mildly mortified). I’m still not actually sure if I’ll be able to sleep there since I don’t even sleep well anywhere other than my own bed, so being surrounded by strangers probably wouldn’t help.

Also not sure which jjimjilbang we went to since we followed the Koreans around, but it was around Dongdaemun since that was where we started off at and we didn’t take the subway anywhere else.

And also because we left without waking our newfound companions up to say goodbye again, we were sure we would never be able to see them again…but the next day, we bumped into the girl at Hongik University Station!!! Coincidental much? She started a Kakao (the Korean equivalent to WhatsApp) group with us and so far, only one other guy and myself exist in that said convo. I wonder how long we’ll be able to communicate since the convo is filled with mostly broken Korean or broken English. 😦

Still, I think that night was one of my favourite nights in Seoul. I think that we were really lucky to have met them, as well as the other foreign girls we met at M Countdown because they really made our experience there much more memorable. I mean, how often do you get to go someplace foreign and get to know the locals, and foreigners living there, out of the blue right?

And to Mich and Stef who are flying there in a couple of hours, have loads of fun!! 🙂

Places mentioned:

Dongdaemun (동대문)

Jjimjilbang (찜질방)

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7 Comments

  1. I laughed when I saw the photo of us in the mini-KTV box cos I knew you were gonna say something like that! I MISS KOREA RACHELLLLLLLL

  2. t

    hi! i really like your korea travelogue posts as they’re very informative. thank you so much for sharing the info! As i am intending to travel to seoul soon and will like to visit a korean public bathhouse as well, i am curious to know if it is okay/advisable to wear contact lens while in there? (:

    thanks in advance.

    • Hi there, sorry for the late reply!

      I personally wore contact lens into the bathhouse as well, but I generally only stayed in the main areas. If you are planning to go into the sauna rooms, it would be best to not wear them. Perhaps you could just don your glasses throughout and take them off if you’re spending a few minutes in the saunas. The other areas are alright.

      And thank you for your feedback! I’ll be blogging more posts soon so I hope they’ll help as well. xx

  3. lorelle

    hi i would like to go to korea soon and visit the jimjilbang. i would like to know where was the one u went to?

    • Hi there, I went to a random one around the Dongdaemun area. Can’t remember the name of it because the Korean friends we met brought us there, but I’m pretty sure you can find a lot of popular ones online! 🙂

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