10 Tips For A South Korean Spa (Part 2)

The second part of my tips is here to shed more insight on Korean spas just in time for the stifling warm weather that’s approaching! I’ve got another 5 awesome bits of information to share so that you can navigate a Korean spa with confidence and grace – as much confidence and grace as you can muster while walking around buck naked anyway. Let’s get started so we can get your behind to a spa as quickly as possible!

Check out the first installment of my 10 tips for a South Korean Spa here.

6. Locker Key And Payment

Being Silly at King Spa 찜질방

The first thing you’ll receive when you stroll up to the reception desk is a locker key attached to a little bracelet for you to keep on your wrist. This handy little bracelet is waterproof so no need to worry about that when you venture into those humid steam rooms and whirlpools. A sweet little pro tip that I learned by sheer luck is that in the whirlpools there are metal scanners where you can scan your bracelet to activate some bubbly jet action!

Another awesome trick this bracelet can do is function as a credit card! It completely rids your need to carry around a wallet. When you head to the unisex floor, you can purchase snacks and drinks with your bracelet. Once your fingers are good and wrinkly from all the hot tubs and you’ve had your fill of Korean food, dress back into your own clothes and head down to the front desk. There, you’ll hand over your bracelet key and your charges for your entrance fee and any extras you might have purchased inside the spa will be totaled up so you can check out and pay for everything all at once. Sweet and convenient.

7. Adult Pajamas

Obviously you can’t walk around in your birthday suit while on the unisex floor. To ensure that everything is kept PG-13 on the floor where couples can meet back up to spend time in the steam rooms and snack bars, spas lend their patrons pajamas to wear – hideous pajamas. Imagine those fuzzy matching pajama tops and shorts that little kids usually wear to school with Scooby Doo printed on the shirtfront. That’s the sort of pajamas you’re given at a Korean spa – except, of course, these pajamas are in unflattering grey and orange colors and there’s no sign of any happy children’s characters on the frumpy shirts.

For all their unholy hideousness, there is one thing that can be said about these atrocities: they’re cozy and comfortable! They all come in “free size” which basically means one size fits all, so they’re made with stretchy, breathable fabrics and elastic. Walking onto the unisex floor of the spa feels like accidentally walking into a huge “We Love Snuggies” support group because everyone is donning the unsightly yet comfortable jammies. Before you know it, though, you’ll be a member as well. You’ll love those snuggie-like pajamas as much as the rest of us do. Trust me.

8. Baby Towels

If you’ve ever been to a spa in America, drop any delusions that the towels in Korean spas will be the same. They won’t be plush, cotton white, or scented with lavender. Korean spa towels – if they can be called that – are there for the very basic function of drying your body. They aren’t even long or wide enough to wrap around your entire body. During my first spa experience in Korea, I attempted to walk out of the lockers with a towel wrapped around myself until I could jump into the nearest hot tub.

The outcome?

I looked like a crazy foreigner clutching a child sized towel to my body as I inched my way to the sauna room. I had to crab walk the entire way over because (to my shock and dismay) the towel wouldn’t cover my backside. Even little kids were giggling at the strange lady who was too shy to be seen naked in a room full of naked women. After a few more trips to the spa, I ditched my crab walking ways and now head straight for the sauna with my towel bravely tossed over one shoulder. And guess what? Not a single person takes notice of me. Confidence really is key, ladies and gentlemen.

9. Herbal Clay Steam Rooms

On the unisex floor there are little clay huts that are filled with aromatic herbs to open your pores and sinuses. Each hut has a different temperature so – like with the whirlpools – be sure to start with the coolest one first and work your way up. The spas I’ve frequented don’t have clocks in the small huts, but instead contain a sand glass in each steam room that one person usually takes charge of and keeps in sight for all to see. Because these little huts are fairly small, there are no seats inside. In fact, you have to crouch down to enter through small doors and then sit on the bare floor.

10. Food And Drinks

In America, I had a love/hate relationship with “Spa Food.” The items on the menu were always the same no matter which spa I visited: light pecan cranberry salads, half a chicken salad sandwich, fresh fruit, sparkling water, cucumber infused water, tea assortments. While I really do love all that stuff, it’s never enough to satisfy my rumbling tummy. Dainty spa food is pretty to look at for sure, but it never fills me up – especially since splashing around in whirlpools and sweating buckets of water in the sauna tends to work up an appetite.

In Korea, however, the food scene is completely different to the US…and I love it. In Korean spas you can buy boiled eggs, cheap beer, noodles, chips, and other delicious (I know, I know, and unhealthy) foods to munch on while you rest. My favorite thing to do during my spa ventures is work up a good sweat in the hot clay rooms for a bit and cool off afterward with a refreshing beer in the “ice room” (a freezing room filled with huge blocks of ice). Just be sure to stay hydrated and pick up water as well if you plan on drinking!

I hope this list of tips was helpful and gives you the confidence boost you need to march into any Korean spa without any worries. If you’ve been to a Korean spa before, share your tips with us in a comment below! Funny stories about your first experiences are also extremely welcome! 

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