The Kimchi-ite: Relax And Get Lazy In The Nude At A Korean Jjim-Jil-Bang

After a long, six-day workweek, a night of drinking or just a day of walking all over town, the jjim-jil-bang is the perfect place to unravel in South Korea. Literally meaning “heated bath room” (not “heated bathroom” mind you), jjim-jil-bang are relaxation emporiums with a heavy lean towards hot tubs and saunas that are affordable, open 24/7 and a staple of Korean culture. With good reason, they have become increasingly popular, and not just for the overworked Korean office worker or drunk college student.After you pay your 10,000-won entrance fee (less than $9), you will be directed to your gender’s locker room. There you’ll slip into the entirely too comfortable, loose-fitting clothing they provide you with. You have your choice of various forms of relaxation at that point. The main attractions are the hot tubs, with each jjim-jil-bang having a handful to choose from, at differing temperatures and water types, such as green tea hot tubs. These are to be enjoyed in the nude of course, with the hot tub areas segregated by gender. Be sure to thoroughly wash yourself beforehand just outside the baths.

There are traditional Korean stone dome saunas, hanjeungmak, with differing intensities, but they are always very hot and refreshingly dry. Often there will be a “cold room” to cool down that continuously has fresh air pumped into it. Depending on the size, a jjim-jil-bang may also have karaoke, an arcade, exfoliating massages, a barber, a swimming pool, gym facilities or a restaurant.

All of these are linked together by a large common room with a heated floor where patrons of both sexes can gather, watch TV and relax. This area facilitates jjim-jil-bangs popular use as ultra-cheap, last minute accommodation after a late night out when the trains stop running.

It’s required that any visit to a jjim-jil-bang be accompanied by shikeh, a nice mellow rice drink, and making yourself a sheep’s hat out of your towel to absorb sweat. The hat is actually quite terrible at sweat absorption, but extremely efficient at making you feel ridiculous and putting a smile on your face.

One of the largest jjim-jil-bangs, and the most accommodating to foreigners, is the Dragonhill Spa in Yongsan across the street from Yongsan station, with a staff fluent in English.

Continue on with previous Kimchi-ite posts with more on Korean culture, food and eccentricities by clicking here.


[Photo Credits: Flickr User Wootang1, WhiteNight7 via WikiMedia, and Jonathan Kramer]

The Kimchi-ite: The Korean Folk Village, A Perfect Escape From The City

Seoul and South Korea as a whole are undoubtably modern. But less than a century ago, much of what makes the country so modern today did not exist and people lived much more simply. Farming was by far the most common occupation and people lived in villages, not cities.

Having not left the city limits in months, it’s hard for me to comprehend a world without LTE service and Wi-Fi in the subway. I decided to escape from Seoul, with its omnipotent television screens beaming down on most intersections, to a more traditional location. The Yongin Korean Folk Village was the perfect choice for a quick escape from the city.

A period reenactor making “ppeong twigi,” puffed rice, a traditional Korean street food. “Ppeong” represents the sound of the contraption when making the snack; watch this video to hear for yourself.

Located in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, just an hour south of the city, it is very easily accessible from the center of Seoul. There are numerous folk villages all over Korea but this is one of the most popular and most fully realized.

A rock at the entrance of the village onto which people tie their messages and wishes, a common sight in ancient Korea.

The folk village is a fantastic look into historic Korea, with houses, food, scheduled musical performances and traditional ceremonies, all representing the different eras in Korean history.

A parade of dancing drummers commemorating the coming harvest. Further proof that Korean history has the best headgear.

The townsfolk staff walk around in period clothing and farm animals are on hand to show subsistence farming of the day. It’s a surprisingly large place; walking the perimeter of the village can take about an hour.

A Choga-jib, thatched roof house, representative of peasant houses in southern, warmer regions.

Being able to walk around the different styles of houses is immensely interesting. Different layouts and designs are used for different regions and classes of people. You can even play with some of the farm equipment used to make food such as rice cakes.

A traditionally themed 7-Eleven near the entrance of the Korean Folk Village acts as a suggestion not to take your trip inside too seriously.

It does have a bit of a tourist trap feel; the 7-11 with a traditional, Korean-tiled roof is one of the glaring examples – even though it is by far my favorite convenience store on the peninsula. In many ways a trip to the Korean Folk Village is a trip to a theme park trying to pass as a museum. But it’s a much better way to see Korean history than looking at miniatures and artists’ renditions, as you would do in a museum.

All smiles during a harvest ceremony in the Korean Folk Village.

The best way to get to the Yongin Korean Folk Village is to take Seoul Subway Line 1 to Suwon Station. Then, take exit 5 and once outside of the station you will find a tourist information office. There, you can get a ticket for a free shuttle bus that will take you directly to the Korean Folk Village. The staff is multi-lingual and can guide you to the bus stop in English, Korean, Chinese or Japanese.

Go back into “The Kimchi-ite” archives here for more on Korean culture, food and oddities.

[All photos by Jonathan Kramer]

Video: 2 Weeks In Rwanda

“Rwanda, our beautiful and dear country / Adorned of hills, lakes and volcanoes / Motherland, would be always filled of happiness…”

These first three lines of the Rwandan national anthem are epitomized in this video created by Missouri based video production company Mammoth Media. This past summer, they were invited by the Rwandan tourist department to spend two weeks capturing video that would encapsulate the breathtaking nature of the country. Ultimately, the group aimed to collect footage to be shown in the country’s airports and welcome centers.

According to the video’s description on Vimeo, the tourist department ultimately decided, “to omit most of the footage showing people, poverty and real life.” The video you see above is a re-edited version to include that footage and it is beyond breathtaking. I had personally never thought about traveling to Rwanda before watching this video, if only from a lack of knowledge. But now I have an appetite to see those hills, the green savannah, the rare birds and those gorillas in the mist.

The Kimchi-ite: The Almost Forgotten Traditional Homes Of Korea

South Korea rapidly became a modern country. Within the past half-century it has gone from a country mostly of fields to seas of high rises. Over the years, many of these construction projects have caused the demolition of entire neighborhoods of traditional Korean houses, called hanok. Beautiful houses with tile roofs, wood framing and intricate brickwork were discarded to make way for dense apartment complexes. Fortunately, there has been a movement to preserve the hanok that remain.

You can sometimes see hanok straddled right next to apartment buildings or convenience stores scattered around the country. There are a few so-called “Hanok Villages,” places designed for visitors to take in plenty of traditional Korea, sometimes complete with costumed re-enactors.

My favorite is the Bukchon Hanok Village in Samcheong-dong, located in central Seoul, very close to a lot of other great sights such as Gyeongbok Palace and Cheonggye Stream. Bukchon is actually just a residential neighborhood, not originally intended to be a tourist destination. All of the hanok function as actual family homes, so it definitely doesn’t have a tourist trap vibe that some of other Hanok villages have. It’s great to just wander around the hilly neighborhood, looking at the beautiful houses with some great views of the surrounding city.

The best way to get to Bukchon is via subway. Take line 3 to Anguk Station and get out at exit 3. There is a multi-lingual tourist information desk not far from the exit with maps and brochures. Take a map and wander around. Afterwards, head over to the main street of Samcheong-dong offers plenty of trinket shops, cafes, restaurants and art galleries and is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Be sure to check out more on Korean culture from the other Kimchi-ite posts here!

[Photo credits: Jonathan Kramer]

Photo of the day – Lunchtime in Vietnam

photo of the day

If it weren’t for the modern water bottles on the tables, this photo could have been taken in any year. Flickr user American Jon captured a beautiful lunchtime scene at the Bac Ha Sunday market in Vietnam, with great color from the traditional costumes and perfect lighting. Bac Ha is known for the many ethnic minorities who are found only in the region, serving up unusual food like thang co, a blood porridge made with horse meat, as well as moonshine.

Want to see your timeless travel photos on Gadling? Add them to the Flickr pool and be sure we can download them for a future Photo of the Day.