At the Lasema Spa and Sauna, one can try this uniquely Korean experience. Upon entry, you’ll be given two small towels with a pair of shorts and a shirt. Entry is only P400 for the use of the wet area and the jjimjilbang proper for 12 hours. They also offer massages, scrubs and facials for an additional fee but I just wanted to try the jjimjilbang itself and opted not to.
You’ll have to remove your shoes upon entry into the segregated women’s area. I was lucky enough to be alone when I entered the changing/locker area and quickly removed my clothes to get into the orange shirt and shorts. I’m saying lucky as you’re not expected to cover yourself even if you’re in your birthday suit. That’s the Korean thing. I walked around for a while and the area is quite big though not so much that you’ll get lost. You’ll just feel it, though.
When I got into the common area, I was greeted by the presence of the three sauna doors. The hottest one was over 70 degrees. It’s not a constant temperature as it got a degree hotter while we were there. The actual temperature is shown outside with big red LED numbers to keep you updated.
I asked for hubby and they called him from the men's area. Meandering for a while, we decided to try the salt and charcoal room first as it had the mildest temperature. It’s the middle one. You enter on a mat but it covers only a quarter of the floor space, the other portion laid out with pebbles. The salt rock pebbles sure were hot, like beach sand on a hot summer day. There’s a small sitting area near the oven that can sit one but an ajumma signalled us to sit on the pebbles with a smile. It was a cozy room, if toasting is your idea of cozy, with an hourglass to tell if you’ve already sat the approximate amount of time you should. Warning on the hourglass as it is a little hot to the touch at the end areas. Recommended time is 5 to 30 minutes. You eventually get used to the heat and just sweat out after a while. If you find that you can squeeze in some space, you can try lying down and staring at the pretty stone pattern on the ceiling and maybe play around with the pebbles, sifting them with your hands.
After the salt room, the oak and clay room was easier to handle. It was actually easier on my feet as there is a mat on whole floor space. As with the salt room, there is an hourglass to time yourself with. We laid down for a while and just looked up to the pretty ceiling patterns. It’s a good idea to bring a book to the jjimjilbang. There are quite a lot of things to read in the common room, actually, from comic books to magazines to local newspapers. It’s just that they’re all Korean. There’s also a corner where you can surf the net for P50 an hour. The wifi is free so if you’d like to bring a tablet device or a laptop, you could do so.
After a while in the oak room, I felt that I was psyched enough to try the dome clay sauna. It’s like an oven. It smells like an oven. It will roast you alive. I’m kidding. I actually went near the glowing thing at the center and noted that it was just salt rocks with a bit of light under it. Or maybe I’m just wishing I actually didn’t try to roast myself. It wasn’t that easy to stay inside the room for long as the air was so dry and it felt weird to breathe that kind of air for me. Maybe that’s the reason there isn’t an hourglass as there would be no need. A sane person wouldn’t stay inside that room for long.
We tried the ice room next. It was negative 9 degrees cold but after the hot rooms, not that hard to handle. Once our bodies cooled down and pores have gotten smaller, we went round to check for food.
We entered the Jewel in the Palace restaurant but didn’t bother to order. My hubby isn’t very much into Korean food and the prices were a little steep for something he wouldn’t enjoy anyway. We tried the snack bar and got their grilled eggs and free tea. The egg was good. They cook it inside the Clay Dome room for 8 hours and serve it with salt and pepper. We got two each and since I had a craving for more, I figured we better try a proper meal instead so as not to gorge on it.
The Next Door North Park restaurant was quite filling. We couldn't and didn’t even finish our meal as the serving of the fried rice was huge.
We tried the wet areas separately as it is segregated by gender. You get into your birthday suit and scrub at the shower area first. You can shower standing up or sitting down on one of the small stools provided but it seemed weird to sit down in them considering other naked people have done so. Afterwards, the wet sauna. If there is a hell, I’m sure it would be warmer than that, but it was way too hot for me already. Weirdly, it’s supposed to be milder than the jjimjilbang saunas but I couldn’t take a minute inside that place and sitting on the hot bench was torture. I wanted to splash my face with the flowing water like the girl who entered before me did but I just couldn’t bear to move in that place. The heat was everywhere. I’d crouch down to the floor if I could but it seems like the hot mist actually came from the floor. I really didn’t get it. Hubby said that the wet sauna in his side was comfortable. I’ll try it again next time to check if it really was as bad or they might just have overheated that room at that time.
The pools I could take. The mildest was 27 degrees. The ginseng pool was 41 degrees the first time I tried it and though tough to get in at first, was a good soak. Since no one else was sharing the pool with me, I even tried floating on it. Afterwards, the 42 degree green tea pool was tolerable but like the clay dome, not something I could take for long. After trying the wet sauna once again, for about 30 seconds. Or maybe 10, I went back to the common area to wait for hubby and explore.
As I have a bottomless stomach at the moment, I tried the grilled egg once again, the iced shikhye and the shin ramyun. The ramyun was like eating liquid chili pepper. I’m not good at hot stuff at all. The shikhye didn’t help. It was iced rice but I tasted a little ginger. Chili with ginger is way too much for my poor tongue. I ended up trying the Jeju island water. It tastes the same as local bottled water though. You can ask the server not to clean up your food if you’d like to go to the sauna for a break before finishing off your food when there aren’t too many people around.
To take advantage of the experience, I did the jjimjilbang and sauna round three times and though most of the time it was just staring off into space, I enjoyed it. It was a great way to treat the skin, let the brain doze for a while and release toxins in the body. We are definitely coming back.
Pictures from http://www.tcat.com.ph/team.php?id=36