One of the things I occasionally enjoy are the jjimjilbangs and bathhouses. It’s not that I enjoy being naked in front of others, but I do love the pampering of a good soak and scrub, whilst relaxing with the Asian bathing community. In fact, being naked in a bathhouse is actually more comfortable than wearing a bikini on a beach! Seeing bodies of all shapes, sags and sizes, parade around non-chalantly and matter-of-fact, I get to feeling less judgmental in general, about a pinch of fat here, cellulite there…
On my return to Seoul, there was one “luxury” jjimjilbang I’d heard hype about. Dragon Hill Spa has been raved about by CNN.com, The New York Times and bloggers being one of the deluxe spas in Seoul, where celebrities frequent and TV broadcasts like Yoo Jae Suk‘s show, Happy Together (I think), occasionally film. It was a spot I’d been dying to try.
It was late Friday night when I arrived, around 11PM. The entrance was lit up in neon reminding me of either, a Las Vegas casino or a love motel. Judging from the long queue of 20-somethings waiting to get check in, it felt like nightclub bath and sauna life was ready to start rocking.
When fellow Daegu-ite friend, Feather of Vegan Around the World met me, we were immediately greeted by a sashed ambassador. He was excited to sell us ‘spa packages’. Ordinarily, I don’t do spa packages, but as this place is known for such glamorousness, why not give it a go? One time couldn’t hurt. Feather was game as well.
But okay, I spent a little too much on this package– try 168,000 Won! Yow!
After I paid my cha-ching at the reception desk, I was given smocks, 2 towels and a locker key. I dropped my shoes into our numbered lockers above and went to the bathhouse to change.
My “princess package” was about to start:
A one hour Sports massage
We walked into a low lit room with two rows of massage tables lined facing each other. Two athletic-looking Korean lads, with bodies right out from Men’s Fitness magazine, emerged. With sizable arms and sensitive, but virile fingers, they pushed and mushed throughout our bodies, turning it inside out into heavenly pulp. As a single gal with knotted muscles and tight shoulders, this was both, visually and physically pleasing. Definitely worth whatever won I paid.
Imperial Oriental Medicinal Hip Bath
Feather calls this the “Vaginal facial”. I call it, ‘Instant Feminine Bonding’.
Lining the small room were little box stools with large cutout holes on the top. Below each hole sat a hot plate of medicinal herbs. An ajumma attendant motioned for us to remove our clothes. She handed us pink satin body skirts, which drape over the entire body, then motioned us to sit on the box and cover it with the skirt. Mysterious clouds began rolling away, when I remembered a Korean drama I’d seen where a girl was sitting on one of these things, roasting her bum! Or so I thought… It took me a while to figure out how to sit on it, without falling through.
It’s really your twat, which gets the herbal steaming and it’s supposed to help relieve tight hips and menstrual cramping. Yeah, okay… It gets really hot under that smock as there’s no place for the air to escape. I’m not sure if it was worth the cost, but my nether regions got a fine roasting and I sure smelled ‘herbal’ afterwards.
This is where I parted from Feather and we promised to meet up at the sleeping area.
I continued enroute through the rest of my spa package.
Getting scrubbed down by an ajumma
Ever been in a Moroccan hammam (aka bathhouse)? The most mesmerizing part of your bath is watching layers of dead skin get scraped from your body as if you were in molting season! Well, I was about to molt.
A bare-chested ajumma emerged from the back. Sturdy and a staunch, she wore black laced panties, while hoisting on, her laced bra top. These working washers have “uniforms” and the black-laced undies are it. Dressed and looking like the mistresses of washing torture, I’d heard these ajummas can be rough. I was about to find out. My ajumma laid me out on the table. She grabbed her mits, dipped them in a vat of salts and proceeded to scrub my entire body in vigorous fashion, massaging in circulation and removing dead scales. Limbs were lifted, I was flipped around like a ragdoll, my boobs also got vigorous skin shuckings. Nothing was tender or dainty about it, but I emerged squeaky clean and baby soft!
Definitely, definitely worth every penny!
The Princess Facial
I’d love to tell you what happened here. For the first five minutes, I felt the aesthetician doing some activity to my face. … and then …
I passed out.
All this pampering had made me tired. Mysterious things must’ve happened. Apparently, what I got was a “face cleansing, face massage, Vitamin C serum, Ultrasonic Wave Care and Nutrition Pack”. But when I awoke, there was no real evidence to prove it. My face looked different. Not prettier. Different. Brighter? Hairless? More moisturized ? I don’t know . Sorry.
Okay, but aside from princess packages (which cost), why is Dragon Hill Spa praised as one of Seoul’s luxurious spas?
You got me. I was a little disappointed. It’s got some nice tidbits to spruce up your stay and some fancy names for different rooms; but frankly, it’s only a pampering spa if you buy a spa package. No more deluxe or better than other Korean spas I’ve been to. The bathhouse accommodated regular bathing features, heated pools to relax in, but no cool array of mineral baths… and the spa had a few sauna rooms .. your.standard spa stuff. Aside from the outdoor pool and amusement center, it’s not got a whole hell of a lot.
Sleeping areas are sadly limited
This was one of my biggest annoyances with the place. For the crowd they pack in on the weekend, you’d think there would be more sleeping rooms. There’s one large coed rest area on the first floor and a small women’s sleeping room, which was packed.
I had no option left, but bed down in a tiny foyer room outside the women’s sleeping room, with my body twisting around other sleep skwirmers… under a bright light.
It was the worst sleep I’ve had. It undid any luxuriating or sports massaging that I paid for.
My take? It’s a normal jjijilbang spa. Aside from pay-per-pampering luxury, it’s nice but pretty… standard.
Want to know my top pick in luxury jjimjilbangs in Seoul? Stay tuned. I have a White Sheet Review coming soon!
Dragon Hill Spa (Yongsan area, Seoul)
Directions: Outside, next to Yongsan KTX station (Line 1) and Mall. Ask a station attendant which exit to leave from as the station is large.
Ph: +82-2-792-0001 (English)
Hours: 24 hours
Daytime (05:00-20:00) – Adults 10,000 won / Children 6,000 won
Nighttime (20:00-05:00) – Adults 12,000 won / Children 6,000 won