I traveled Jeon-ju (two hours north from where I am currently living) recently. This experience allowed me to stay at a Jjimijilbang. Those of you who do not know what a Jjimgilbang is, it is a public bathhouse. Bathhouses are co-ed but the bath areas are split into male and female (at least the ones I know of), so boys, do not get all excited.
Pros of Jjimijilbang, if you travel far from home or get too drunk to make it back to your place, you can crash at a Jjimijilbang. Jjimijilbang’s are open 24 hours, found all over Korea and if you do not want to spend 40 won (40 USD) a night on a mediocre love motel. Cons, it is like high school gym shower, some what, 50-200 penises flopping around in the bath area. The frugality of jjimjilbang is the only reason to stay at one, 7 won (7 USD) to 10 won (10 USD) a night.
Here is the deal, you walk it, dish out your money, put your shoes in a locker, they give you shorts and shirt (think of the uniforms they wear in jail, because that is it), go to the bath area, and put the rest of your belongings in another locker.
Since I went with girls, they went off to their own bath area, and they really did not tell me what to do or expect. Since I have not had the pleasure of getting naked in front of other males since high school sports and P.E (besides the random old guy in the gym locker room), I was back in ninth grade mode. Ninth mode meaning… the hell, I have to get naked? Walking in, boom naked man, naked man, naked man. I was looking around trying to understand how this worked, but at the same time trying not to be awkward. I walked into the next room, huge bath areas, hot tubs, and showers. I walk over into the corner, my own private shower, mind my own business, so far everything is ok. I noticed how little kids were chasing each other in showers, and how naked men, of all age, sitting next each other talking. I start thinking, are American men that uncomfortable about being naked? I walk back into the locker area, where guys are sitting on the bench naked next to each other just watching TV like they are sitting in their living rooms. I was not trying to look at any guy’s privates, but it is kind of hard to miss when there are 100 naked men all around.
There are plenty of communal soap bars (with hair), toothpaste, towels. If you plan to sleep at a Jjimjilbang, you will go to the recreation area. The recreation area will be co-ed. You are suppose to wear that jail jumpsuit they give you. You can grab a mat (yoga type) with a brick hard small airplane pillow, if you can call it a pillow. There is food to buy, mostly what you can find at 7/11.
Overall Jjimjilbang was an experience, one I think I will skip again, unless I am that broke or that drunk.