Korean Jjim-Jil-Bang Spa Chicago

Posted: September 30, 2012 in Journeys, YOLO
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When my wife sees something new and innovative that she likes, she says: “that is the coolest thing I have ever seen!”. Well King Spa & Sauna in Chicago and Dallas may not be the coolest thing I have ever seen, but it is pretty cool.

Jjim-Jil-Bang spas such as this have become a part of Korean community culture and are popping up in the US. Similar in some ways to Russian Baths, they feature hot and cold baths and saunas that are used to relax and de-stress.

I was recently in Chicago, and was able to spend a few hours at King Spa (www.kingspa.com). Very large and immaculately clean, my visit was thoroughly enjoyable. It is half gender-separate, and half co-ed.

Each man or woman enters the appropriate side into the locker room, where you are expected to immediately take off your shoes and get completely naked. I know this is big in parts of Europe and Asia, but it took a little getting used to. Bathing with so many men, with an occasional young boy bathing next to me: not my favorite thing. As far as nationalities go, I would guess it was about 60% Korean, 20% Eastern European with the balance everyone else.

The workers in the locker room MAKE SURE you wash thoroughly before entering any of the aromatic pools of varying temps. Everything is impeccably clean. I could have also gotten a massage and a body scrub, but I really do not think I would like a male masseuse scrubbing me down: one of those American peculiarities. I did enjoy the steam room before being handed shorts and a top to enter the co-ed area.

Between the two sides, there was a meditation room where some men sleep. Since you get 24 hours for your $25 entrance fee, some people spend the night. If you can sleep on a thin mat with many other people I guess it is a bargain!

Now clothed, I ventured over to the other side where men, women and children of all ages chattered and wandered. There was a large relaxation room with many comfy lounge chairs, televisions and free wifi. I made a mental note to avoid times when kids are present: it is hard to relax with kids are being kids.

I was surprised to find several saunas located in a much larger room. It included the amethyst room, salt room, Fire Sudatorium, charcoal room, among others including an ice room. I, of course, had to try them all! Some too hot, some too cold, some too many people inside, and some just right! Even though the signs say “Be Quiet!”, I found out that there are inconsiderate people in every language…

There is a pretty large Korean restaurant so I ordered a stir fry dinner which was very good. Not really sure what some very spicy vegetable dishes were, but it was enjoyable.

Again, I was foolish to come on a Saturday early evening due to the noise level, but I can see at the right time this would be very enjoyable and relaxing. I did not see any evidence that any of the men were overly friendly, so it certainly is not THAT kind of bathhouse. I just would come again when it is not busy and kids would be at home: like late on a weeknight.

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