Itaewonland Overnight Spa & Sauna
Trip Start Aug 16, 2013
418Trip End Aug 25, 2013
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I did find a good place to stay at Bukchon Hanok Village in traditional homes during one stay, but that would be too cold and poorly insulated in cold winter weather.
(See entry on Bukchon Hanok Village http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/londone7/1/1310759516/tpod.html )
A fellow KBlogger had told me about Itaewonland which is a 24 hour spa and sauna with sleeping pods on one floor. Looking on their website it seemed almost like the capsule hotel I stayed at in Tokyo with their 5th floor pods. At 8000w a night ($7.50) that seemed perfectly in my budget for two nights.
(See entry on Japan Capsule Hotels
The website says they only have 53 pods so I was worried if you were able to reserve them, or are they on a first come first serve basis. Was it safe to leave some items in there to stake it out if you want to go and explore the saunas on the other floors or would people just move your stuff and take an empty pod?
The place was easy to find, a few mins walk east of the subway on the south side and look for a giant staircase. I got there early about 8pm on Friday night to try and grab a pod and leave some stuff there to stake it out. First when you pay you are given clothes which are an oversize thick t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Then you go into the shoe locker room and remove your shoes before going up.
On the second floor are the lockers and changing rooms. It was a bit in your face and sudden since as soon as I walk up the stairs from the entrance there are naked men casually walking back and forth everywhere.
Your shoe locker number is the same number for the changing room locker and the same electronic key will open this locker door. It was actually small and just about fit my backpack with coat and clothes I was wearing. If you have too much luggage you might have to rent two lockers and it is not a good idea to bring luggage as I was able to do at the Tokyo capsule hotel as there is nowhere to store it.
The first thing I did was go up to the fifth floor to grab a pod. This early in the evening it was deserted and they were all empty. It was the same as the capsules in Tokyo only no roll down blind or tv.
The floor was a mattress pad inside and surprisingly had ondol heating control panel which I had no idea how to use. There was also a plug outlet so I left my camera battery charging to show the pod was occupied and left the pod light on. The floor is dimly lit and only looks bright in the photos as I used my camera flash.
Now I was able to go down and explore the facilities. I went back to the second floor sauna. First you go back to your locker, undress and place your robes in your locker, so are now naked.
I went to the bathing area where they had standing showers or sit down asian style showers. There are totally open with no stalls so everyone sees everyone showering. There were massage tables in a small area by the shower stalls were men were having massages done.
They had what looked like dish rags for the shower stalls and the guy told me to use this to bathe. What you do is place the soap in the middle and as it gets wet and lathers up its actually an exfoliating cloth and makes your skin quite smooth.
At the back of the bathing floor were two saunas. I went into one and was startled to see a ten year old boy and his dad both sitting there naked happily chatting together. A bit freaked out I left and went to the pools outside.
Again there was another similar aged boy sitting in a pool by himself. Then a korean man in his 50s got in the pool with him. Even though this is perfectly normal in korea these are things we are not raised to do back home. I dont know if there are any rules written in korean about minors being left alone naked in adult spas especially since this one is also promoted to foreigners?
There were five pool spas in the centre around the showering areas. They each had different temperatures. The large centre one was the ice pool so I stayed out of those frigid temperatures.
The two sides ones were hot and very hot. I tried the very hot for a short time but stayed in the regular hot one. They were nice as they had bubbling water jets to massage yourself. Each pool also had different types of minerals as you could feel a different texture to the water and stones in each one.
After drying with towels provided you go back to your locker and change back into the clothes provided. Then I went up to the third floor to check out some of the saunas. The main floor was a large open room with people lying on pads on the floor watching a big screen tv. In the corners were different saunas.
One was about 40 degrees and was a gravel floor sauna. Another was a dry heat sauna at the same temperature and was more bearable. I stayed in here for a while. Some people were able to sleep in here. The floor was a rough woven fabric like a grain bag.
Beside was the most hottest sauna over 50 degrees. This had a very small door you had to crawl thru. The inside was like being inside a beehive with layers of a cone to the top. The heat was too much and people were just sweating tears all over their body. I had to leave quite quickly.
It was hard to take pictures as my camera fogged instantly and people might not have wanted pictures taken, so I didnt try my flash either. Next to the really hot room was the ice room. It wasnt that cold but a nice way to cool down from the most hottest room.
The other end of the floor was the cafeteria where you can order noodles, pizza, chicken, or other foods. I'm not sure if it gets charged to your room key as I didnt order anything.
Along the sides were also gym equipment, treadmills and weight machines. There were also private massage rooms you pay extra for. I didnt realize till the morning there were also private sleeping rooms you can pay extra for.
Sleeping at night took some getting used to. I went to my pod maybe 10pm and they were still mostly empty on a friday nite. I didnt really sleep that well the first night as it took getting used to. Maybe its like sleeping in an airport lounge as you hear activity going on around. Some people had blankets but I dont know where they got them.
After midnite many people came in and took pods. Probably they were at bars and came after closing time. In the morning I noticed all the pods were full. There were also a couple of foreigners I noticed in the morning too.
Annoyingly from about 5am many people had programmed their cellphone alarms to ring. Different alarms would go off and people would hit the snooze button, after which they would ring again later. By about 7am there was no point in lying in as so many different alarm tunes kept going off so I went back to the showers and spa pools.
Saturday nite I went early to grab a pod again expecting it to be busier. I got there by 10pm, the place was busier but I was still able to stake out my pod. This time there were more families and some chinese visitors. I was able to sleep better on saturday nite. The darkened movie room was also busy tonite with a movie playing. Many people had also slept in this room on the floor last nite.
When I awoke early sunday morning I didnt realize how busy the place had been. Not only were all the pods full, people were sleeping in the space outside the pods. There was somebody sleeping outside my pod that I had to avoid tripping over in the dark.
Sunday morning there were also many more westerners that had stayed overnight. Again, probably out from the bars drinking on a saturday nite. There were so many people passed out just lying in all kinds of places. It was almost comedic seeing all the passed out bodies in strange places like hallways and stairwells, stepping over them, like the population of a town had all been hit with sleeping gas.
Other facilities inclued a PC room and a library. Floors 2 & 5 are seperated by gender as the second floor is the bathing area, and fifth floor has the sleeping pods. Floors 3&4 are dual use but seperate staircases back to floors 2&5.
Your 8000w admission is supposed to be for 12 hours with an additional 1000w per extra hour, but both days they never charged me anything extra. This is supposed to be a sauna designed for foreigners but the staff didnt really speak much english
They have a website only in korean and japanese where you can see pics of each floor if you click on the left sidebar. http://www.itaewonland.com/rest02.html
Also the tourism website has a write up in english
Another KBlogger has a write up with some better pics
I quite enjoyed it here and its a good cheap place to stay for 8000w provided you come early and grab a pod. Even if the pods are gone you can basically sleep anywhere you want in the facility. Until as late as 11pm it should be ok to find a pod but on saturdays or holiday weekends it might be advisable to go an hour earlier.
The difference with the Japanese capsule hotel is that was for men only, over age 18. It was mostly office workers dressed in suits staying late in the city. The korean sauna is dual sex, singles, couples, and families, and even has small children and childrens play areas. Many korean families and couples like to come together and treat this as a family event
Unfortunately most jimjilbangs (as they are actually called) are the big open halls and I dont know of any others with the sleeping pods
see also Happy Day Sauna
and Dragon Hill Spa