Busan: Getting Away From the Festival at a 24-Hour Jjimjilbang Spa

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THR's handy guide to South Korean bathhouse-spas.

The Busan Film Festival becomes more festive after sunset, as festival-goers party on Haeundae Beach after late-night screenings. But if you can't decide what to do at 3 o'clock in the morning, or had too much soju and can't find your keys, then head to the nearest jjimjilbang spa.

This is where you can thoroughly sample Koreans' love of efficient, all-in-one, 24-hour services. Every Korean neighborhood, including Koreatowns oversees, is incomplete without one, and even Conan O'Brien made sure to stop by a Korean spa with The Walking Dead star Steven Yeun in Los Angeles, which is home to the biggest community of Koreans outside of the Asian country.

The jjimjilbang has the usual hot tubs and chokingly hot sauna rooms of public bathhouses.

But the jjimjilbang has a communal area where families and friends can hang out together wearing uniform T-shirt and shorts, basking inside kiln saunas and heated lounge areas.

Some of the larger landmark jjimjilbang, moreover, have transformed into a theme park of sorts, and are fully equipped with movie theaters, sleeping areas, food courts and snack bars, Internet cafes, and even libraries lined with comic books. The communal sauna rooms themselves are thematically diverse, such as yellow loess "hwangto" mud kilns, salt rooms or ice chambers.

The jjimjilbang is thus a popular weekend getaway for locals, while 24-hour establishments also cater to those who are traveling on a budget.

While in Busan, check out Spa-Land, a high-end establishment that takes the average jjimjilbang to a whole new level of lux with bejeweled saunas, a media room with reclining chairs and individual TV screens, and boutiques selling various bath and fashion products. Also available are various massage and facial-care services, as well as an outdoor spa. Spa-Land, however, closes at midnight.

For those looking for a place to spend the night, you can actually watch the sunrise and sunset at the beachside Vesta Spa & Fitness. This five-story spa offers a panoramic view of Haeundae Beach, as well as a range of facilities for family visitors ranging from a hair salon to an outdoor hot tub.

Spa Land

Korean Tourist info site on Spa Land

35, Centum-daero, Haeundae-gu, Busan

Telephone: +82-(0)51-745-2900

Vesta Spa

www.vesta.co.kr

1509-6, Jung-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan

Telephone: +82-(0)51-743-5705

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