I love writing a piece that gives you an inside scoop into something fun I’ve done, so I’m super-loving this moment! This past weekend, I again indulged in an activity (pretty much becoming a hobby at this point) that I want to clue you in on: visiting an upscale jjimjilbang (uniquely Korean-style bath house) that I like to call my Fancy Spa.
“Fancy Spa” is actually called Aquafield, and I discovered it on one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of. There are a couple locations, all located within Starfield malls, which I also call Fancy Mall for its elegance, gorgeous design and clean aesthetic.
Anyhoo, the first Aquafield I visited was wayyyy down the Gyeongui-Jungang line — a direct, no-transfer-needed route from my home — in Hanam. Downside was, it took a 2.5-hour trek to get there. Upside was: Fancy Spa is AHHHMAZING!! I became instantly obsessed and enamored.
So imagine my delight when a new Starfield Mall opened this August in northern Gyeonggi-do, only an hour from my home. The heavens surely shined down some blessings on me. I was delighted!
I paid a visit on Sunday, ready for a day of deeeep rest and relaxation; meditation even. And I got it. But what makes Fancy Spa so great? Why, I’m glad you asked …
There Are Treatment Rooms Unlike Any Other Spa
Your typical jjimjilbang has hot baths and often a sauna room attached to the guys and gals locker room — they’re gender-separated because guests are required to be naked in these spaces (not up for nudity? No worries — there’s PLENTY to occupy your time in the clothed portion of the spa; read on!). Once you’re done here, you throw on the spa-issued loungewear and venture out to the coed common space, which features areas to lay out on cushy mats and relax, as well as a number of treatment rooms. Most jjims offer a couple hot-as-a-furnace rooms, a cold room, a salt room (with a huge block of salt in the center) and a moderate-temperature/kinda warm room, which I like to call the nap room. Ha!
Aquafield has all those and more in what it calls its Jjimjil SPA. One room is lined with wood, and projected on the wall is video of a walk through a deep, green Sequoia forest set to the sounds of nature (above). Amazingly relaxing. The Media Art room is round and features breathtaking planetarium-style light shows and video of sea life underwater projected onto the ceiling, with a backdrop of soothing music. Aquafield’s salt room is divvied into little nooks perfect for laying back with a friend and chilling. The Cloud Room is dark — a back-lit black wall periodically emits clouds and clouds of vapor. It’s great to situate yourself so you’re right under the clouds as they fall to the floor!
One of my favorite rooms is the Relaxation Room (above), because it’s adults-only (more on that below), which means it’s really quiet … and perfect for napping in the room’s first-class-airline-style lounge chairs. I love that each reclining seat has a keypad to control the attached TV or even just charge your phone! Finally, the Foot Spa is an outdoor space for soaking your toes — it overlooks a gorgeous mountain view. I didn’t stay very long here; Aquafield Hanam’s foot spa is warm, but the Goyang location keeps theirs quite hot, and it got me sweating too quickly. Couldn’t beat that view, though, so I did enjoy it for a few! Other favorite spaces at Aquafield Goyang are a lounge area with memory foam bean bags, and anywhere there’s black massage chairs that treat you to a crazy-good 15-minute neck-to-foot rub down for just 2,500 won!
There’s Hardly Anyone There … For Now
I spent nearly two hours in the ladies’ hot bath area, mainly for one reason: Hardly anyone was there! Aquafield Goyang just opened about two months ago, and maybe no one knows about it yet, because there were never more than 10 women in the spacious bathing area — way unlike the population at Aquafield Hanam. I and my friend had room to roam, and it was heavenly. So ~ get there and enjoy it before the masses discover it!
You Can Gorge at Shake Shack!
This one sounds counterintuitive, since when most people think “spa” they think salads and light stuff like that. Not me. My last couple visits to upscale jjims, I’ve started out with a cheeseburger and fries (at the Johnny Rockets in Busan’s SpaLand (Korea’s largest jjimjilbang, but not as nice as Aquafield) and at Shake Shake at Starfield Goyang. I mean, if you’re going to spend hours bathing and vegging, what’s wrong with a hearty, guilty-pleasure meal beforehand? Treat yo’self, I say! Anyway, Shake Shack rocks, and my Shackburger, cheese fries and choco shake sent me straight into relaxation mode before I even set foot in the Fancy Spa. Win-win.
Things To Know Before You Go
So — ready to unload your stresses and get your Fancy Spa on? Here’re a few things to know about Aquafield Goyang.
Fancy Spa costs quite a bit more than your typical jjimjilbang — 20,000 won on weekdays and 22,000 on the weekend. Also quite unlike most jjims, that entry cost gets you a six-hour stay (as opposed to 24 hours), and you can’t stay overnight like other jjims because the facility closes at midnight. Can’t bear to leave at the six-hour mark? It’s 5,000 won per additional hour. Don’t worry about going hungry while making it an all-day thing, as Aquafield has a snack bar and a restaurant serving traditional Korean eats.
If you’re a newbie to the jjimjilbang experience, there’re two pieces of info I want to impart. First, if you want to enjoy the hot baths, you MUST shower before doing so. Eagle-eyed (usually older) ladies can and will report you to the spa staff for not doing so, so follow the rules!
Second, while my description here depicts an overall relaxing experience at Aquafield, know that the Korean jjimjilbang experience is typically a family one. Meaning there will be kids. Possibly lots of them. And except for the adults-only Relaxation Room, they’re allowed everywhere, and they do NOT stay confined to the kiddie play room. You might be slipping into the sweetest nap in the Cloud Room when three kids will run in and have the loudest conversation in the history of ever, snapping you out of your reverie. It’ll happen! Pro tip: Bring your phone and some earphones to plug in to your favorite soothing music to tune out some of the kiddie excitement.
Feeling like a massage? There’re two places to get one here. Within the locker room hot bath, there’s a short corridor that leads to some massage rooms. Point to what you want on the treatment menu, and you’ll be on your way; just know that these’ll be Korean-style rubdowns (read: rough), so don’t forget to bring a decent pain tolerance. My friend got the Mini-Massage, a 40-minute treatment (60,000 won) that sounded like it’d be massage-only, but she got the muscle-backed, skin scrubdown that jjimjilbangs are known for — hasta la vista, layers and layers of dead skin! Shim Spa, located near the snack bar, offers a more Western-style experience … at a more Western-style cost. I didn’t see a treatment for less than 120,000 won. If you’re up for the splurge, GO FOR IT!
Lastly, the Aquafield Goyang spa features a rooftop pool area; its infinity pool and cabanas are closed for the season, but look out for them next year. Aquafields Hanam and Goyang also boast a water park area, also closed for the season.
Aquafield Goyang is open every day, 8 a.m. to midnight on Mon-Fri, and 6 a.m. to midnight on the weekends. To get there, take Line 3 toward Ogeum to Samsong Station (NOT to be confused with Samseong) then hop on bus 42, 46, 48 or 77 for two stops till you see a big mall — the Fancy Mall. Aquafield is on the fourth floor. Happy jjimjilbang-ing!