Destination: Maseok Chamsut Gama (Gyeonggi-do)
Author's note: this is the 5th in a series of jimjilbang (day spas or saunas) worth visiting in Korea.
Welcome to Maseok Chamsut Gama (마석참숯가마) - home to one of the most authentic saunas I've found in Korea. These charcoal kilns offer plenty of heat, but don't come here expecting a luxurious bathing experience - the lockers take up more room than the showers and single bath. While the kilns vary from room temperature to hooooooot, the charcoal kilns supposedly will prevent you from smelling despite the heat.
Start by making your way to the bathing area - unfortunately, it's one of the smallest I've ever seen. The only actual 'bath' was black and smelly - but to be fair, it was a charcoal bath. The focus is clearly on the charcoal kilns, not the water-based activities. Take a shower, stash your stuff, and head back to the kilns.
This place is known for its authentic, old-fashioned feel, right down to the dirt floors and charcoal kiln. The biggest draw are the dry saunas - heated by the aforementioned charcoal kiln to varying degrees. While there is a wooden walkway to each of the kilns, the floor underneath that is dirt.
A couple of staff began collecting some of the charcoal.
It takes a bit of effort to relax in this case, and I'm not entirely sure it's worth the effort. If you're interested in trying out a traditional charcoal sauna, this is one of the few places worth checking out. If you enjoy the classic style of jimjilbang with immaculate marble flooors, this isn't the place for you.
Ratings (out of 5 taeguks):
Ease to arrive:
Worth the visit:
From Cheongnyangni station in Seoul, take a train for Maseok station (10 trains a day, 45 minute ride). From Maseok station, take exit 1 and turn left. Turn left under the overpass, then right once on the other side. Some signs of the sauna will assist along the way - walk along the road (warning: no sidewalk!), then turn left before the World Golf Center. Climb the hill to the gray building. Open 24 hours. For more information, call 031-594-9999 (Korean only) or visit msgama.co.kr (Korean only).
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