I saw the deal in Living Social right after watching Man from the Stars. So I’m sure you can understand why it was an easy purchase. Years of watching Korean dramas, movies and reality shows have exposed me to curious case of Korean type spas, or jjimjilbang 찜질방. Finally founding one in Philippine shores only means one thing: time to put on that pink shirt and shorts set.
Jjimjilbang is a gender-segregated public bath house, furnished with hot tubs, dry saunas and massage rooms. Lasema Spa, located inside the Makati Golf Club in Malugay, Makati, boasts of the complete set of these amenities. So how does it work?
Whether you bought your entrance ticket as an online deal or you plan to walk in, you have to make a call to reserve a spot, better if at least three days ahead. The jjimjilbang is open 24/7, so you can easily go straight there after a long hard day’s work and enjoy 12 hours of the experience. At the lobby, you receive your locker key which is essentially your life line in that compound. Use it to safe keep your bags in your locker, and present it every time you purchase from the snack bar. Lose it, damage it, and be ready to shell out P700. This is your fair warning.
The kind lady at the lobby was hell bent on getting us inside without further delay, and she was likewise patient enough to explain the house rules. Number one: take your shoes off now. You won’t need it until the minute you step back out.
Ladies take the left turn straight to the locker rooms. Deposit your stuff and put on your pink uniforms. Do the lamb towel if you know how to (we did not), and go. To your left is the entrance to the showers and the wet saunas. To your right is the entrance to the dry saunas. We took the right.
You will find that the dry sauna area is likewise a common area, so you will see guests in their pink (for ladies), blue (for men) and yellow (for children) uniforms dotted around the space. It is a wide area composed of the following:
Dome Clay Sauna. The first sauna on the rotation is the dome clay sauna. My sisters and I peeked through the door and saw no one inside. Once we stepped in, we knew why. The dome was literally roasting. We missed the 70 degrees Celcius warning at the door. Once inside, duck, sit on the floor and bear it. The dome features the “miracle mud” chungito, said to be an alkali mineral mud produced from volcanoes. It claims to contain crystals that invigorate the body and release negative ions. Keep those health benefits in mind as you feel as if you are roasting inside the dome. If you can only bear 5 minutes, I won’t judge. My sisters and I also fared the same way.
Salt and Charcoal Sauna. The next two rooms are much more bearable at only 48 to 52 degrees. In hindsight, maybe the reason you start with the dome clay sauna is so that your body has acclimated and is afterwards thankful to the 50 degrees heat. That works. The salt and charcoal sauna features soot that is said to have “holy powers”, made by slowly burning the wood of an oak tree. The result is a dark charcoal that contains carbon and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. The expected effects are good metabolism, detoxification, and equilibrium between acid and alkali. You can sit on the mat nearest the door, or venture into the salt crystal-covered floor for more heat and greater detox. I saw a Korean lady lie there with hot crystals on her belly. A good shortcut to getting toned abs? Maybe.
Oak and Clay Sauna. The last room had the most forgiving heat at around 50 degrees. The loess or yellow mud in this room is said to help intensify the body’s natural healing process, making it popular with pregnant Korean mothers. The mud is also said to promote good skin and alleviate skin issues such as dermatitis. This room is where I enjoyed most lying down with my head on the wooden pillow, hitting as long as 15 minutes sauna time.
Ice Room. After completing your rounds, finish it off by cooling off at the Ice Room. At 0 to -10 degrees, the room was like a big refrigerator with stools where you literally chill for a good 5-10 minutes, closing off your pores. I think we only stayed for less than 5 minutes. The cotton shirts and shorts were not ample protection against the refrigerator cold.
Snack Bar. Our multiple rounds in the hot saunas were interspersed with trips to the snack bar. We got to try the traditional jjimjilbang drink, the iced shikye. Then for lunch, the three of us shared some ramyeon, kimbap, baked eggs (baked inside the torturously hot dome clay sauna and melting off all cholesterol) and for the grand awesome finale, a giant bowl of patbingsu. Yum. If you want a more filling meal, there is a Korean restaurant just adjacent to the spa.
Massage Rooms. Our online deal included not only the saunas but also a one-hour massage. We scheduled our appointments before we hit the saunas, with a choice among Shiatsu, Swedish, Combination, Lymphatic, Deep Tissue, and Lomilomi. It was not the best massage I ever had (the Spa still takes the cake on that), but it relaxed me enough to make me fall asleep. And for that it earns a solid B grade.
Common Area. Outside the sauna rooms near the snack bar is a slightly elevated platform where you can get a cushioned mat, a wooden pillow and lie down and sleep in front of the cable TV. There are also comics and books for your reading pleasure, if you know Hangul, that is. There was a room to the right that officially read “common room”, but I dared not entire since it looked like it was full of sleeping Koreans.
Sleeping Caves. There are about 5 or more curious looking sleeping caves facing the saunas. Since Lasema is open 24/7, guests can essentially spend the night there as a cheaper alternative to a hotel. The caves are akin to the Tokyo capsule hotels, though situated only on the ground, complete with a comfy mat, a wooden pillow and a night light.
Wet Area and Showers. Go back to the locker room and you will see again the door to the Wet Saunas, where it also bears the sign that from this point onward, all customers are required to be naked. If that is okay with you, take off your sweaty pink suit and hit the showers, then join your fellow naked ladies in the hot Green Tea and Ginseng Pool. Both pools really sound great with awesome health benefits, but I’m just not ready for the elevated experience. I was even not ready for all the birthday suits in the locker area. So this part of the tour will have to wait for another time.
Saunas and bath houses are one of the best stops for complete relaxation and detox, credited for the glowing skin and good health of Koreans since time immemorial. There is something so gratifying about sitting inside that hot space, relaxing and sweating off your woes and worries. Lasema Spa, with its authentic charm, clean space and friendly staff, offers this uniquely calming adventure. If you’ve been there and you were able to hit the hot pools with no qualms, I would appreciate tips on how you did it. In the meantime, I will definitely come back to beat my time on that dome clay sauna.
Lasema Spa and Sauna
7232 Malugay St., Brgy. Bel Air, 1209
inside Makati Golf Club, Makati City
830-2222 / 0943-5065697 Open for 24 hours
P990 per head (deal price P495 per head including massage)
Photo credits to Ace Tria.