Slept In Incheon Airport's Jjimjilbang + The Untold Stories of Travel
As much as I snap, record, and post almost every step taken in all my travels, there are still some stories that didn't find its way to social media.
The wrong climbs and getting lost in an empty park while it was raining non-stop and I only had a jacket and cap on. Or the budgeting woes, the no-dinner days, and non-stop conversion from Won to Pesos before making a purchase. Or the many times I find myself Google translating "vegetarian" to Hangul, but only ending up in a convenience store (again) where there's a sure egg-mayo sandwich or ramyeun that can pass up for a meal of the day--only to warm the tummy in a convenient way.
If there are Instagram worthy spots in every travel destinations, there are also the non-IG Worthy moments that (sometimes) only remain in my memory. But maybe that's why I became a blogger. This space is where I can tell my untold stories from this trip that recently came to mind now that I am in the comforts of my home. Some were merely not documented because I was "busy" to get by at that time, while others I just tried to forget out of embarrassment. Why just now? I thought that maybe telling these experiences will be a lesson to even just one reader.
I arrived in Korea for this late spring trip via a red eye flight. I was expecting this (since obviously I was the one who booked my tickets) but did not expect a few things.
First, my luggage broke and it hasn't been a day yet (I have 9 days to go!)! It was nothing to me, and was able to fix the zipper in the airport before I walked again to look for the Incheon Jjimjilbang where I planned to stay for the night.
Which leads us to another unexpected detail: The airport jjimjilbang "Spa On Air" was full that night!
I already tried Spa On Air before while waiting for a night flight back to Manila, but just to take a shower and try their hot tubs. It was my first time to actually sleep there and didn't realize that it gets full booked. Some of those ahead of me gave up and just walked away from the line. I have nowhere else to go, and thought that going around with a luggage will even be more tiring compared to just waiting, and so I just stayed there. I think it was almost 1am when a female spot freed up!
Spa On Air is Incheon International Airport's jjimjilbang, or Korean public bath house, but with a more modern take. It is located at the East of Public Area 1BF, Terminal 1. There are elevators in the area of the arrivals, but just ask the information for Spa On Air to be sure.
What I like about this sleepover experience is that the price is already inclusive of: unli shower time and public bath tub use. Men and women shower rooms are separate, but take note that if like me you came from a country where hindi full naked ang mga spa you might feel awkward at first. Iniisip ko nalang na mag isa lang naman ako, hindi nila ako kilala, and usually wala rin silang pake.
Here's the price list. You can just take a shower, or you can also book the shower+sauna combo. Sauna is the term for the place where you can sleep. I paid for the 12 hours so I can still have my breakfast the next day, and concoct a game plan for my Jeonju trip without pressures of checking out early. I also planned to rest a bit more.
So for 22,000 KRW (around Php 1000) I already have access to the shower and sauna for 12 hours. They kept my luggage securely, and I also have a personal locker for my "immediate" things like clothes for the next day, makeup, toiletries, etc. You can ask for your luggage naman sa receptionist if you forgot something. They are very accommodating!
My small locker space and tap bracelet that opens this locker and my shoe locker:
We also get a brown t-shirt and shorts uniform + 2 small towels:
Right next to the locker area is the vanity area, a toilet, and the door to the shower room where the hot tubs are also located. No photos allowed here, but took some when there's no one around. Aside from your clothes and towels, they also provide shampoo and body wash in the shower area, a water dispenser where you can get water anytime, and skincare, hairdryer, comb, earbuds and cotton pads, and hair products in the sink and vanity area.
Aside from having almost everything that I need, I like that Spa On Air is very clean and well-maintained!
Make sure to bring your own toothbrush, toothpaste, and facial wash. They also have a vendo machine for some of these essentials in case you don't have them.
I made sure to avail all the free stuff, especially these bottles of Korean skincare!
And finally, here's how the Spa On Air sauna (or sleeping area) looks like. The first time I went in, it was so full ang awkward tumabi kani-kanino lang. They only spread out these thin cushions (size of a yoga mat) and blocks for your "bed and pillow". You'll see some guests stacking 3 cushions and hug 2 blocks with no care--so una-unahan lang sya talaga. It was so hard to find a space, but managed to secure one near the door when an old lady got up.
Btw, you will get a card when you check-in so you can go to this area:
Mahirap rin mag sleep coz you can still hear noises from snores, and from people outside--chatting in the lobby area, the hairdryer buzzing non-stop, locker doors slamming. Rinig na rinig ko silang lahat haha.
Some tips! Bring your own small pillow and blanket so you'll feel a little comfortable and covered. Take note, the room is MIXED and people just come and go, so there are times when I was next to a couple, then to a lola, and then one time I woke up and I was next to a boy! Nkklk.
Ilang beses ako nagigising, so please expect this na. You won't get a nice deep sleep here. Bring eye shield and earbuds if you must! I also woke up with aching right wrist and I think it's because nadaganan ko yung hand ko sa matigas na floor while sleeping, haha.
Overall, it was a difficult but interesting experience! It's also a good and affordable option if you have red eye flights. I've always had "sleeping in jjimjilbang" in my Korea bucket list after seeing them in Korean dramas--so at least I got this out of the way already. To think this is not hardcore yet, sosyal pa tong lagay na ito coz nasa airport! 😆
Aside from the broken luggage and sleeping on a sauna, here are some untold stories from this trip.
Crying In A Bus
If my Instagram stories and photos show that this trip was all fun and carefree, then let me tell you how I cried in public on a bus on my way to the train station for Yeosu. Akala mo nakaka Kdrama scene pero sa totoo lang nakakahiya! Aside from getting lost trying to figure out the right bus stop and the right bus, I made sure to set aside my money on my pocket so I won't get in the way for the other passengers the moment I climb in the bus with my luggage and backpack, while confirming to the driver if it's the right bus. I was juggling so many things in my head and in real life!
I dropped my money in the clear box in front of the driver--like how they do it in Seoul--and I made sure I drop a big amount just so hindi na ako magtatanong magkano and if kulang pa. That's 10,000 KRW. The driver suddenly looked at me frustrated, and with the little Korean I know I caught him saying the word "otoke" (What will I do!?) while tapping his pockets showing that he has no change for me. I moved aside because I was already on the way of the other passengers, the bus was full so I was just holding on a bar while making sure my luggage won't slide.
Then suddenly (and I am usually tough) I caught myself wiping tears from my eyes! Halong hiya at pagod nadin siguro (the next day I got my period so let's pls blame hormones on this drama haha). The bus driver asked for my bank account, and realized it wasn't Korean bank so he made another scene. Later on before my stop he called me back in front (I was going back and forth with my luggage!) as he released coins on a machine in front of him. Sa totoo lang kaya naman pala nya magsukli bat may eksena pa!! Huhu!!
Another bus incident, but this time in Gwangju on my way for my hostel check-in, I was again confronted by a full bus. This time I was confident I am in the right one, and of course made sure I paid the exact amount this time, and I was standing steady even with my luggage and backpack. Then I realized something odd.
I know masikip yung bus so I thought it might just be a bag or something, but I suddenly turned around to see what has been resting on my butt for a few good minutes and saw an ahjussi's hand holding on a phone but with his fingers extending in a scooped position. I felt sick in the guts.
I do not know how to react or feel at that time, but kahit na-disorient ako I made sure to move away and face side view from the old man. I made sure I can see what he's doing. Ang lapit niya masyado, and parang ang baho nya (amoy alak). I also noticed that he shifted his position and tried to go near me again and alam nyo yung feeling na nag guguni lang ba ako non o dapat ba hindi ako magalit coz hindi naman confirmed na binastos ako ng mama o baka "feeling" lang ako, but I cannot help but get furious at that time so scowled at him before he goes near me again, and whispered "putang ina" which caught the attention of a girl next to us so she also moved away from the ahjussi. He then walked to the far end of the bus. By the way, he's the only old man in this bus as the route to my hostel turned out to be mostly high school and university stops.
Nakaka frustrate pala yung feeling ng solo female traveler ka, and you'll encounter something like this noh. Suddenly from feeling confident and independent, I felt that the world is unsafe for women like me to explore it alone! For a few rides after that incident I find myself taking the cab nalang kahit on a budget ako because natakot talaga ako. Ayaw ko na sana ikwento to but I realized how important this is as I keep on getting messages from readers who are also traveling solo now or about to venture on solo travels because of my posts--Always stay alert! It can happen anywhere, even in "safe countries". Even if unsure ka, show that it's not okay and you're uncomfortable by making a fuss! Look for fellow women or couples and stay close to them or (if needed) seek help from them.
Sharing reading materials I am going through now on #MeToo experiences while commuting.
"There are so many small moments, and a lot of women feel that their story isn’t valid, or valid enough,” she said. “And they just brush it off and move on with their day. But it is valid, and it’s important."
(source: the washington post)
Again, I am sharing these incidents not to scare you, but more of for awareness. Traveling is not all fine and dandy like the Instagram influencer's well-curated feed. You will encounter troubles along the way--minor or major--it's best to be ready mentally, emotionally, and physically for them. I think a more important lesson for me here is to not let these hinder you from your travel dreams.
You are brave, you will endure, you will enjoy! And of course, you will learn.
To be continued!