Two years ago, when I first reviewed Hyu-Lim Won Bathhouse, I was quite impressed. However, on a visit this weekend I was suddenly struck by how small it is. Certainly, by bathhouse standards it is large, but I guess, after more experience and some visits to very large establishments, it has shrunk a little. However, it is still worth a visit.
Despite the shrinking of Hyu-Lim Won, I was amazed how the area immediately around the complex had developed. I was last in this area a little over a year ago and there was a clear view from the front of the building to the main road opposite. Suddenly, there are now six high-rise buildings, all on the verge of completion, blocking the view. Indeed, Dasa is now almost a mini city and the farms that once lined the main road between the edge of Dasa and the back of Keimyung University, have since been replaced with high-rise housing.
©Bathhouse Ballads - 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Rating – Luxury
First visited on February 10th 2012. This is a large complex situated right on the edge of Apsan mountain between Dae Myeong Middle School (대명중학교) and Samdong Bridge (삼동교). It lies almost directly on the perimeter of Camp Walker. This is probably the largest bathhouse I’ve so far visited in Daegu and the length of the changing facilities and the bathhouse itself, took me 80 paces. The reception is on the ground floor along with some shops, a bank, restaurants and a Paris Baguette. The male changing facility and bathhouse is on the 3rd floor with the corresponding female facility on floor 2,
The changing facilities are very spacious and divided into numerous partitioned areas. Once you have your ticket, you use your ticket number to find your shoe locker and the key from this then opens your clothes locker. My key number was 637 and there were several more partitioned areas after mine so the changing area must accommodate a thousand people. The changing facility runs the entire length of the bathhouse and is enormous. In the center of the changing area are the entrance to, and exit from, the bathhouse.
You enter the bathhouse onto a raised plinth which at the front has steps to the floor level and to the side slopes down to the floor. Standing on the plinth, the entire complex can be viewed. Inside the bathhouse, on the right hand side are 80 sit down shower areas with 25 standing showers lining the wall. On the opposite side to the entrance, which is raised, are the saunas and on to the left, the bathing areas.
The bathing area is pleasantly lit by diffuse lighting under dark blue paneling which mirror image the pools. Two rounds pool, one hot and one cool sit on either end of a large semi-circular pool from which one can watch television. On the far side of the entrance is a large cold pool (냉탕) which is slightly recessed and on the wall of which is a large alpine mountain panorama, illuminated from behind. On the left of the cold pool are three individual, sunken bubble baths (거품탕) which you climb down into. On the same wall, but in the opposite direction adjacent to the showers, are three saunas, one of yellow mud (황토방), a steam sauna and a yellow stone sauna (황석). Next to these, in the corner is a partially enclosed scrub down area and a urinal.
Standing on the raised entrance and looking in the opposite direction, to the left far end, are two more baths one being a large square, wooden, Japanese cypress bath (히노끼) which is situated under the television, and in the left-hand corner a round ‘event pool’ (이벤트탕). The ‘event’ pool has a large menu on the wall detailing the daily essences added to the bath, herb, schisandra (오미자), jasmine etc, and their medicinal qualities. In the far right-hand corner are three cold ‘waterfall’ showers and in the opposite corner, next to the ‘event’ pool is a pine wood, herb sauna. Directly to the left of the entrance for this is a raised sleeping area with a heated floor. Dotted here and there on the edge of pools are stone mermaids, dolphins and other such features, pouring water into the pools.
The far left of the entrance contains the entrance to an area exposed to the outside temperature and known as a no-cheon (노천). Of the indoor no-cheons I have visited, this was the most successful. The area comprises most of the width of the bathhouse area and contains a cold pool (냉탕) and a steaming, large ‘forage bath’ (목초탕). The area is pleasantly decorated, although the plants are plastic, with spouting water features and in one corner are even a pair of small male and female totem poles. In this area is also a Finnish style sauna. A couple of seats allow for relaxation and provide a view, upwards. to the edge of the mountain. Usually, for the sake of privacy, indoor no-cheon areas have slated type windows which are frosted and though they allow the breeze to enter, hence providing outside temperatures, they usually have no view. The mountain at this point is steep enough to be void of footpaths and public and though there is a large frosted panel blocking any horizontal view, one can look up and glimpse the mountain slope. The no-cheon area is pleasantly decorated, though the plants are plastic, with stone features, water spouts and there is even a pair of small, male and female totem poles (장승) guarding the area. The no-cheon area also has a Finnish-style sauna.
The ‘powder room’ is comfortable with the usual array of fans, hair dryers, lotions and skin bracers. The changing area is massive and spacious and in particular, the TV area had an enormous table with four large leather sofas.
Getting there – (Wiki Map link )
Bus Lines: 410, 730, 349, and others stop in the immediate area.
By Subway – the closest subway to Home Spa is Daemyeong (대명) from here it’s possible to walk but a taxi might be easier.
Times – opens at 0600 and closes at 2300.
Cost – 7000W
Bathhouse (men) – barbers, 4 saunas, 8 pools, 95 showers, TV relaxations area, TV access in pool area and in saunas, shoe shine, snack area
Others – swimming pool, golf, yoga, fitness, jjimjilbang,
Waygukin – none
Website – http://www.h-spa.com/
©努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Rating – Functional
(First visited on Memorial Day Monday 6th of June 2011). This day started out bad as I’d set out with a student to find what was supposed to be an interesting Sauna in Seong-dang-mot (성당못) area of Daegu only to end up walking to Dae-myeong (대명) where our consolation prize was Ch’eonchiwon Jewel Sauna (천지원보석사우나). On a public holiday after a busy term we were looking for something special but even if our mission had been ‘the ordinary,’ Ch’eonchiwon would have scored a very low. In fairness, we didn’t view the jjimjilbang, which may have had redeeming qualities but the bathhouse was more functional than recreational and as a result we only stayed half an hour.
This is sort of establishment would perhaps be fine if it is in your local area and suitable for washing and a little lounging but other than this it is probably only of interest as an example of older bathhouse and as a reminder that not all establishments are equal. An occasional visit to such bathhouses makes you more appreciative of larger establishments.
The changing rooms were small and though not a ‘squeeze,’ I felt uncomfortable. The bathhouse was one of the oldest I’ve probably been in and though it was clean and tidy, I missed the luxury of bigger establishments. The pools were small and consisted of a circular warm pool and event pool and two small massage pools capable of holding 4 people. The cold pool was the largest pool. There was a steam room and salt room and a sleeping area which may have had a jade floor.
By taxi from Song-so, Lotte Cinema, Mega Town, approx 7000 Won (£3.50)
Times – 24 hour
Facilities – jjimjilbang, health club
Bathhouse (men) – about 10 stand up showers and perhaps 30 sit down ones. Warm-pool, event pool, cold pool, sleeping area, salt sauna, and steam room (? I think). A sleeping area in the bathhouse and a small massage pool that had another small pool next to it (?).
Cost – 4800 Won (which may be inclusive of jjimjilbang)
Ambiance - very local and functional and though clean a little grim.
Waygukin – none (a brief first visit).
Address – 대구광역시 남구 대명6동 1054-2. Tel: 053-628-8831
Layout (Male Bathhouse) Pending
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
It’s always difficult finding photos of bathhouse interiors; the reasons being obvious. However, I have recently discovered how to capture photographs and render them into the correct format. The photographs have been placed in their respective locations but I thought it useful to post them here as they provide a much clearer insight into bathhouse interiors. The additions are for Goong Cheon Lavender, Migwang Spolex and Wonderful Spa Land.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
(Originally published March 15th 2011) Here’s something to ponder. You’re going to be forced to stick your nose up someone’s butt. They might be clothed, they might not. The only choice you have in the matter is what nationality they will be.
When I used to train and teach taekwondo in the UK, sweaty sessions often produced brown watery stains on the butts of students’ white suits. I used to refer to it as ‘bum lick’ and basically, after rubbing shit around your arse smearing it clean, residue remains which when mingled with sweat produces shitty water which then stains your pants. Despite the hideously hot summers in Korea, I have never seen ‘bum lick’ on kids taekwondo pants probably because their diet is substantially different. The moment you convert to loading up on pizza, big mac, bread and pastries plus a churn load of milk, cheese, butter and cream and it takes five minutes and half a roll of toilet paper to smear yourself clean.
Now, I’m not into backsides but if I were forced to stick my nose up someone’s crack, but could choose the nationality of the backside, it would most definitely be Korean. I base my choice on two reasons, firstly: a Korean diet leaves less mess and secondly, Koreans are simply more fastidious about personal hygiene.
With a culinary repository heavily based on soupy type recipes, Korean food never hangs about in the gut too long and when it is expelled it is ejected with such force that suction drags out any loitering debris. Typical British food however, loiters in the intestines and has to be squeezed out of the body like toothpaste. It passes through the body at such a slow pace that the entire intestinal track contains one enormous fecal sausage, a gigantic colonic conga which congests the entire gut like an enormous traffic jam as it slowly worms its way downward. Kimchi jjim, or a bowl of bean curd soup however, is ingested and processed at such speed that by the time it is blown out not only is the consistency unchanged but so too is its temperature. With such force is it ejected from the body that it cleans your backside as it departs. And I have to say, cleaning-up up after a Korean meal is not much different to dabbing your mouth after a drink of water whereas a British diet can only be compared with trying to smear-up a muddy hole.
And you know most Koreans wash their backsides thoroughly because you can watch them doing it in a bathhouse. Many people in the UK still use bathtubs as a primary source of personal hygiene but how can you wash your arse in a little swaddling tub that binds your knees together and prevents easy access. Worse, the same water than cleans your body, that contains dead skin cells, hair, and other scud, the same water that rinsed out your backside and crotch, is then wallowed in. Yew! What a filthy habit and one almost as revolting as fitted carpets or cotton handkerchiefs. British showers aren’t much better being taken standing in restrictive bathtubs or in shower cubicles that provide as much freedom of movement as would a coffin. Have you ever seen a westerner clean their backside? And how do western kids learn how to clean themselves in that area? Are they just left to learn for themselves or do they simply let their underwear soak it up? I assume most westerners clean out their arses but I’ve never seen them doing it.
Nothing annoys me more than those who condemn Korean bathhouses, especially if they’ve only been a few times, and consider them places of moral and physical corruption or seething with rampant contagious infections; or those who like to bash Koreans because they use chopsticks in communal bowls of food or because they once had to use a crappy toilet. Yes, of course somethings in Korea seem ‘dirtier than they do back home but traveling shouldn’t just spotlight the inadequacies in your host country but should also expose ones you hadn’t considered back home. Last year I came across a commentary by a westerner who complained:
And my 02. worth. Korean bathhouses? Dirty. Think about this for a minute.
The hot and cold pools. The water is NOT filtered. You have people who scrub their body and DON’T rinse off and still jump into the pools. I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have also. Leave the sauna, sweat pouring off you and hop into the cold pool! I have never seen a sauna in Korea that filters the water. It gets changed once or twice a day. Japan? Yes the water is filtered and cleaned. Not Korea. I know a few people who caught the crabs in these saunas. The blankets in the sleeping rooms are not washed daily. The towels that the saunas give you to dry off usually are not washed in hot water. I’m not bad mouthing Korea saunas, I have been to a few but most are dirty. Even the fancy looking saunas that are expensive to enter do not filter the hot/cold pool water. People are peeing in them also. I’d think twice. The saunas are good things but many are lacking customers who use good hygiene. If you are lucky enough, you might have been using one when it was being cleaned. I was and never did return.
Actually, I don’t totally disagree! People, me included, go from the various saunas into one of the pools, bodies sweating, and occasionally I see kids get straight in a pool without showering and some bathhouses are cleaner than others. I’m sure some people must pee in the water and I’ve certainly seen people pee in the showers. Is the water filtered? Well, I know water is sucked in through vents and in other places blown out. Is this filtration? I’m no more aware of filtration systems than I would be in British swimming pools where people often swim without showering, and if they do it’s only in a cursory manner, and in which they do urinate. I’ve even seen a turd floating in a British swimming pool but most of us aren’t too bothered about pool hygiene because chlorine sanitizes not just the watery environment but mentally as it leads us to believe the environment is biologically sanitized. British pools might be bug free, but are they clean? Would you wallow in a cesspit if it were purged with a bottle of chlorine?
Without doubt some infections are passed in bathhouses, ‘red eye’ (conjunctivitis) being one and possibly a nasty infection of the testicles but even a mild infection of the bollocks is nasty as it results in them needing to be groped by your GP. Personally, such risks I consider small and I’m happy to gamble infection for the pleasures bathhouses provide. In years of using bathhouses I only ever had one infection and it’s debatable where it would have been contracted. I can identify a number of practices I consider unsavoury in Korea, some examples being how individuals might dump garbage at collection points which isn’t bagged, or dipping odeng (오댕 -fish cake snacks) into communal soy sauce bowls, a habit which I think might actually have almost phased out. Then there is the habit many kids have of coughing in your face without covering their mouth with a hand.
Some restaurants, especially small ones, have dubious cooking areas but once again I’ve seen just as bad in the UK where kitchens are usually hidden from public view. Several years ago I attended a course which was hosted in a prestigious yacht club. When the caterer didn’t turn up, we took it upon ourselves to use the kitchen to make tea and coffee and what we found was alarming; filthy fridges containing curdled milk and atrophied onions, meat placed above vegetables and shelves tacky with sugary residue on which cups were stored upside down. I made a complaint to the local authorities which resulted in the restaurant being fined several thousand pounds. The head chef, who was subsequently sacked, had previously owned a swanky sea food restaurant in the same village. Though lots of westerners will bemoan the state of many public toilets, I’ve seen far worse examples in the UK. I taught in one school where kids would deliberately urinate on the toilet floor, and even, on occasion, defecate beside the toilet rather than in it. There’s good and bad in all cultures but I will admit to being more lenient in terms of standards when I am eating something that costs next to nothing than I am when confronted with bad practices in an expensive, pretentious eatery. When eating out is expensive and an exception rather than the rule, as it is in the UK, I don’t expect Faecal Fingers or dirty anything.
Generally, I do not think standards differ too much between Britain and Korea except in terms of personal hygiene, which unfortunately is one of the most important criteria. It’s great having no rubbish lying in your streets or chlorine in public bathing water but it makes little odds if the community around you are filthy fuckers. Several years ago, research by a British University revealed that between 6 and 53% of city commuters had faecal matter on their hands. (BBC News 2008) Apparently, the further north you go in Britain, the higher the rates of contamination. This is especially alarming when you consider British people will usually fully unwrap a burger before eating it and are much more likely to put things like fingers and pens in their mouths. I’m the first to admit I unwrap my burger fully in order to consume it and find comfort in fingering the bun but Koreans always eat it from the wrapper even after washing their hands.
A person’s hands are the prime tools of first contact, they touch people, open doors, activate buttons and knobs, finger and prepare food and much more; they are the tools which, with an opposing thumb, not only define us as primates, but facilitate and make possible our interaction with the physical world. You can have all the brains in the world but without thumbs – you’re screwed! At the other end of the scale, your bum-hole does very little and generally spends a large proportion of the day sitting on its arse. If a person fails to sanitize their hands after a dump , if they can’t even be bothered to keep clean such an important tools, what horrendous microscopic offenses are lurking in that dark and humid crevice. And then there are the peanuts in bars which in the UK are usually contaminated with multiple traces of urine. My Koreans students often call me ‘dirty’ if I stir my coffee with a pen or put a pen end in my mouth and they are unaware that so many Brits have faecal fingers. Now I know why a number of British confections focus on ‘fingers.’ I have rarely met a dirty Korean student and the pissy urine smell that I’ve noted in numerous infant schools in Britain certainly never existed in the Korean kindergartens in which I taught.
I suspect much of the animosity towards bathhouses is simply the result of nudity; some westerners clearly perceive bathhouses physically ‘dirty’ because they consider nudity morally dirty. As one commentator wrote: I’ve also been here since 2001 and have never gone to a bathhouse. I’m not into sausage fests. I work out every day and shower at home. The room of soapy Koreans just doesn’t appeal to me. For some westerners, all it takes for a clean environment is a piece of cloth over a cock and buttock and suddenly the environment is clean; splash a bit of chlorine around and we will happily swim in each other’s neutralized dirt. In 2008, when I first read how widespread faecal matter was on the hands a large chunk of its population, I made a resolution to be extra vigilant in terms of personal hygiene and not only do I wash my hands after using the toilet, but I sanitize them with a spray or anti-bacterial hand cream. I have not once broken this resolution!
It’s pointless getting defensive about our lack of hygiene, for years the British have been the butt of jokes about bad teeth. I once meet an Australian who told me he’d been taught Brits changed their trousers once every few weeks and I’ve seen the skid marks in changing rooms and smelt the effects of using underwear as blotting paper, in British schools. If you’re British at least, observing how fastidious Koreans are about personal hygiene should prompt you to realise your own cultural failings. What’s important is that you learn from such observations and of course, the process goes both ways. Koreans are also fastidious about dental hygiene and I recently read that brushing teeth three times a day over decades can lead to receding gums. A number of sources now suggest only cleaning teeth with a brush, twice a day. As I said, there are good and bad practices in all cultures.
Okay, so now you’re going to be forced to stick your nose up someones butt. It’s time to choose. What nationality are you going to pick?
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
First visited on Thursday 19th of May 2011. Greenvill is very easy to find given its location to the main road downtown and the nearby Banwoldang subway. Though situated in the Samjung Greencore Apartments (삼정 그린코어) complex, it is only a five minute walk from the subway itself. At the bottom of this post you will find comprehensive instructions on locating the premises.
The changing facilities are large and spacious and the staff friendly. I was visiting on a lunchtime and there were only a few customers but I would suspect it might be busier in the evenings. The bathhouse itself is not large but it bright and fresh with numerous murals on the walls and interesting features, for example, a large dolphin stands in the corner of one pool, as if rising out of the water. The bathhouse (male) itself is approximately an ‘L’ shape with the main pools in three corners. There are probably around twenty stand up showers, giving some guide to the more experienced bathhouse user, as to the size of the premises, and close to these the hot (열), warm (온) and event (이벤트) pools. I often joke about the event pools being uneventful but this one was more exciting and a large ‘poster’ on a nearby pillar forecast the weekly aroma schedule: I was there on a Wednesday so the aroma was ‘grape’ and beside looking like a gigantic glass of wine, there was a pleasant hint of grape juice. Other aromas, changed on a daily basis, include menthol, lemon, chrysanthemum, mugwort, ginseng and pine.
In the far corner is a small massage pool (안마탕) with six massage stations. Beside this are stairs leading up to an open planned, infra-red lit, sleeping room. In another corner was a large and very cold, cold pool (냉탕) with attractive blue tiling and a large mural backdrop. There are two saunas: a steam sauna and a spacious pine sauna with various levels of decking and room to sleep.
In all, a very new, clean and relaxing bathhouse though perhaps not providing the most extensive facilities, it is certainly well worth a visit especially if you are in the vicinity or need a place to stop overnight.
Location – The Wikimapia site already had a marker for Greenvill but it was not in the right place. Locating it exactly is difficult as it is within the apartment complex so I took the liberty to update the map. However, the complex is easy to find and I have given some extra pointers. I used a taxi to Banwoldang and my directions are from the subway on the side of the road where traffic is heading downtown and the massive Donga building is directly in front of you.
Behind you you should see a flower shop with a small road leading up to an apartment complex. At the foot of the apartments on the hill you should see the Buddhist symbol as there is a temple here.
Go up to the temple and turn right in front of it. You will then see the turning on your right taking you into the Samjung Greencore Apartments (삼정 그린코어) complex. A small square sits in the middle at the opposite side of which you will see a flight of stairs. Go down these. You are now going past the sauna, it is actually on your right and when you reach the foot of the stairs you will find the entrance.
If you come out the exit and take a right and a right, or a left and a left, you will easily find you way back to the Donga building area. Coming out and taking a left and left will take you past a string of Buddhist shops. (Wikimapia link )
Times – 24 hour
Facilities – barber, shoe shine, large changing room with TV.
Jjimjilbang – includes an ice room, DVD room and various other facilities.
Bathhouse (men) – around twenty stand up and perhaps 30 sit down ones.
Cost – 4.500 Won for the bathhouse
Others – Basement car parking. Right next to Banwoldang subway line and on the main bus route (405). An interesting area with many shops and department stores.
Ambiance - bright, airy with a subdued infra-red sleeping area.
Waygukin – first visit – none
Address - 대구 중구 남산2동 665번지, Daegu, Jung-gu, Namsan-2-dong 665. Tel:053-427-6665.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
There is a very useful review of Greenvill at Jjimjilbang and Saunas in Korea (October 2010)
(Originally published in September 2010) A collection of bathhouse designs that can be used for contrasting design and facility. Some plans are being added to and they are not to scale – they are very rudimentary but will give those with no knowledge of bathhouses an idea of their layout, approximate dimensions and the amenities available. Click plans for establishment reviews.
WOLBAE 월배 SUBWAY, LINE 1,
BANWOLDANG (반월당) LINE 1 AND 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF SUBWAY
DONG DAEGU STATION (동대구) LINE 1. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF MAIN RAILWAY STATION
DASA (다사) LINE 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF DAESHIL OR DASA SUBWAYS
SONG SEO (성서) LINE 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF SEONGSEO INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX SUBWAY
YONGSANDONG (용산동) LINE 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF YONGSAN SUBWAY
WOLBAE (월배) LINE 1. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF WOLBAE SUBWAY.
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.
The an-ma-tang (안마탕 – massage pool) appears in various guises. In some bathhouses this can be a large pool with a wide variety of hydrotherapy ‘stations.’ In such bathhouses large massage-baths will provide water massage to every part of the body including the soles of your feet. Usually they consist of some form of cubicle in which you stand or lay and after activating a button, are subject to powerful jets of water which will massage a particular area. Smaller pools produce massage jets at a lower intensity and over which you have to maneuver whatever part of your body is in need of treatment. Sometimes the pool has only one activation button and so the experience is shared while other pools have a number of individual births in which you lay and your own activation button.
These pools are great for treating muscular problems though for spinal related aches and pains, cold pools often have a very powerful shower that once activated you can move under to allow your spine and back to be thoroughly pummeled. There is a great variety in the nature of massage pools ranging from ones that are little other than jacuzzi, to ones that seem to vibrate intensely and rumble you internal organs producing an effect that feels like your are about to produce an enormous fart, to others which are powerful enough to give you an enema should you inadvertently put your backside in the line of fire.
In Song-So, West Daegu, Migwang (미광) has a small massage pool but an excellent power shower in the cold pool. Hwang-So (황소) has a small ‘rumble’ type pool with 4 individual ‘berths.’ Meanwhile, the new jjimjilbang in Dasa (다사), Hyu-Rim-Won (휴림원), which is a short taxi or subway ride from Song-So Industrial Complex, has a very large and complex massage pool.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
Salt saunas can be found in both bathhouse and jjimjilbang and they are one of my favourite destinations. They tend to be a slightly specialist facility which means you won’t find them in every establishment. You will find the salt experience differs between that offered in a bathhouse and that in a jjimjilbang. Jjimjilbang salt saunas often have walls and or ceilings made from rock salt or they have a large area filled with coarse rock salt in which you can submerse your limbs and body and enjoy the radiant warmth. In a bathhouse, a salt sauna usually has large pot of salt which you rub over your body allowing the salt to both scrub and purge you skin clean. The bathhouse salt room is often combined with other properties as it may, for example, have jade or bamboo charcoal walls walls.
The bathhouse salt sauna is one of my favourite places and you really do feel clean after rubbing your body with salt and then allowing it to dissolve as you sweat. I usually take a small bowl of water in with me as this helps to make the salt cling to your body and don’t forget to take a towel or large scrubbing cloth in with you as often the seats are wooden and they can burn your backside.
As a point of interest, salt is very useful at removing smells and in a Korean market you can buy fresh mackerel which has been sprinkled in salt which you then wash off before cooking – it reduces the smell of the fish as it cooks. I’m not sure however, how well this works on body odours!
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
I’m working through some ideas here and not only have another part to follow this post, but will make amendments here. If you want to add your views, more educated and sociological ones welcomed, please do so however, I won’t bother publishing the usual offensive crap that this kind of post sometimes generates. (Hence the pumpkin logo) Part one can be accessed here: Bathhouse Zen (Part 1)
Once you have recognised your own cultural inhibitions and prejudices that prevent you entering bathhouse complexes or get in the way of your fully enjoying the experience, it is time to look at how bathhouse culture can be seen in a broader context.
The bathhouse is an environment where social rank and hierarchy either cease operating or do so at a minimal level. In an environment divested of the clothes which we use to mask and manipulate our personalities, communication is both more direct and honest. Mutual nudity brings participants into a closer relationship where friendships and ties are strengthened. The Korean phenomena of ‘testicle friends’ (불알 친구) or ‘penis friends’ (고추 친구) clearly demonstrate that a relationship enters a deeper level through familiarity with the naked body. This is further consolidated through ‘skinship’ ‘rituals’ such as scrubbing each others backs or bodies. Skinship is an important bonding process in all human interaction though it needn’t be restricted exclusively to mother-child or sexual relationships. In the Korean context ‘skinship’ has an important function in wide range of platonic relationships and even serve to form a bridge between relationships that are normally unequal. Unlike western culture, in which physical contact might be substantially altered in a naked or semi-naked state, in the bathhouse ‘skinship’ practices do not alter.
Additionally, bathhouse nudity also rekindles our relationship to nature and it is not unusual to see individuals sat in pools or quiet corners meditating or simply contemplating. Most bathhouses reinforce the connection with nature and rock, wood, salt, soil, sea water, wood chippings, charcoal, bamboo, herbs, jade etc, are all common features incorporated into bathhouse design. The artificial worlds we inhabit in our regular lives, often fast paced and technologically dependent, all evaporate in the presence of a bathhouse’s watery symphony of splashing, pulsing, lapping, dripping and hissings. Water as water, ice, spray or steam, incorporated with suitable lighting and other elements rich in association with nature combine to create and ambience that can lure us into psychological states conducive to meditation or reflection. A state of nudity fully exposes the body to various transitions in temperature, textures, aroma and humidity.
Most bathhouses have something unique to offer and an awareness of the ambience of bathhouses at differing times of the day or week mean that it is possible to bathe in a manner that suits not just differing emotions but physical states. Some establishments are better suited for taking a sleep, others for relaxing in various types of pool or experiencing various types of hydro-therapy and some more suited for those times of year when the weather is hot, humid or cold. And if one finishes a session properly they should leave the bathhouse feeling both mentally and physically revitalised.
© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence