Bathhouse Basics (7): The Naeng Tang (Cold Pool 냉탕)
If there is one pool, usually the biggest, you are guaranteed to find at every bathhouse (목욕탕), it is the naeng tang (cold pool – 냉탕). Naeng tang are also often the deepest pool in bathhouses, usually as deep as an average adult’s waist and with the pool length, long enough to be able to swim in.
In summer, they are wonderfully refreshing and for many bathhouse goers, moving between a hot sauna or hot pool to the cold pool is a great sensation. Lounging in the cold pool on a hot summer’s day, before you exit the bathhouse complex to ‘powder’ and dress, will help delay the inevitable onset of sweating.
The temperature of naeng tang pools tend to vary between establishments though this is probably more noticeable in summer. Many bathhouse pools and sauna display their associated temperatures but this is not so common with naeng tang. Throughout the hot summer the cold pools are busy and their size and depth means they are often the playground of boys and even university students.
In mid-winter however, the fact they are freezing means getting into one can require Spartan constitution; they are cold enough to knock the breath out of your lungs. Often the pool has a large shower which can be turned on by an adjacent button and which is powerful enough to massage your back and shoulders. Its force takes a little getting used to.
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.