Su-Mok-Won Saeng Hwal On-Ch’eon (수목원 생활온천)
Rating – Luxury
(First visited on 10th June 2011. Last visited on 24th of September 2011) Saeng Hwal instantly became one of my favourite establishments. This is a large complex with numerous facilities though there is no jjimjilbang (찜질방). The reception area on the ground floor is like that of a grand hotel and is large and spacious with sofas and television for relaxation. Grouped around here are numerous shops, manicure, body shop etc, and a pine wood, traditional style café.
Shoes are removed in the reception area, the number for your shoe locker is on your ticket and the key in the shoe locker is the same number for your locker in the changing area. From reception you proceed to your respective areas, women floor 2 and men floor 3.
The men’s changing room is very spacious with sofas and television, the usual snacks and accessories such as ties, socks and toiletries. The fee here is the most expensive I’ve paid, at 6000 Won (£3) but shampoo and shaving foam, as well as the usual toothpaste and soap, are provided in the showering areas. Though there are only around 10 stand up showers, there are 54 sit-down units traversing the left hand wall beyond which is a fairly large jade, ondol (under floor heated) sleeping area with pine walls and wooden head rests (목짐). Beyond this is the no-ch’eon (노천) area which is exposed to outside temperatures.
Traversing the right hand side of the bathing complex are various facilities, a powerful cold shower, a long, two channeled foot bath, each a different temperature. This long, open fronted room has a TV screen at the far end. There then follow a steam room and a dry, pine sauna. The steam sauna was hotter than I usually experience and there were stone benches with a central cold water gully in which to put your feet. TV access was through the central window to the pine sauna. Both saunas were large and lit with subdued lighting.
Beyond the saunas lay a decent size cold pool (냉탕) with high Japanese style water-outlet under which you can stand. The head of the bathing complex has a very large massage pool (안마탕) with 8 different types of massage and around 30 individual stations. The pool is interestingly designed and curves around, removing the harshness of angular edges. This format is utilized in some of the central pools and it is interesting to note, stands in direct contrast to the design of the nearby Na-Seong Hawaii. Both establishments are fairly new and whether the opposing features of one bathhouse were transposed into the other, I don’t know but despite their polarised differences, each has its own balance and individual atmosphere.
As you enter the bathing complex, a large cold water bath, from which you dash your body with cold water from a small basin, stands in front of you. Beyond this a large warm pool (온탕) with cypress wood borders. One of the unfortunate aspects of Saeng Hwal, is the pool ledges are made from a rough granite and though you will not slip on it, it doesn’t do your buttocks any good to swivel! A central TV screen sits in the pool area, as does one in the massage pool. Towards the head of the bathing area, at the far end of the warm pool and on the right, is a semicircular hot pool (열탕). It is fairly small and could fit perhaps three westerners or six Koreans, not because westerners are larger, but because Koreans are not uncomfortable sitting close to each other. Curving around the top edge of this is a lukewarm bath (미온탕).
There is one area left to describe. In the far left corner, tucked between the far side of the jade sleeping floor, and the left hand side of the massage pool, is no-ch’eon (노천). However, like the no-ch’eon at Wonderful Spa Land and Na Seong Hawaii, it isn’t a proper no-ch’eon, but one exposed to the outside temperature. Real no-ch’eon, found in hot spring resorts, are outside. The Saeng Hwal no-ch’eon however, gave me a real buzz on my first visit when it was empty. To stop heat loss, the entrance is via two doors and inside, volcanic black rock form the lower walls and floor into which two natural hot spring baths are contained. The walls are pine wood or cypress as is a very small sleeping area and a central walk way. Here, in the absence of a TV, you can find real relaxation. There are even some real plants growing in one corner.
I once sat in a real no-ch’eon on my birthday, 30th of December, at something like 4 am in the morning in freezing cold temperatures in a snow storm. I was on a small island on the west coast and the sea water bathhouse was the edge of the sea and with the privacy, it meant you were able to stand up on lean on the wall, and look out at the numerous small islands dotted about. I would imagine that as summer kicks in and the humidity rises, it will possibly be more comfortable in the bathhouse than in the no-ch’eon but I am unsure. Taking opportunity of the recent cool weather, I decided to visit Saeng Hwal at 11 pm. It is quite strange bathing in a pool that is still a little busy, and where kids are still playing, at not far short of midnight. I ended up sat in one of the hot no-ch’eon pools talking to a 22-year-old lad who is about to go into the army. I transpires he is the bathhouse owner’s grandson and after chatting for half an hour or so, he disappears in order to get me some complimentary tickets. I was rather hot and sat on one of the cypress wood benches which are dotted around the bathhouse and which are a welcome luxury from the usual white plastic bathhouse furniture. The lighting is perfect lit by one subdued ceiling lamp and one between the plants on the ground. The cool evening air drifted through the enormous slated windows and was quite a fabulous sensation. I think if the building captures the breeze in such a manner throughout the year, the no-ch’eon might be quite refreshing on a balmy summer evening.
Are there any downsides? Well, Saeng Hwal lacks the olfactory orgasm of Wonderful Spa Land and its incredible aromas, and it’s a little short on saunas, with only two, but the no-ch’eon is an experience and the bathhouse has a very relaxing atmosphere.
Getting there – (Wiki Map link ) (Google Map link). On the 604, Dalseo 1 and Dalseo 4, bus routes. A short distance, perhaps 15 minutes, from Jinch’eon (진청) subway. Taxi from Song-So Lotte Cinema Complex around 5000 Won.
Times – 24 hour for the bathhouse.
Facilities – parking, fitness, climbing wall, basement ‘chambers,’ health related shops, traditional style café.
Bathhouse (men) – 12 stand up showers and 54 sit down units. A large and deep warm pool (온탕) with cypress wood sides, hot pool (열탕) and lukewarm bath (미온탕), cold pool (냉탕), and a large massage pool. Pine sauna and steam sauna and jade sleeping floor. Enclosed are exposed to the outside temperature (노천) with two hot spring pools. A separate foot bath.
Cost – 6000 Won (bathhouse)
B1 – 불가마 – kiln rooms yellow earth sauna (황토방). Oriental medicine chamber, Loess chamber, snow room, DVD room, snack room, Korean food bar and internet corner.
1st Floor – reception, shoe shine, beauty shop, nail and manicure, body shop, sofas, TV and relaxation area.
2nd Floor – Women’s sauna
3rd Floor – Men’s sauna
4th Floor – climbing wall, aerobics, weight training, fitness room
5th Floor – roof garden, children’s pool (summer), general relaxation (노천)
Various interesting shops in the immediate vicinity including a large coffee shop and a very attractive shop, the ‘Herb Store.’
Ambiance – very relaxing.
Waygukin – one so far (not friendly)
Website – www.lifespa.kr
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.