Wonderful Spaland – A Little Less Wonderful. Update (1)
For most of this year, Wonderful Spaland has remained my favourite bathhouse in the west side of Daegu. The allure lay in the heady scents emitted in the Roman Mosaic Steam Room, and the smoky smell of the oak charcoal bath the essences extracted by a process of condensation. Other attractions included a large massage pool, the semi-exposed no-ch’eon (노천) as well as the fact the facilities were impeccably clean and comfortable.
Last weekend was a bad time to visit. With a major baseball quarter-final in play the baths were packed and at one point I estimated about two hundred people in the pool and shower area. However, most bathers weren’t watching the game but enjoying the massage pool. To compound matters, Saturday had been a ‘play Saturday’ (놀토) and as the majority of students had finished their mid-term exams, there were plenty of kids splashing about and making a noise.
Unfortunately, several changes have occurred in the arrangement of pools which has slightly downgraded my rating of Wonderful Spaland. I know from comments by other readers that the women’s section had the same structure as the men’s area but currently, don’t know if the changes have been applied to one area or both. In my opinion, the changes have removed facilities that gave the establishment a clear lead over other luxury bathhouses.
The ‘Roman Sauna,’ which formerly had a large structure in the center of the circular room which hissed out the most intoxicating aromas, has been removed and the floor underneath replaced with mosaic. This was the central feature of the sauna and it felt quite natural to be seated around this, on solid mosaic seats. With the structure removed, and no central focus, it now feels a little odd sitting in a circle. A TV screen now occupies the wall but the circular seating isn’t practical and effectively retires the seating under the TV. I can’t remember if the screen was there before; if it was, its presence was insignificant as one’s interest was dominated by the hissing of the ‘cauldron’ in the center of the room. This sauna has gone from balanced and enjoyable to clumsy and pointless but the mosaic decoration, if any consolation is attractive.
The oak charcoal bath (짬나무/목초탕), the scent of which permeated the entire bathhouse, was formerly in the no’ch’eon area, next to the salt sauna but this has now been replaced by a mud bath. The current charcoal bath is now located in the center of the complex alongside the ‘event-bath‘ (이벤트탕) and the unique ‘milky bubble bath.’ The charcoal pool is no longer as intense as it was and though its scent is still noticeable as you approach the changing rooms, it no longer lingers on your skin for several days.
The mud bath is nothing to get too excited about and whatever mud is present merely dirties the water. Perhaps mud baths don’t need to be sloppy and dirty and in all fairness, the only suitable place to locate this facility is by the salt sauna as these also have a shower outside them to hose off excess salt.
In my opinion, while Wonderful Spaland still remains one of the best Saunas in the area though the restructuring knocks it down a notch making it directly comparable to other ‘quality’ bathhouses.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
- Wonderful Spaland – Where Heaven Comes Cheap (원드풀 스파낸드) (elwood5566.net)
- Collected Bathhouse Designs (elwood5566.net)