Update on Han Song Bathhouse (한성) Daegu
As far as bathhouses go, Han Song, near MacDonald’s, in Song-so, is pretty insignificant. It’s neither large nor impressive and is only a bathhouse and as such is closed after 10.pm.
My only reason for writing about Han-Song Sauna is that it is the only bathhouse in the area that was operating when I first arrived in Korea in the summer of 2000. It is of personal significance because it was the third sauna I visited, the first which I was to visit on a regular basis and it stood right next to my first hagwon. I visited every working day for eight months. In Korea, where businesses come and go so quickly, such staying power is an exception even more so when you consider the two attendants in the Sauna foyer as well as the shoe shine man, were all working here back in 2000.
Nostalgia is the only thing that brings me back to Han-Song, usually on a yearly basis. I’m amazed it is still open because I don’t think a single won has been spent on its maintenance in 12 years. I imagine its persistence is due to the loyalty, or laziness of the residents of nearby apartment blocks.
My last visit was 13 months ago and I remembered it being grotty. This time however, my visit actually made me feel dirtier rather than cleaner. The hinges on sauna doors are totally rusted and the ceiling, corroded, is a mass of flaky blisters. Several air vents in the ceiling, totally rusted, are simply dirty brown holes. There is a stone slab in the steam room under which I used to stick my used chewing gum, five years ago! The slab of seating, a sort of black marble, is still loose and the gum, still visible and still pliant. Notices I used to try to decipher, 11 years ago, now have missing letters or are so faded you can’t read them. The place is grim, dank and worn and yet I still feel comfortable, even with the flaky roof ceiling overhead.
The gutters running alongside the pools are caked in what looks like a yellowy to grey sludge except when you poke it with your big toe, you discover it’s solid and some form of scale.
Han-Song is a about as washed out as you can get and I’d be surprised if such conditions aren’t in breach of some regulations – but maybe not as Korean hygiene tends to throw up some strange anomalies. For example, people will spend a good hour scrubbing themselves clean and will choose to do some in such a nasty ambiance when only five minutes walk down the road is a beautifully luxurious sauna (Hwang-So).
Han-Song needs a makeover. While the pools are still enjoyable the whole experience is spoilt but having to lie looking up at that decaying ceiling and wondering if you can finish your ablutions before it collapses around your ears.
©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
For previous review, 12th August, 2010, see here.