I’ve spent 8 years looking at Korea through an understanding of British culture and now I’m living in the UK, my observations are shaded by my interaction with Korean society.
In the summer, just before I left Korea, my gumdo master suggested we take our students to a spa for an outing. A ‘spa’ in Korea is a water park. My first question was, ‘what do you wear in a spa?’ Of course, I knew the answer, a bathing costume; it just needed confirming. A little wave of nausea washed over me. I’ve become so used to nude bathing that the idea of wearing anything other than nothing is ‘pyontae’ – which in Korea means ‘perverted’ though a closer, not so stringent translation is probably ‘sick’ or ‘gross.’
Now, this revelation, a complete turnaround to how I originally envisaged a bathhouse experience, is strange partly because that despite being gay, I don’t find the bathhouse in the least an erotic encounter. This fact quite confuses some people whom obsess that a bathhouse has got to be an erotic experience for a gay man. Perhaps this obsession reveals more about them than it does me. Indeed, I’ve never really found the experience erotically engaging. Naturally, I’m aware of handsome or attractive bathers but that’s where it stops. Conversely, I find clothed bathing far more sexually intriguing because it leaves something to the imagination. Nudity is noble and levelling while bathing in a costume is simply sad and repressive. In the end, we didn’t take the kids to a spa and I was pleased because I would have felt more awkward, more body conscious strolling around in bathing shorts.
One of the most notable revelations on returning to the UK is that any mention of nude bathing and the fact you find it superior to clothed bathing, even in a segregated environment, instantly labels you a ‘nudist’ or ‘naturist’ both of which for many British people carry overtones of ‘kinkiness.’ In summer, I meet up with a friend who spent 4 years in Daegu. I think I may have introduced him to bathhouse culture and over the years we explored numerous bathhouses and jjimjilbang in and around Daegu. When he visited, we travelled part of the east coast and arrived at St Osyths Beach, near Clacton.
St Osyths Beach is one of those seaside towns that epitomise the ghastly side of British culture. Really, its nothing other than a sprawling caravan park with a row of glitzy amusement arcades, a few restaurants and a bar. The restaurants serve decently priced food in good proportions but the quality is lacking. You can buy a foot long sausage and chips for a couple of pounds but I don’t think the sausage contains any meat and if it does it’s mechanically rescued and engorged with some form of edible padding; bread perhaps.
Part of the beach is quite pleasant but if you walk only a hundreds towards the ‘nudist beach’ it rapidly deteriorates into a bomb zone. Clearly, some structures or an esplanade originally stood on this stretch which had subsequently been bombed flat or smashed by an enormous tsunami. The rubble has never been removed and large chunks of concrete lay embedded in the sand decorated by patches of paving and the odd rusty, iron girder. The beach was strewn with rubbish, beer cans, broken glass and the likes and ornamented by a great swampy expanse which smelt like an enormous drain and sat between the footpath and the beach.
We spent several hours in the nude beach trying to recapture the luxury of Korean bathhouse bathing. Having walked some twenty minutes from the caravan park area, the beach becomes sandy and clean with dunes stretching far along the isolated coastline. Bathing in the sea wasn’t that pleasant; the water is murky and the floor a constantly shifting bed of shingle that at times was sharp.
It was high summer, holiday season, but the beach wasn’t too busy and here and there sat or bathed real naturists. You could distinguish real naturists from those with other motives because they made eye contact and occasionally communicated with us, perhaps smiling or commenting on the hot weather. What marred the occasion were the number of perverts frequenting the beach – all men! They fell into two categories, those tolling the beach-line who simply paraded up and down and those hiding between the dunes eager to eye up whatever it was that attracted them.
One character, wore a complete body stocking which covered all but his hands, feet and head and he minced along the path between the beach and the dunes sporting a lttle hand-bag. Another, paraded up and down fully aroused and every twenty or so paces would keep himself ‘pumped’ with a vigorous fondling. Yet another, trolled the water’s edge wearing a mid-riff T-shirt from which was attached a piece of cord subsequently tied to his nether regions. This ‘reign’ was somewhat tight and as he walked his T-shirt pulled on the reign and his penis reared upwards as if a dinky sized My Little Pony was nestled in his crotch. Meanwhile, in the dunes, heads constantly popped up and peered about like pink periscopes before submerging.
Despite my years of Korean bathhouse bathing, in an all male environment, I felt uncomfortable with the kind of behaviour paraded on this beach. I doubt there were any punters under 25, apart maybe from a few women in pairs and you certainly wouldn’t want to bring children here. The whole experience was tainted by the parading perverts and hidden colony of leering meer cats.
Ready to take that plunge? No doubt, many will have no worries entering a bathhouse but if the experience is likely to stress you, here are some tips.
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Sometimes, fitness centers have adjacent bathhouses and jjimjilbang. If this is the case you can use the sports facilities a few times in order to familiarise yourself with everything before using the bathhouse.
2. Male and worried about willy size? Don’t be! I’ve seen toddlers with cocks bigger than mine and no one pays much attention. Or you could try adding an extra centimeter by trimming surrounding hair. I once read that every forty pounds lost, assuming you are that fat to begin with, increases the appearance of size by one inch. One the other hand, if you’re as fat as I am an extra few stone would supply enough lagging to provide an overhang sufficient to hide it completely.
WHEN TO GO
1. Choose a quiet time for you first encounter. Early morning, eg. 5 am, though anytime before 7am on the weekends is good. Alternatively, if the establishment closes, a good time to attend is on a weekend a couple of hours before closing time.
2. Avoid public holidays, unless you’re prepared for a full house and avoid both ‘play Saturdays’ (놀토) when there are no schools, and school, university vacation periods. Sunday is often the busiest day.
WALKING THE PLANK TO THE POOLS – this is the scariest part
1. Keep a watch on. It’s really useful as a diversionary play thing should you feel uncomfortable. If you fiddle with it nonchalantly as you walk to the baths, it will help distract you from the glances of other punters.
2. On your first encounter you’ll probably head straight for the bathhouse complex blotting out everything on the way. Try to remember to pick up a towel and a wash cloth, usually located around the complex entrance. This can be used the same way as your watch when you get stressed or ultimately, to bury your face in.
3. Male and worried about willy size? Give your dick a quick stretch before setting off on the walk of shame.
ONCE INSIDE – you’ve made it!
1. Get straight under a stand up shower and get wet. The water will occupy you as you gather your senses for some exploration and familiarization.
2. Remember, if you head straight for the showers which are situated at floor level, you will have to sit on a bucket sized seat. All bathhouses have regular, standing showers which provide a good vantage point to familiarise yourself with the bathhouse layout and practices and don’t necessitate sitting in an undignified position.
3. Soap, towels, toothpaste are all provided. If you drop the soap and find this embarrassing, park your arse in a corner before bending down, or with your knees together, bend with the knees and not from your waist. Alternatively, rapidly kick the soap into the drain and ignore it.
4. When you get up from the bucket seat, roll slightly onto one butt check and then onto the other before standing up as this breaks any pockets of suction between your arse and the seat.
5. Don’t stand up after sitting on a towel without whipping the towel from under you as you stand. Failure to do this will cause it to stick to your butt.
1. If you remember to take a towel in with you can use this to sit in a convenient spot and dry off prior to leaving. On your first visit you will probably want to escape quickly and this will be prolonged if you are dripping wet. If there is an ice room, five minutes sat in this, especially in summer, will quickly dry you off but this procedure has a detrimental effect on males.
2. If you get to this point, well done!
Good luck! I’d love to hear other suggestions!
I apologise for their being a lack of tips for females but as of yet I have never been in a female bathhouse. Suggestions welcomed!
© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.
I don’t intend this page to provide any more than brief information on my local amenities. I am too lazy to go further afield. Hence information, always changing and subjective by nature, is largely confined to Daegu and in particular, the Song-So area. When I use a facility I record basic details and perhaps some of my feelings towards the establishment. Remember, things change rapidly in Korea and even if an establishment remains around for any duration you can guarantee some features have changed.
I have provided a wikimapia link for most establishments.
If you are interested in the design of bathhouses I have a page with detailed plans that provides an easy means of comparison.
I notice on search results numerous inquiries into gay activity in bathhouse and jjimjilbangs, etc. I will add a note if I see anything but being useless at such behaviour and not even looking for it, my pages are not the place to look for such information.
Feel free to post any observations.
CLICK PHOTOS FOR LINK TO ITS REVIEW AND FURTHER INFORMATION
LINE 1(SOUTH TO NORTH)
DAEGOK 대곡 LINE 1
JINCH’EON (진천) LINE 1
WOLBAE 월배 LINE 1. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF WOLBAE SUBWAY.
SANGIN LINE 1
WOLCHON LINE 1
SONGHYEON LINE 1
DAEMYEONG LINE 1. (MIGHT BE A BIT OF A WALK – BEST GET A TAXI FROM HERE)
CH’EON-CHI-WON PO-SEOK SAUNA (천지원 보석 사우나) 1 MINUTE FROM EXIT 4
BANWOLDANG (반월당) LINE 1 AND 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF SUBWAY
DONG DAEGU STATION (동대구) LINE 1. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF MAIN RAILWAY STATION
LINE 2 (WEST TO EAST)
DASA (다사) LINE 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF DAESHIL OR DASA SUBWAYS
SONG SEO (성서) LINE 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF SEONG-SEO INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX SUBWAY
YONGSANDONG (용산동) LINE 2. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF YONGSAN SUBWAY
- Po Sot, Song-so
Airport Mokyoktang and jjimjilbang.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
Posts on Bathhouse and JJimjilbang Female Perceptive
Naked in a Jjimjilbang: For a woman’s perspective on using a bathhouse (which is mistakenly described as a jjimjilbang). Excellent account.
Dragon Hill: This famous jjimjilbang, situated in Seoul, is one of the largest and plushest in the world.
First Contact: An interesting account of a trip to a bathhouse, from a nun!
In a Korean Bathhouse: an account of a trip to a bathhouse.
Horror in the Bathhouse: This is a well written account of a first trip to a bathhouse which has a special allure as it was written in 2001 when the reception to waygukin in a bathhouse, was quite different from that of 2010.
Conquering the 쨤질방 – actually the author is conquering the 목욕탕.
Who Would Have Guessed (March 2011) from Away We Go – a first time account
Experiencing Dragon Hill Spa (Dec. 2010) from Gone Seoul Searching – a review of Asia’s largest bathhouse and jjimjilbang.
Tales of the World: Get Naked, from The Waiting (2012).
Posts on Bathhouse and Jjimjilbang.
Getting Clean (Feb. 22nd 2009) From: Tony in Korea – another account of a first time visit to a bathhouse
Saunas and Jjimjilbang in Korea (March 2011) from, Jonny on the Road
A Peek into a Seoul Bathhouse (April 28th 2011) from – The Korea Times. A touching account of a Korean grandfather’s bathhouse experience which both traverses generations and culture.
Sleeping at Incheon Airport (April 25th 2011) From Jonny on the Road – an insight in what looks to be a luxurious experience.
Bathhouses in Seoul – My Favourite Jjimjilbang (2015) – let Christine take you on a video tour of the jjimjilbang.
Blogs Dedicated to Bathhouse and JJimjilbang
JJimjilbang and Sauna – information on various facilities and events.
General Information on Jjimjilbang
36 Hours in Seoul (NY Times)
First Time Jjimjilbang: How to visit a Korean bathhouse. A good comprehensive insight into using a jjimjilbang. (2015 – Lonely Planet)
Korean How-to Guide: Jjimjilbang in 5 easy steps. An step by step guide and some links to a few central location jjimjilbang. (2013)
A Look at Korea’s Culture from the Bathhouse (2014) The New York Times extensive expose of Korean bathhouses.
How to use a Korean Spa (2015) From Eat Your Kimchi, a popular vlog series which many expats in Korea use.
Korean Bathhouse and the Children’s Age limit Dilemma (2013) An interesting account from Koreabang.
Links to Bathhouse Information Globally (Non Korean)
There Is a separate page for Korean style bathhouses outside Korea
A Funhouse Floating in a Korean Spa (2009). A reveiw of Inspa World, College Piont, Queens, New York. This review is from the New York Times.
Spa Castle, New York. Their website revamped in 2016.
Links to Bathhouses in History
Filched Comments on Bathhouses Culture
1) I’ve been here almost 6 years and haven’t gone. No nerve. Plus I’d rather go with someone who knows the ropes than faking it by myself. I’m not much into public nudity – I hated public showers back home too…at the gym etc
2) I was deeply squeamish about ‘exposing’ myself in group situations in Canada, all my life. As if there was something indecent about it — a weird indoctrination that ‘private parts’ must be kept hidden. Plus the fear of lurking glances & anxiety that ‘average’ didnt measure up! Well phooey on that nonsense. From my first visit to the bath houses here I’ve felt liberated from self-consciousness about my body. It is what it is & I’m comfortable in it. Most Koreans are very relaxed about same-sex nudity & discretion is the norm — everyone just goes about their own business.
(Maybe a little different on the women’s side? Friends tell me Korean women can be quite open in their scrutiny & comments, but most of my friends just shrug it off.)
It’s a neat feeling when you can be naked in front of strangers & not give it a second thought. I was in a spa the day Kim Dae-jung flew to North Korea to meet Kim Jong-il, we were maybe 50 naked men & boys standing glued to the tv as DJ walked across the runway & the two of them shook hands. We all spontaneously applauded & several older men wiped away tears. Unforgettable.
Or the time I was in a hot-springs showering next to a western friend on his first visit & I’d forgotten my shampoo. The look! & then the laughter, when I asked him, Can I bum a squirt?
3) I was exactly the same before…then my roommate took me to the bath house in our neighborhood and I was hooked. The nudity thing wears off fast, and its rejuvenating. I go every day to my local bath house and once a week to the spa in Busan (onchinjang). Its just the best.
4) I love the bathhouse. Same, at first, I was so hesitant… Just to be naked in front of so many strangers. And yes my chest is noticeably larger than any Korean woman I’ve ever met. So there were body issues, but I went with a friend one time and have no qualms about returning (and have since that time).
The first two times I didn’t wear my contacts (because of all the steam), so it was actually good not being able to see anything in close focus. And not being able to notice if anyone was really staring. But the funny part was, I was stared at less than when I have clothes on. A little akward meeting another foreigner there, but I’ve experienced weirder things in Korea. Had a blast befriending some young girls and playing around and showing them some swimming moves (in the cool pool).
So my advice. You’ve got to experience a bathhouse AT LEAST once while in Korea. If you don’t like it, then fine. But I’m sure a lot of people will find they love it and go back again and again. So try to go when you first get here and not towards the end of your contract, because you will probably regret not going earlier. I know I did.
5) Give it a try just once and you’ll be hooked. I’ve been here since fall of ’99 and I think it was 4 years later I finally went into one. Worked at a hagwon with both a health club and a sauna in the basement of the building. Didn’t have to teach until 2 pm on MWFs, so guess what I did 3 times a week? Yep, first one, then the other … best way to be nice to your body. Well, second best, anyway …
6) I wish the staff knew enough English to tell the foreigners who insist on wearing their underwear in the pools to go away tho.
NEGATIVE (By predominantly Pumpkin People)
1) What about the staring? I get stared at enough with my clothes on. I hate to think what it would be like once I’m naked. What are other chicks experiences? my boss has said she goes every Sunday, and has invited me to go with her, but i am rather nervous about wandering around naked with everybody pointing and looking at me.
2) The staring does not go away; you just don’t notice it after a while. There is nothing worse than having light-coloured pubic hairs and a larger than average “you-know-what” and having pansy Korean men staring at and talking about your hardware like a drooling Liberace fan. You want to see a white man’s “yoo-hoo”? Check the Internet you pyontai… I wouldn’t go anymore…
3) I heard a story about this chick from South Africa who went to a bath house in Seoul. She was scrubbing away when an ajima pulled out a camera and took a photo of her!!! That story has well and truly put me off going to a bath house!
4) I’m with the Wall on this one: I used to go pretty regularly, and loved it, but having guys check out and comment on my tackle every single time became a bit much. They wouldn’t even look at my face for Christ’s sake. So I’d stare back in the same fashion. It is true, you know, what they say about Asian measurements . . .
5) And my 02. worth. Korean bathhouses? Dirty. Think abut 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.
6) I’ve always been a little apprehensive about the whole thing of going to a spa. All of the other waygooks are talking about how there’s the whole “people comment on my ‘Western-sized’ tool”. This causes apprehension because as a waygook, I have a smaller-than-average. So, I may get some “why is he so small for being white?” comments. It’s all silly insecurity but alas…
7) I’ve also been here since 2001 and have never gone. 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.
8) I went once and was the opposite of being hooked!
© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.
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.
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.
My first experience of a hwangto-bang was in 2000 when I visited a traditional Korean makgeolli house, in mid-winter, which had an adjoining sauna. Hwangto-bang can be quite crude constructions consisting simply a small shell of dry loess clay (yellow mud) which has floor heating and in which you lounge, sometimes, fully clothed – as I did in this one. The saunas are dry as opposed humid or steamy, however, they can also be very elaborate: Wonderful Spaland, in Wolbae, Daegu, one of my favourite bathhouses, has a two tier hwangto-bang the upper part of which can accommodate about 10 people sleeping while underneath are a number of individual ‘cells.’
The western name for the clay, loess, derives from the German for ‘loose.’ Its specific and most prized characteristic is that when warm, loess emits infra-red rays and a sauna constructed of loess warms the body from inside, unlike other saunas which heat from outside. The loess sauna is believed to be beneficial detoxifying the body and balancing blood pressure and weight.
Sometimes the walls of hwangto-bang are simply clay plaster which is highly porous while at other times more resilient glazed tiles form the floor and walls (황석방). Hwangto-bang appear, not just alongside the occasional traditional Korean bar or restaurant, but in both bathhouses (목욕탕) and jjimjilbang (쨤질방).
Apart from its use in soap, face packs, pillows, loess is also used to make a dye which is often used in traditional, causal clothes which have a distinct, yellow colour.
©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.
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)