Elwood 5566

Bathhouse Basics (8): The ‘Special Event Pool’ (이벤트탕)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on September 19, 2010

a ‘special event pool’ (이벤트탕)

I’ve always found e-bente-tangs to be the biggest disappointment in bathhouses and always a tongue-in-cheek anti-climax. I can remember sitting in e-bente-tangs in the past, waiting for something to happen and rarely anything did. Most often, the ‘event’ I anticipated was already in play. Don’t let the title mislead you, e-bente-tang are much like the ‘Korean holiday,’ or ‘final exam,’ by which I mean they are usually the opposite of what they claim to be.

Special event pools outside

E-bente-tang are smaller sized pools which are usually mid range in terms of temperature and which  have some added feature  such as: coloured or scented water or coloured lighting radiating from within the pool. They may also uses a combination of features or have  the capabilities of a jacuzzi.The most frequent colours are green, red or blue and the most common scents are ginseng, lavender, berry, herb, mugwort (쑥) and pine.

Coloured water ‘event’ pools’

Despite being less eventful than the name suggests, e-bente-tang are great places to relax and are often one  of the pools in which you can languish for long periods without getting too hot or cold. The addition of coloured water or aromas adds  a touch of pampering to the experience.

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Bathhouse Basics (7): The Naeng Tang (Cold Pool 냉탕)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on August 30, 2010

The naeng tang (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.

The cold pool (냉탕)


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.


My favourite pool

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.

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Danger! Donuts!

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, Blogging, Comparative, Westerners by 노강호 on August 19, 2010


I enjoy reading other westerners accounts of the bathhouse experience as so often, and to varying degrees, they highlight how ‘fucked up’ we waygukins are. I’m just as ‘fucked’ as everyone else, though probably in a different way, as I only have a problem with nudity and changing rooms if I am in the west when I find they ooze a hostile atmosphere that seems a juxtaposition of hyper masculinity and homo-eroticism. And I am further ‘fucked’ because I now find semi clothed far more sexually appealing than totally naked and in you face.

I stumbled upon  a commentary of a guy’s experiences in a bathhouse that was both open-minded and yet humorously exposed some reactions to the stranger observations bathhouses provide. Quote:

much nicer

We then had to soap up and shower down. An old man saw me struggling and helped me adjust the temperature of my shower, and even got me a fresh cloth to lather up with. After cleaning, we chilled in various hot tubs and saunas for about 30 minutes. Contrary to what I had heard from a female friend, nobody stared at me because I was a foreigner. This might be because men don’t give fuck about seeing other men naked. Personally, I got over seeing other men naked thanks to hockey change rooms, which can desensitize you to male nudity pretty quickly. I was feeling good about remaining unperturbed by this excessive nudity, because my colleague was worried I would not be able to handle all the male genitals/being naked in front of a hundred men. Then I saw a man doing push ups naked beside a man doing disgusting stretches I will never describe to anyone. At that point, I emphatically informed Mun-Gi I was ready to go.

I had to laugh because, as stark and to the point as it is, his comments capture some significant cultural differences. Unfortunately, the author of: I’m In Seoul but I’m not a Soldier, returned to Canada this month.

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Han-Song Bathhouse (한성) Song-So, Daegu

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews by 노강호 on August 12, 2010

Han Song Bathhouse, Song-So, Daegu

(First visited in April 2001 – last visited October 27th 2012) Han Song is not the most modern of bathhouses but being the third sauna I ever visited, the other two now closed, it has a special affection for me. It is directly next to the school I worked in when I was in Song-So in 2000 and 2003 and I wallowed in its water every afternoon for a year and from time to time, I still pay it a visit.

It is a smallish sized bathhouse with friendly staff and fresh towels. I have a very sensitive nose and find not all towels smell fresh. I stopped using one gym because its towels smelt of marmite (similar to Australian ‘Vegemite’).  In the bathhouse, the ceiling could do with a clean and some paint here and there and occasionally the drains are a little smelly.  Apart from being a little old, Han-Song  is  clean  and  tidy. One of my favourite amenities here, and one which makes a visit worthwhile, is the salt sauna which has charcoal walls and small logs to sit on though you usually need to drape a towel over them as they can burn your backside.There is also a hot tub usually containing an enormous tea bag of green tea and the temperature is at the hot end for a hot tub.

The changing room, open planned, is bright and clean with large lockers and  central slatted benches. The rest area is again open planned with comfortable sofas and a television. There are also adjacent sleeping rooms. Very close to several apartment blocks, Han Song can get busy and it seems frequented by a clientele that are seriously into cleaning. I see much less lazing here and a lot more serious scrubbing with the Italy Towel.


Han Song, Song So, Next to a small Home Plus Store

Location – from the Mega Town complex, (Lotte Cinema), down towards Keimyung University, passing McDonalds on your left with Baskin Robbins directly opposite. A few minutes work further and you will see a Tesco, Home Plus store, a small one; if you face Home Plus the bathhouse entrance is on your left with a small flower shop at the top of the stairs on the 1st floor (ground floor). The payment booth is on the third floor, next to the women’s bathhouse while the men’s bathhouse is on floor 4.  (Wiki Map link )

Times – Very early morning, around 5.30 – until 8 or 9 pm.  Double check opening and closing times as they occasionally change. It is closed on Tuesdays.

Facilities – bathhouse.

Jjimjilbang – none.

Bathhouse (men) – around 25 stand up shower facilities and around the same number of sitting down shower units, event pool, (이벤트탕) which is a jacuzzi, hot  green tea pool ( 열탕), large cold pool (냉탕), larger jade bath (옥탕), jade steam room, bamboo sauna, salt room (소금방) with charcoal walls, sleeping area with infra-red heating and jade sauna, heated sleeping area.  A television is located in the dry sauna.

Other Amenities – Large relaxation area room (휴게실) with television and sofas.  Sleeping room with blankets and  wooden head rests.  Hairdresser and shoe shine. A sports complex and bowling alley are in the same building.

Cost – 4500 Won often free tickets given for future visits.

Ambiance – relaxing when not busy. Mid-level lighting, could be cleaner but not unpleasant. Great for the salt room!

Address – next to a Tesco, Home Plus convenience store.

Waygukin – Over a 12-year period, I have only ever seen 2 westerners, an American boy and a Mexican student, both back in 2001.

Han Song Updates

November 2012 – update.

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Beating Boknal 4 – Water water everywhere

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, seasons by 노강호 on August 8, 2010

I’ve abandoned the e-bente-tang for the duration of high summer and like some maggoty hippo I spend my time floating about in the cold pool.


Water, in all its forms is wonderful and is only truly appreciated in summer. After or during an intense and sweaty workout, when bodily fluids have been rung out of the body,  water is the only drink, barring neutral beverages like cereal teas, that have the potential to satiate a hungry thirst with such intense pleasure. Only in summer, when heat and humidity make an extra drain on the body, and when water  both replenishes diminishing levels and lowers soaring temperatures, is water truly appreciated.  In the heat of heat summer there are times when you suck in water with such force, living in the moment it is experienced, that it can cascade down your chin and splash down your chest in the most refreshing manner, a manner that at any other time of the year would be uncomfortable. These are the moments when the experience of quenching your thirst are orgasmic in proportion. Despite all their silly claims, sweetened, gaseous drinks utterly fail to pleasure the body and mind with as much intensity as a does a simple glass of icy water.


And you know the heat of summer is here when your shower water is set to cold and yet is almost warm. Wonderful water washing over your body, flushing away sweat and grime and swathing you in its refreshing coolness. And in the bathhouse the cold pool, for so many months a test of endurance and toleration, becomes a revitalizing cocoon of luxury to be lingered in. Now only the ice room remains to effectively chill a body punished by heat and humidity and even this induces pleasurable sighs and ecstatic exhalations. For months, as I wallow in the e-bente-tang, the ice room and cold pool lay predominantly dormant with visitors enduring their extremes with spartan  conviction. Now they are bustling with life, the pool a busy maelstrom of splashing youngsters and lazing adults. In the ice room I sweep shards of ice into my palms, like snow, and rub them over my face until they are reduced to trickles of icy water.


And the water in all it’s variations talk and sing to me like an enormous symphony; water hissing from the enormous cauldron in the steam room,  swooshing its vent in a hot vapour,  the burbling of the jacuzzi, the persistent dripping of water from a myriad of locations, of water lapping against the sides of their containers stirred by some movement, splashes echoing in colourful variation reflecting their intensity, the roar of the power shower as it blasts out it’s freezing water.  A world of water purges  my senses and fractures, like a thumping gong, the sights and sounds of humanity and within that persistent liquid modulation a pool of tranquility from which a multitude of thoughts are stirred and caressed.


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Bathhouse Basics 6: The Wooden Pillow (mok-ch'im – 목침)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on August 4, 2010

Rest your weary head on a wooden pillow (목침)

The wooden head rest (pillow) is a common site in bathhouses and jjimjilbang. Obviously, a cotton pillow in a sauna would be a little grotty as laying your head on the sweat of the previous user isn’t very appealing. Hence the mok-ch’im (목침). Though they look quite uncomfortable, it is surprising how quickly you can adapt to them and for a little snooze they are perfect.

Bathhouse and jjimjilbang head rests are usually standard blocks made out of a hardwood and very often made from hinoki cypress, however, they do come in a range of other designs and can cost over 40.000 Won. More expensive mok-ch’im can be made to measure.

Various wooden pillow (order link)


'Tailor made' mok ch'im.

The antithesis of my memory foam pillow

Okay, they may not be everyone’s idea of a comfortable, but many years ago I learnt to sleep on the floor – without a mattress. When you body has learnt to sleep in positions which distribute your weight evenly across your body, which takes a few months, and which can be transited between subconsciously, sleeping on the floor is amazingly comfortable, far more so than a bed! Maybe the wooden pillow just needs perseverance!



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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Migwang Bathhouse on a Sunday Morning

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, Gender, seasons by 노강호 on August 1, 2010

Bathhouse view over city

I’ve been in Cambodia for a few days and today was the first opportunity in over a week to wallow in the e-bente-tang (이벤트탕). I was visiting Migwang jjimjilbang in Song-So, Daegu. Though a Sunday morning at 8.45am, it was the quietest I have known it and quieter than the odd occasions when I have been in the bathhouse at 3 or 4 am.

Today it’s 35 degrees and even at 8.15 the memi were screaming from passing trees. At this time of year, with the screaming in chorus, you can hear them in a taxi with the windows closed. As is usual in hot weather, I head straight for the cold pool once I have had a shower and shave, but today I noticed something very special. I often joke to my friends about the e-bente-pool and tell them how I lay waiting for them to start spinning or jiggling up and down, but they never do. The very term ‘e-bente’ is a bit of an anti-climax and in the English use of the word merely adding a smell to the water doesn’t really constitute an ‘event.’ An ‘event’ implies something out of the ordinary or special. The very first time the complex management added an aroma to the water constituted an event which subsequently became a normal feature and a bit of a ‘non-event.’ Today however, I noticed the water has been coloured deep pink to complement the ‘herb’ aroma. So, by-passing the cold pool, I head straight for some pink pampering. Hardly much of an ‘event,’ but after waiting for over a year for something to happen, anything is better than nothing.

As I’m wallowing, I suddenly become aware of other subtitle changes. The ceiling has been cleaned and new pattern section as been placed above the central baths. In the cold pool, I discover a ledge has been built against the far wall and is big enough to sit on. One this, at intermittent spaces of about a meter, big enough to park my fat arse, are various devices which look like various kinds of fountain; I can’t tell as I don’t think it has been finished yet. Above these are multi-coloured light fittings. It looks like the lights and fitting may comprise a new water feature. Migwang is obviously doing well  financially as every holiday new items miraculously appear. Several months ago the gigantic tropical islands photos surrounding the cold pool were replaced with new ones, the tiles in the high-powered shower replaced with ones of sunflowers, and a long strip of jagged paving stone, to walk on and stimulate the soles of the feet,  a torture Koreans’ seem to enjoy, was installed.

Bathhouse overlooking city

By 11 am, the bathhouse is busier and I’m treated to a display of some guy doing a complete taekwondo workout. Another guy, cooling in the cold pool, directly behind the guy exercising, is treated to a peek up his back passage when, on several occasions, he  stretches   downwards to put his head between his knees and place the palms of his hands flat on the floor. In the e-bente-tang a teenage boy and his dad are caressing each other. The dad is sitting between his sons outstretched legs while his son pummels his shoulders and massages his back. They wrestles in the water  for a while, wrapping their legs around each other and at one point, the boy bites his father’s toe. When they watch the TV together, I notice how close they sit to each , almost like lovers, their heads are almost touching; I notice them later on when they are walking between the pools either hand in hand or with their arms around each other. I wish I could have had such intimacy with my father; I don’t think I ever massaged his shoulders  or scrubbed his back and sitting that close to each other, as adults, even when clothed, would have been uncomfortable.   If you see anything sexual in such a reflection you’re clearly a dirty waygukin with a perverted mind!

Ohhhhh! Summer’s heavenly haven

There is another teenage boy with his dad, probably about 14 and he has got the most enormous dick: if you watch the faces of other men as the boy passes them, you can see them peek at it. When they’re sitting in the e-bente-tang, the boy makes several visits to the ice-room where collecting a handful of ice, he takes it back into the pool and commences to massage it over his father’s head. In typical Korean fashion, his father makes loud noises to express his pleasure at the sensation.

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Dream Sauna, Daegu, Yong San Dong (드림)

Dream Sauna (드림)

First visited in July 2010. Last visit 6th May 2011. Dream Sauna is a  smallish bathhouse in Yong San Dong (용산동), Daegu and is a five-minute bus ride from Song-So, Mega Town where the Lotte Cinema Complex is. Since my last visit there seems to have been a few changes and I found more to appreciate than on my first visit.

The bathing facilities are modern and clean with a large cold pool, large warm pool and smaller hot and ‘event’ pools. The saunas include a steam room, pine sauna and a yellow mud sauna (황토방) with a charcoal wall, interesting art work and a resident television. The salt room (소금방) is fantastic as the salt is ankle deep on the floor and at first you think you’re entering a room of snow. You can even lay in it though the room is not specifically designed for this. The salt ‘font’ and seats have all been decorated to look like they are encrusted in rock salt. Quite an enchanting room. The salt sauna houses the television which can also be viewed from two other sauna rooms.

The large cold  pool, beside a small jade, ondol sleeping area, has tiled artwork of dolphins above which three windows with colourful ocean scenes, are illuminated by sunlight. The smaller windows down the side of the bathhouse have floral designs. With bright tiling, the ambiance is light and roomy and a contrast to the black marble of  Hwang So.


Dream Sauna - Bathhouse design (male)

The bathhouse: has a large rectangular changing area with a small recess containing a television and sofas for relaxation. There are around twenty sit down shower units and a bout the same number stand up showers. Shoe shine and a barber are on site.

Cost: 4000 Won

Location: This is very easy to find as the sauna is right next to Tesco Home Plus in Yong San Dong. If you come out of Home Plus and turn left, you will find Dream Sauna less than 3 minutes walk on the left hand side. There is a large opening on the ground floor with a sign over it and the ticket booth is in the lobby. (Wikimapia Link)

Ambience – bright, very clean bathhouse.

Waygukin – none but only my second visit.

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Bathhouse Basics 5. A 'Handbag' or 'Shopping Basket?'

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on July 14, 2010

Bathhouse floors are always slippery and a danger to move over quickly unless you’re under 10 years of age and impervious to falling over on hard surfaces. Hence, besides being naked, you’re compelled to walk in a manner looking like you’ve just been buggered; don’t worry, having been forced into wearing open back sandals, bath slippers and flip-flops for most of their lives, the geisha gait, that nancy little shuffle of a walk, is how many Korean men and boys walk both in and out of the bathhouse.

A typical bathhouse bag

To increase your incredulity even more, why not adorn yourself with a bathhouse ‘handbag’ or a bathhouse ‘shopping basket.’ Both are used to hold you shampoo, hair conditioner and shaving kit etc, and are ideal tan ideal accoutrement to take into the bathhouse complex with you.

The bathhouse ‘handbag,’ which is waterproof, comes in various designs and colours, mine is pink and has never raised an eyebrow. The ‘handbag’ can be carried openly, adorning your mincy walk, or carried  discreetly in a larger sports bag. In the monsoon season and summer months the bag can sometimes get moldy so it is necessary to dry it out occasionally and a regular session in the washing machine will give it an additional clean.

A camper version

"Hello Sailor!"

The bathhouse 'basket'

The bathhouse ‘shopping basket’ seems to be more popular among women and is  frequently seen being carried to or from the bathhouse. I can’t recall seeing a man carrying one. Likewise, they are not all that common in the male bathhouse but being open, they are easily aired and if you own a separate small locker in a bathhouse, they will easily fit inside.

I keep deodorant, pumice stone, shampoo, mouthwash, toothbrush, shaving gel and razor in mine and as I hire a small locker in my jjimjilbang-bathhouse, (3000 won a month), I leave this permanently on the premises. Though I’ve rarely seen men using ‘baskets,’ most either having ‘handbags’ or simply carry items individually, no one has paid it any attention. I use a deodorizer in my locker during summer just to remove any damp odours. If I visit another bathhouse I use my pink ‘handbag.’

If you feel self-conscious during the ‘walk-of-shame,’ that is the transition from where you undress to the bathhouse complex,  both ‘baskets’ and ‘handbags’ are ideal to faff about in which helps take your mind off the fact you’re naked and the center of attention.

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Migwang Spolex (Jjimjilbang), Daegu, Song-So. (미광스포랙스)

Migwang Spolex (미광, 성서, 대구)

First visited February 2009. Last visited September 28th 2012. Migwang Spolex is my favourite local jjimjilbang, bathhouse sports complex. Migwang has five stories of amenities including squash courts, billiard rooms, and a very well equipped and friendly gymnasium. It is very clean and has well laundered towels which smell fresh. The bathhouse, a large one, is one to enjoy and relax in rather than to use  solely for washing and cleaning. Sunday afternoons and holidays can be very busy. The gym is very well equipped and spacious and home to many Muscle Marys, especially in the evenings. In summer, the ice rooms, of which there are two, one in the bathhouse and one in the jjimjilbang, are a refuge from the summer heat and humidity. I particularly like the  changing areas as there are very roomy and with small poofes on which to sit while putting on socks’ etc – I hate having to do that sat on the floor or while trying to balance on one leg. Friendly staff.

The ‘event’ and warm pool (male)

The warm and hot pools in the female complex

Women’s facility

Unlike many other businesses in Korea, many which simply border on existing, I think Migwang is doing very well, financially. I’m told it has over 1000 members with a monthly membership. More to the point, I notice Migwang regularly installs or renovates features during major holidays. A new ceiling and what looks like a new water feature is currently being built (October 2010). However, the water feature seems to have stopped  mid program.  In April 2011 new poofes appeared. Migwang is always impeccably clean and the staff very friendly – oh, apart from some grumpy old guy!

Migwang’s sit down shower units

This is what the British call a ‘poofe.’

The male ‘powder’ room

The warm pool with the pine, steam and ice room (L-R) in the background. A large TV sits above the central circular window


Migwang Spolex. Bathhouse Design (male)

The stand up showers (male)

The women’s cold pool

Location – five minutes walk from the Song-So (성서) industrial Complex subway station and just 2 minutes walk from E-Marte. Come out E-Marte, turn right, turn right again at the cross roads and walk to the crest of the hill where the road bears left. The complex sits on the turning on the left hand side. (Wiki Map link )

Times – 24 hour jjimjilbang and bathhouse. Gym open from around 6 am Mon-Sat until around 11 pm. Sundays 8 am – 8 pm. Double check opening and closing times as they occasionally change.

Facilities – 2nd floor, reception,  women’s bathhouse, women’s hair dressers. 3rd floor jjimjilbang, 4th floor men’s bathhouse, 5th floor gymnasium. Also squash facilities, martial arts, aerobics classes etc.

Jjimjilbang – ice room, various saunas, sleeping rooms, children’s play area, refreshments and food, small pc room, televisions, etc.

Jjimjilbang area

Bathhouse (men) – around fifty stand up shower facilities and around the same number of sitting down shower units, event pool, (이벤트탕), hot pool (열탕), large warm pool with jacuzzi (온탕), large cold pool (냉탕), small tepid pool (안마탕),  ice room, steam room, 2 jade saunas, relaxation area, heated sleeping area. Large changing room with television and sofas. Televisions are also located in front of the e-bente-tang and hot pool, and in one sauna room but which can be viewed via from the other saunas.

Cost – bathhouse 5500 Won, jjimjilbang 7000 won. Monthly all-inclusive (including the gym) once a day usage, 100.000 Won (£50).

Others – hairdressers, massage and rub downs, parking, associated buffet restaurant opposite (Arden Hills), and Screen Golf Range. Various seasonal discounts. Very close to E-Marte and from there the Song-So Industrial Complex subway station, and surrounded by various restaurants and some excellent coffee shops Vincent Van Gogh, Hands Coffee, Sleepless in Seattle). The barbers now seems to offer massage, haircut and shave all being a euphemisms for a hand-job – cost 30.000Won. Barber’s is closed on Monday and residency of the barber’s now seems to shift between the actual barber and the ‘girls’

Ambiance – relaxing, mid-level lighting, subdued television, very clean, very comfortable, friendly.

Waygukin –  I’m gradually seeing more and more westerners here. For a year I didn’t see any, but in the last year I have seen a total of 5. Some just shower, while others use the pools, some are friendly, some clearly do not want to speak.

Address – Daegu, South Korea, 1250-14번 지 (behind E-mart)

Website – (Migwang Spolex Website Link)

Migwang Updates

Migwang on a Sunday Morning (August 1st 2010.)

Migwang Update August 2011

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