Elwood 5566

Update on Han Song Bathhouse (한성) Daegu

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Ballads, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu by 노강호 on November 5, 2012

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.

Han-Song Sauna (한성) in Song-So, Daegu.

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.

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©Amongst Other Things –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

For previous review, 12th August, 2010, see here.

Home Spa World – Apsan, Daegu

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu, services and facilities, Sport by 노강호 on February 12, 2012

Home Spa World

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 steps to the plinthed exit are on the right). This photo, taken from the entrance to the no-cheon and between the hinoki and 'event' pools, gives a good sense of the size of this facility. The row of lights at the far end are the stand up showers with the seated showers beyond the furthest pool.

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.

This photo is taken from the center of the room, back to the showers and facing the no-cheon where the previous photo was taken. The entrance is on the left and the cold pool on the right.

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 location of Home Spa's no-cheons (노천). The male no-cheon, on the third floor, seems to have greater visibility and the window of the Finnish sauna is just visible.

a view of the bathing area with the entrance to the no-cheon in the far left-hand corner

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 )

Location of Home Spa World

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

Facilities –

Facilities

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

Address

Tel: 053-470-1100-3

Websitehttp://www.h-spa.com/

Layout (coming)

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

Wonderful Spaland – A Little Less Wonderful. Update (1)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu, services and facilities by 노강호 on October 26, 2011

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.

Wonderful Spaland

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.

Wonderful Spaland’s luxurious ‘milky bubble tang’

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.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Ancient Korea – 2000 AD

Posted in Daegu, Westerners by 노강호 on September 11, 2011

My relationship with Korea began 11 years ago this September when I arrived for my first one year English teaching contract. I subsequently returned in 2003, 2005 and have remained here since 2007. In the UK a stretch of ten years doesn’t seem that noticeable. I recently returned to the town where I spent my childhood and even after ten years absence the changes weren’t that remarkable. In Korea however, changes are so rapid and widespread that the point at which the past becomes another country can be measured in a couple of years, not generations.

The Korea of 2000 was indeed another country and my memories, like old photos found in an antic, are faded and yellow. Apart from one year, when I lived in Ch’eon-an, I have lived in the same block on and off over 11 years. I spent my first year teaching in what was the largest and most successful haggwon in Song-so, Daegu and must have taught several hundred students and yet I’ve only met one former student  since the end of 2001.  Not only have buildings and businesses changed and disappeared, but so too have the people. In the entire area with which I am intimately acquainted there are only a handful of business that were trading in 2000 and high rise commercial blocks now stand in plots that were once deserted and home to nomadic soju tents.

in the foreground are the three one rooms I have occupied between 2000 and today

When I arrived in 2000, I flew into Kimpo International Airport. It was old, small and dingy and you could walk from one end of the main building to the other in less than two minutes. At the time, Korean Air flew from Britain’s Stansted Airport which outside London surmised Korea’s global insignificance. Today, Air Korea operates out of both Gatwick and Heathrow and a host of other airlines run daily services to the peninsula most of which fly into the amazing, and massive, Inch’eon International.  In 2000, with the KTX, high speed rail network still several years from completion, there were two flights an hour from Kimpo to Daegu or you could opt for the lengthier rail or bus journeys.

Kimpo International Airport around 1994 (courtesy of, Rants in your Pants)

Being stared at was an intense and continuous experience, especially outside Seoul or away from US military bases. EPIK had yet to provide most schools with foreign English teachers and many students had never met a foreigner. I remember one boy, Duk-hyeon, who was so terrified of me that he would sit out my lessons in the main office. Whenever Korean teachers tried to integrate him into my class he would start shaking and then breakdown in a flood of tears. Despite months of friendly smiles, funny faces or kind acts, he could not be pacified. On the streets, fellow foreigners were few and unlike today, where many shroud themselves with a sense of being the only foreigner in Korea and subsequently blank you, most were only too eager to talk. In my area of Song-so there were a handful of foreigners and we all knew each other. Life in Korea was so alien, so different and was so much further from home than it is today, that most westerners had a need to talk to each other. Today, fellow foreigners seem to regard each other as a threat and blatantly shun each other perhaps because other foreigners are a reminder how un-unique and tame your experience really is.

Inch’eon International – voted 5 consecutive times the world’s leading airport

The navigation of daily life, and especially traveling, was both challenging and exciting because so little was written in English. I remember a trip to Pohang in December 2000, where the bus terminal only provided information in Korean and hanja and the tickets for trains and buses weren’t bilingual. Ordering food was just as challenging and other than large western style fast food restaurants which provided accompanying photos or English translations,  everything was in Korean. Ordering food was usually a culinary mystery tour.

Pohang. Christmas Eve 2000

Fermenting foods, such as kimchi and makkeoli required a small hole in the packet or bottle to release the build-up of gas. On my first trip back to the UK, I put a small packet of kimchi that had been served with the in-flight meal, into my top pocket. When I woke an hour later, to a strong and unpleasant smell, I discovered it had leaked down the front of  my shirt. Today, the fermentation process is curtailed and packaging subsequently sealed.

‘Video Bangs’ were prolific and probably as common today as are mobile telephone stores. In the absence of digital photography, there were numerous photo stores which very often had a large photograph of a naked baby boy in their window. On this topic, there was also  a shop in downtown Daegu which amongst other things, had plaster casts of little lads dicks. I vaguely remember seeing one or two houses with chillies hanging from the front door, which was the traditional way to advertise the birth of a boy and imagine the prestige of having a son could be immortalized by making a cast of his dick, spraying it gold or silver, and mounting it in a small frame.  How widespread this custom was I don’t know but I know several students and Korean men who have a photograph of themselves as a toddler, on the wall of their living room or hallway in which they are naked.

On the streets, at pedestrian crossings, the red man ruled with absolute sovereignty and on deserted roads pedestrians patiently waited until the green man, who was often turquoise, appeared. Today, I am often the only person left standing and even elderly citizens will jay walk. And teenagers holding hands with the opposite sex and being affectionate was an absolute social taboo.

In the classroom, western obscenities and terms such as ‘gay,’ ‘homo’ or ‘fuck’ were either unheard off or simply never uttered. I have yet to hear the four letter ‘c’ word but like fat Koreans and other social problems, its arrival is inevitable And ten or eleven years ago,  Harisu (하리수), Korea’s first trans-gendered celebrity, was a popular enough to have ‘pin-up statue among teenage boys.

between 2000 and 2003, Harisu was popular with many teenage boys

In the days before Tesco’s Home Plus, even the largest supermarkets lacked anything but a few solitary bottles of wine and western beer. The only cheese one could buy was plastic play cheese or the likes of ’Einstein’ cheese slices which were believed to increase the cognitive abilities of children. Decent butter was unobtainable and coffee beans were not just expensive but difficult to buy. Around 2001, the Song-so, E-Mart, had a working coffee ‘peculator’ on display which used to attract a small crowd of intrigued customers.

English teaching contracts did not include air-conditioning as part of the package and split shifts were a regular teaching condition.  However, I used to make up to a weeks haggwon salary in a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon teaching small groups of students in my free time. Everyone wanted to learn English and as the haggwon industry hadn’t exploded, there were plenty of students and parents looking for English teachers. I’ve been offered jobs in KFC, MacDonalds, in the bathhouse and on street corners but in the last four years I’ve not once been offered a paid teaching  job by a stranger.

But the greatest difference between the sepia tinted Korea of 2000 and today, was the absence on the internet, certainly in English, of anything pertaining to Korean culture or life. Google Earth, Youtube, Wikipedia, WordPress and Blogger etc, were either in their infancy or hadn’t been released. There were no online language resources and indeed to write in Hangeul on a computer in the UK, even until around 2004, demanded the purchase of Microsoft Proofing Tools. Until fairly recently, if you wanted any information on Korean food, making kimchi, the Korean language, Hanja, taekwondo, etc, you had to buy books and even then there were topics that weren’t translated into English. The Korea of 2000, even 2005, had to be physically explored but today there is little about Korea that is secret or shrouded. A million blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and a myriad of sites provide the most comprehensive coverage of Korean life.  The internet has very much tamed and demystified Korea making it accessible and user friendly. Today, you can explore every facet of Korean culture without even leaving your home country.

from the days when you needed a package to write in Korean and Hanja

How I wish I’d arrived in the 1990’s or 1980’s. Our Korean experiences, serialized in the posts of our blogs and video-casts are increasingly trivial, familiar and often mundane but to have experienced the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ before it met EPIK, before it was so rudely exposed by the internet, before it was ‘made simple’ and subsequently accessible to an army of people who would have otherwise stayed away… now that’s the stuff of travel books, autobiographies and the content for real adventures.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Ch’eonchiwon Jewel Sauna (천지원보석사우나) Dae-myeong, Daegu

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu, Sport by 노강호 on July 13, 2011

Ch’eonchiwon Jewel Sauna

Rating – Functional

(First visited on Memorial Day Monday 6th of June 2011). This day started out bad as I’d set out with a student to find what was supposed to be an interesting Sauna in Seong-dang-mot (성당못) area of Daegu only to end up walking to Dae-myeong (대명) where our consolation prize was Ch’eonchiwon Jewel Sauna (천지원보석사우나). On a public holiday after a busy term we were looking for something special but even if our mission had been ‘the ordinary,’ Ch’eonchiwon would have scored a very low. In fairness, we didn’t view the jjimjilbang, which may have had redeeming qualities but the bathhouse was more functional than recreational and as a result we only stayed half an hour.

This is sort of establishment would perhaps be fine if it is in your local area and suitable for washing and a little lounging but other than this it is probably only of interest as an example of older bathhouse and as a reminder that not all establishments are equal. An occasional visit to such bathhouses makes you more appreciative of larger establishments.

The changing rooms were small and though not a ‘squeeze,’ I felt uncomfortable. The bathhouse was one of the oldest I’ve probably been in and though it was clean and tidy, I missed the luxury of bigger establishments. The pools were small and consisted of a circular warm pool and event pool and two small massage pools capable of holding 4 people. The cold pool was the largest pool. There was a steam room and salt room and a sleeping area which may have had a jade floor.

Location –  (Wikimapia link ) Come out of Dae-myeong  subway station (line 1), exit 4 and the sauna is a few blocks ahead of you on the right.

Ch’eonchiwon Po-sok Sauna 1

Ch’eonchiwon Po-sok Sauna 2

Ch’eonchiwon Po-sok Sauna 3

Ch’eonchiwon Po-sok Sauna 4

Ch’eonchiwon Po-sok Sauna 5

Ch’eonchiwon Po-sok Sauna 6

By taxi from Song-so, Lotte Cinema, Mega Town, approx 7000 Won (£3.50)

The front of the building

Times – 24 hour

Facilities – jjimjilbang, health club

Bathhouse (men) – about 10 stand up showers and perhaps 30 sit down ones. Warm-pool, event pool, cold pool, sleeping area, salt sauna, and steam room (? I think). A sleeping area in the bathhouse and a small massage pool that had another small pool next to it (?).

Cost – 4800 Won (which may be inclusive of jjimjilbang)

Others

Ambiance – very local and functional and though clean a little grim.

Waygukin – none (a brief first visit).

Address – 대구광역시 남구 대명6동 1054-2. Tel: 053-628-8831

Website

Layout (Male Bathhouse) Pending

Updates

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Typhoon Meari Echoes in Daegu

Posted in Daegu, Diary notes, Photo diary, seasons by 노강호 on June 28, 2011

Daegu got the back-end of Typhoon Meari, typical in the monsoon season (Chang-ma 장마), which caused havoc and took nine lives in Jeju and Pusan. Saturday morning saw torrential rain and gusts of wind which didn’t abate until Sunday evening. The photos and video, taken from the 14th floor of my friend’s apartment, provide a great view across the Song-so area of Daegu, towards the distant mountains. As for the typhoon, luckily,  by the time it was inland, it was really only a big storm. All photos link to Wikimapia.

[

looking across Song-so with Hwa-won in the distance and Bi-sul-mountain (비슬산) in the background

gathering storm

in the direction of Song-so Rose Park

looking towards the edge of the university campus

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Wonderful Spaland – Where Heaven Comes Cheap (원드풀 스파낸드)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu, Sport by 노강호 on June 12, 2011

on the opposite side of the roof are the large golfing nets – visible from quite a distance

 (First visited on May 20th 2011. Last visited on 15th September 2012) You know  a bathhouse can be designated ‘luxury’ when you visit on consecutive days,  even when you are impeccably clean, and during your stay spend substantially more time in the pools and saunas than engaged in ablutive processes.  It’s my opinion, but currently,  I consider Wonderful Spaland,  Wol-Seong-Dong, as one of the best bathhouses in Daegu, and certainly what I would rank as a’ luxury bathhouse’ where one goes to relax, spend time with friends and do more than simply get clean. It’s failing are few and trivial. First, it isn’t a 24 hour establishment and second, it has no jjimjilbang. I can live with that! However, it does have several floors dedicated to golf, a large fitness center and besides being impeccably clean, is fairly new.

entrance

I often joke about how bathhouse ‘event pools’ are event-less. Personally, pretty coloured water, even with a few bubbles gurgled through it, doesn’t constitute much of an event. And so often, the added aromas  are scent-free. In Wonderful Spaland you can expect a surprise and on my last visit the scent of one pool lingered on my skin for a few days.

Wonderful Spaland’s luxurious ‘milky bubble tang’ – the yellow clay sauna is on the left and the Roman mosaic sauna to the right

The tiered yellow clay room – for sleeping

The Wonderful complex is slightly on the edge of the built up area of Wol-Seong-Dong and noticeable by the green golfing nets on its roof. A large foyer on the ground floor, next to a Paris Baguette, welcomes visitors. The changing area (male) is bright and very spacious with decent size lockers, barbers and shoe shine. This is probably one of the largest bathhouses I’ve been to and there are plenty of areas to enjoy. The event pool was a ruby-red brew of intense red ginseng opposite which was ‘milky bubble bath’ with beautifully silky soft water. The bath really does look like a vat of milk. Other pools included hot (열), warm (온) and a second event pool, which on various visits has included lavender and mugwort additives.  The largest pool (안마) comprises about 25 massage facilities with 6 different types of massage. Next is the cold pool (냉), significantly colder than many other establishments and very bracing. In another corner is a partitioned area where slatted wooden panels provide privacy so that large sliding doors can be opened reducing the temperature to that of the outside. Though not strictly a no-ch’eon (노천), which is usually fully outside, this is what it is often called.  Nearby is a salt sauna (소금 사우나), small sleeping area and a fantastically intense oak charcoal bath (짬나무 / 목초탕).

The warm pool with a large overhead TV screen beyond which is the milky bubble tang (left) and two ‘event’ pool on the right

information brochure side 1

Alongside the pools are 4 large saunas: a three leveled yellow mud sleeping sauna (황토), a steam sauna (안개) and a pine sauna (핀란드). However, the most enjoyable was the Roman sauna (로만 사우나), a large circular room with a conical ceiling. The entire room, a large mosaic at the center of which is a boxed-in steam vent. The entire room and conical ceiling where either covered in mosaic or various ‘jewels.’ However, the crowning feature was the heady scent of cinnamon and what might possibly have been aniseed. The humid aroma, blasted intermittently out of the large steam chamber seemed to shift and shade between the two key notes with spells when they seemed to blend equally.

information Brochure side 2

the massage benches, one of a battery of 6 different massages facilities with 26 individual massage stations

I have to say, I have a sensitive nose and there was something almost ‘trippy’ in the Wonderful Spa Land olfactory experience so much so that I feel disappointed by its absence in other bathhouses. If you’re only going to visit one bathhouse during your stay in Daegu, this is at the top of my recommendations and while you body relaxes, you can guarantee your nose will be subject to a comprehensive and pleasurable workout.

warm pool, milky bubble tang (left) and ‘event’ pool (right) The fourth pool, of which only the edge is in sight

The warm pool with the Roman (mosaic) sauna on the left and the pine (Finland) sauna on the right

Location – Daegu, Wol-Seong-Dong (Wikimapia  link ) near Wolbae Subway. It is within easy walking distance of Wolbae subway and by taxi from Lotte Cinema in Song-so, it is 5000 Won. A taxi from Wolbae subway will be little more than 2500 Won. It is also on the route of the 655 bus (Daegu Metropolitan City Bus Guide). (The brochure  above  has a small map).

click to enlarge. Wolbae – line 1

Rating – Luxury

Times – 0500=2300

Facilities – car parking, screen golf, golf driving area, fitness training, first floor Paris Baguette, coffee shop, small restaurant.

Jjimjilbang – No jjimjilbang

Bathhouse (men) – around 65 sitting down and twenty standing up

Cost – Bathhouse  – 5500 Won

Others – hairdressers, shoe shine, massage and rub downs, various seasonal discounts, numerous televisions.  About a five minute walk  from the ‘meat fest’ barbecued buffet restaurant, Gong-Ryong (공룡 – ‘Dinosaur.).

Ambiance – new, impeccably clean, busy at peak times, wonderful aromas permeating the whole complex, comfortably bright but with darkened yellow mud sauna and quieter, exposed to outside, no-ch’eon (노천)

Waygukin – none

Address – Wol-Seong-Dong, Tel: 053-565-7000

WebsiteWonderful Spaland Website Link

Layout (Male Bathhouse)

Coming!

Updates

Wonderful Spaland – a Little Less Wonderful. Update 1 (October 2011. Bathhouse Ballads)

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Five Boys Meet Death Where the Dragon Dwells

Posted in Daegu, History by 노강호 on May 16, 2011

the view of Song-so from the back of Song-San High School (성산고교) (Photo from 부부산행 http://blog.daum.net/skycom7861/8434235)

March 26th, 1991 and spring was in the air. As it was a local election day with people off work and schools closed, children took advantage to play which 20 years ago entailed going to parks or the mountains; today it would be PC rooms or on computers in the home. Like most Korean towns, Daegu is surrounded by mountains and in the far west of the city, the area of Song-so nestles against Waryong Mountain (와룡산). The mountain isn’t as high or rugged as Ap-san or the impressive Pal-gong Mountain and it is supposed to resemble a supine dragon, from which it takes its name. However, if you take a wrong turning, which basically means going off track, it’s easy to get temporarily lost and the thick, mostly pine forest and undergrowth mask the steepness of the mountainside. I once discovered this myself when I attempted to access the mountain from what I thought was a small footpath but which turned out to be a water gully.  And, as the Song-so side of the mountain faces east, ancestral graves, with their solemn mounds and occasional stone markers, are common especially, where terrain is level.

Song-San High School behind which lies Waryong

On that March morning in the city, I imagine the blossom would have been on the trees. They wouldn’t have opened, but with the warming weather, their delicate unfurling was only a few weeks away. But the trees would certainly have had a fuzz of fresh green against which lay the diffuse flush of  blossom. And as the sun strode above Apsan Mountain in the east, its rays warming the face of Waryong, five boys, aged between 9 and 13, set off, the sun at their backs, on a trip to collect salamander eggs.  There is a photo from the recent movie ‘Children‘  (아이들), portraying the five boys setting off and even though you can’t see their faces, their boyish glee is captured; the slight billowing of the red cape, the jar ready to contain eggs and in the gait of one boy there is almost a skip. Most of us can recall those childhood moments when we set off with our friends on what felt like a major expedition, the entire day, and lengthy it seemed, to ourselves.  The boys left their edge of the town, but only by a couple of kilometers, took a path up behind Song-san High School, which meanders gently up into the mountain and from there never returned (Wikimapia)

a terminal adventure

Somehow, the ‘Salamander Boys’ (도룡뇽 소년) didn’t work, it doesn’t in English and so they eventually became known as the ‘Frog Boys’ (개구리 소년).  Their story, and the mystery which surrounds them is tragic and depressing and certainly in Song-so, where some of my students attend the same school (Song-so Elementary) which the five boys attended 20 years ago, they have not been forgotten.

The 'Frog Boys' (개구리 소년 - ke-gu-ri so-nyeon)

area of the murders (link to wikimapia)

The efforts to find the Frog Boys, Kim Yung-wu (11) Kim Jong-sik (9), Pak Chan-in (10), Wu Chul-won (13) and Jo Ho-yun (12), galvanized the nation: over 300.000 police and troops searched the mountain, rivers and reservoirs and bus and railway stations were searched nationwide. Companies, groups and individuals donated 42 million won (about $35.000 dollars at the time) as a reward to those finding the boys. Local school children organized a ‘Find the Frog Children Campaign’ and milk cartons carried photographs of the boys. Devastated, many of the parents left their jobs to scour the country in the hope of finding them.

Song-so Elementary School's 'Frog Boys,' Come Home,' campaign

the 1992 film 'Frog Boys', released when there was still optimism

In 1992 a film was released called ‘Frog Boys‘. A year after their disappearance and no evidence of foul play, optimism lingered and many thought the boys had simply run away for an adventure. The film was intended to urge them to come home. And though a special police investigation unit operated until 2001, there were neither leads nor clues. Speculation was intense with theories about kidnappings by North Korea, alien abductions, kidnapping by South Korean ‘authorities’ for medical science and even accusations levied at the parents claiming they must have killed and buried their sons.

their disappearance, simply an adventure

Song-So Elementary School students 'campaigning' in 1991

On September 26th 2002, a man picking acorns on the mountainside discovered pieces of clothing and bones and after eleven years the bodies of the boys were discovered. I remember these events well as I was living in Song-so at the time and for a few weeks developments were prime time news. The boys, their bodies entwined, seemed to have been huddled together and the police suggested they must have died from cold. However, they were only two kilometers from their homes and would have been able to see lights and hear traffic. The police claimed it wasn’t homicide despite the fact the boys’ skulls all had holes in them. Eventually, when ‘proper investigations’ had been conducted, though many argued the police and investigation team had been severely mismanaged and evidence damaged in the process, it appears homicide was almost a certainty. Shell casings had been found nearby, the boys had been tied and they appear to have been struck on their heads with some kind of implement which has not been properly identified. Moss growing inside the skulls suggested the boys had been hastily buried but as they lay in a gully, water eventually exposed their remains.

September 2002, their bodies discovered

an horrific crime uncovered

In 2002, rumours were rife about the boys having been accidentally shot by hunters, or that stray bullets had struck one of them from a nearby military shooting area, now defunct, and subsequently had been murdered to hide what may have originally been an accident. It was suggested the weapon may have been a screw driver, but more disturbingly, because there are more than single marks on the skulls with a consistency of pattern, it has been suggested a tool for slaughtering animals in an abattoir may have been used.

gruesome

I remember one parent being interviewed on television; her son’s bedroom had not been disturbed since the day he disappeared.  When a brace was found among the bones and bits of clothing, which would have belonged to twelve year old Jo Ho-yun, his mother said she couldn’t even recall if he wore a brace. I’m sure she could, but the memory probably too painful to envisage. Sometimes it’s easier to forget!

As 2002 drew to a close, the police were speculating the murder was carried about by a mentally ill person or possibly by bullies from boys’ school. How you bury a body on terrain that even in wet weather is rock hard, suggests murder was planned or the perpetrator had time to go back down the mountain for the necessary tools. And the only rumour I’ve never encountered, and which would probably be the first to circulate in the west, was that they’d been sexually assaulted. Despite the police promising to solve the case,  now, almost another eleven years has passed and by Korean law, it would not be possible to try suspects. The case is now officially closed, and least in bureaucratic terms.

decayed clothing

funeral rites where the boys were murdered

on the mountain

Traditional rites

Shortly after their bodies were discovered, funeral services were held and rites conducted at the location where they were murdered. However, the boys’ skulls were donated to the forensic research laboratory of a university probably because the type of  implement with which they were killed remains unknown. The boys’ school, Song-so Elementary (성서국민하교) continues to mark the anniversary of their murder with a solemn ceremony. In February 2011, the film Children (아이들), was released recounting the events surrounding the Frog Boys, who would now be around 30 years of age. It is probably likely to remain one of this years most successful movies despite some criticism regarding its accuracy.

'Children' (아이들), released in early 2011

a box office hit

Occasionally, when I look up at Waryong or walk through its forest, I think of the horrific secrets that lie hidden under the canopy of sturdy pines and knotted and gnarled oaks and in those moments the beauty of the mountain is disturbed by something dark, dreadful and ominous. I am fortunate, like most people Waryong is primarily a mountain and I can  find beauty where a horrific crime was committed,  but for those parents still living in Song-so, I would imagine Waryong, rising up like an enormous burial mound, casts a permanent shadow on their lives and has done for over 20 years.  If there is any conciliation, it is that their sons finally, after 11 years, came down from the mountain and away from that ghastly gully where they murdered.

Waryong...

 

Bathhouse Ballads chronicles many aspects of my life in South Korea. Kimchi Gone Fusion focuses on ‘the way of the pickled cabbage’ while Mister Makgeolli is dedicated to Korean rice wine.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

 

Further References

Children (아이들) 2011. (Nanoomi.net)

Joong Ang Daily November 13th 2002

Joong Ang Daily Septmber 2002

Bathhouse Basics (13) – The Ice Room (어름방)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics, Daegu by 노강호 on March 11, 2011

chill!

I don’t use the ice room (어름방 or 어름굴) much during the winter but in summer it is a heavenly sanctuary. An  ice room, which can appear in both a jjimjilbang (찜질방) or in a bathhouse (목욕탕), is a bit of a specialty and many do not have them. However, the chances are that one exists in your area. In the Song-So area of Daegu, Migwang (미광) has ice rooms in both the jjimjilbang and bathhouse (mogyoktang).

In the summer months ice rooms are usually iced up and scrapping off the ‘snow’ and rubbing it over your face is an exhilarating experience more so when you appreciate that outside the temperature is that of a muggy sauna.

a large jjimjilbang ice room

chilly

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I Would Have Played Hooky But…

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Daegu, Diary notes, seasons by 노강호 on February 16, 2011

Daegu under snow and suddenly I need a ‘sicky’

Podcast 70

I woke this morning (Monday) to find Daegu covered in snow; and heavy clouds, typical of the ones that exist much of the year in the UK, hugging the tops of nearby apartment buildings.  The clouds are gray and that they are pregnant with snow is forecast by the fact they are tinged yellow. There is a bitter wind that nips the extremities and all around large snow flakes, whipped by whirls of wind fall crazily. The flakes are so soft, delicate and light that they accumulate thickly on the branches of nearby pine trees.   I would love this kind of day in the UK, the perfect conditions for phoning in sick if you live within walking distance of work, or if you use public transport or car, then by exaggerating how bad travel conditions are. Neither would there be a need to use one of the trump-card, ‘sicky’ excuses, such as having diarrhoea or cancer; ‘excuses’ which are perfect for terminating any form of interrogation.  Of course, a cancer excuse demands further action as it  doesn’t just go away and colleagues would expect further developments, unless it’s posed as a ‘scare,’ in which case you can  script yourself ‘all clear.’  Neither is it likely to do you any favours if your ploy is foiled.

Most people would spare a chuckle for the colleague  feigning  a cold, flu or diarrhoea but a cancer feign is taking  too far and  is definitely likely to backfire,  if discovered. ‘Diarrhoea’ however, is a great excuse because at 7 am and half way through their egg, bacon and brown sauce, no boss is going to start quizzing the causes or manifestation of your condition.  If your boss is a bit of a twat, a few references to how runny your condition is or how you never quite made it out of bed on time, will quickly see them eager to terminate the call while simultaneously offering you the speediest recovery.   And next, with an authorized day pass, it would be a trip to the local corner shop, braving the conditions  en-route that prevent you from getting to work, for a few bars of chocolate, or whatever comfort food  takes your fancy. Then, once back home, it’s off to bed accompanied by a hot-water bottle and a couple of good movies.

It’s amazing how utterly relaxing and enjoyable a ‘mental health day’ is when taken in someone else’s time. You can never get the right feel if you take one at a weekend or during a holiday because guilt at your laziness gnaws your conscience and in any case, the weather is rarely suitable.  ‘Sickies’ in summer lack the potential to pamper and fail to provide that cosy snugness and if you have a house or garden there’s always something else you should be doing.  Climatic conditions which drive you indoors and force you to seek the warmth of your bed or duvet,  the sort of weather which typifies disaster movies, are prerequisite for a rewarding ‘sicky’ and they are even better accompanied by a suitable  climatic disaster movie involving nuclear winters  or avalanches.  And there’s absolutely no guilt because conditions are so shit you wouldn’t be doing anything in the garden anyway!  But the ultimate ‘sicky,’ one which unless you are cursed with the protestant work ethic, provides a taste of heaven,  is  one which is taken both at somebody else’s expense and during bad weather when the only thing you would be doing, is working.

 

a choppy yellow sea ( winter 2007)

In the UK, a flurry of snow is enough to cause trains and buses to cease  and you can guarantee that once public transport has shut shop, half the population will be phoning in with colds or flu or excuses about being ice-bound. The merest dusting of  anything more than frost and my niece and nephew are begging to be excused school and their front room looks directly onto their school facade.  You can’t blame them as in recent years the example of the rich and powerful are ones predominantly inspired by decadence and self-interest.

snowy sunrise (Do-bi-do, Winter 2007)

When I was a teacher in the UK, I probably averaged 10 ‘sick’ days a year, even if I was on a part-time contract.  Sometimes they were taken  because I had better things to do than work – things such as taking an exam or a driving test. More likely, they were because I was simply stressed and  found it difficult to amass the energy to teach a bunch of kids who usually had little interest in learning. I would have few allegiances to a school in the UK, certainly not as a chalk-front teacher in a run of the mill school (as most are even though they all claim the opposite), and consider teaching a form of prostitution.  Indeed, I’ve known teaching friends incite the scummiest pupil they knew until enraged, they attacked them. Strange, how even though the attacks were minor, sometimes involving pats rather than punches, and the teachers of strong constitution,  they had to take months off work suffering from a range of psychological problems – time off on full pay, of course. I even knew one teacher, a teacher of comparative religious studies, who managed to get long-term sick leave due to ‘stress’  during which she  secretly taught in another school. I admire people who hold down two jobs but that’s  genius and an excuse that possibly exceeds the moral boundaries demarcating ones  involving cancer.

bitterly cold (Do-bi-do, Winter 2007)

In Korea,  life isn’t that laid back and most people still make it to work or school through both bad weather and illness and often both! I’ve not had one day off for sickness in four years, not even for a genuine sickness! Even when I’ve had a problem, as I have had today with a buggered knee, I’ve gone to work and simply suffered. This is partly because I’m a personal friend of my boss but it’s also because the kids are decent and working conditions good.  I know this isn’t the case in all Korean schools, but it is in mine. But on a day like today, with Daegu buried in snow, the temperature freezing and the visage from my one-room like a scene from The Day After Tomorrow,  I feel a yearning, a pang for something British and for once it’s not roast beef, roast potatoes or  a pint of British bitter.   The adverse weather conditions have initiated a cultural call, a siren invoking  me to invent an appropriate excuse and play hooky and doing so is a cultural institution as British as fish and chips.  If I was British Rail the announcement on all stations throughout the next few days would be,  ‘services suspended until further notice!’  Suddenly, I realise the mild headache I felt all last night, that would otherwise have been the initial stages of a brain tumour,  are just my imagination. Reluctantly, I pull on my coat and gloves and head out into the Arctic winter, on my way to work!

‘Winter 2007 – perfect dossing weather

Footnote – You know how every two hundred photos you take you have one that’s actually decent?  Well. yesterday I had two which encapsulated the conditions which inspired the content of this post. And then, after ‘processing’ them they were somehow deleted. I was quite pissed off!  Hence the Winter 2007 photos.

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