Elwood 5566

Goong-Cheon Lavender Jjimjilbang – Daegu 공전 라벤더

Goong-Jeon Lavender

Only the Bats were Missing

First visited September 10th 2010. You might very well walk past without giving it a second glance; save for the fact a Lotteria is nestled in one corner. From the somewhat clumsy building amidst a sprawling melee of hotchpotch architecture, reminiscent of pre-1988 Korea, you might not expect to be impressed.  However, Goong-Jeon Lavender Jjimjilbang, close to Dong Daegu railway station, is not only one of the largest bathhouse I have visited but one of the richest in character and interest.

Goong-Cheon Lavender

When leaving the elevator and entering the changing rooms, Goong-Cheon Lavender certainly spoils the visitor with space and the reception area, with a snack bar fronted by cute, if not  bizarre pink, white and gold baroque imitation tables and chairs, occupies an area the equivalent to that of many other changing rooms. An atmosphere of spaciousness and intrigue is imparted before one has even collected their locker key.

Large and spacious changing facilities

Access between the bathhouse and changing area is via large ramps and on entering the bathing complex you are confronted with a very large showering facility with stand-up showers organised in a multitude of partitions around the periphery, and an army of seated showers relegated to the centre. I usually count shower units but on this occasion there were simply too many and besides, the blue glow emanating from pools beyond the shower area, were demanding my exploration.

the impressive 'cave'

In the distance, at the far end of the complex, I was attracted to the large ‘cave bath’ (동굴), the water of which was shimmering on the cave roof.  On the partitions between the sit-down showers, between which you walk to reach the pools, large crystalline ‘stones,’ appear to be lit from beneath, added to the subterranean atmosphere.  Three pools occupy the area before the ‘cave feature’ with various smaller pools on one side and four saunas on the other. The largest pool is a round warm-water pool but my favourite, located almost in one corner and portioned by glass, is a Dead Sea salt bath (사해소금방). The water is dark blue and the high salt content certainly made my body more buoyant.

one of Lavender's Sauna

Among the four saunas were, a steam sauna, and a salt sauna all constructed from either jade or some other ‘well-being’ material. There is also an ice room. However, the central feature of Goong-Cheon Lavender, are the two pools at the head of the pool complex which are designed like caves. Small windows provided enough light for real ivy to grow from the ‘rock formation’ walls and from the ceiling hang impressive, realistic stalactites. Both pools are cold, more suited for hot weather and one has a number of power showers useful for massaging an aching back.

a jewelry room

the ice sauna

the unique Dead Sea bath

Non-invasive lighting, various scents from the saunas such as rose, pine and mugwort plus beautifully soft and fresh smelling towels all enhance the atmosphere and though there is a television in one sauna, which is piped into other rooms, levels of noise are low.  Numerous pools also use silver ionised water which is subsequently microbe-free.

well worth a visit

Goong-Cheon Lavender also boasts sporting facilities, including general fitness, weight training, yoga and golf as well as a jjimjilbang equipped with various ‘jewellery’ rooms. Similar to the bathhouse saunas, these are rooms constructed out of stone or metal with ‘well-being’ qualities. A roof garden is also accessible from the jjimjilbang.  This is an impeccably clean and exciting complex to which I was welcomed in English. There is much to explore and the size, atmosphere and unique bathing experiences make this a great venue to relax. My only criticism… there were no bats!

Plan

Goong Jeon Lavender bathhouse design (male)

Times – 24 hour jjimjilbang (찜질방) and bathhouse.

Facilities – women’s ‘bathhouse, jjimjilbang, men’s bathhouse, coffee shop, shoe shine, barbers, sports complex, belly dancing, aerobics, screen golf, massage, children’s play room, pc room, roof garden, yoga, etc

Jjimjilbang – (pending)

Bathhouse (men) – an extremely large stand-up and sit-down shower area. Cold pool cave, Dead Sea salt bath, Black Sea bath, silver ionised water, steam room, salt room, and various ‘jewelery rooms.’

Cost – bathhouse 5000 Won.

Others – hairdressers, massage and rub downs, parking, cafe..

Ambiance – very relaxing and friendly.

Waygukin –  None.

Address – Goong-Cheon is located a very short taxi ride from Dong Daegu Station (KTX). (Wikimap)

Goong-Cheon Lavender Homepage

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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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Samjeong Oasis – Lotte Castle (용산동) Daegu.

Posted in bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu by 노강호 on August 15, 2010

삼정 오아시스

First visited August 14th August 2010. Last visited July 2nd 2012.  This is a relatively new and very pleasant bathhouse with an adjoining health club located on the edge of the prestigious Lotte Castle Apartments. I have visited here several times and it is very clean. This is a good bathhouse to take a nap in as it has a pleasant raised sleeping area down the far wall and also a large sauna room in which the TV is located. This room is fairly humid and you can easily nod off laying on the floor. Next to this is a steam room with very high humidity. The steam must be pumped in or the boiler situated behind a wall as I didn’t see one. Personally, I love the enormous cauldron that bubble away in a corner and hiss out bursts of steam.

A smaller sauna with no humidity has a jade studded ceiling and the television in the adjacent sauna can be viewed through a window.

There are three central pools, basically a warm pool in the center with a hot pool at one end and a pool in which you lay and press a button to have jets of water squirted onto you spine and legs, at the other. The hot pool temperature varied between 38 degrees and 44 and it heated very quickly. This pool is at the hot and of the spectrum. Conversely, the large cold pool, is colder than some other bathhouses.

For my friend, this is his favourite local bathhouse with Migwang coming second. Personally, I prefer Migwang. Samjeong Oasis is certainly a great place to relax and nap but I find it a little bright and find the rectangular and very open plan, a little dull.

Plan

Sam Jeong Oasis. Yong San Dong. Bathhouse design. May 2011

Location – five to ten minute walk from the Tesco Home Plus at Yong San Dong (용산동).   Samjeong Oasis sits behind Home Plus at the furthest right hand corner of the large apartment complex that lays behind the supermarket. (Wiki Map link )

Times – Unsure of timings but I believe the bathhouse is closed on Tuesdays.

Facilities – ground floor ticket booth,  women’s bathhouse, men’s bathhouse, health club.

Jjimjilbang – none.

Bathhouse (men) – around twenty stand up shower facilities and fifty sitting down shower units, event pool, (이벤트탕), hot pool (열탕), large warm pool (온탕), large cold pool (냉탕), therapy pool, steam room,  jade sauna, humid sauna with television, heated sleeping area. Changing room with television and benches.

Cost – bathhouse 5000 Won.

Others – massage and rub downs, shoe shine, health club, smoking room. Many nearby restaurants and shopping facilities.

Ambiance – relaxing, brightish, somewhat open planned and symmetrical.  New and very clean.

Waygukin –  Only my second visit but no foreigners.

Address –

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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

Plan

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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'Psychedelic' Exercises (이벤트탕) E-Bente-Tang

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on May 23, 2010

A Bathhouse Ballad

The e-bente-tang (이벤트탕) today  was scented with ginseng (인삼). For some reason the bathhouse has been incredibly busy this week . The  steam room has varied between 51-54 degrees and I made my first venture into the ice room (어름굴) since last summer.  The ice room is simply a large freezer with some chairs around the edges and as the weather becomes hotter and more humid, it is usually a good place to finish off  a session as it both dries your body and stops you sweating.

I have thought about several things this week as I wallowed: I am interested to know whether people dry themselves in a random fashion in which one might use a towel just a moment before used to dry their arse, on their face, or whether, in a sequence such as, head to toe. Yes, there’s so much going on in the world that I consider this pointless trivia! I don’t particularly care! In the west I was always moaning and ranting about the nastier aspects  of life  but in Korea I don’t even bother reading about world news and I’m a lot happier. Ignorance is quite a pleasant state of mind especially as the more I have studied, the more exams I have taken,  the un-happier it has made me. It seems  that once the clutter of mans’ inhumanity to man is removed, which is usually the contents of most world and national news, and the tools encouraged to analyze that world decommissioned or at least limited, pondering the sound of one hand clapping, or the manner in which a towel is used,  is wonderfully liberating. Thinking has never done me any favours and often quite the contrary. Thinking can actually be harmful to your health and in retrospect  has probably ruined my life, it certainly hasn’t made me happier. I would say an insect has more propensity to happiness than a human with a working brain especially if that brain is influenced by  ethical issues. Despite what we are told,  thinking is both anti-social and disliked and most bosses, even in education, dislike  either thinkers or those who are ‘educated.’  Most of the thoughts I have had in the last twenty years, basically since going to university, have  set me  in opposition against other people.

I think a lot wallowing in the e-bente tang but have to cast much of it aside as people don’t like to be remind of their impotency especially within a democracy. But what you do with your bath towel, where you put it and in what order, apart from being  a totally inane topic, is vastly more original in concept than the impending destruction of our environment and is far less likely to raise any hackles. Pondering the pointless is a new therapeutic philosophy I am pursuing. At the moment, my concerns about how towels are used is a subject in a state of infancy. Moving on…

Have you ever noticed that when Koreans do little exercise routines, especially in the bathhouses, they look like they have mad cow disease? Privates on Parade, a British black comedy movie (1982), contains a hilarious scene where John Cleese, a mad army officer, performs a very strange exercise routine. So complex and awkward is this routine that mastering it entails highly developed muscle coordination. Being a taekwondo instructor at the time I first watched this movie, I bought the video and set about learning the routine in the privacy of my bedroom. It was far too ridiculous to practice in a gym. At the same time as instructing taekwondo, I was also a military musician and my musical skills were beneficial in analyzing the rhythmical structures that were used. Basically, the legs started off in a wide ‘lunge’ position, in many martial arts known as a ‘front stance’ and this stance changed from right to left, at approx 1-2 changes per second.

A typical, left front stance

Independent of the legs (moving in musical terminology of 2/4 or 4/4 time), the arms performed a routine in 3/4 time but with each arm separated by one beat. The left arm began the sequence which consisted three parts, each synchronised with the changing stance of the legs: (1) slapping the thigh, (2) ‘pointing’ to the ceiling, (3) ‘pointing’ horizontally to the left. As the left arm ‘pointed’ to the ceiling, the right arm slapped the right thigh and so at all times the right arm was one movement behind the left arm Now, I describe the arm movement as slapping and ‘pointing’ except the pointing was limp-wristed and the elbows never straightened. The arms were more thrown out as if casting something unpleasant off the hand or waving something away. What makes the routine so amusing is the rhythmic asymmetry caused by the lower half of the body moving in 2/4 time and the top half of the body, both in 3/4 but with  a displacement between the right and left arms. I never really persevered with the sequence to perfect it and to have done so would have been a small accomplishment requiring considerable focus. Apart from its merits as an exercise it was also highly comical, even  more so performed by John Cleese and for me, it is the most memorable part of the film, even more so than the fact the entertainment troop Cleese commands, all get killed.

John Cleese and the famous Ministry of Silly Walks

If you performed this sequence in a British gym, you would undoubtedly attract some attention but in Korea psychedelic exercise routines are quite common. indeed, if you were to walk around the pools in a Ministry of Silly Walks fashion, I don’t think anyone would pay much attention.

This week, I have seen several people performing exercises that at first suggested some mental incapacity.  I have seen two men standing in a corner performing an exercise in which alternating arms are shaken as if flicking a turd off of the fingers. In this exercises, after approximately 10 flicks, the cheeks are vigorously slapped. Standing in the cold pool, holding onto the side and water jogging is also a common sight. Stretching is also very common especially in a steam room or sauna though this form of exercise is identical to those practiced in the west. Laying supine and raising the knees to the chest or swinging the legs over the head until your knees are by yours ears isn’t unusual, unless of course, your naked. However, more amusing, is laying on ones back, pointing the knees to the ceiling with a 90 degree angle between the back of the calf and thigh and  in this position doing small rapid steps in the air with the feet while concurrently tapping the scalp and face with the hands. Perhaps the most common psychedelic exercise, more common around apartment complexes and in fitness centers, but which may be seen in bathhouse with treadmills in rest areas, is walking in a brisk manner, palms open, and hands raised to face level pictured below. Even though I know it provides a better workout than conventional western style walking/jogging, I find adopting this custom as alien as wearing a face mask.

The typical Korean walking style

Bathhouse Basics 1 – What is a bathhouse? (목욕탕)

Aquatic Symphony

Bathhouse (목욕탕) – exactly as the name suggests. Simply a place to wash. However, while some establishments are not much more than a place to administer yourself a thorough scrub down, others offer the chance to wallow in luxurious ambiance. The range is broad and bathhouses often have their own distinct atmosphere shaded by the time you visit. What you will find common to all  are: nudity,  segregation by sex,  places to shower, both standing and sitting and a number of pools. This is the most basic I have experienced. Others will have a number of adjoining ‘rooms’ containing various saunas, steam rooms, ice rooms (어름방), salt saunas, yellow mud sauna (황토방) sleeping rooms, and a place to be scrubbed down by an attendant. Once again, the variation is extensive. Pools vary in size and number and like the various ‘rooms’ often utilise specific minerals which are believed to promote good health. The most common are probably hot pools (열탕 – yeol-tang), warm pools (온탕 – on-tang),  cold pools (냉탕 – naeng tang) but I have also bathed in pools of gold and saunaed in silver. Baths may contain herbs, or green tea or be built with health inducing minerals. In addition, some bathhouses have heated areas around the pools where it is possible to take a nap and these may be heated by ondol (온돌) heating (underground heating) or by infra-red lights.

Changing rooms

Chilling

In the bathing area, bathhouses often have:

conveniently located televisions

various types of massage

soap, towel, body clothes, toothpaste

a large stone on which to eradicate hard skin

In the changing area:

sofas, television

a room in which to dry and preen yourself

toothbrushes, shampoo, Italy towels, hair conditioner

socks, underwear, ties

soft drinks, some snacks, especially smoked eggs

In the steam room of the Kayasan Hotel Bathhouse

A typical seated shower area

Grouped around the bathhouse (목욕탕):

barber, hairdresser

shoe shine facility

shoe repair facility

a sports complex or some exercise facilities

a jjimjilbang (찜질방)

In the pools

Some may have outside areas or indeed, be located in outdoor settings. Finally, some establishments have limited opening hours while others are open twenty-four hours.

Variations are extensive and endless!

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Back to the Treadmill

Posted in Diary notes, Entertainment by 노강호 on February 23, 2010

새해 복 많이 받으세요! ‘Happy New Year.’ I’ve been practicing this for the last week knowing that it’s a phrase I can’t use for another year. I returned from the UK with a nasty cough, several weeks ago. My first job when I returned was to buy a new PC monitor to replace the car size contraption sitting on my desk. I bought a 23 inch plasma screen from E-Mart at 198.oooW (£111 sterling) which was around the same price as one I recently bought in the UK. Luck would have it that two days later my antediluvian hard drive decided to pack in. I don’t have much patience with inanimate objects and after kicking it and administering it a hefty palm heel strike, I proceeded to smash the DVD loading trays with a six-foot bo (a martial art staff). I must admit I lost it for a few moments and was surprised I didn’t suffer coronary.  In my defence however, my defunct hard drive had plagued me all year and the work I can now do in a day, previously took me three.  I have a fleeting suspicion that when I tried to reboot it, I may have inadvertently turned off my monitor and diagnosed the lack of activity as death.  By the time I had viciously assaulted it, it was quite useless.

Half an hour later and a PC technician was installing a new PC in my apartment. A local PC shop, like most other services and facilities, is only a two-minute walk from house. I brag about the convenience of Korea when I’m back home and though I think services and culture here outstrip what’s on offer in the UK, I am especially well located. The unit cost 424.000W (£237 sterling) and as usual, the call out installation was free. In addition, he uploaded all the programs I  use with the operating system and Word 7 in English. In rip-off-Britain and probably most of the western world, the Microsoft Word Package alone would have cost me a hundred pounds. I have no sympathy for money grabbing Microsoft and the constant changes of software, deliberately made incompatible with operating systems or other software, are analogous to having to buy a new car every time the road markings are changed or re-painted.

I spent two intense weeks re-organising the various blogs I write and nursing an annoying cough which has  almost cleared up. This morning I decided it was time to start doing some exercise so, at 7.30, I walked the 5  mins to a local sports complex, a five storey complex owned by the father of one of my students. I plan to give a full account of this facility at a later stage as Korean bathhouses and jjimjilbang, a speciality of mine, warrant some lengthy posts. The gym, situated on the top floor is luxurious and not  representative of all Korean gym facilities. Naturally this is reflected in the fee. My last gym, actually on the floor under my school, was both a  little grotty and tended to pump out pop music, in competition with the TV’s mounted on the treadmill machines, at such a volume your MP3 was rendered useless. Pak Sang-il is the trainer usually on duty when I train. He’s a lad of about 24 and like many Korean men he is gentle and attentive. In summer he would regularly bring me new towels when I was sweating on the treadmill or top up my water bottle with cold coffee or water. Often, he  beckons me into his office for breakfast; sometimes fruit, boiled chicken or hard-boiled eggs. And when I ‘m  aching or have tight muscles, like many Korean men, he thinks nothing of massaging my legs or back. Many westerners would interpret this as a sign of homosexuality and probably find the intimacy threatening.

유가 자

On the day I left for the UK he gave me an especially big hug. Pak Sang-il is quite masculine with a good body, six-pack, pec’s and muscles that many men would love to posses. The combination of masculinity and effeminate personality, which is probably the best way to describe it, make an alluring combination and again, a combination that characterises many Korean men. I have trained enough in gyms in the UK and taekwon-do schools throughout Europe to know that such intimacy is deemed suspect and if anything, the combination of men and gyms usually results in increased aggression and machoism.

I took Pak Sang-il a large pineapple as a small gift, not an unusual thing to do  in Korea. After my session we had a coffee in his office and he told me he had ‘thought a  lot about me’ and ‘wanted to see me’. No! Nothing homo-ey! This is Korea and men can be quite intimate both physically and verbally without it implying they are gay. So, he insists that after my visiting the bathhouse, on the floor below,  I return to his office. When I finally oblige him he presents me with a jar of grapefruit tea neatly wrapped up. It resembles jam and is a remedy for bad coughs and sore throats. Accompanying the tea is a handwritten note  wishing me good health and a Happy New Year. Then, as I step into the lift, he shyly thrusts a hard-boiled egg into my palm. ‘You haven’t eaten breakfasts,’ he reminds me.

Pak Sang-il's note

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

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