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.

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Bathhouse Basics (17) – the Hwang-to Bang

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on May 6, 2012

the exterior of a hwangto-bang in a jjimjilbang

My first experience of a hwangto-bang was in 2000 when I visited a traditional Korean makgeolli house, in mid-winter, which had an adjoining sauna. Hwangto-bang can be quite crude constructions consisting simply a small  shell of dry loess clay (yellow mud) which has floor heating and in which you lounge, sometimes, fully clothed – as I did in this one.   The saunas are dry as opposed humid or steamy, however, they can also be very elaborate: Wonderful Spaland, in Wolbae, Daegu, one of my favourite bathhouses, has a two tier hwangto-bang the upper part of which can accommodate about 10 people sleeping while underneath are a number of individual  ‘cells.’

a group of ‘ajummas’ relaxing in a hwangto-bang

The western name for the clay, loess, derives from the German for ‘loose.’ Its specific and most prized characteristic is that when warm, loess emits infra-red rays and a sauna constructed of loess warms the body from inside, unlike other saunas which heat from outside. The loess sauna is believed to be beneficial detoxifying the body and balancing blood pressure and weight.

loess powder

Sometimes the walls of hwangto-bang are simply clay plaster which is highly porous while at other times more resilient glazed tiles form the floor and walls (황석방). Hwangto-bang appear, not just alongside the occasional traditional Korean bar or restaurant, but in both bathhouses (목욕탕) and jjimjilbang (쨤질방).

Apart from its use in soap, face packs, pillows, loess is also used to make a dye which is often used in traditional, causal clothes which have a distinct, yellow colour.

a range of products dyed by loess

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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.

Na-Seong Hawaii Bathhouse (Jinch’eon. Daegu)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Sport by 노강호 on August 4, 2011

Na Seong Hawaii – Jin-ch’eon.

Rating: Excellent

(First visited 7th of June 2011. Last visited 25th of July 2011). Despite the fact that you are likely to see more right angles in Na-seong Hawaii than in most other bathhouses, the atmosphere is calm and relaxing with a pervading sense of balance and lightness. Entering the atrium from the changing room, four pools occupy the centre contained within one large rectangle. The largest is the warm pool behind which lays a small bench massage pool and two smaller hot pools. At the far end of the pools, and contained within the rectangle are six ondol heated plinths made of jade. The large rectangle encompassing these features is mirrored by glass vaulted roof around the edges of which are small trees. The vaulted roof  provides natural light and has the effect of both ‘opening’ the atrium and giving it a sense of lightness. Sitting in the pools or lying on the jade plinths and being able to look up at the sky is quite relaxing but this feature is only present in the male complex.

the first floor lobby

The use of angles is continued with both square windows on the right hand wall and by the long rectangular mirrors on the sit down showers which run beneath them. Even the stand up shower mirrors, which flank either side of the entrance and exit, are square and the only point at which the domination of right angles is broken is at the head of the atrium where three large semi-circular designs mark each sauna. The saunas are an interesting speciality of Na-seong and each is jewelled. The right hand sauna is a steam room predominantly of rose quartz with additional patterns in jade. The central sauna, a dry sauna has a pyramid-shaped roof the wall as being tightly studded with black, smoky quartz. The left hand sauna, an even hotter dry sauna is walled with another gem stone and the furthest wall contains several partitions with tightly packed charcoal and cinnamon.

On the left hand side of the atrium is a sleeping room and a long cold pool which on the occasions I visited was substantially colder than other bathhouses. The far wall of this pool has large widows which overlooks the adjacent no-cheon. The entrance to the no-ch’eon, another speciality of Na-seong, is in the left hand corner but as with the nearby Saeng-hwal, this is an enclosed no-ch’eon and not the type fully open to the elements.

the medicine bath in the no-cheon

 The no-ch’eon area contains a salt sauna and three pools. The event pool has a different aroma everyday, including strawberry on a Saturday. There is a wooden sleeping area and a medicine bath which on my first visit contained a rather smelly sulphur additive. Finally, in the corner  is a cold sea bath.

Overall, this is an excellent bathhouse with some interesting features and a very pleasant atmosphere. For anyone interested in bathhouses or who simply enjoys spa lounging, Na-seong is well worth a visit.

Getting there – Na Seong Hawaii is five minutes walk from Saeng Hwal On-ch’eon. (Wikimapia link) It is close to Jinch’eon subway. From Song-seo, Lotte Cinema, it is about 5500 Won by taxi.

Na seong on the left and Saeng Hwal on the right

Daegu subway map (click to enlarge)

The x’s mark subway stations. Na-seong is on the left.

Times – Unsure, but it is not a 24 hour establishment.

Facilities – bathhouse, sports center, barber, shoe-shine, parking, screen golf.

floor guide

Jjimjilbang – no jjimjilbang.

Bathhouse (men) – around fifty stand up and

Cost – 5000 Won

Ambiance – very relaxing, light and open.

Waygukin -None

Address – 

Website

Layout (Male Bathhouse) – coming

Updates

|

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Bathhouse Basics – The No-ch’eon (노천)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on July 2, 2011

a wintry mountain no-ch'eon (노천)

No-ch’eon are one of my favourite types of facility though my experience of the proper type is limited. A real no-ch’eon is a bathing facility fully exposed to the elements and often using a hot spring as a source of water. They are rural and located in scenic settings and though some are male and female together, and require bathing costumes, others involve being au naturel. Usually, no-ch’eon are an external part of a bathhouse or a jjimjilbang so if it is part of the jjimjilbang it will require a costume, and if part of a bathhouse, you go naked.

winter, snow and ice bring an added dimension to the no-ch'eon

I doubt there's any poolside sleeping here

I first experienced a real no-ch’eon in the winter of 2007, while staying in a small island off the west coast. We visited a sea-water bathhouse on several occasion, one of them being 3 am in the morning and from the bathhouse you could go outside and enjoy either a hot or cold pool. Sitting in a hot pool in mid December during a snow storm at 4 am in the morning was an awesome experience and all that was missing was the makalli or champagne.

The appeal of the no-ch’eon is the combination of the elements, scenic settings and nature and to this purpose the ‘furniture’ can only be but natural. You can expect to see plenty of cypress pine (hinokki) with even the water vents being  made of wood. I don’t yet know the name for these but they are a fairly common feature in bathhouses. Hot spring water, a natural source, is commonly used and coastal no-ch’eon will use sea-water.

does anyone know the name or origin of these?

this no-ch'eon (enclosed), is at Na Seong Hawaii, Daegu

For an experience predominantly governed by the whims of the weather, the partially enclosed no-ch’eon falls way short of the real thing however, they too, can be very enjoyable when a cool, or cold wind drifts across your skin. These no-ch’eon tend to have large, milky-glassed windows or even sliding doors beyond which probably lays slatted wooden panels. Usually built on the corner of the building, they are ideal for trapping and directing any breeze.

wish I was there

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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.

Greenvill Sauna – Banwoldang, Jung-gu, Daegu

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews by 노강호 on May 31, 2011

First visited on Thursday 19th of May 2011. Greenvill is very easy to find given its location to the main road downtown and the nearby Banwoldang subway. Though situated in the Samjung Greencore Apartments (삼정 그린코어) complex, it is only a five minute walk from the subway itself. At the bottom of this post you will find comprehensive instructions on locating the premises.

Greenvill Jjimjilbang in Banwoldang

The changing facilities are large and spacious and the staff friendly. I was visiting on a lunchtime and there were only a few customers but I would suspect it might be busier in the evenings. The bathhouse itself is not large but it bright and fresh with numerous murals on the walls and interesting features, for example, a large dolphin stands in the corner of one pool, as if rising out of the water. The bathhouse (male)  itself is approximately an ‘L’ shape with the main pools in three corners. There are probably around twenty stand up showers, giving some guide to the more experienced bathhouse user, as to the size of the premises, and close to these the hot (열), warm (온) and event (이벤트) pools. I often joke about the event pools being uneventful but this one was more exciting and a large ‘poster’ on a nearby pillar forecast the weekly aroma schedule: I was there on a Wednesday so the aroma was ‘grape’ and beside looking like a gigantic glass of wine, there was a pleasant hint of grape juice. Other aromas, changed on a daily basis, include menthol, lemon, chrysanthemum,  mugwort, ginseng and pine.

In the far corner is a small massage pool (안마탕) with six massage stations. Beside this are stairs leading up to an open planned, infra-red lit, sleeping room. In another corner was a large and very cold, cold pool (냉탕) with attractive blue tiling and a large mural backdrop. There are two saunas: a steam sauna  and a spacious pine sauna with various levels of decking and room to sleep.

In all, a very new, clean and relaxing bathhouse though perhaps not providing the most extensive facilities, it is certainly well worth a visit especially  if you are in the vicinity or need a place to stop  overnight.

Location – The Wikimapia site already had a marker for Greenvill but it was not in the right place. Locating it exactly is difficult as it is within the apartment complex so I took the liberty to update the map. However, the complex is easy to find and I have given some extra pointers. I used a taxi to Banwoldang and my directions are from the subway on the side of the road where traffic is heading downtown and the massive Donga building is directly in front of you.

stand in directly in front of Donga with the subway exit on your right. This photo is slightly around the corner from Donga

Behind you you should see a flower shop with a small road leading up to an apartment complex. At the foot of the apartments on the hill you should see the Buddhist symbol as there is a temple here.

The subway on your right and Donga directly in front, the flower shop is behind you. Start up this road…

The Buddhist temple is on the top of the hill at the foot of the apartments

Go up to the temple and turn right in front of it. You will then see the turning on your right taking you into the Samjung Greencore Apartments (삼정 그린코어) complex. A small square sits in the middle at the opposite side of which you will see a flight of stairs. Go down these. You are now going past the sauna, it is actually on your right and when you reach the foot of the stairs you will find the entrance.

one of several entrances – the other is via the apartment car park

If you come out the exit and take a right and a right, or a left and a left, you will easily find you way back to the Donga building area. Coming out and taking a left and left will take you past a string of Buddhist shops. (Wikimapia link )

Times – 24 hour

Facilities – barber, shoe shine, large changing room with TV.

Jjimjilbang – includes an ice room, DVD room and various other facilities.

Bathhouse (men) – around twenty stand up and perhaps 30 sit down ones.

Cost – 4.500 Won for the bathhouse

Others – Basement car parking. Right next to Banwoldang subway line and on the main bus route (405). An interesting area with many shops and department stores.

one of the numerous Buddhist shops in the area

Ambiance – bright, airy with a subdued infra-red sleeping area.

Waygukin – first visit – none

Address – 대구 중구 남산2동 665번지, Daegu, Jung-gu, Namsan-2-dong 665. Tel:053-427-6665.

Website

 

Updates

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FURTHER REFERENCES

There is a very useful review of Greenvill at Jjimjilbang and Saunas in Korea (October 2010)

Ok Dol Mogyoktang (옥돌) Yong San Dong, Daegu

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews by 노강호 on May 19, 2011

intimate and functional

First visited on May 13th 2011. Not my favourite of bathhouses as it is simply too small and geared more to cleaning than relaxing but it is worth a visit, probably at off-peak hours. I visited on Friday lunchtime and it was almost empty. The staff were friendly

Ok Dol (‘Jade Stone’) Bathhouse lies in a small square of bars and restaurants so I would imagine it is busy on certain evenings as it is a twenty four hour establishment. It has the usual peripheral businesses of barber and  shoe shine and a television in the changing area. The bathing facilities are quite small and there are only three baths, a warm pool (온탕), hot pool (열탕) and a cold pool (냉탕). The hot pool isn’t too hot and the cold pool not too cold. Around these are about 12 stand up and about twenty sit down showers. There is also a small jade ondol (heated) sleeping area but it will probably only accommodate about 3 people. As for saunas, there is a steam room (습식 사우나), salt room (소금방) and a pine sauna (소나무방).

The decor is pleasant with plenty of jade and dark brown tiling with sunken gold patterns running through it. The sauna rooms, pine, salt and steam are small but comfortable with  ‘jeweled’ walls and ceiling containing plenty of jade and inlaid with slices of impressive geodes. The pine sauna contains a three foot, free standing ‘cathedral’ amethyst  geode.

The ‘powder room,’ my term for the room you dry and preen yourself in prior to dressing, was very small and I had to step over a number of used towels to enter the locker area but this is my only criticism. Most notable however, throughout my entire visit, was the fact an attendant continual cleaned, wiping down tiles, rinsing soap of mirrors and polishing the taps. The entire bathhouse gleamed.

Plan

Jade Sauna (옥돌) bathhouse design. Male

Location – five minutes from Song-So ‘Mega-Town Complex’ and a few minutes from Yong-San-Dong, Tesco’s Home Plus. It actually lies at the back of the Lotte Castle Apartments area.  (Wiki Map link this is the approx area, I need to pinpoint it exactly)

Times – 24 hour.

Facilities – Tickets on the second floor.

Jjimjilbang – none.

Bathhouse (men) – smallish with an event pool, (이벤트탕), small warm pool (온탕), and medium sized cold pool (냉탕), ‘jeweled’ steam room, salt room (소금방)and pine saina (소나무방) and a  very small jade, ondol heated sleeping area. Changing room with television and benches.

Cost – bathhouse 4500 Won.

Others –  shoe shine, barber. Many nearby restaurants and bars.

Ambiance – more functional than relaxing, very clean.

Waygukin –  No foreigners.

Address –

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A Touch of Tranquility – Update (1)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouses and jjimjilbang reviews, Daegu by 노강호 on November 5, 2010

This article was originally published in Daegu Pockets in October 2010

All bathhouses have their own unique ambiances created by a combination of lighting, décor and design. Additionally, they differ in terms of what they offer. Bathhouses all have common features but every bathhouse provides something that differentiates it from other establishments in the vicinity.

Poolside

Situated in the very heart of Song-So, in the Mega Town Complex, which not only dominates the area physically, but in terms of facilities, boasting a large cinema complex, buffet and pizza restaurant and numerous other amenities, Hwang-so has gradually grown on me. My first visit was on a cold, dark November morning when I arrived to find the premises packed with a class of school boys – not the kind of atmosphere you want at 5 am and on your visit to a bathhouse in a number of years. I found it small, noisy and claustrophobic and didn’t go back.

I have since learnt that if you want peace and tranquility it can be found in the center of this bustling building and that school-boy invasion a blip that can temporarily blight any bathhouse.

Song-So's 'Mega Town' Complex - I minute from my front door

The reception to both the male and female bathhouses are on the eighth floor and once you have stripped to your birthday suit it’s only a couple of paces into the bathing complex. Here you will find a very intimate atmosphere with black marble tiling, low lighting and even some slightly darkened areas. Hwang-so is certainly not a large bathhouse. Four central baths, all internally lit, provide a water massage pool, warm and hot pool, and a bubbling Jacuzzi with herb additives. A large cold pool occupies one end and completes the facilities found in every bathhouse. As for the complex’s specialties, you can enjoy a Japanese style cypress bath (히노끼탕) and my favourite, a humidity sauna  (습식 사우나) where water sprays from the ceiling like the finest, warm rain and is so fine it hangs, caught in subdued lighting, like heavy mist.  A massive rock bowl sits in one corner and is filled with cold water which you can throw over yourself when you get too warm. Additionally, the seats in this sauna are cut from tree trunks and their woody aroma scents the air. Adjacent, is a Swedish style pine sauna with very low lighting. I have come to really enjoy the tasteful complimentary additions such as, water features, rock, and chunks of pine tree, which occupy various nooks and crannies.

The changing area is fairly spacious with central slatted benches and sofas plus the usual television and a resident barber. From this area, the jjimjilbang, the clothed, mixed sex communal area, on the seventh floor, can be accessed.

Unless you simply want to shower, you should never frequent just one bathhouse anymore than you should eat one type of food. Different establishments provide different experiences and to capitalise on this you need to a few alternative which can be matched with your appropriate moods. Hwang-so has no poolside television or piped music and swimming or playing in the cold pool is not allowed. If you find yourself in Song-so with a hangover or simply want to relax, this is a great sanctuary. My only criticism, there is no sleeping area within the pool area.

Link for information and details on Hwang-So Sauna

 

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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Tissue Trauma

Posted in bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on October 19, 2010

 

Not suitable for pumpkin people

I was cooling off last night in the cold pool at the bathhouse. With the evenings still a little warm, at least if you’re western, the cold pool is still not too cold. Many Koreans started wrapping themselves up three weeks ago. The memi (매미) only had to stop singing, at just under 29 degrees, for some to start complaining about ‘the cold.’  The last memi I heard was on Saturday 25th of September and given Daegu is one of the warmest parts of Korea throughout the year, I would imagine the Memi stopped singing earlier, further north.

The following week, was still warm and I sweated in class despite the use of air conditioning and a fan but already some students had begun shimfing about it being cold. ‘Teacher! Teacher! I cold! Turn off air-con!” They whined. Like it’s fucking 28 degrees Celsius!  That week I really enjoyed walking home in the evening because there was just the tiniest touch of coolness floating in the air.  Suddenly there were only a handful of people on the street in short-sleeved shirts. And now it’s mid-October, I notice my shower is a little too uncomfortable to use without increasing the temperature. For the last few months even the coldest setting had become warm. And in my school some teachers have already started that typically Korean custom of wearing a coat all day long.

 

cooling off

 

So, in the bathhouse the cold pool (냉탕) is empty. Six weeks ago it was at its busiest. A friend I haven’t seen for a while came and spoke to me. He’s slightly older than me and incredibly fit. He has a short stocky body and is a regular in the gym where he runs for 45  minutes on the treadmill, at a fast pace. He has this habit of entering the cold pool, which you can just about swim in, by springing over its side and into the water. Most of the schoolboys don’t do that and instead enter by the steps or climb into the pool.

 

tissue trauma

We chat for a while, me draped over the pool ledge and him standing. Then he takes his leave and tells me he wants to have a shower and will come back and join me. As he turns around, I notice a white flash from his buttock and walking into brighter light realise he has a few inches of toilet paper dangling out of his crack. I grin to myself and then momentarily ponder which is the greater embarrassment, a bogey hanging out of your nose or residue bog paper clamped between your checks like an insistent napkin.? Instantly, I choose the bog paper because you can so easily tell someone they have a bogey hanging, you simply touch your nose in a particular manner, and they will understand; it’s a discrete and universally understood hand sign. But how do you convey to someone they have paper hanging out their arse? There’s no universal ‘sign’ and I wouldn’t want to risk saying anything in Korean which might compound the problem. Do you discretely touch your buttocks or point around to them?

Without actually verbalizing the problem, I would imagine the only way you could draw attention to it would be to tug on it, like yanking a doorbell or pulling the chain of a toilet!  You  wouldn’t want to tug on it too much or it might pull out and who knows what’s on the other end or how much might  be dragged out.  Best is probably a small tug, just enough to announce a presence  rather than raise an alarm.  By the time I’d finished pondering, the dilemma was over and he was  safely in the shower where the offending bog paper, sloughing down the backs of his legs, started its voyage to the drain. And luckily for him, I don’t think anyone else noticed.

 

 

envirnomentally friendly method

 

 

all too often the problem in Korea

 

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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.