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

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

Han Song Bathhouse, Song-So, Daegu

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

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

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

Plan

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

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

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

Facilities – bathhouse.

Jjimjilbang – none.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Han Song Updates

November 2012 – update.

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Bought a Piano – Monday November 6th, 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Korean Accounts Part 1 by 노강호 on November 6, 2000

I bought a piano yesterday. It is a second-hand one and only cost a couple of hundred pounds which in reflection is probably a bit excessive. I had to do the whole  deal in the little Korean I’ve learnt. I had to draw a map and the nearest landmark to my house that I know is MacDonald’s. The shop owner didn’t understand this until I’d written in Korean which quite pleased me.  Then I found a video rental shop (Video bang) where videos cost an amazing thirty pence a week. The video shops, which are prolific also sell Korean manga and heterosexual soft porn.

The piano was delivered this morning and though it is fairly well in tune some of the notes have a crap mechanism. Still, I only intend to play it in order to keep my fingers in trim rather than intending to advance my ability.

I’m still aching from training and am surprised I haven’t pulled a muscle. I’ve been waiting for one to rip for a few days now and this is likely to happen as I do something inane such as turning on a tap or writing a letter. I quite fancy a sauna to relax my aches. I’ve heard there are saunas or bathhouses (the first mention of them) in town but apparently they are dubious and I don’t want to get into any embarrassing situations. I settled for a hot shower at home but I miss a bath to relax in.

Initially I was a little reluctant to play the piano as Nana was  in his room and I’m shy. It was great playing again but my fingers are lazy and some of the notes are quite stiff and hard to sound. Of course, I should have played the instrument in the shop but instead just plonked out a few scales.

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