Monday, March 22, 2010

Busan, Gwangan - KA (Kwang An) Sporex

Recently, a friend of mine told me his parents own a jjimjilbang near Gwangan. We got to talking about it and I decided I ought to check it out for you. I mean, I have a list of places I need to visit, but he is my friend after all, and I wanted to see what kind of place it was.

Here's how to get there: As you exit Gwangan subway station take exit 2. On your left immediately out of the exit you'll see a large Busan band - turn left around the bank and walk straight up that hill. After you pass the Top Mart (on your right ~5 minutes from the subway) you'll see the KA Sporex on the left.

So last Sunday I headed out to see KA Sporex. Firstly, my internet searches revealed inconsistencies. The Daum local listing only categorizes this place as a sauna or mok-yok-tang, not a jjimjilbang, though a search on Naver maps will show it as a jjimjilbang. Likewise, the reviews, ratings, and few photos visible on Naver cannot be found from Daum. Despite this trouble, the KA Sporex website includes some English words to help you navigate the site and shows many photos of the rooms and facilities.

My friend had said his place was a jjimjilbang so I trusted him. Sure enough, I was handed the little brown spa clothes when I asked for them. At only 5,000 won, this is a pretty cheap jjimjilbang (7,000 overnight). 

From the locker room through the sauna everything is pretty typical. A couple special bits- shown below- are the individual tubs similar to what you might find in your house back in the West and the nicely designed hot rooms found at the back of the sauna. There are 3 small, shallow event baths which feature different herbal treatments to the water, massage tubs, and an ice bath, in addition to the usual hot tubs and showers.

Up in the jjimjilbang (3F) you'll notice it's remarkably dark. Could be a bad thing, but I thought it was nice on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If your thing is reading or studying you'll want to go up one more floor to the 4F "hyu-gae-sil" or resting area (휴게실). On this floor you can find the restaurant & snack corner, PC room, book stacks, massage, skin clinic & nail art, movie room, and sleeping rooms.

Back on the 3F jjimjilbang each room has a small window to let in a small amount of light but, like I said, don't expect to be able to read the newspaper in there! On the upside there are multiple rooms at a comfortable temperature - combined with the darkness it's the perfect place for a nap. A couple special rooms made my day: The forest room (산림욕방) which has fragrant woods lining the walls and fresh woodsy air and a similar pine room (소나무방). Sporex also offers a super-hot bulgama (fire) room, rooms with salt/charcoal, gold, yellow soil, an ice room, and two beautifully decorated stone rooms (보석방- jewelry, 마노방- agate). Best thing? The small TVs in some rooms are placed where you can easily change the program or switch them off if you want peace and quiet.

In addition to all this, KA Sporex has recently developed their 6th floor to house a health club, yoga studio and a dance/aerobics room. My friend told me that his parents felt it was important to focus on the fitness aspect of the spa in order to compete with other saunas in the area. Just from the looks of the membership packages and yoga schedule (4 classes a day weekdays & 2 on Saturday?!) I can see they're taking it seriously.

부산시 수영구 광안4동 733-23
Busan, Suyeong-gu, Gwangan 4-dong 733-23

Enter from 7am-8pm
Sauna: Adults 4,000 Children 3,000
Sauna & Jjimjil: Adults 5,000 Children 4,000

Enter from 8pm-7am
Sauna & Jjimjil: Adults 7,000 Children 6,000

Wikimapia of KA Sporex

Thursday, March 4, 2010

About the Layout

I recently started using the computer at my office, which has a regular-width screen (as opposed to my laptop's wide screen). While updating my blog, I noticed that the page has been formatted to fit properly on a widescreen computer, and not to resize it's self on a regularly-sized screen.

For now, all I can offer are my apologies. I have no idea how to make it automatically fit your screen, nor if there's even a way. I realize it's really lame to have to use the left-right scroll bar just to read a post, but I'm at a loss. The problem with just reverting to the original size is that most of my posts already have formatting and photos that will not work with the narrower cut. I tried it and the pics just run off the edge.

So, I'm sorry. ^^ (If you are tech-savvy, feel free to leave a comment or email me about how I might fix the html. Blogger uses these complicated templates and it took me forever in the first place to get the page to show more words and less blank space. I like the width settings, but only wish it would resize automatically for viewers on 4:3 aspect ratios.)


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Seoul, KTX Station - Silloam Sauna & Jjimjil

I would never have found this place for you guys if I hadn't missed my train back to Busan recently. Just so you know, the last Busan-bound KTX leaving Seoul on any given night is at 10:30. Anyway, 10:40 is too late ㅠ.ㅠ

Fortunately, the helpful lady at the information desk in Seoul Station was able to direct me out the back of the station to Silloam Sauna, which I definitely had my doubts about. I mean, how many cheap and still nice places have you ever seen around a big station? Though I was worried, my other option was to stay in a motel, and I'm really glad I took the chance on Silloam.

From the outside, Silloam is unassuming, you might even miss it if you're not looking for it. From Seoul Station, you should exit to the northwest (sort of the back, to the right if you're looking at the ticket windows) and walk through or around Lotte Mart. From there, you'll see the overpass at the large 4-way intersection to the right just ahead of you - you should be able to see the sign on the side of the Silloam building as well. Walk across and then up the ramp and you're there.

Inside, the sauna is nice but, when I was there, not the cleanest. I entered around 11pm so I'm sure they clean at night, but anyway, it gets the job done. There are quite a few interesting tubs (yellow soil, wormwood, charcoal) and "sweating rooms" (infrared, jade, super-hot salt scrub room) inside the sauna, though I didn't take the time to enjoy them when I was there. One strange thing is that you can't adjust the temperature of any of the standing showers!

The real surprise came when I ascended the stairs into the jjimjilbang area: there's a LOT here! Again, the rooms contain many unusual materials and are located around the edges of a central room on 3 different floors. The charcoal, yellow-soil, salt, and oxygen rooms are typical, as are the dens (caves, pictured at the left); you can also find something they call elvan (maybe quartz or something?), loose gravel, and a cold charcoal room. There's a singing room, cafe, coffee shop, restaurant, snack bar, PC & game room, movie room, salon/barber shop, shoe repair place, and a little store. You can even participate in yoga free of charge.

I quickly scanned the jjimjilbang for some nice place to sleep and found quite a few nooks and rooms that would have been well-suited (you can get a sleeping pad and blanket from a staff member in one of the main rooms if you sleep here), but figured I ought to head up to the top floor and at least take a look at the sleeping rooms. First of all, cell phones must not be used (or at least activate silent mode) in the sleeping rooms and there's also a "Snoring room" to minimize disruption to other sleepers! The men's and women's sleeping rooms have 400 and over 300 beds respectively. You'll never have some ajumma's arm flop over you in this place! Each bed is separated by at least a low railing and some have a small wall between them. There are lower and upper bunks each made up with a really thick sleeping pad, pillow, and pile of blankets. Some upper bunks even have curtains for full privacy. Plus the rooms are slightly air-conditioned, humidified, purified, and all the other "-ieds" you could dream of. It's bliss. I had the best jjimjilbang sleep of my life here, even though it was only 5 hours worth!

Finally, Silloam offers some special services to visitors since they are located near Seoul Station. You can leave your larger suitcases or baggage in a parcel room - ask about this at reception. They will also wash or dry clean your clothes! If you need this service, be sure to allow 2 hours for the cleaning.

서울 중구 중림동 128-104
Seoul, Joong-gu, Joongrim-dong 128-104

Enter from 5am-8pm (use from 5am til 12 midnight that day)
Sauna: Adults 8,000   Children 6,000
Sauna & Jjimjil: Adults 10,000   Children 7,000
*5 hours free parking

Enter from 8pm-5am (use from 8pm til 12noon the following day)
Sauna: Adults 11,000   Children 9,000
Sauna & Jjimjil: Adults 15,000   Children 11,000
*free parking for full usage time

Wikimapia of Silloam Fire Pot Sauna

English, Korean, and Japanese available on the Silloam Bulgama (Fire Pot) Sauna website

Here's a video of a cute couple visiting Silloam Sauna, for your viewing pleasure!