Friday, January 27, 2012

Jeonju, Joonghwasan-dong, Hyoja Bridge – Spa LaQua

Wow. I will have a lot of words for this Spa, and “wow” is a good place to start. Firstly, it’s hard to get to by bus. I would not really recommend that since Jeonju is so small anyway. I just took a taxi from the Gaeksa Area (main old downtown, not far from Hanok Village and the fun walking streets). If you cab it, just say “Hyoja da-ri, Gwang-jin Het-bi-chan Apart” and get out near building #101 (효자다리, 광진햇비찬 아파트 101동). I know that's not easy, but it will be well worth it. You can’t miss the giant orange rectangular building on your right from there!

Once you get inside, you can tell it’s a nice place from the carpeted stairs that lead you up to the sauna areas on the second floor. Plus, for your 9-10,000 won you’ll receive a little tote bag with the jjimjilbang outfit and THREE towels! (Guys often have unlimited towels inside the sauna but us women usually only get 1 or 2.) Plus, notice that one of the towels is plush and large enough to mostly wrap around you! This is a novelty here in Korea – it’s the little things, sometimes, isn’t it?

There are typical lockers and counters inside and you’ll head back down to the first floor to bathe. In the women’s spa I found a lovely area with deep baths and lots of showers. At least 20 standing and even more sitting showers, and they seem well-maintained; I never had a problem with the water pressure or temperature. The hot and warm baths are nice, then there’s a little cove with a really cold tub and a nice cool one (~25 deg.C). The cool tub is over a meter deep and has several different massaging bays as well as 2 waterfall massagers. (Watch out, they’re strong!) There’s a little place to lie down and enjoy the heat, and 2 sauna rooms – one Elvan and stone hot room and one hot humid Hinoki wooden room. The special thing about the Hinoki sauna room is there’s a little tub there too! Finally, there is an open-air bath – a simple, stone pond around 40 degrees with a slatted roof and wooden walls. The perfect place to relax on a cool sunny day!

In the jjimjilbang, there is the normal restaurant, PC room, relaxing areas, singing booths… well, that’s about where the normality ends. Just out from the saunas on the 2nd floor is a beautiful wine and coffee bar (no wine was listed on the menu though…?), bookshelves, and a pool table. The entrance for the health club is here near the sauna as well. Then upstairs is the restaurant and entertainment area (complete with an air-hockey table!) which features colorful paper lamps and entirely Western table-chair seating. At the far end is the GX room where spa patrons and health club members alike can participate in yoga or aerobics classes each morning and evening. Did I mention you can pay for everything with your key bracelet? Yes, even swipe it at the PC room for internet time!

Out in the main area, it’s very sunny and they provide many beds to relax on (similar to those in Shinsegae’s SpaLand) around the traditionally decorated pagodas. The jjimjil rooms available on this 3rd-4th floor area include a salt-light room with hot floor, Hinoki dry sauna, cool room and warm tiled anion room (both so similar to SpaLand it’s shocking), a small sleeping room for men & women mixed, and near the roof entrance an Elvan “body sweating” room. Up on the roof, the swimming pool wasn’t filled for my visit, but I did enjoy a small foot bath in the sunlight.

All in all, I love this spa. If I lived in Jeonju, this is certainly where I’d go to relax and recommend my friends to stay over. If you are visiting Jeonju, it’s not to be missed. The décor is so fittingly matched to the traditional slow-city way of life here that you can’t help but feel at ease. My only complaints (there’s no PERFECT spa, is there?) are that the sun-room main area can be pretty echo-ey and noisy at times; depending on who’s at the spa during your stay you might not have the quietest jjimjil experience ever. (This is compounded by the fact that the sleeping room has merely thin shades to wall it off from the main area and any of the smaller specialty rooms are too warm really to sleep in.) Also, in the baths, the water level was a bit low I think which resulted in a not-very-calming sucking sound from the filter/drain on some tubs.

Considering everything I give this place 9/10. That’s pretty good coming from me!

전북 전주시 완산구 중화산동2가 784-1
Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju, Wonsan-gu Joonghwasan-dong 2, 784-1
Open 24 Hours

Day hours: enter 4AM to 6PM
Adults 9,000  Children 6,000

Overnight: enter 6PM to 4AM
Adults 10,000  Children 7,000

There is an extra charge for going to the "creek," maybe meaning the pool? And they offer monthly memberships and group discounts.

Wikimapia of Spa LaQua

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seoul, Gu-eui dong - Gangbyun (Riverside) SpaLand

After reviewing a post and comments from you lovely readers I found a new 24-hour jjimjilbang not far from the Jayang-dong Happy Day Spa. This new find is called Riverside SpaLand (강변스파랜드) and gets 10 stars on Daum, but only 5/10 on Naver. You can find it just behind the East-Seoul intercity bus terminal (동서울 종합터미날), out exit 4 from Gangbyun Station. From the looks of the building it seems like a nice, large facility. The jjimjilbang shares the building with Sungjin Leisure Sports health facility. Check out the Official Site of Korea Tourism's page about Riverside SpaLand as well.

It encompasses 7 floors with a roof-top area to cool off or catch some rays this summer. In the sauna are the usual hot, warm, cool, and event baths, along with a hinoki wood bath and a walking-track/massage bath. Add two sweating rooms - humid and dry - and you've got a complete sauna. In their jjimjilbang, there are many interesting rooms. There are two traditional Korean sweating caves, one of which is made from wood; first time I've seen this. Then your usual salt, yellow soil (hwangto), and charcoal rooms, pine room, silver pyramid, fresh oxygen room, and an ice igloo. Oh, and my favorite: sleeping caves! With these and all the rest area, you'll have plenty to keep you occupied for the day.
On other floors you can find the restaurant and snack corner, PC room, books, playroom, movie room, sports massage and nail art. Full facilities in addition to the health club make this a great jjimjilbang on paper. I haven't been there yet so if any of you are able to visit, please come back here to post your ratings and reviews. Thank you!

서울 광진구 구의동 593-15
Seoul, Gwangjin gu, Gu-eui dong, 593-15
Open 24 Hours 

Day hours: 5AM to 8PM
Adults 7,000  Children* 5,000

Overnight: 8PM to 5AM
Adults 9,000  Children 6,000
*Children under 7 (Entrance is for 12 hours, 1,000 won per hour after. But if you stay past 15 hours you'll be charged a flat rate of 7,000 for the time beyond 12 hrs.)

Wikimapia of Riverside SpaLand