Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gyeong-nam, Tongyeong, Hangnam-dong - Tongyeong Haesu Land

This is a large jjimjilbang and sauna right on the harbor (Western, Seoho-man, just off Jungang-ro Street) in Tongyeong. If you are near the market and the replica of the turtle boat, it is right there. I'm sorry I haven't got more specific directions, but there's a wikimapia to help! I went on a Saturday around 1 pm, but it was not crowded at all and pretty quiet. The only busy part of the place was exercise classes going on on the floor with the weight room.
The baths are pretty typical, hot, warm, event (maybe green tea? I'm sure it changes), and some laying-down small baths that weren't filled when I went. One nice feature is the cold seawater bath, it runs the length of the room, right against huge windows overlooking the harbor, so the view is great. There are also some steam rooms and saunas. Its an older building, and also this being way off the tourist track, there are many people washing their underwear or spitting in the drains, something you don't seem to see in the city saunas. That said, this sauna does have a more "authentic" feel than the big touristy places like Dragon Hill- it is very relaxed and small-town feeling.

The jjimjilbang is nice, with a large wooden floored area to relax, and a salt room, some warm rooms, no sleeping areas dedicated to that but its dark and quiet so its easy to sleep anywhere. I fell asleep for 3-4 hours and I have a tough time sleeping anywhere usually, let alone in public. There is a restaurant with your average Korean fare, and a weight room and workout floor that looked very well-supplied. Another neat feature is the roof-top foot massage walk, its a trail of spiky rocks and things to massage your feet. It has a great view of the harbor, though I am not too sure about the health benefits to feet, it hurts!

I saw many jjimjilbangs in Tongyeong and there may be better ones out there, but Haesu Land is a nice place to spend some hours if you are waiting for the ferry to one of the outlying islands. it is maybe a 10 minute walk from Haesu Land to the ferry terminal.

*Fun fact! When I googled Tongyeong Haesu Land (in a vain search for photos), it comes up as a wi-fi hotspot on the GlobalRoaming website! :)

117-5, Hangnam-dong, Tongyeong-si, Gyeongsangnam-do
Open 24 Hours

Jjimjilbang 10,000 won
Sauna only ~7,000 won

Wikimapia of Tongyeong Haesu Land

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gangwon-do, Sokcho - Cheoksan Hot Springs

Guest Reviewer: Cami

This is a hot springs outside of Seoraksan National Park located in the basement of a hotel with the same name. There is no jjimjilbang – only the segregated hot springs baths – so you get only towels and not jjimjilbang clothes.

The locker rooms are the standard and there are some snacks and drinks available but no restaurant since there’s one upstairs in the hotel. There is a skin-scrubbing area inside the baths, but no massages or other services unless perhaps they are somewhere else. 

Inside the baths, there is a large seated shower area but only a few standing showers. The water is nice; it is easy to tell the difference between "regular" water and hot springs water once you've been to a few saunas and hot springs. There is a hot bath, a hinoki bath, some massage baths, a warm/kids bath, a cold bath and a cold waterfall bath, a steam room, some saunas and a small heated floor area to rest. It’s clean, and the water is really nice feeling! However, there is not a lot to do here except soak, so this is not an all-day type destination like a big jjimjilbang would be. There are also not likely to be many, or any, foreigners, at this place. It was only us when we went. 

*I visited this sauna with 4 girls, ages 8-13, my daughters and 2 friends. All have been to Korean saunas before and are very well-behaved children. I would *not* recommend this place with children, unless you are Korean, as we had the only bad sauna experience we've ever had here. It started when we came in, the attendant in the locker room pointed to a sign (in English) that said this was an "Oriental bath", and no clothes were worn. I assured her (in Korean) that we already knew and had visited many spas before. She looked dubious and, frankly, grouchy as hell. We went into the baths, and showered, and there was a sign to put up our hair (in Korean), so we all did so before getting in the baths. The girls spent most of their time in the warm bath in the corner, playing and floating together. There were a number of Korean children in this bath, including 2 little girls with long, long hair not put up at all. One of my daughters’ hair started to fall out of the bun it was in, into a pony tail, and the locker room attendant came in and yelled at us! All while the little girls with waist-length hair were playing right there next to her, in the same tub. Then later my girls and their 2 friends were playing with the white plastic buckets, floating them in the warm pool back and forth. Right next to them, Korean children had the same white buckets and were filling them and dumping them over the side (my girls were doing this too at first but I made them stop as it wastes water). Locker lady comes storming in again, takes their buckets away, and says nothing to the Korean children running past her, hair flying, with buckets of water. At that point, I was done- we had been there maybe 2 hours and the locker attendant spent most of that time peering in the doors at us, standing next to whatever tub we were in staring at us, it was very unpleasant. I don't know if she's had bad experiences with foreigners before or what, but it really soured me on this place. 

To get here: From Sokcho intercity bus terminal, you could just take a taxi. If you say Seokcho Oncheon, it will be around 5,000 won, about 6 km/15 min.
By city bus is a little trickier from the bus terminal - it's best if you are on the north side of Sokcho, near City Hall.  The link below for Korea wikia on this area states that you can take bus 3 or 3-1 from Sokcho. I found info on both #3 and 3-1, which pass by the Sokcho Ferry Terminal/East Sea port, City Hall, and Dongwoo University on their way to the Cheoksan Hot Springs.

강원 속초시 노학동
Gangwon-do, Sokcho-si, Nohak-dong
Open 5:30 am ~ 9:00 pm *NOT 24 hours!

Wikimapia of Cheoksan Hot Springs*
Very few details are available for this listing yet, and the satellite image is a terrible, cloudy one so far. Let's hope a new one will be available sometime soon!

Some additional links to keep you busy:
Travelguide South Korea - post on Sokcho Beach Area
Korea's Wikia on Two Cheoksan Area Hot Springs

Big News for the Blog

Well, hello again everyone! I have great news: I have recently been blessed with the attention of one lovely reader and fellow sauna-phile, Cami. She has been emailing me reviews of places which she and her daughters visited and I've slowly been putting them together into posts for you to enjoy. 

Her well-written reviews come at a very auspicious time for me because I no longer live in Korea. That’s right – double big news.  As of December 2011 I am back to being a resident Minnesotan and must work on finding guest reviewers to keep my site alive in the coming years. I will also be able to research and post about places I hear of or which have great websites/online presence, but for those tiny secret places, I will look to you... and Cami! Her first post on Cheoksan Hot Springs is forthcoming – enjoy!