Friday, September 23, 2011

Donghae, Chun-gok-dong - Hwajungwon Sauna

The weather in Ulleung Island turned rough and I had a hard time getting a boat back to the mainland. All the ships were canceled on Monday which caused a slight backup in the number of people leaving on Tuesday, and on top of all this Wednesday, being the last day of the holiday, was booked full. I chose to depart the island to a different city than where I arrived from (in lieu of staying an extra 2-3 days) and that's how I wound up in Donghae... thankfully!

Friends I met on the island had heard about a great 24-hour jjimjilbang and they thought it wasn't too far from the Mukho Ferry Terminal. About halfway between Donghae and Mukho railway stations in Gangwondo, I found the spa that had been recommended to me - Hwajungwon. Firstly, I wasn't even sure of the name and my taxi driver immediately knew what sauna I wanted - large, well-known in the city, I had started out well. Secondly, upon arriving I could tell this place had it all. It boasts a fitness center with yoga, "Wellness Center" and has a large exposed bulgama sweating cave right in the front. So even before going in I knew I'd love this place.

Within the bathing area there are several dry/humid sauna rooms, one round wooden room called the Finland Sauna and another Germanium Sauna (a type of metalloid said to benefit the immune system and combat bacteria). Typical hot, warm and cool baths and shower areas are also here of course. When I was there, this waterfall bath was turned off (but it was later in the evening afterall).

In the jjimjilbang, there's the usual yellow soil, charcoal, ice, lucky stone (geode) rooms, in addition to the large bulgama (fire-pot) sweating cave and another Gemanium room. This bulgama is one of the most traditional ones I've seen lately - it has 2 tiny doors to climb through and several warnings against entering if you have any health concerns. It is VERY hot in here, you've been warned!

Other facilities include men's and women's sleeping rooms, a restaurant, cafe, PC room, singing room, kids play area, sports massage and a hair shop. You can pay for everything inside with your key so you don't need to worry about losing any cash while you're there. Overall, this is a really great place to spend the day or stay the night.

The sports center has a full line of treadmills, spinning bikes, weight training machines, and free weights, and it seems they offer stretching yoga, dance, and spinning classes (probably in response to demand).

Hwajungwon Sauna
강원 동해시 천곡동 878
Gangwon-do, Donghae, Chun-gok-dong 878
Open 24 Hours

Day Rates (Enter before 7 pm) : Adults 7,000 Children* 5,500
Night Rates (Enter 7pm~5am) : Adults 8,000 Children* 6,000
(*Children 3 to 7-yrs old)

Wikimapia of Hwajungwon Sauna

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ulleung-do, Dodong - Haesu Oncheon

Ulleungdo is a lovely, green, mountainy island that even Koreans rarely visit. It has some of the clearest, blue-green scubarific waters to be found in the ROK. Sadly, while I was there it was typhoon-pouring and a little chilly for snorkeling. In addition, my ship back to the sunny peninsula was cancelled so I had to stay another wet day. In order to brave the wind and rain - and clean up after a muddy, soaky hike over a ridge - I spent an afternoon in this little village sauna.

There are some decent showers and a bunch of nice baths. There are medicinal waters which spring naturally in this area, sea water baths, and the typical hot and cool. I wasn't able to find any specific information about this hot spring, but I know it contains a high amount of minerals, probably copper or iron, due to the serious orange patches it leaves wherever it springs out of the ground. Also, there is a small "jjimjilbang" room inside of the wet sauna area so if you dry off a bit you can relax in a less watery spot. It is definitely a run-down little place, not the most spotless sauna I've been to, but it's part of the Ulleung-do experience if you're a dedicated sauna-ist like me.

To find this place, look around the port area of Dodong for any of the several small signs pointing to 해수온천 (Haesu Oncheon). If you fail to find any of them while you're there or don't read Korean so well, start from the port. There are three main streets that parallel each other up the hill - take the one on the far right (north-most) passing by Family Mart. In a couple of minutes you'll pass the Hanil Motel (한일모텔) and Hanil restaurant, you'll see one of those little square signs pointing to the right, into a teensy narrow alley. Walk, walk, walk to the set of stairs and you'll find the sauna on your left.

경북 울릉군 울릉읍 도동리
43-12 Gyeongsanbuk-do, Ulleung-gun, Ulleung-eop, Dodong-ri 43-12
Not open 24 hours, this sauna closes around 9 pm.

Adults 5,000, children 3,500

Wikimapia of Haesu Oncheon 

Pohang, Buk-gu, Jangsung-dong - Pohang Oncheon

I was overnight in Pohang recently before my trip to Ulleung Island - 울릉도 - and took the chance to find a local hot spot. After dinner and some drinks with a friend, I headed up to see what this large oncheon had to offer. It was just an overnight with an early morning, but it was a nice one. I'd highly recommend anyone spending time around Bukbu Beach in Pohang to check out this place. It is large, clean, with all the usual amenities for a very usual price.

Unfortunately, they don't have a website and there's very little information on the internet about this spa. I'll leave you with the couple photos I tracked down, directions & a map, and a teensy bit of info.

Pohang Oncheon is North from Bukbu Beach, it's only a short taxi ride, or you can get the bus numbers 108 or 109 from the rest of the city to the south.

경북 포항시 북구 장성동 1518-1번지
Gyeongsanbuk-do, Pohang, Buk-gu, Jangsung-dong 1518-1
Open 24 Hours

Seems to be 4,000 for adults / 3,000 for children
(I can't remember exactly how much I paid!)

Wikimapia of Pohang Oncheon