Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
July 14, 2004
Coming up the stairs from the changing rooms the various baths are arranged around a large central pool. The water here is no more than tepid, though there are warmer pools to the right, and one containing almost scalding water next to the freezing cold waterfall pool. A small flight of stairs to the right of the entrance leads up to the second level, where a miniature swimming pool is located next to the door leading to the outdoor spa, whirlpool, and sauna. A walkway leads to the other side of the room and the body scrub pool, massage tables, and three more saunas, including a Ginseng steam one. The saunas are faced by two saltwater baths and shower cubicles which spray water on seven points of the body simultaneously.
Back downstairs try the Jasmine bath to reacclimatize yourself to the colder air before continuing round to the spray massage pool to the right and then the ‘Event Baths’ in the corner next to the waterfall. Inside a faux-cave TV screens show the latest news above a Mugwort Jacuzzi, Chinese medicine bath and charcoal enrichment pool. Sheer bliss for 6,000 won.
The most important cultural rule to remember is to always shower before you get into the baths, and to shower again before leaving. The baths themselves are for therapeutic purposes, not for cleaning your body. Don’t forget to take your shoes off and place them in the lockers at the entrance or to drink plenty of fluids before entering the pools. Finally, I wouldn’t recommend trying to cover your modesty with a bathing suit. If you’re not comfortable with nakedness, it’s probably best to stay away.
The hot springs are uncannily difficult to find from the station, always in sight yet never in reach. Take exit number one out of Oncheongjang Station, turn left, and cross over the first footbridge. Exiting the bridge via the set of stairs in the right, take the first left, continue to the end of the street, and walk through the car park towards the big hotel. The bathhouse is immediately to the right.
From journal A Path Through Busan