For the past 25 years, Ko Jeong Bae, president of Sanbangsan Hot Spring Spa, dedicated his time to finding a way to develop a mineral hot spring in Jeju. He believed in the healing powers of mineral rich hot spring water and was determined to create a place for guests to come and be healed. It was not an easy task, however, as many doubted that Jeju had the capacity for hot spring development. A famous Japanese hot spring expert predicted that, due to Jeju’s unique geological features, one would need to dig as far as 4,000 m to strike a hot spring. Developers were understandably wary of the risk due to the steep price tag of 1,000,000 W per meter dug in the rocky volcanic soil.
Even against adversity Ko Jeong Bae continued in his efforts, weathering many failed attempts to find mineral springs. At last he succeeded in tapping ground water and realized his vision of a healing hot spring for the people of Jeju on the beautiful south coast of the island.
The Sanbangsan Hot Spring Spa is a sauna like no other on Jeju. Water from deep underground is pumped into tubs for soaking. This ground water is rich in minerals making for an unusually revitalizing bath. The hot spring spa is a great place to refresh the body on a lazy afternoon.
The sauna is similar in style to most others in Jeju, where the procedure is to purchase a ticket (11,000 W) and enter the locker room, which, like the bathing facilities, are divided by gender. Snacks, clothing, beauty products and spa services, including massages and scrub downs, are available for purchase from the front desk. Lockers hold clothes and valuables while bathers enter the main sauna room. Bathers should shower with soap and wash their hair, tying it up in a towel, before venturing to the pools.
Then the bather is ready to soak in the pools and sweat in the dry sauna for as long they desire. When finished, bathers must do an additional washing at a small vanity area where one can complete all their cleansing and beautification tasks. Then, back to the locker room to finish up the regime with the complementary Q-tips, hair dryer, comb, facial toner and lotion. Before reentering the world, spa goers can relax on benches and have a snack while watching television in the warm, comforting spa lounge.
The unique aspect of the hot spring spa is the pool of mountain water. At first, the pool seems uninviting; lukewarm with a greasy film on top and a sulphuric smell. The bottom of the one meter deep pool is coated in rust and mineral deposits. After sitting in the pool for just a few minutes the skin starts tingle in respond to the minerals in the water. If the body is held still, tiny bubbles form all over. The water is so heavy that the body floats very easily. The sensitive skin of the face stings when submerged in the water. A soak in the mineral laden pool is definitely unique and invigorating.
The water is purported by the spa to increase circulation, lower blood pressure, and prevent heart attacks. The main element present in the water is carbon dioxide, which causes the capillaries to expand, providing greater blood flow to the skin tissue. There is a chart on the sauna wall, in Korean, listing the recommended bathing schedule to treat different ailments. Vary time between the hot tub, the mineral rich pool, the cold pool and the sauna for a complete experience.
Carbon dioxide is also released into the air above the pool, causing a high concentration to be inhaled by the bather. Symptoms can include disorientation, dizziness, and light headedness. The bather is in no danger, however, as simply leaving the pool and relaxing in the hot tub or lounge will quickly remedy the symptoms.
The hot spring is a favorite place for touring groups to clean up after climbing Halla Mountain and would certainly provide a relaxing and cleansing finish to any active day. To beat the crowds, arrive early and leave before 4 pm. The hot spring area is fairly large and can comfortably accommodate about 300 bathers at a time.
To get to the Sanbangsan Hot Springs Spa from Jeju-si take the bus to Jungmun, then take a taxi down the 1132 highway towards Sanbangsan. The spa is 500 m southwest of the Doksu intersection. By car, take Highway 1135 to the 1132 intersection the take the first right, and the sauna will be on your left 100 m down the road.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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