For Your Soaking Pleasure: Deokgu Hot Springs

August 16, 2010

I am a water snob. Even with a Korean bathhouse less than 30 meters from my current living situation, I feel compelled to hop a bus and take a soak in mineral water. What can I say? I feel the difference, just as a wine connoisseur can distinguish your average house red from a fine Bordeaux. I took living in Kagoshima for granted, when I could walk five minutes and be immersed in soothing sulfuric bliss. Now, I just have to find the next best thing.

The east coast of Korea doesn’t receive too much in the way of tourism. Sure, we have the Uljin Snow Crab Festival, but between Ulsan in the south, and Gangneung up north… you have to make an extra effort to find everyday comforts. Such an endeavor I was willing to undertake to enjoy Deokgu Hot Springs (호텔덕구온천). Just head about 10 km west of the famous Bugu nuclear plant and you’ll find a small community of bathhouses… and not much else; in fact, I think they outnumber the homes.

Getting In

Be aware, you have your choice of just using the public bath, or getting a ticket to Spa World. Peak season is more expensive. It’s unlikely the cashier will speak English, but I was lucky enough to get a few words across. In fact, I had to back off and study after my first attempt seemed to convince the lady I wanted a private room (or maybe she just assumed I’d pay for one… not likely). I’ll have to relearn the words for “hot springs only”.

Get your ticket, pass through the turnstile, and follow the stickers on the floor to your respective changing rooms. A full restaurant is available in the lobby, as is an attached karaoke bar. If you need to buy soaps and shampoo, or rent a bathing suit and swim cap for Spa World (required), you can do so on the cheap.

Rules

I have to explain this again? Surely my readers know how to take a proper bath in Asia. No?

Take off your shoes at the entrance. Keep the key with you. Once you enter your locker room, hand your ticket to the attendant and find a locker. Take off ALL your clothes (leave modesty at the door), taking nothing into the bath but your soaps and locker key (though you can take a towel if you wish).

Use the sitting or standing shower to clean thoroughly. Only then can you enter the large baths. But wait! Usually, it’s good behavior to take a bowl and pour some of the water over yourself before entering the bath. At Deokgu, they have special “gourd baths” for this very purpose; do NOT bathe in them – just use the water to rinse yourself.

Baths

Hot bath
My personal choice. 44 degrees Celsius. You want the water to be only a degree or two below scalding. Enough to make you sweat out those toxins.

Warm bath
41 degrees Celsius

Lemon bath
Not a joke. I think the water is infused with Vitamin C. Don’t drink it.

Cold bath
Take a swim

Other facilities

As I mentioned, there is a nightclub and karaoke bar. In the Spa World area, I hear there’s a jacuzzi and waterfall massages. Behind the spa building is a trail leading to a natural sulfuric spring in the woods. I’ll determine whether it’s good for hiking and biking in the near future.

Private rooms are available with baths for three hours at a time. More time can be charged as needed. If you want one for all working hours, it’s 195,000 for a standard room, 330,000 for a ‘presidential suite’.

Access

There is a direct bus from Seoul which departs Dongseoul Bus Terminal at 9:34 AM (about 4 hours). Otherwise, make your way to Bugu-ri or Uljin-gun and catch a local bus for under 2000 Won. They run pretty regularly.

Prices and Hours

Bathing:
₩6,000 during low season
₩7,000 during peak season (7/20 – 8/20, 12/20 – 03/01, holidays)
Open 6 AM – 10 PM

Residents of Uljin and nearby areas can get access for only ₩4,500!

Spa World:
₩10,000 weekdays, open 10 AM – 7 PM
₩15,000 weekends and holidays, open 9 AM – 8 PM (except Saturday, 8 AM)
₩25,000 during peak season

Websites

Deokgu Spa World
Baekam Hot Springs

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