Thursday, February 20, 2020

Korea Adventures: Our Trip to Paradise (water park, that is)

Sometimes you just can’t find a good enough answer to the question “Why not?”.

That’s what happened the other day when our homeschool group had a field trip planned to Paradise Dogo Spa, a water park and spa built on natural hot springs about thirty minutes from here.  I made the mistake of checking it out online with the kids looking over my shoulder, and immediately they started in with the whole, “Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease, can we go?”  It turned out there was a 50% discount for military off the ticket price!  Bonus: it was an easy thirty-minute drive from my house.  

Why not?  I could think of no good reason.

We ended up enjoying it so much that we went back two weeks later, this past weekend, and when the kids asked if we’d go again, I told them honestly that I plan to!

What’s so great about it?  

— There is so much to do! It truly is a spa/ water park!

There is a large indoor section that includes a jjimjilbang, or traditional Korean spa, located directly by the locker and changing rooms.  But for those who prefer to keep their bathing suits on, there are several large pools mostly interconnected, with different water settings.  There are “neck streams” designed to soothe a home neck muscles, and pools with a variety of jets.  There are little fountains and waterfalls, and areas to swim.  A shallow wading pool has a frog slide for the kiddos.
There’s also a separate area where for 5,000 won extra, you can pay to put your feet in the water with kara rufa fish that eat the dead skin off your feet.  I did this on my second trip to the spa, as it was something I’ve been curious to try since coming to Korea.  It took about half a second to realize that the sensation of dozens of tiny fish swarming my feet and nibbling them was not for me! 

The indoor pools connect through little waterfalls to the outdoor lazy river, or you can also walk through doors to the soaking tubs, interestingly called “Event spas” according to the signage.  Toward the back of the property, there are traditional style soaking tubs.  These reminded me of the nursery rhyme, “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub,” especially when sitting with my kids in it.  
The other “event spas” have different colored and scented water.  For instance, there was a peach one and lavender, and an olive green one that the sign said was mugwort, which looked like something out of Harry Potter, but I suffered no ill effects.  In fact, I felt a little like an Easter egg, soaking in the different tubs, and though the sign warned of the possibility, none of the color stayed on! Whew!
Also, can I just say, lazy rivers are usually my favorite part of water parks anyway, but a heated lazy river?! YES, PLEASE!  When the tubs got to feeling a little too warm, we’d cool off in the river, which was not too cool!  Besides, walking between the pools through the chilly winter air made everything feel warm by comparison!
The lazy river wraps around a kids’ area with its own soaking tub, slides, and fountains.  There is also a wave pool that the kids enjoyed playing in (while I coasted in the lazy river or watched from an “event spa!” Ahhh, the good life!)  There is also a larger water park area with bigger slides and sprayers and fountains, but it was blocked off and not running either day, probably because I went on weekdays when it was not very crowded.

— It’s so family-friendly! 

I’m always on the lookout for things all my kids can enjoy, especially since we cover such a wide span of ages.  There were so many things for the kids to do, and plenty of attentive lifeguards.  They have a policy that requires kids under a certain height to wear a lifejacket regardless of swimming ability, and everyone who goes in the wave pool has to wear one as well.  They are rented for 5,000 won each. It might seem a little extra, but honestly, it’s nice not feeling like you have to worry about your kids every second.  

— There are plenty of food options.  Outdoors there are two snack bars, including an “Aqua Bar” where you can stand in hot water while you eat your lunch or enjoy a beverage.
 Our first trip there, my kids shared a cheese pizza and French fries there, and the novelty made it really fun for them.  I couldn’t read everything on the menu because it’s in Hangul, but I was able to read “cheese pizza,” and not gonna lie, I’m still high-fiving myself.  

Indoors, there are more options, including traditional Korean fare, and most is written in English as well as Hangul. 
I was even able to order sprout bibimbap.  If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know that my hunt for vegetarian options in Korea has not always gone so well!  There are also cafe options — coffee and tea beverages, and small desserts like macarons. Mmmm, macarons...

—  They think of everything!  You don’t need to take anything with you besides your bathing suit.  They provide towels (though, just so you’re prepared, these are Korean towels, aka “hand towels,”  or not big enough to wrap around your body unless you’re a toy poodle).  But there is also shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in the showers, as well as lotion, cream, hairbrushes, combs and hairdryers by the mirrors.  What really impressed me, though — maybe more than it should? — was that plastic bags were provided for wet bathing suits!  

— Bonus: I had some Google Translate fun.  You should know how much I love this.  I didn’t even know “temperatureism” was a word.  Is it??
Good to know if you go:

— Your entrance ticket has number that coordinates with a shoe locker.  That locker has a bracelet that will also lock and unlock your clothing locker (same number).  You wear the bracelet for your entire stay and use it as a scanner for all your purchases once inside the spa, including food.  When you leave, you pay the balance for everyone in your party before you’re able to retrieve your shoes.

— You do have to pay for the extras.  For instance, if you want to use some spa services like a facial, you’ll have to pay more.  As I mentioned already, under a certain height, life jackets are required regardless of the child’s swimming ability.  They are also required in the wave pool, even for adults, and you do have to pay more for them.  For a day full of water fun in the middle of winter, I felt like the prices were reasonable.

— Locker rooms are separated by gender.  This is pretty strict.  When I went with fellow mom friends, an attendant took our boys off in the other direction and walked them through the locker room, had them put their clothes away, and helped them get their bracelets, too.  A couple of the boys were under five.  I’m not bothered by this, but I mention it because I know some Americans feel uncomfortable about being separated from their kids.  However, it should be noted that while dressed modestly in public, Koreans are fine walking around their respective locker rooms in the clothes that God gave them.  This makes sense since the jjimjilbang is connected to the locker room and you can see into it if, for instance, your locker is close to that area or you use the bathroom before heading into the water park area (always a good idea, IMO!)  Please, honor their culture and customs.

— I’m not listing entrance prices because to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what we paid per person.  We conducted our transactions using our translation apps, and as usual, some information was not conveyed.  I’m pretty used to that by now.  I can tell you that it averaged out to around 20,000 won per person on a Friday morning.  Prices vary according to the time of day, and the day of the week, etc.

— You can search “Paradise Spa Dogo Asan” in whatever navigation app you prefer.  I used Waze, and a friend used Naver.  We both got there with no issues.  In fact, it was one of the easier drives I have done in Korea, with signage even in English very clearly marking the way as well my navigation assistance.

So now you can see why I loved it so much!  And I can’t wait to go back!
{While you’re here... check out more of our travel around Korea!}

— Our trip to the toilet museum in Suwon
— Busan bucket list about favorite spots in the city where we lived for two years
— That amazing park in Ulsan that I still miss

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