Today is my last day here in my Korean school and a few months ago they asked me to make a small video showing life in the school and Korea in general. They gave me a little prize for making it, which was very sweet so I thought it might be quite fitting to share it on here.
Well, it has officially been two years today since we arrived in Korea and what a two years it has been. Full of ups, downs and speeding taxi’s. We’ve made friends for life and learnt so much. I haven’t mentioned it on here much but for the last two years I’ve been teaching in a middle school that doesn’t have the best reputation. It is officially considered the worst school in Daegu and it has been tough. The teachers working there have tried their best to make me welcome and there have been lots of individual students that have made it easier but it has been tough and I am definitely ready for the next adventure.
There are so many Korean people that we’ve met that have made us feel more welcome than we could ever have expected and we will miss them. I thought this was the perfect time to mention some of the things we will miss from this little country:
- Vitamin shot drinks – these delicious little drinks have cured many cold and hangovers for me. They are intense vitamins and I love them. especially their 25p price tag.
- Korean BBQ – I am still in Korea and I miss it already.
- Korean kids – the younger kids that I’ve met here have been the sweetest, cutest bundles of fun.
- Cheap Clothes – the cheap Korean clothes markets are great places to get the latest fashions for next to nothing.
- Cuteness – Korea is the land of cute. Cute t-shirts, cute puppies, squeaky baby shoes, even cute balls of rice in the local 7-11. This country knows how to do kitsch.
- Paris Baguette – a lot of foreigners have mixed feels about this place but I love it . I’m lucky enough to be near an experimental bakery that always tries delicious concoctions….olive bread anyone?
- Kimbap – mmmmm cheap, tuna kimbap I will miss you.
- Dak Galbi – this was accidentally the first type of restaurant Lee and I walked into and we were hooked. In the large chain Dak Galbi restaurants they will cook it in front of you and let you add lots of cheese.
- Kpop – Korean music is fantastic. I never expected to love it the way I did but it’s fantastic. Lee is obsessed. The only problem is that considering this is music made to dance to, there are no place to dance to it in Korea…come on Korea let us dance.
- Ramyen – cheap, cheerful and amazing once you add your own ingredients. I like buying a pot, putting it on the stove with egg, cheese and kimchi. mmmm delicious.
- Seeing your friends at every opportunity – Everyone here became busier and busier as the years went on but when you only have your friends they quickly become your family. Everyone has been so friendly and it’s felt great to be around so many people. If anything I am sad I didn’t get to know people better.
- Cheap cinemas – We lived in London but looooved movies so we would fork out an arm and a leg for a ticket and some popcorn. Here it’s stupidly cheap and …no one talks. Bliss.
- Cheap public transport – Although Korean bus drivers aren’t my favourite people (I think they get bonuses for every old person they knock off their feet) the buses are cheap and go all over the city.
- Mc Delivery – McDonald’s delivered to your door. I think that’s everything you need to know really.
- Cheap eggs – I love eating eggs but in Wales the price of eggs started to creep up and up so that it became almost a treat to buy a dozen. Here they are sold in bulk for almost nothing.
- Jjiegae – This delicious, cheap soup is a favourite of mine. I have learnt to cook it so I won’t crave it when I leave.
- Makgolli – While writing this I was just dragged to a little room in work where all the teachers were drinking Makgolli and beer. I think that sums Korea up perfectly. Makgolli evenings have been some of my favourites. I hated beer before I came here and although i’m not a fan of Soju , Lee doesn’t know how he’ll live without it.
- Tiny houses – For us coming from London our ‘tiny’ flat is actually bigger than our London one, but most people coming from other countries think they are quite small but I love that we can all pile in, drink together and have a great time. I don’t even attempt to sit on sofas when I visit my friends anymore. I love nothing more than sitting on a friends floor and drinking our supermarket wine.
- Locations in Asia – The fact you are so close to so many fantastic countries is great. Korea is expensive to fly from but it’s still closer than our home of the UK. It’s been weird to just pop over to Japan for a weekend. I’ll miss the accessibility.
- Teachers dinners – These random events that spring up are great. Free, full of friendly faces and a perfect insight into Korean culture.
- MANDU – this Korean dumpling is delicious. Get in my belly!
- The people – I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people while we’ve been here . I don’t think you ever get use to saying goodbye to people but it’s an odd feeling to finally be the one that’s leaving. I am going to miss Korea but i’m too excited for the next adventure to be dwelling on it too much, but when I think of the reality of saying goodbye to more people then I tear up. Thank you to everyone for making the last two years so special.
When you talk to travellers about what they enjoy in other countries it is almost a guarantee that most people will shout ‘FOOD’. Lee and I have lost many hours talking about food and even more hours stuffing our faces. So when I came to Korea I was a bit disappointed with the range of street food available.
Now I feel a disclaimer must be entered here. There is street food and it definitely feels that even in our two years in Korea there is twice as much street food as there use to be. It’s a growing industry. The most popular items you find are fish cake on a stick and tabokki (which is rice cakes in a spicy tomato sauce. Imagine Heinz spaghetti hoop sauce with a ton of chillies thrown in) but these are very much quick stops. A grab and go.
I always felt Korea was missing the outdoor drinking, street food experience. And then we found the bulgogi tents.
Basically hidden down an alley on the outskirts of the town centre is a row of market sellers. The sellers are the only people I’ve met in Korea that are trying to entice you in. Each tent is set up fairly similarly. You turn up, push your way through the crowds, pick a plastic table, take a seat on your plastic chairs and order from the simplest menu around.
The only things served here are udong (noodle soup) and bulgogi beef . You can order a small plate of bulgogi for 5000 won which is about enough for one hungry person or the 20,000 won plate which will feed a whole table. There is of course the obligatory beer and soju that can (and will) be ordered. The quantity of soju drunk here makes me easily believe it is the most drunk alcohol in the world.
I do have to tell you a secret, for me (and I am alone in this it seems) the food isn’t the reason I go. The udong is delicious but the bulgogi isn’t my favourite food. Lee on the other hand would kill a man for this stuff. This doesn’t matter though, the reason to go here is the atmosphere. Everyone is laughing, people are singing and everyone is friendly.
I love this place and I wish I could take all my friends there that aren’t in Korea. If this place existed near my university I don’t think I’d have ever left.
The last time we were there the place did erupt into a cowboy salon style fight. If you have lived or been to Korea you will know how strange this is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slight disagreement in Korea let alone a fight. I realise this doesn’t sound like a selling point but it helps to show you what a interesting , special place this is in Korea. And it isn’t rough at all, this was just a funny oddity. On the same visit we were also offered free cake from a table of men celebrating their friends birthday.
How to get there (MAP)
To get to this place you can walk but we’ve never done that. We head to Jungangro subway station and jump in a taxi. Ask the taxi to take you to ‘북성로 불고기 or Buuk Sung Lo Bulgogi’ tents. It is quite famous with Korean people and they should know where to go. You will be dropped off opposite Daegu Bank. Cross the road and the alley with the tents on it is located to the right of the bank. There is another street with tents on but we are creatures of habit and always tend to go back to the lovely lady we were served by before.
.This place only takes cash , there is a Daegu bank up the road if you forget but it closes at 12pm.
.This place was invented for drinking games. Get those soju lids ready.
Have you been to the Bulgogi tents? What do you think? Where would you recommend going while travelling for a great night market experience?
Ahh autumn in Korea. Autumn is pretty in most countries but Korea seems to have won the race for ‘best display of colour.’ Unfortunately it is just a mere fleeting season. After about two weeks the leaves fall and everyone starts the indoor hibernation away from the cold. All these reasons make the autumn here a must see. Here is a photo essay of some of the things we’ve snapped over the last season in this beautiful country.
Unfortunately because we were inexperienced teachers we were informed that our best option of getting an EPIK (English Program in Korea) placement would be any where but these two places. So we put our thinking caps on, which of course is code for ‘went on google’.
Apart from the two main cities and the island of Jeju there wasn’t much information on the day to day lifestyle of other cities but since they were the next two biggest places we decided it was a toss up between Ulsan and Daegu. We weighed the options such as good transport links in Daegu vs the proximity to the beach in Ulsan and after some sleepless nights decided on Ulsan. We were set. Not even two hours after making this decision we found out from our recruiter that the only likely place that we would get placements close to each other, since we aren’t married, would be Daegu. So we instantly forgot all of our research because it seemed we were now destined to be Daeguians. It was daunting to say the least.
First off you need to know the Daegu basics. Every city has a motto in Korea and Daegu’s is ‘Colorful Daegu’…on a completely random note, my favourite city motto is ‘it’s Daejeon’ because it sounds like an excited game show host or like Jack Nicholson has come smashing through your Korean front door.
The name ‘Colorful Daegu’ sums up the culture, art and fashion available here. Korean people talk about Daegu as the Fashion hub of the country. There is every type designer clothes store you can imagine here as well as lot of material shops and markets. This has also led to the most beautiful Koreans flocking here. Daegu is without a doubt home to the most beautiful Korean men and woman I’ve seen. Well tailored suits and 6 inch heels are an every day occurrence here in Downtown Daegu. But don’t worry as they don’t look down on me for my ballet flats and un-kept hair.
The other thing people say about Daegu is that it’s still very traditional. To me these two ideas of the fashion capital and tradition are in conflict but it really works. You can go to Chanel and get the latest deals or you can travel a tiny bit out of the centre and see an old lady selling the onions she grew on her roof out of a plastic bowl. People in Daegu have stuck very firmly to traditions such as respecting your elders which is nice to be around, if not a little scary at times. If you are on a bus and reading a book don’t be surprised when an old lady physically picks you up to sit down and then takes your bags off you to put on her lap so that you don’t have to hold the weight. They are like pushy, lovely grandmothers.
Something you hear people refer to quite a lot is the Daegu dialect. It is thought of as quite an angry and straight forward way of sounding, even if they are as happy as Larry. I suppose it is similar to the way Europeans think of Russians or Germans. Even when they are ecstatically happy or passive the older Daeguins can sometimes sound angry so make sure you take it in your stride and remember they are probably not being rude at all but just want to talk to the interesting foreigner.
So I thought I’d write a post for those people that might be sat at home and terrified about the fact they are committing to a city they know nothing about. So without further adobe here are five reasons to come to this lovely city we are happy to call home.
1. The Samsung Lions
Before coming to Korea I knew nothing what so ever about Baseball. I had seen it in Goofy cartoons but that was about it. Hearing that Daegu had a baseball team didn’t excite me at all but once I arrived I realised I should probably take a little bit of notice. The Daegu baseball team are called the Samsung Lions and they are the best baseball team in Korea. They have won the championship for the last 3 years and look set to win again this year. People in Daegu love their team and if you are teaching you can always score some extra points by including the team name in your power points. Going to a Korean baseball game is a great way to spend an evening. Through the Spring and Summer people don their baseball jerseys (Me and Lee each have one), head to the stadium , sit in the sunshine , drink cheap beer, eat fried chicken and watch the Korean cheerleaders …oh and they also watch some baseball.
The crowd is electric and everyone is friendly. These baseball games are some of my favourite Korean memories. I’ve even picked up a lot of the rules of the game. If you are planning to move to Daegu or even just visiting I’d advice checking on their website when their next weekend games are at home. Head down to the stadium and pay the 8,000won for a ticket. The party zone normally sells out quickly so if you have a kind Korean to help you order a ticket online you will be in luck. Even without the party zone the baseball is a bargain and a great time.
2. The Food
Daegu may not have the variety that is offered in Seoul but there is still a huge variation of foods to try. If its Korean food you are after (which makes sense since you are now living in Korea) then you are in luck. There is Daegu’s own brand of street food in the shape of Nabjag Mandu , Seomun market which is packed full of delights and then the countless traditional restaurants where delicious Korean food is abundant and well priced. Western food is also easy to find but if you are after a very specific variation of Western food you can sometimes be limited. For example, if you are in the mood for Thai food then you have Pan Asia downtown or Noodleman near Kyeonbuk University so you don’t have to go without but they aren’t around every corner. I do find that this means we enjoy it more when we have it though. If it’s pizza or burgers you are after then you have come to the right place since Daegu has everything from Mcd’s with its legendary home delivery service to the massive burger challenge at Traveler’s Bar and Grill which is a popular expat hang out. I’m not going to lie to you, we go to Seoul just to eat but mainly for the brunches and the new scenery. There are places in Daegu for almost everything if you take the time to look. Now that I’ve moved to Daegu I have also found many useful resources such as the Touch Daegu website reviews and the Daegu Compass. In fact I liked them so much I started writing for them once I arrived in Korea.
The food here may not be as good as home but they definitely fill a hole. My favourite place to eat when down town in Daegu is at the Dak Galbi chain Yoo-ga-nae Dak-galbi (유가네 닭갈비) Here your food is cooked right in front of you. Rice, veggies and your choice of meat are stirred in together with a delicious sauce and the added bonus of being able to add cheese helps too. You won’t be going hungry in Daegu.
3. The Temples
We’ve been lucky enough to travel around Korea quite a lot. From Geongju to Namhae, Ulsan to Gyeongju and we have seen a LOT of temples but I have to admit that in my opinion all of my favourite ones have been in Daegu. Haeinsa is listed as one of the 3 Jewel temples of Korea. It is seen as one of the three most important places in Korea because of its Buddhist history. A 45 minute bus ride takes you out of the bustling city and into the mountains where you can take the stroll to the Temple. This is a working temple and it’s lovely to see the monks tending to the area and praying. This serene and secluded area gives you a real sense of how it must have been years ago. There is also the added bonus that this temple houses the oldest printing press in the word. Wooden blocks called the ‘Tripataka Koreana’ dating back to the 13th century to print Buddhist scriptures. I will write a longer more detailed post on this place soon since it is my favourite temple but suffice to say it’s impressive, especially in autumn.
Not only does Daegu have Haeinsa but it also has Palgonsan. From what I can gather in my broken Korean Palgonsan means Falcon Mountain. It is an impressive sight. This mountain is home to Dongwassa temple and it is a great day out. After you see the temple and lanterns, as well as the largest stone Buddha in Asia, you can always attempt the mountain climb. Don’t be too worried since you can take the Cable car to the top if you don’t fancy the hike. At the top I’d advice you to have a break with some Korean Pajeon (savoury seafood pancake) and some Korean Magkolli (rice wine) and take in the views.
4. The Nightlife
Most foreigners that live in Korea have heard about Daegu and the reason is normally the night life. I have travelled to many cities for nights out and Daegu wins hands down. Because the city is a hell of a lot smaller than Busan and Seoul everything is in one place. You will be hard pressed not to see at least one of your friends on a night out. Obviously there are a lot of Westerners all in one place which can be annoying if you want a quiet night but almost always people are friendly and just out for a good time. Bars such as Go-go’s that provide you with ‘very’ alcoholic bag drinks are a right of passage in Daegu. Just make sure to take it slow as many people in Daegu have experienced a go-go black out. If you want to escape the expat scene you also have many traditional Makgolli bars in the medicine quarter of Daegu or Soju hoff’s (local liquor rooms) on every corner.
If the busy town isn’t really your scene there are also quieter areas to go out in such as the restaurant area of Duryu, the international scene of Keimyung University or the live music bars of Kyeonbuk University area. Daegu has something for everyone.
5. The Transport links
The KTX, Daegu airport and the many bus stations are just a few of the ways you can see the rest of Korea. The KTX is a great fast option to both Busan or Seoul with the train to Seoul taking about one and a half hours and costing 45,000 won or you can take the slow train for three and a half hours for about 18,000 won. These are great, comfy, fast options. If it vacation time, pay day or a special occasion it is smart to pre-book your trains here The rest of Korea is easy to see with buses going to all locations all through the day and night. There is also an airport with flights to such places as China, Taiwan and Jeju. As well as transport outside of Daegu there is a subway system that (touch wood) has never been late or delayed while I’ve been here. Daegu will also soon be seeing the opening of its first tram line. Buses (That you can check here) to get you to everywhere in Daegu are normally my main mode of transport. Daegu prides itself on having so many bus routes that you can get anywhere with only one change of bus. It means that sometimes bus journeys are long but for 1,200 won a time it’s definitely worth it if you are saving the pennies. I will be honest with you that Korean Bus drivers scare me. They drive like they are trying to win Mario Kart but I’ve never seen an accident (touch that wood again) and I always get to my destination in one piece. The old ladies here are pros at balancing on buses. I go flying around the place and they are as still as a rock so it must just be my awful bus ninja skills that let me down.
So there you have it. Daegu in a nutshell. we’ve lived here for almost two years and we wouldn’t trade our fashionable, historical, traditional community for any other.
Have you been to Daegu? What was your favourite thing? Which Korean city do you live in ? Are you thinking about moving to Daegu or Korea in gereral? Would you recommend any where we may have missed in Korea? Let us know.
Happy Travels x