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