If someone had asked me that when I arrived 12 years ago, I would have substituted Seoul (where I was living a the time) for Busan. When I first arrived in the ROK, I soon became versed in three facts about Daegu by expats and Koreans alike:
1: Daegu is hot. It taps out higher on the thermometer than any other place on the peninsula.
2: Daegu has the hottest women in Korea. Me the skeptic living in Seoul at the time, said "BAH, I don’t believe it!"
3: Oddly enough, I was told that it's where all the apples are grown. Of course, what is available for the expat in 2010, probably wasn’t even thinkable in 1998. So, enjoy them apples.
Well for the first time in 12 years I popped my Daegu cherry. Daegu Pockets, which is Daegu's equivalent to Busan Haps is also an organizational group that brings expats and Koreans together to enjoy what Daegu and the surrounding area has to offer, had a bullfighting and wine tunnel tour which I participated in this past weekend.
This wasn’t bullfighting with the matador, red cape and questionably effeminate attire we usually see, but two massive beasts locking horns and butting heads. For the squeamish I can relate – but for the sports and gambling enthusiasts it may be the thing for you. Sitting in an arena filled to the top with avid bullfighting fans is interesting. Some of the fights were forty minutes some less than five. A couple of instances, a bull refused to fight and was disqualified, and in another instance, at one point, I would have preferred the bull to give his handler a stern prodding for all the ass-slapping it had to endure.
The wine tunnel tour was down in the valley of Chung do. They primarily make persimmon wine. I have yet to acquire a taste for either the hard or soft version of this fruit, but quickly came to appreciate the wine version of it. The tunnel offers free samples, (albeit rather small) but just enough to whet your taste buds and possibly, as I did, go ahead and buy a few bottles.
Daegu itself is not unlike many other Korean cities. It is considerably smaller, but it was nice to drive on wide roads that were not terribly over-populated. The nightlife, is not unlike that of Busan or Seoul. In fact, with a small faction of military personality there, it was reminiscent of Seoul. Bars like Ping, Urban (which had a very tight cover band) and Who’s Bob, all reminded me of the glory days I once had in Shinchon and Hongdae and occasionally in the neighborhoods of PNU and KSU. Oh, and before I forget, GoGo Vinyl, a tiny little shop that will make whatever cocktail you want- even letting you sample if you wish it stronger or not, for the meager price of around 5 thousand won, IN A BAG! Yes, that’s right, a Capri sun beverage for all the drinkers out there. And despite the signs on pub doors saying no outside drinks, if your lady friend or travel pal has a backpack, just slip the baggie in and no worries. Bars don’t really seem to mind though as long as you are buying something.
For the weary traveler ready to crash for the night or day, depending on your stamina. I know that the budgets of an expat are tight in many cases, and many like myself indulged in the cheaper accommodations for financial reasons or cultural experience, and they aren’t that shabby. In 98 we didn’t have those added perks of internet and widescreen televisions. If you wish to splurge then I recommend staying at some of the higher end places. This fella enjoyed a weekend in the Novotel City Center in downtown Daegu. A fine breakfast buffet, free parking for those who own wheels, and superb lodgings. All the pleasures of shopping eating and drinking were but a mere hop, skip and a jump. And for the donut and coffee loving people, there are SO many donut and coffee shops in Daegu, from the run of the mill dunkin donuts to specialty topping in other venues.
Daegu is a plausible reason to excuse yourself from the Sunday pub quiz at Starface, as I found out, not only for myself, but a few other Busan expats enjoying what Daegu has to offer. You know who you are, and don’t worry, I won’t judge you.
If your Korean is up to snuff, check out www.?????.kr
Photos by Shannon Stevenson