Sunday, 29 November 2009

First Trip to Daegu City

Friday

I was on the computer in the living room, typing away in my red, penguin, pajama-bottoms and my knitted, cream-coloured, hooded sweatshirt. It was a Friday, and I was ready for comfort, relaxation, and some blissful SLEEP.

Little did I know, my plans to sip tea, write blogs, and watch a movie were about to change. Ken walked in through the front door.

“How was your day?” I asked.

“Really good…do you want to go to Daegu tonight?” he responded.

Well, that caught me off guard. We were supposed to head out to Daegu, tomorrow.

“I thought we were going tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah, I know…but why not go today? I already bought the bus tickets.”

So that was that. Within half an hour, we were packed and ready to set out for our first official trip to Daegu City.

The beginning of our trip didn’t start off quite as planned. As Ken and I sped towards the bus stop, he asked, “Did you pack your papers?”

By papers, he meant the thirty-or-so pages that I had printed, neatly listing several tourist hotspots, restaurants, and shopping centers around downtown Daegu.

I hated myself.

Where were the papers? They were stacked neatly on top of the dining table in the living room. I had forgotten them. That’s what happens when I don’t have my packing list prepared (as Ken very well knows).

It was either forget the papers or miss the bus. We rushed. We made it to the bus.

***

The bus ride was about an hour and forty-five minutes long. The travel time included the traffic that was coming in and out of the city due to the fact that this weekend was the make-as-much-kimchi-as-you-can weekend. People from all over were travelling to their relatives’ to make a heck of a lot of kimchi (I’m talkin’ about hundreds and hundreds of heads of kimchi).

***

After arriving in East Daegu, we took the subway to City Hall (you know it’s a big city when they have a subway system). Following the map that Ken had printed out, we moseyed around, looking for the first motel on which Ken had set his sights for our trip. His internal GPS system led us to the motel.

I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask to see a room before taking it. When we arrived at the motel, we asked the manager if we could see a room. With a huff of bitter annoyance, he mumbled the number of the room attached to his office. The room wasn’t so great. When we asked to see another room, he was quick to reply in Korean, “I won’t accept you.” When we asked why, he shook his hands, saying again, “I won’t accept you.” He shut his sliding window.

Aghast and appalled, I knocked on the window. The manager opened it, letting it bang loudly against its frame.

“Well, can you tell us where we can find another motel?” I asked in Korean.

The manager just shook his hands and shut his window, again.

That’s when we started to wander around, aimlessly, looking for a motel. As we headed up and down the side streets, something caught Ken’s eye. It was the figure of Super Mario, stretched over some person’s muscular frame. It was Temu’s vibrant, red, Super Mario sweatshirt.

“Temu?” Ken called out.

Temu turned around, and we were surprised to find the Pohang English Teachers, bunched up against a small open window, sipping on some drinks in plastic Ziploc baggies. What a small world (actually, what a small country…) that we would randomly find the Pohang teachers, huddling around in a narrow side street.

This little bar with its window open to the street was called Vinroo, and the place was attracting a lot of customers (mainly foreigners). The Ziploc-baggies of mixed drinks intrigued both Ken and I, and we got some of our own baggies, with the question on the side, “Do you want more alcohol with that?” What place would offer you more alcohol, free of charge, just to gain customer satisfaction? Vinroo.

Our thirst was quenched, but our tummies were grumbling to no end. Temu and Asena (two of the Pohang English Teachers) had been to Daegu once before and recommended The Holy Grill for supper. Man, did we stuff ourselves. This was the first time Ken and I had a taste of Mexican food in Korea (actually, any ethnic food for that matter), and we took advantage of the restaurant. The restaurant was owned by Korean-Canadians, so portion-control was just like home (Canada). Heaps of food arrived on massive dishes, making the evening’s supper very satisfying. Ken had creamy salad, topped with succulent chicken, stuffed into a large, crispy-golden taco bowl, and I had a saucy beef burrito, with tender refried beans, a fresh salad, and mixed rice. This place was heaven.

After eating off every bit of food on our plates, Ken and I decided to retire early, while the Pohang teachers went to dip into the Daegu nightlife. We headed out toward the motel that Temu had recommended to us. When we couldn’t find the motel with his description, “It has red lettering on its glass doors, with a cutesy chime playing at the entrance…and the alley looks like a place where you’d want to die,” Ken and I stumbled upon the Park Motel. For 30,000 won a room, the place was definitely a gem. It could’ve been a hotel (We absolutely recommend it to anyone out there traveling to Daegu).

***

SATURDAY

Today, we were refreshed. With a full day of walking, we headed out toward the famous Seomun Market – the place that my Hyeonseo co-teacher had warned me about. She said to be weary of pick-pocketers and getting lost (Ken laughed when I told him that). However, the place was big. Of the many things we bought (and Ken bargained), the three most special were our velvety-smooth, fuchsia, winter blanket, our mini-Christmas tree (with silver bulbs, ribbons, and lights!), and a full-out, cotton-trimmed, Santa suit. There were three Christmas shops in the market, and when I spotted the suit, hanging at the top of one of them, Ken forwardly said, “I’m buying it.”

Next on our agenda was to attend the dinner that a Bunam teacher was hosting for us.

Ken was buying a cake for the dinner – a fluffy, cream-covered, castella cake, sprinkled with strawberry bits and topped with candied fruits. It was beautiful.

As the employee went to put a plastic knife under the cake, she accidentally pierced the white icing with it. Her hands froze. She freaked out. “Oh no!” she cried, “Do you want another cake?”

Ken laughed, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” and tried to calm her down. The cake was going to be eaten within a couple of hours, anyways.

***

Wow, the Bunam teacher’s home was amazing. Looking like it had been crafted out of a home d├ęcor magazine, the place didn’t disappoint, being the penthouse suite and all. We ate a glorious meal of Korean barbecue, and topped it off with Ken’s magnificent cake.

***

The final ‘to do’ on our list for today – we had to explore the nightlife. As we took a stroll through Daegu’s downtown streets, we browsed in all of the stores that were still open. Who did we bump into, once again? The Pohang teachers. Where? At Vinroo. After sipping down several bags of the delicious cocktails, we all headed toward a sports bar, which had pool-bowling and electronic darts. It was a grand place.

Ken and I immediately headed toward the electronic darts. He challenged me. Honing in the skills I had absorbed from my father, I focused all of my energy on beating Ken. We played four games. In all four, I beat him. I wish I could’ve shown you my scores right there and then. Luckily, I documented the night with my camera. To be honest, I think that Ken’s vision and judgment dramatically worsened throughout the night, thus affecting his dart-throwing skills.

Finding our motel at the end of the night was a little difficult. No one could respond to Ken’s efforts as he tried to find our motel, shaking our room key at couples and asking, “Do you know where this is?” Unfortunately, the name of our motel wasn’t on the keychain, and people must’ve been confused and a little scared. Using a skyscraper as a landmark, we eventually took a taxi to the nearest recognizable place near our motel, and finally found it.

***

SUNDAY

It always seems like we set ourselves up for consequences when we head to a big city

At our motel, our brains and stomachs just couldn’t catch up with real time. We had to take the next bus back to Andeok. It was such a nice release though, to have walked through the streets of a big city, to have smelled all of the tantalizing and horrible smells that it had to offer, to have accessed the lively outdoor market, instead of our tiny little convenience store in Andeok (we still love it)…

Big cities. They’ve done us in again.

What a great weekend.

- Jess

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