Branching Out

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Friday, March 23, 2012

Today (or rather tonight) was the start of my first trip outside of the Seoul/North-Western South Korea area. I will be spending this weekend with a few friends in Daegu (대구). Daegu was South Korea's fourth largest city (third if you counted Incheon as a part of Seoul, which technically it wasn't, but that was like counting Dallas and Ft. Worth as two separate cities), and lay on the county's main train artery from Seoul to Busan. Daegu was known for... well... really nothing. The city itself didn't have any huge cultural or historical sites, and the only reason I came to Daegu for the weekend was to play in a disc golf tournament on Sunday.

I left for Daegu Friday afternoon, right after work. I didn't have trouble getting a train because I left before 5pm, but the three friends who were joining me for the weekend had some problems. Even at the very beginning of spring, it was hard to get trains on Friday or Sunday night in Korea. Along the main Seoul to Busan line, I'd say you really had to book at least two weeks in advance if you wanted to leave at a reasonable time, although it was often possible to get last minute standing-room-only tickets.

You could also go to the station and play train ticket roulette. In this game, you stand at an automated ticket terminal. First, you buy the earliest available ticket (possibly two or three hours away), then you spend the time you're waiting punching repeated ticket searches into the terminal until someone with an earlier, better ticket cancels so you can buy that one then cancel your 2-3 hour wait ticket. Repeat until you've got a ticket with only an hour wait, or until your train comes. There was a small cancellation fee every time you switched to a better ticket, but it was worth it to me to save a couple of hours of waiting in a train station.

I didn't have to do that today though. I arrived in town on a convenient train late in the evening and met a friend who was working at an English hagwon in the city. She finished work late, not unusual for hagwon employees, and it was around 10pm when we met for dinner. As I walked over to meet her, and even earlier that night when I had walked from Daegu station to my hotel, I noticed that Daegu seemed like a ghost town. I had booked a hotel just a few blocks from Daegu's main nightlife area, and I walked through quite a bit of that part of town, but almost no one was on the street.

At dinner, my friend informed me that everything in Daegu shuts down by 10pm for some reason, even on Fridays. In fact, the first restaurant she wanted to go to had already closed. Instead, we ate at The Holy Grill near the Banwoldong metro station. It was a delicious fusion restaurant serving British, American, and Mexican-ish dishes, with a smidgen of Mediterranean and Korean flavors.

After dinner, I went to the station to meet a friend who had come on one of the late trains, arriving around midnight. We headed straight for the hotel to get some sleep so we could wake-up early and get out to the nearby mountains for a morning hike. Hopefully Daegu will stay up later on Saturday nights than it did on Friday.

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