Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Colorful Daegu

Re: 2013/10/04-2013/10/07

After Seoul, we traveled to Daegu via bus. Now if any of you are familiar with South Korea, you may be asking why would we go to Daegu? Well, I have a good college friend, Colleen, who settled there, teaching English as a second language. The tourist theme for Daegu is Colorful Daegu, which seems apt after visiting. So on Friday, we arrived at Daegu’s bus terminal. After lunch at a pizza place, we called up several hostels. No one had a room for us, so we went with a love motel that was listed online. Unfortunately it was all the way across town and about a mile from the subway. It took us a while to get there. Fortunately, prices were cheaper than they had been listed online. For 30000 won ($30), we got a room with a queen-sized bed, TV with cable, internet, a couch, and a private bathroom with tub (tubs are a big deal in Korea—they mostly just have showers in apartments). Plus they normally had white bread and jam available for snacks (or breakfast). It was quite reasonable, especially if you can put up with the gaudiness, but $30+/day for housing only really starts to add up. We really missed having our van.

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Colleen wasn’t able to meet us on Friday, but she arranged to meet us on Saturday to go to a Korean wedding she had to attend—she was chosen to catch the bouquet. At this point, I had run out of clothes, especially nice ones. We looked for a laundromat and asked around, but we couldn’t find one. So, out of desperation, I threw my clothes in the bathtub with some shampoo and turned on the jets and agitated the clothes. If not clean, at least they smelled better. I hung up the clothes on the various hooks around the room, but didn’t have time to get my nice clothes dry. So Jonathan pulled out the room-supplied hair dryer and got them mostly dry for me.

It has been two years since I have seen Colleen. She looked really good. And I got to give her several hugs.

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Then we went to the Korean wedding. It was interesting. Korean weddings have evolved to reflect Western weddings a bit, but with a strong Korean twist. For example, they have big, fancy weddings, but they are at designated wedding halls. The one we went to was the Renaissance Wedding Hall. Then, instead of a reception, before the wedding, they have the groom stand at a table to greet guests and receive gifts (which are only cash offerings—probably a result of the shopping therapy they do combined with small homes). The bride gets to sit in a salon and take pictures with guests. Then when it is time for the wedding, everyone files into the designated hall (there are several there with many other weddings going on at the same time). Wedding-hall attendants escort the mothers to light candles and to their seats in the front, then the groom walks down the aisle. Then the music changes and the bride gets to walk down the aisle. For the bride, they had these hanging decorations rise up and down as she walked, really a bit overdramatic or corny. After the bride and groom are at the front, the guests are welcome to leave and eat their meal and return as they see fit. As this was a Christian wedding, they had a pastor say a few (actually a lot of) words followed by a trio of guys (groomsmen, I guess) singing karaoke to the bride. When the groom chimed in at his part, the trio started popping up at cues during the music. Very hilarious. Then of course, the bride and her gals had to do their song. At the end, the most emotional part for those involved, is the thanking of the parents, when the couple bows down and thanks each of their parents. Then everyone files out, only to return immediately for pictures. This is when the bride “throws” the bouquet. They only do the toss as a picture opportunity, and a woman is designated to catch it. Colleen was the lucky choice, as she has a wedding coming up. Those who stayed for the whole wedding now get to go eat lunch at a cafeteria in the hall serving multitudes of foods in a buffet line.

DSC06369 The mothers are in traditional Korean garb, bowing to each other, after they have lit the candles and before taking their seats. You can also see the wedding-hall attendants in the orange scarves.

DSC06372 They put a spotlight on the couple. Those hanging decorations along the aisle will raise up and down at dramatic points, like the bride walking down the aisle.

DSC06379The groom singing while his groomsmen jump up and down. 

DSC06383 Thanking the parents.

DSC06384 Oh, and the hanging decorations also “popped” and sent forth shiny streamers.

DSC06396 Posing and catching the bouquet.

After the wedding lunch, we (Colleen and her fiancé and Jonathan and I) went into downtown Daegu to watch a 4D movie. Ended up that they were sold out, so we decided to try another Korean experience: DVD-bbahng. These are places that you basically rent a DVD and a room to watch it in. They have big couches and project the DVD onto the wall. It was a cool experience. Then we went for dinner and had more gogigui. That is where we found that young man passed out from alcohol. After that, we went home to bed, but as we were walking back to the subway, we passed a sock vendor. I was able to pick up some cute lacy socks that go perfectly with my ballet shoes.

DSC06402In South Korea, many towns, especially Daegu, look like Las Vegas at night with their bright lights and signs.

On Sunday, we met Colleen and Leslie and went to their church, where Colleen and her fiancé lead worship for the English services. I guess Christian services are pretty much universal, so nothing to report there. Colleen had told me that I needed to try honey bread, so after the service, we went in search of some. It took us two or three coffee shops, but eventually we found one that had it. Pretty much glorious. They take a loaf of white bread and slice it into 9 cubes and warm it; then cover with honey or caramel and whipped cream. Pretty tasty and highly recommended.

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After that, Colleen had to back to church for the second service. So Jonathan and I went back to our place to get ready for a hike. We had been considering to go to Apsan or the mountain with the giant buddha, but since it was starting to get late, we decided to go to the Arboretum. However, the buses took a while, and I missed the correct stop (phone froze), and Jonathan had misread the schedule of the arboretum. When we were finally on the street walking to the entrance, there was a stream of people leaving the area. Jonathan checked the schedule again and realized it had just closed. About that time, my purse finally decided to give way. The last clip that held on the strap completely gave out an broke off (the other had done that a year ago). Jonathan used the wrist strap on my camera to connect the strap to the purse again. And, to add to the trouble, when my purse fell to the ground, it lost my sunglasses holder. I didn’t notice it in the scramble and the darkness. So we returned to our room.

DSC06411 Since I wanted use of my camera strap for my camera, we eventually just connected both strap ends to the carabineer on one side.

Monday, Colleen was already back working. On our own, we decided to go to Palgongsan (a mountain on the outskirts of Daegu) and hike to the Gatbawi Buddha. It is a 17m (55ft) stone statue of Buddha with a flat rock hat. The trail was classified as easy, but man was it tiring. It was a 2km (1.2mi) trail of stairs, directly up the mountain (not very many switchbacks). But it was a pretty trip.

DSC06418 Hand-carved stone bridge.

DSC06421 A bell at the Buddhist temple there.

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DSC06430 There were hundreds of people praying here.

After we finally made it back down the mountain and back into town, we were pretty hungry and tired. We grabbed a bite to eat and thought we might try to catch the 4D movie were had planned on catching Saturday. They had seats available, and we dished out the cash. It normally costs 36000 won ($35), but kind Leslie (Colleen’s graduate college friend and my acquaintance) had given us some gift certificates she said she would never use. (Thanks, Leslie!) That dropped the price down to something just like going to the movies in States, much more reasonable. The experience was interesting. The 4th “D” is sensory feeds. The seats move in coordination with the movement on the screen occasionally send jets of air at you. It is a bit distracting; but it was a good experience. I think my favorite way to watch movies is still 2D.

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By that time, it was time to return home. We spent the evening trying to arrange flight plans to get to Jeju Island. Over various talks with Leslie, she had convinced us to visit Jeju Island while we there. The island is the top honeymoon and vacation spot in South Korea. It is largest South Korean island, and has a mild climate, warm enough to grow citrus trees. After many calculations and discussions, we decided to fly out of Daegu on Asiana Airlines. I believe that Asiana has the worst airline website ever. I never was able to get it to work. We had to go and buy our tickets at the airport on Tuesday morning. So we left Daegu on an Airbus 320, the first one on which we had ever been. Asiana had filled it completely with economy seating, but I felt like there was more space both left-to-right in the seat and seat-to-seat knee space than typical US carriers.

HL7776-Asiana-Airlines-Airbus-A320-200_PlanespottersNet_232644 Notice the “sharklets” instead of “winglets” on the wings. That is an easy way to tell the difference between Airbus and Boeing.

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