Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Saturday in Daegu

On Saturday it was decided that we should spend some actual time in Daegu. Scott and I have only been down there to go to Costco, so we teamed up with Andrew, Katie, and Alice who also haven't spent much time there.

Yangnyeongsi Herbal Medicine Market

The guidebook described this street as a place to go for all sorts of strange old remedies, to find antlers, magic mushrooms, and lizard tails. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but I think we all had it in our mind that it would be some dusty backstreet with cauldrons and witches. It was surprising, then, to find that it was a very well organized road with regular store fronts and regular people. There were also traditional clinics on this street, for herbal treatments as well as acupuncture.

Although that's not to say there wasn't oddities to be found for sale. Deer antlers, seahorses, turtle shells, and dried frogs. Andrew tried to ask one shop owner if he had any "secret" items that can't be sold on the regular market, but I think both the translation and the joke were lost on him.

And the smells leaping out of these shops and following us down the street were intoxicating; so many that I couldn't possibly figure them all out. Ginseng, certainly, but also a number of fragrant herbs and wood smells; they all blended together to become something unique and distinctive to the street as a whole.


We were a little lost out in the street. Apart from the obvious language barrier, I'm not even sure the average Korean would know what all of this stuff was. However, we did find a museum at one end of the street. It appeared to be recently built, with the latest in technology and fresh, clean carpet. It spanned over two floors, the top being for dioramas and videos, mostly, with a few display cases.

Although I'm still not sure what instruction on medicinal properties some of the items on display might offer.

The videos had four language options, and were actually very well done. The latest animation, and perfect English- I was surprised by them. They mostly detailed life and the process of diagnoses in the past, when this was the standard of medical treatment. A lot of the practice is still alive today, with the health benefits in Korean food. They are still using many of the same herbs for cooking; where they originated to prevent and treat ailments, they also happened to be tasty supplements.

The next floor offered a more hands-on experience, ending with a room where we could check our blood pressure and BMI. This floor was devoted to learning about the body from a traditional perspective. I learned the hours of the day that each organ is at its strongest, and what should be done. For example, between 5-7am it is the time for the colon, so that is the best time to have a bowel movement.

In one station, we could figure out which of the four typologies we were (they use Sasang typology, classifying you by elements of your mind and body). I came out as a Soyang type, but I'm not sure how accurate my answers to the questions were because I'm not really sure if I have a "strong waist." It was interesting all the same, and I learned that by being Soyang, beer is very beneficial to my health.

Most of the rest of the day was spent walking around downtown Daegu. We checked out the Kyobo bookstore, which actually has a pretty big English book section: everything from bestsellers, to teen, to a case devoted to Penguin classics. The most interesting perhaps was a screenplay section, where English movie and TV show screenplays were sold as books with both an English and Korean translation on the opposite page.

Free Hugs.

Just when I was starting to get disheartened by the whole H1N1-makes-me-look-suspect-and-untouchable issue, something amazing happened on the streets of Daegu. A small group of university students stood in the middle of downtown with signs reading "FREE HUG." They even grabbed us and pulled us over, we didn't have to go to them. I almost melted with joy; they weren't even wearing surgical masks.

But not all of the hugs of the day were found on the streets...

Dinner and Hookah

There is a restaurant called the "Holy Grill" with a picture of the Holy Grail on the sign, and in going it did indeed feel like coming to the end of a great quest. It is owned by two Canadian guys, and I'm convinced has the best burritos in Korea. Not that I've had many burritos in Korea. The whole place is devoted to the food expats miss so much, and all for a very reasonable price inside a classy place.

After dinner, we went in search of a a hookah bar we'd caught wind of, located next to a bar made from an old bus.

Inside was very dim, but set a relaxing mood by the flickers of lanterns and candlelight. We were seated in a small raised alcove set apart from the main room, cozy and perfect for the five of us.

We ordered a bottle of red wine, which seemed to be the main draw to the place, as I think we were the only people there with a hookah. It was the perfect way to end our time in the city.

Taxi Ride Home

We were slightly mistaken, however, in our methods of returning to Andong. We called a number to get information on the bus times, and a woman speaking perfect English told us that the last bus to Andong was at 9:50. At 9:50 the bus station was very closed, and it seemed a little suspicious when a taxi driver parked outside looked at us and said "Andong?" After some time, it was decided that it was the cheaper option at 80,000 won (plus at 3,000 toll) than all of us finding lodging and morning bus fair.

When we finally piled into a taxi, all five of us, we expected it to be a long hour back home being crushed together as we were. In the end, it took 40 minutes. We hadn't the opportunity of movement until we got home, but as soon as we emerged gasping for air and thankful for the gift of life, we translated on our phones what 140-160km translated to in mph. We knew it was fast, as the speed limit was posted at 100, and his GPS speedometer would give protesting beeps every time he crossed 160. The man had been going 90-99 miles per hour the entire way home.

But, since my mother is probably reading this in horror, I'll leave off with a photo of relaxing ginseng.


  1. What a great Saturday! The ride home could have been better, but you are safe and have a great story to tell. Keep the great posting coming.

  2. *gasp* the fact that you are even posting at all is a comfort... though I may be more concerned about the hookah bar. Is a hookah bar where you breathe flavored oxygen? I'm just simply too lazy to look it up (haha).

    What a great post, and please no dried toads for Christmas!!

  3. Sara: Great pictures and commentary. Sounds like you had a good time in Degu. Larry

  4. xD Hilarious! Okay...the picture with scott in the museum..he looks like he's a star trek senior officer.

    And as for witches with cauldrons in a dark and mysterious disappointing!! Could have been your own Harry Potter saga in S. Korea. :(

  5. It sounds like an interesting day you had in Degu. How does one get the Colon to do its job between 5-7? Very interesting!
    The taxi ride brought back memories of my childhood rides with my dad. Crazy!
    Hugs to you all,