Tag Archives: Hiking

A weekend in Daegu

To see something more from Korea than just Seoul I decided to go to Daegu, the 4th largest city in Korea with 2.5 million people. All the lab mates I told about going to Daegu just asked: why? It felt like to them there is nothing outside of Seoul that is worth a trip. My reasoning for Daegu was that (1) it was not Seoul and (2) had cheap flights to Osaka where I planned to go next.
Unluckily, a typhoon destroyed large parts of the Kansai International Airport, which is on an artificial island in the bay of Osaka the weekend before my flight. Some airlines resumed some flights, but it didn’t look like Air Busan, my airline, would do so. I had to find a different solution to get to Osaka to meet up with my friends. After about a day of searching, discussing, and comparing the solution was to fly from Daegu to Fukuoka and take the train to Osaka. So I booked my flight and started the trip to Daegu.

What struck me first in Daegu was the rare English translations all over town. In Seoul, all subway stations and most stores or restaurants had some kind of basic English translation available. In Deagu I really had to step up my game in reading Hangul.

My hostel, Daegu Midtown Hostel, was right in the heart of the city, so I started exploring the area and passed by Dalseong park which also contained a small zoo. One of the most depressing zoos I have ever seen. Giant owls, eagles, vultures or wolves in tiny cages, some not larger than 10-12 m². At the break of dawn I went to the Seomun night market, expecting something similar to the night markets I know from Southeast Asia. But this one was different. The food stalls were selling premium street food, from beef skewers to fried shrimp to seared sushi.

The last stop for the night was the International Jazz Festival, where Jazz bands were playing all week for free on a stage in the south of Daegu. On my way there it started to rain a little bit. Just enough to make everything wet but not enough to stay inside or wear a rain jacket. As I arrived at the stage the chairs were mostly empty, just a few people with ponchos or umbrellas faced the drizzling rain. I walked up to the middle of the seating area and went for a chair, when a Korean woman rushed towards me and started talking to me hastily. I did not understand a word, she did not speak any English, but what I got was that I should not sit down on this chair. Because it was wet. I pulled out my backpack rain cover and used it as butt protection. After a little while the rain became more than a drizzle, so I thought about either staying and getting a little bit wet, or seeking shelter in a nearby place, when the same woman came to me with a poncho. So I stayed a little longer and enjoyed the quite good music before I decided to give back the poncho and go back to the center.

The next day I decided to go hiking on Mount Apsan, even though the raid had still not vanished and the clouds were hanging deep. But I was full of hope to get a nice view over the city from the viewing platform. When I crawled further up the mountain the clouds were thickening and at one point, maybe around 100 meters below the peak, I was completely within the clouds. Left and right I could only see a few meters, and walking along the ridge with drizzle and wind was a different kind of fun. Luckily one I reached the viewing platform the clouds were already breaking up, and giving me at least a partial view of Daegu.

About the nightlife there is not much to say. The center has lots of bars and clubs, something for every taste, bur nothing extraordinary. As I had to check out at 10:00 the next day I decided to go back early and get a good nights sleep before heading for Japan. But boy, did I not know how much I would need it.

Korean hiking

Stereotypically, I was told, Koreans are going hiking in the mountains on weekends. Fully equipped with the latest outdoor gear they would climb everything from a small hill to the rough mountains. I could not really believe it until I went hiking on Sunday morning. I was waiting for a friend at a subway station where hordes of elderly people in the shiniest outdoor gear were rushing by. The subway to Suraksan station was filled with them. Backpack with water supplies for several days, hiking boots for alpine tours, windbreaker, sun hat, everything. And I thought I am a preparing person. When we started to walk from the subway towards the hiking trail we passed numerous outdoor shops offering discount gear for those who are still in need of some more equipment. Luckily, we had all we needed. A big bottle of water, some crackers, and a juice-pack filled with soju to celebrate at the peak of 600-something meter high Suraksan.

We started hiking up the well maintained and comfortable hiking trail, which even had a air pressure shoe cleaning station at the entry gate. To avoid the masses we decided to follow the routes less taken and ended up crawling small pathways up the mountain. Sometimes we hit the main trail and had to follow the stream of hikers uphill. It was impressive how those who could be my grandparents were still fit enough to hike up the quite steep and partially slippery trail.

The closer we got to the top the steeper and narrower the trail became. Some parts were even replaced by stairs to make it easier. The best views were from large rocks along the way, where sometimes you had to climb up using tiny support steps carved into the stone and rappel down with ropes. Finally something that was somewhat challenging and required to be attentive to not fall 20, 30, or even 50 meters deep between the rocks. The reward for all the climbing was an impressive view across parts of Seoul. Skyscrapers between mountains as far as the eye could see. All just one big city. The perfect activity for a Sunday and a nice 2-3 hour workout to get to the top, and enjoy the peak-soju.