An Atypical Chuseok Holiday

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Emma M.

This semester, from September 28th to October 3rd, we had no classes due to the Chuseok (Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival) long holiday as well as National Foundation Day on October 2nd. And then in a pretty atypical move, South Korean President Yoon SukYeol, declared Monday a temporary public holiday to extend the long break! For us, it was the perfect opportunity to do some traveling outside of Seoul! For the first half of our Chuseok trip, we decided to travel to Busan--the second largest city in South Korea and the titular city of Train to Busan. Now, I do want to dedicate a blog post to Busan but seeing that I visited the coastal metropolitan the following weekend as well, I will need a lot of space to dedicate to all that we did. 


Instead… for this blog post, I want to talk about the second city we visited during our Chuseok extended holiday. A city that actually captured my heart! (Already planning on going back…) And that city is none other than DAEGU!


While Daegu is the 3rd largest city in South Korea, a lot of people seem to cast it aside as not as interesting. To be frank, all the Korean students I talked to about my travel plans asked me why I was going there as there is “nothing to do in Daegu.” At this time, we had already booked our tickets so we were going to go regardless but maybe because of the lowered expectations, I was pleasantly surprised!


Daegu is, of course, much different than Seoul. It is a lot smaller and therefore has less residents. The streets and buildings, however, feel much more spacious! Even in shopping districts--streets feel wider. Cafes are usually always in these big, open spaces and never really crowded. A lot more people use cars as well so a lot of restaurants will also offer parking. The public transportation system is limited with only two subway lines and then some bus routes, so maybe that is why cars are more prevalent? There is also so much nature in Daegu which is a nice retreat from city life.

Daegu is known for introducing western style (classical) music to Korea so the city also boasts lots of music stores and performance halls--also well known for the opera apparently? It also preserves a lot of Korean history with medicinal culture (streets of herbal medicine shops) and Daegu modern history street. A lot of museums were closed while we were there but would love to explore more of that in the future. 

There were definitely less foreigners in Daegu too which also meant less cultural diversity and English language. In Daegu, it was more likely than not that menus would only be written in Korean script and when we did visit historical sites (like "The House with the Sunken Courtyard”), there were no English translations except for some titles/headings of exhibits. Honestly, to me, this was not a problem as I speak a decent level of Korean but for those just starting out on their language learning journey--it can be intimidating. 

But a perk of less foreigners and less English friendly means that Daegu residents are usually really excited to share the vibrancy of their city and what it has to offer. Everyone that we encountered were always really sweet and gave plenty of compliments about our Korean skills, appearances, etc. And I was never once made to feel bad for asking questions/for help! Which is important when one is putting themselves out there when learning another language.

Anyways, let me actually get into what we got up to in Daegu!


So we arrived at East Daegu Station (동대구역) early in the morning and stored all our bags in the station. Our Airbnb check-in wasn’t until later in the afternoon so this was the perfect way to still see the city beforehand.


Then we took a 30 min bus to Suseongmot Park (수성못 공원) because we wanted to take some ducks boats for a spin on the water. First, we decided to stop by this airplane cafe that is on the edge of the park. And I don’t mean that this place was just airplane themed… it was literally a cafe inside of a giant life-size airplane. 


You had to climb stairs to get inside the giant structure and the inside of the cafe was presented like an airplane. Even the windows on the sides were airplane windows!


After some fruity drinks revived us, we walked around the park for a bit and then rode the duck boats which was my first time ever! I have always wanted to ever since I saw them in Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video so finally crossed that off the bucket list.


For lunch, we went to this place called Myunjangsu (면장수) and everything we ordered was extremely delicious !! We ordered 보쌈, 비빔밥, 칼국수, and 불고기-- I am still thinking about all that food!

We eventually returned to the station to get our bags and head to our accommodation for the trip… only to find out we were not actually staying in Daegu but the city next to it--경산시--due to some quick booking and not reading all the details…

It was actually quite far so we had to take a taxi for 30+ minutes and the taxi ride was a STRUGGLE. Mostly because our taxi driver had a really distinct accent which I had trouble understanding. He would have to repeat things three times before I understood what he was asking. And then, about 5 minutes left of our trip--his phone just dies and there goes our gps. He asked us if we knew the location well. And me being the only one understanding the conversation was like ??? uh, no this is just our airbnb. Hannah was in the front seat so I delegated the task of pulling up Naver Maps on her phone to help the driver get to our house. Except he then starts telling her to turn it horizontally and turn the sound up which she didn’t understand. Finally I comprehend what he is asking and tell her what to do but when she turns the volume up, the directions start being given in English at full volume. We all started laughing at the irony of the situation but luckily he just needed one right turn before we arrived.


Our airbnb was cozy and homey and I was happy to be sleeping in such a big bed! We then went to a local cafe called Fika Coffee in the Place which had a very nice minimalistic aesthetic although the outside gave major warehouse vibes? We studied there for a bit and then went to a convenience store for dinner because all nearby restaurants closed really early… so we just had a chill night in 경산시.

The next morning we dropped off our bags at Daegu station which was even farther from our Airbnb which meant another taxi driver--with another driver with a very thick accent. He kept asking me if he was taking us to the right station as we were going to a smaller one in Daegu so I assured him multiple times that it was correct.


We then spent the day exploring Dongseong-ro cafe alley and shopping street in Daegu which was a very lively and youthful place. We visited some cafes and shopped around. The weather was absolutely beautiful so it was the perfect day to just wander. We also started on the Daegu modern history street trying to explore and see some murals and old buildings from the Korean independence movement and so on. While walking around, we came across this tea shop with a large mural of a cup of tea on the side of the building--a cup of tea which seemed to have an egg yolk on top? 


It was very interesting and although I could not fully understand the mural’s description, I could pick out the use of eggs and nuts as medicinal tea for helping with fatigue. 

tea shop

We decided to go on and were greeted with an ornately decorated insides with pictures and paintings and poems all across the walls and these comfy sofas. Everyone that was there seemed to be over 60, so it definitely seemed to have a target audience. I wasn’t sure of etiquette at a tea shop like this one so I found a worker and asked her where to sit and she led us to a nice place in the back--she was also wearing a traditional hanbok. 


The tea was served with these cracker-like wafers that seemed to have some kind of herbs baked inside? And the tea was nothing like I had ever tasted. We ate the yolk right off the top of the tea and then mixed everything else up and it was this really refreshing, smooth nutty flavor and a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg? And even though it was warm out, the hot tea really felt like the perfect break from all the walking.


For lunch we went to a Korean restaurant that advertised some traditional dishes on the outside of the restaurant which was a hanok structure with an outside courtyard area as well. We were greeted by a sleeping kitty before we walked in and immediately knew it was our kind of place. We ordered a seafood pancake, some kimchi tofu, and a mackerel stew. 


We also tried this brand of rice wine with chestnuts and I guess from that order, the workers could tell we liked rice wine because the younger one of the two brought us his homemade rice wine!! It was honestly just a kind and sweet gesture. I asked him how it was made because I was genuinely curious (but also to double check there was no milk because Hannah is allergic). 


He also showed us what the rice wine looks at its very beginning stage and this is called 이화주 which basically resembles yogurt (which is why I was so convinced it had dairy!!) It had a pretty sour flavor too. He said that after a 2 week fermentation process, it becomes the rice wine that he had us try first. 

rice w

After lunch we kept walking around to visit some more places including a museum restoration of a house based on the novel 마당깊은 집 (“The House with a Sunken Courtyard”) by 김원일 (Kim Wonil), a YMCA Center and the staircase of 90 steps used during the Korean Independence Movement’s branch in Daegu.

We also checked out this really nice cafe Romance Papa mostly because I discovered it had oat milk (for our dear dairy free friend) but it turned out to be such a cozy, warm cafe that was also in a Hanok building with lots of seating and pretty decorations. We ended up coming in at the most perfect time as there was a room closed off from the rest of the cafe that you had to take your shoes off to enter which was empty!! We all ordered some yummy drinks and shared some cake and talked for a couple hours before our stomach said it was time to search for some food. 


We originally wanted to go to a night market that I had heard about but it seems to close by 7pm on weekdays so we were out of luck. We headed back towards the direction of the train station and stopped at Dongseong-ro again for dinner and the vibe had fully changed! It felt very similar to the Sinchon/Hongdae area at night--lots of young friends and couples enjoying themselves. We ended up getting sushi for dinner and then took a train back to Seoul which took us around 3ish hours. 

A taxi back to school was almost impossible to find but we prevailed!!! And that just about rounds off the second half of (what I consider to be) a very atypical Chuseok break~