Busan Firework Festival

By far, the most incredible firework display I have ever seen. The wonder of the whole thing started about 2 subway stops down from where we had to get off for the festival; there was military personnel and police 3 stops out from our destination, helping to control the crowds and stagger the onslaught of locals, out of towners and foreigners who had all flocked to Busan for the show. I don’t know for sure how many people actually turned up for the festival, but I’ve heard a number in the millions throw out, and I would absolutely believe it. In addition to the thousands (millions?) of people crowded like sardines into the beach front area at Gwangalli, a few brave souls opted for a mountain view of the light show, trekking down later with soju in their bellies (livers) and contentment in their hearts. Not wanting to trust a dark mountain path with a few stumbling partiers, we decided to go to the beach.

Needless to say, there were bottlenecks of people everywhere; vendors of food, crafts and glow in the dark accessories were turned out on every corner, and that was just in the streets leading up to the beach itself. Once on the road parallel to Gwangalli beach, we searched desperately for a spot to spread our blanket and wait for the show to begin. Other Kat gleefully found an “open spot” and claimed it…before the Koreans around us started laughing and we realised exactly why it was still open; she had sat down over an open sewer hole. The smell, well even the promise of great fireworks wasn’t enough to make us stay. Eventually, we did find a place to wait out the still arriving crowd (the folks in the front had been camped out for hours and were being separated from the late arrivals by police vanguards) and sip on some much needed Starbucks. It may not be Canadian weather, but the nights are definitely starting to get chillier in South Korea!

Finally, the pre-show music ended, and the lights of the diamond bridge lit up, signalling that awesomeness was about to ensue. And it did, for 45 minutes of breath taking beauty.The display included coordinated routines to songs by Adele and Cold Play, a simultaneous light show on the Diamond Bridge, and a moment of jaw dropping serenity when the fireworks they shot into the air turned out to be firework birds that floated through the air more gracefully than their real-life counterparts. As if that weren’t enough, the birds eventually lit up with fireworks trailing behind them to leave a dazzling imprint of themselves against the backdrop of the bridge. The entire spectacle was truly a sight to behold. Though one of the most astonishing things was perhaps the two young men in front of us who were more concerned with taking the obligatory selfie the entire time than in watching the show; I think they saw more of us and their camera flash than they did the lights of the actual fireworks. Oh well, at least they’ll have the pictures to look at?

Having spent the entire time actually watching the show, all I can say is that there aren’t enough words to describe the way the lights lit up the entire night sky, but let’s just say that some of the eyes in the crowd weren’t dry by the end of the display. Of course, those tears of happiness soon turned to slight squeals of terror as we all tried to latch onto each other so as not to get lost in the riot-like crowd departing the beach. In a scene reminiscent of the worst “I ❤ Justin Bieber” fan concert imaginable , we had to hold each other to keep from falling, especially when the crowd started moving. Not only did the sea of multitudes push us along, we had crazy adjumas elbowing out at every corner trying to make room where none existed; not even 2 small children were safe from their antics. We witnessed, in horrified awe, as 2 kids were separated from their mother and were only kept safe by a good guy cop who kept them close to his side as he bullied, whistled, and jostled his way through the crowd to reunite the family.

As if that weren’t enough, when we finally entered a street with fewer people on it,  a few folks decided it would be a brilliant idea to try and crowd their cars and motorcycles onto the already burgeoning roads. It goes without saying that there was a fender bender or two, and two older women watched in delight from the safety of their front gate as thousands of people and a few cars tried to negotiate their way to the subway stop. Whew! Talk about an adventure; and what an adventure it was. Sadly though, I made the rookie mistake of bringing my camera and charger but forgetting my memory card for this particular adventure, so my pictures are all taken from my phone and don’t do justice to the majesty of the evening. Hopefully, you get an idea of how spectacular it was, and can understand why, at every moment, I feel so lucky to be here.

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Military personnel at the subway

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Police staggering the arrivals

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The crowds arriving

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Lights over the Diamond Bridge

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The departing crowd

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Crazy folk trying to navigate the crowds on their bikes

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