Busan Fireworks Festival

Earlier this month a big event came to the beach near my house, the Gwangalli Fireworks Festival or in Korean 부산불꽃축제. I am fortunate enough to have an apartment building that is near proximity to the Gwangan beach with a nearly optimal view from the roof. The view could have been a little better if we demolished Hotel Homers and Hotel Aqua Palace, but that seemed to be a bit much just for a fireworks show. Not to mention I generally enjoy not being an international criminal for destruction of private properties in a foreign nation.

So naturally since my friends were aware of how close I live to the beach they took to liberty to plan being at my house before I announced that I was going to have a party. To paint them in the proper light though, they aren’t as indecent as that sounds, they waited for me to say it was a go until they made their plans…they were more just hoping (I did get cranky at Mina which was a mistake, 미안합니다 미나). I called the party on after some semi-sober rooftop inspections of the view with Mijin, noticing that it was not possible to lock the rooftop hatch for my building (the hatch cover isn’t even attacted to the building), and some temporary worries about the troll security guard that terrorize the foreign tenants of my complex. All that was left to do was to clean the apartment and wait for Saturday to roll around. Why is it that I also feel the compulsion to clean my apartment right before I have a house party that I know will result in my house being 10 times dirty than it was before I cleaned, just to have to clean it again…but I’ll save this for another time.

So the Saturday that the party was on was a normal Saturday on Gwangalli Beach until about 5pm, that’s when things changed. Literally looking out of my window I could see countless people jostling down the street with nearly ineffective traffic cops (dressed to the 9s in the most fancy traffic cop attire I have ever seen) attempting to control the herd. Then a little bit later the peoples started to arrive at my modestly small apartment with only two couches, two chairs, and my bed all in one room. As you can imagine my place rapidly ran out of room for people to sit which meant we went Korean style and sat on the floor. At some point there were upwards of 30 people in my studio apartment, just getting to the bathroom or the fridge meant hurdling multitudes of people while cautious trying not to step on hands or knock over drinks. Luckily, it wasn’t long before it was time to hit the roof for the big show.

So everyone made the trek up to the roof which involves a minorlly harrowing ladder climb to a very dangerous section of the roof top with a fifteen story drop. Also the fifteen story drop is only protected by a wall that is less effective as a protective barrier as it would be just ensuring someones death if they were ever to collide with it, because the wall is oh about 1.5 feet tall. Tall enough to ensure that if your leg should hit it that you would descend head first into the abyss on its far side. After dealing with that minor adrenaline rush it was off to join all my friends and Koreans from the building who congregated on the rooftop to enjoy the spectacle.

Calling this a spectacle is an understatement, I have never seen a fireworks show that could compare to the magnitude or quality that South Korea pulled off. First off the setting is phenomenal! The show takes place over the Gwangan bridge which is covered in lights that constantly change to different colors over time. The fireworks are shot from barges that are anchored in the middle of the bay which allows all the fireworks to reflect off the eerily still waters of the Gwangalli Bay almost doubling the effectiveness of the fireworks when viewed from a lofty vantage point such as the roof of my apartment building. The bay wasn’t the only natural landscape that added to the show, because I also particularly enjoyed how the mountains behind my apartment complex would reflect the percussive booms from the fireworks. All this coupled with the choreographing to music, the shear size, length, and unusual assortment of fireworks that were used definitely created a lasting memory of one the best fireworks shows I will ever see! By far the most impressive pyrotechnic delights I saw were the remote controlled flamming phoenix like fireworks that recalled memories of the Dragon firework from Lord of the Rings and the hanging lantern fireworks that would lazily drift through the sky for distended amounts of time.

The last memorable sight I saw was the flood of humanity that poured like a river down the streets in mass exodus from the beach after the show. I found out later the next week that there were an estimated 1.7 million people on the beach…1.7 MILLION!!!! That is such a crazy amount of people that it is almost unfathomable. Literally the streets were building to building, shoulder to shoulder, chest to back packed for over an hour in all directions. I have never seen so many people at once let alone attempting to vacate an area. Some of my friends and I just sat on that precarious fifteen story drop and watched people flow down the street like they were leaves in a rushing river. Very astounding but made me very glad that I wasn’t down there with the herd shoving along instead of sitting on my lofty perch looking down at so much activity. After that subsided it was down to the apartment for more partying then to go see Ben’s band One Drop East play.


There are loads more photos out there but I haven’t been able to collect them from friends yet so this may be updated from time to time. So if you are one of those friends with photos let me know so I can steal them from you!

Also this was Allie’s last night here in Korea for family reasons…we definitely miss her so…

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