I’ve probably mentioned this a dozen and a half times, but I’m obsessed with the beach. And drinking. And fireworks. And so when you combine all three of these things into an amazing festival, it’s like Christmas-fricken-morning. I raved about the Busan Fireworks Festival last year with good reason – it was abso-effin’-lutely AMAZING. Mind-blowing. Life changing. Okay, maybe not. But maybe a little bit.
(Last year’s fireworks…have I ever mentioned I love making gifs?)
Last year, we lolly-gagged prior to the fireworks show, thinking we could just show up when the show started. We had no idea that any viewing point on the beach would be blocked off by the police at least an hour before the show started. So after a bit of delinquent buffoonery, we stealthily evaded security and somehow made it dead center of the beach (albeit, the very back) to view the remainder of the show.
This year, I wanted to make sure we had excellent seats. The group of us debated climbing Jangsan Mountain, reserving spots at a beach front bar or even finding an apartment rooftop to commandeer. In the end, we preferred the beach, insufferable crowds and all.
We arrived at Gwangalli around 1230pm where there was already a decent crowd camping out. There weren’t any front row spots left (security had taped off sections where people were allowed to sit), but we found a spot dead center a few beach mats back from the front. The next 7.5 hours were spent napping, reading and lounging under the surprisingly warm sun (70-some degrees in October? Yes please!) until it was socially acceptable to start drinking (which, in Korea, is pretty much anytime).
We played card games and drank beer while watching crazy ajummas (older Korean ladies) trying to swoop into the teeny-tiniest spots between groups of people who had been waiting there for 7+ hours. And not just squeeze into the few inches of sand between blankets, but legitimately setting their mats down on top of other peoples’ mats and moving strangers’ belongings over to make space. Usually Koreans are all about respect to their elders, but people were NOT down. Words were exchanged, shouting erupted, elbows were thrown, shoes were tossed. Security was even called (and at least 10 of them arrived), who attempted to sort things out (but mostly stood there, dumbfounded) and eventually let the crajummas stay (that’s crazy ajummas, if you didn’t know). It was some hilarious entertainment, to say the least.
The real entertainment began at 8pm, and it didn’t disappoint. It was the 10th Anniversary so we were promised the most spectacular show yet. The theme was [something-about]-love and so familiar love songs reverberated throughout the city in sync to thousands of sparkling bursts of light. Structures were built in the water to project colorful lasers while the bridge launched even more fireworks and beams of light. Like last year, more than a dozen kite-like birds glided through the air with a stream of fireworks trailing behind them. After the 45 straight minutes of vibrant explosions, our ears were buzzing and necks were sore from craning them in every direction. Shit was EPIC, to sum it up.
But see for yourself:
Tips For Attending the Busan Fireworks Festival:
• If you want to watch from the beach (which I highly recommend), go EARLY. Like I mentioned, we went around noon and there weren’t any front row spots left in the middle (the ones far off on the side – which still have great views – were filling up around this time). Have somebody go early and bring a beach mat (and booze) to stake out your spot.
• For beach camping, bring a mat/blanket, warm clothes, beer, playing cards, wine, food, soju, a book and did I mention alcohol?
• For other viewing spots, check out Busan Hap’s “Great Places To Watch This Year’s Fireworks”. There are dozens of beach-front bars in Gwangalli that you can reserve but get booked MONTHS in advance. Same goes with the hotels that have a view. Hostels/Hotels also get booked out super fast all around Busan.
• The streets/shops/restaurants/metro/EVERYTHING is crazy-crowded in Gwangalli so try to do your booze/food purchasing well before. They also stop letting people back into the taped off areas unless you get a stamp an hour or 2 before the show starts.
And because I still preferred last year’s fireworks: