Now that the SNU language program’s fall semester has ended, it’s time for me to play catch-up with this blog. On October 6th, I went to see the annual Seoul International Fireworks Festival with one of my language partners. The festival consisted of four 20-minute shows, by Italy, China, the US, and South Korea in turn, with the fireworks being set off over the Han River by Yeouido. They also play music along with the fireworks, and the best place to both see and hear the show is in front of the 63 Building. Of course, about a bajillion people attend the festival, so if you want to get a good spot, you have to get there super early. We didn’t do that, so by the time we got to a couple of subway stops away, where we were supposed to transfer to Line 5, the station was so packed that we decided to bail out and just walk the rest of the way (about 45 minutes).
We arrived just a couple of minutes after the fireworks started (we could hear the booms echoing around us as we got closer), and first went to stake out a position on the Wonhyo Bridge, which is actually pretty close to the 63 Building. We got lucky enough to stand next to the railing, which gave us a decent view. The fireworks were pretty great – probably the most impressive I’ve seen in person, particularly in terms of sheer quantity – although we couldn’t really see the smaller fireworks that stayed near the ground/water. We stayed on the bridge for the first two shows, then decided to try our luck moving down to the river. Making it through the crowd of people between the main road above the park and the bike path down below was a nightmare (people were sitting even where a pedestrian path had been marked), but surprisingly once we made it down to the bike path, there was plenty of room and not much of a crowd until past the Wonhyo Bridge.
Because of the increasing crowd between the bridge and the 63 Building, we just stayed under the bridge to watch the rest of the fireworks. The bridge supports were kind of in the way, but we still got a pretty good view of the fireworks just above the water; staying on top of the bridge would have been much better for seeing the larger fireworks. We started to leave just before the end of the fourth and final show – South Korea, naturally – hoping to beat some of the going-home crowd, but not to much avail. We walked with the crowd for much of the way until the bus stop near the IFC Mall. There, we managed to grab a bus that would take us to Sindorim Station. As it turned out though, the traffic (compounded by the swarms of pedestrians) was so congested that we might as well have just walked there – it took us well over an hour to get to the station. After that, we had to take the subway, of course, so it was nearly midnight when I got home. All in all, a 2 1/2 hour journey that in normal circumstances would have taken about 50 minutes. I don’t know if I’d go to the festival again in the next few years (assuming I had a chance to), since navigating the crowds was a bit of a pain, but it was definitely worth seeing at least once.