Fireworks photos are probably the most boring photos to look at after the fact. It’s one of those you-had-to-be-there sort of things that I feel like photos never are able to fully capture.. But that never stopped me from trying — I must have taken a zillion photos and videos of this fireworks show in Seoul.
Sitting in bleachers near an athletic field, listening to that pop pop pop of fireworks while people ate cotton candy and hot dogs while bathed in a fiery glow was a pretty surreal experience — like we were back home, yet not. All that was missing was a slice of apple pie.
I’ve geographically drifted all over the place in my life so when people ask me where I’m from I have always struggled with how to answer. I was born in one country, but grew up in another. I spent my youth in Texas but a huge chunk of my adult years in California. We have a house in Virginia but are living in Korea.
Living abroad, the answer is clear and obvious. I know a lot of travelers like to hide the fact that they are American because it’s uncool or they think it’s unsafe (I mean really, is that Canadian flag you sewed onto your backpack going to make a HUGE difference in a truly dangerous place?). But me, I could never hide nor want to hide where I’m from, even if that means I’m the only American on a tour bus of foreigners listening to three catty girls make fun of me in a language they thought I could not understand (I could) simply because I said I was from the U.S .during name/country introductions.** Sure the US is far (far) from perfect, and I certainly would never claim it or myself to be better than any other but it’s the place my heart calls home. And the more of the world I see, the more I appreciate what that really means.
BUT let’s not forget the stuffing face and getting boozy part of celebrating the 4th. After the fireworks we walked around Sinsadong looking for a place to grab a bite. The entire area was absolutely buzzing with mostly ‘chimaek‘ or bbq places. The little hole-in-the-wall semi-underground ramen restaurant that we wanted to try was closed so we settled for a Korean style izakaya. Because what would Independence day be without booze and fried stuff on a stick?
4th of JULY FIREWORKS IN SEOUL // A bit more detail about 4th of July fireworks in case anyone stumbles across this page looking for info: If I’m not mistaken there were a couple days of 4th of July celebrations and firework displays in Seoul — one for the folks at the embassy and one on the military base at Yongsan. There are a couple ways that you can get on base to see the fireworks: 1. You know someone who has base access and they get you a guest pass or 2. You have a valid US passport — this will allow you into the celebration area but not beyond. If you’re an American expat living or visiting Seoul then check the Yongsan FB page for details/questions. As for access to the embassy fireworks/celebration — you’ll most likely need to know someone with embassy connections because it wasn’t even open to the military or any government service people. Nice one, embassy. If you want to avoid all of the military base stuff altogether then the best thing to do is go to the National Museum of Korea. Just past the main entrance and up a short flight of stairs is an area that overlooks Yongsan’s athletic fields. This is where the fireworks are set off. // NOTE: Yongsan military base is in the process of turning over the land back to Korea so this information will mostly likely become obsolete. On the other hand, there are a ton of US military installations in Korea — if you are jonesing for some fireworks on the 4th you can pretty much bet at least one of those bases is having a celebration of some sort. The best thing to do is check the public FB pages for whichever base you’re interested in — the people behind the curtains on those pages are pretty responsive.
POZAKAYA GAROSU // LOCATION: 516-11 Sinsa-dong , Gangnam-gu 2nd floor. // COST: about $5 for a beer and about $15-20 for a plate. // DESCRIPTION: “Pozakaya” is a combination of the works “Pojangmacha” — a type of street food restaurant — and “Izakaya” — a Japanese style gastro pub / tapas bar that is very informal. It’s a little bit Japanese and a little bit Korean, featuring among other things sushi, okinomiyake, and grilled and fried foods on a stick. We didn’t look too much at the sushi or more Korean dishes because we weren’t in the mood and instead went for the more Japanese style dishes. Food here is meant to accompany booze and typically the portions are large so that groups can share. // TIP: you can make reservations using the free KakaoTalk app (a very popular messaging app here) and messaging pozakaya2014
**The ONE time in my travels when something like that has ever happened, and so what? It was less a reflection of me and my country and more on their individual prejudices and lame personalities. Most of the time the locals and fellow travelers I have met have been great and/or don’t give a crap where you’re from in terms of judging you as a person. And yes, I have traveled alone as a female. And yes, during the Bush administration. And I spent a good amount of time in France. l