It was the Ramadan of 2014. We just got finished with our first year of Korean Government Scholarship Program, which provides an in-depth Korean language and cultural experience, and were now ready to say our farewells. You see, in KGSP, after spending one year together with a large number of foreign students studying Korean language, culture, travelling together – the scholarship holders have to embark on their solo journeys of graduate studies from there onwards.
Ever since we arrived to Korea, we wanted to visit the city Busan. Busan is the perfect blend of Metropolitan and nature. Bursting with nature and famous beautiful beaches including Haeundae and Gwangalli, historical temples, seafood especially at Jagalchi fish market, crazy nightlife, it has a lot to offer to any enthusiast tourist. Autumn was approaching and if we planned on having some beach time, the only option we had was to visit Busan now. It was only about an hour away from Daegu, city where we lived, and we were all together for the last few days. There was no time to waste. So, me and my gang (seven friends from 6 different countries 😀 ), we suddenly decided on a crazy trip: a one night trip to Busan right there and then!
We packed our bags, booked our tickets online and then rushed for the bus station that was an hour away. Since it had already been an year in Korea, we were well aware of the fact that if the bus time is mentioned to be 12:04, you will never catch your bus if you reach there at 12:05. Yes, that’s how punctual I found South Koreans to be in general. We usually never got late but this crazy plan had to have all kinds of adventure packed in a total time of 15 hours trip. Five of us arrived just on time, running crazily from the subway station to the bus station but two of my friends lost their way in the crowd and hence, we had to request the driver to just wait a minute or so. We felt embarrassed because a bus at full capacity got late by about a minute at least. We did notice a couple of stares too but the driver was nice enough to let us have a minute, maybe because of us being foreigners. A big thanks to the bus guy! 😀
As we reached busan, the sun was already setting. That meant we had to find a restaurant for breaking our fast quick. We decided to check out a Moroccan restaurant Casablanca situated right beside the beautiful Al-Fatah mosque. It was perfect. We had one of the most delicious and fulfilling dinners in a long time – the Arab taste appealing to our groups predominantly South Asian and Arab palette. Following that, we decided to offer prayers at the mosque. The mosque had a very rich beautiful interior relative to other mosques I had visited in Korea including the largest one in the country – Seoul Mosque in Itaewon.
Now was the time to head towards Haeundae. After exiting the subway station, we could already feel the beach vibes: warm salty breeze, ocean fragrance, sand and eager tourists all around in the streets. As we approached the beach, the sound of the waves was adding to the excitement. It was already dark but to our surprise, we found the strip jam packed with tourists, couples, families, friends, etc. It almost seemed as if everyone was out there to make beach memories – enough for all the cold winters months to come.
After finding a nice spot amidst the crowd, succumbing to the excitement, we threw our bags on the beach mat and ran towards the sea. We had just entered the water and the water barely touched us when we started to hear coast guards whistling and coming in our direction. After that, we couldn’t get to swim to our disappointment but it was not as bad as we thought it would be without swimming. In fact, it turned out to be one of our best trips ever and a turning point for our friendship. We spent our time playing crazy games, sharing some deep conversations and walking alongside the shore. One of the games was to see which one among us could jump the highest! We used a cloth to set the height and make the person jump over it – all of us fell one time or the other while trying to set new records. We also played limbo, more popularly known as limbo dance with cold play (our groups official favorite band) songs in the background,. You should definitely try this if you haven’t yet! About the deep conversations, I believe, nature has that power to make you trust and share your deepest memories and opinions with whomever you are sharing that moment of nature with. 😉
There were lots of restaurants and bars beside the beach. The streets remain noisy throughout the night especially because it was a weekend night. Close to 3 am, we went out on a search to see if we could find something for suhoor. This meal at dawn is usually taken by muslims during fasting. After this, they fast until dusk. To our surprise, apart from bars, we found some bakeries open at that hour. After enjoying a non-traditional suhoor of sweet items only, we performed the Morning Prayer right on the beach. That experience was surreal for me. Also because until then, lots of people had already left and the beach was much quieter and calmer. The only few people left out there were waiting, just like us, to witness the sunrise.
I have always known myself to be the kind of person who loves nature especially sunset and sunrise. And I had already witnessed quite a few times at special places but not at a beach yet. So, naturally I had been waiting for a long time for this moment. We lay there on our beach mats, all quiet and lazy, after the happening night and as the first streak of redness appeared at the horizon, I could feel my excitement. Slowly, the sky was setting on fire. As the sun began to rise, the reflection of the red and orange sky could be seen on the wet sand and the tall hotels beside the beach. The combination of those magnificent colors in the sky and on the beach along with the sound of those gushing waves is unforgettable. I swear I could’ve taken a million pictures if it took longer for the sun to rise and finally stare at us like a brilliant ball of fire from up there. I was satisfied because not only did the experience of a sunrise at a beach turn out to be more spectacular than expected, I also had got my perfect shot.
Before leaving, we took an empty water bottle, filled it with a picture of each one of us with a note at the back and buried it under a random spot: spot that we now remember as where Michin (crazy in Korean) family’s Ricordo is safe forever. It definitely was one more reason to bring us back to this place once we all were scattered. It didn’t take us long to get back to Daegu because we were all sleeping throughout our journey, both on the bus and on the subway. We sure were exhausted but it was the kind of exhaustion that makes you happy. The kind of tiredness that makes you smile. The kind of crazy adventure that brings your group of friends closer. The kind of memory that is there to stay forever. The kind of trip to remember. And that was the first of many that followed in the years from then.