Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's start 2012 with a bang!

And a bang it was... With a few weeks to digest everything that we've had the chance to do over the last month and a half, I can confidently say that I have never had such a eventful start to any year thus far in my life.  Maybe it stems from the fact that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world, or maybe the stars aligned for us to kick off the new year with a shot of awesomeness.  I like to think it has more to do with the fact that I am finally taking ownership of my life and pursuing the things that I want to do instead of what I am expected to do.  Coming to Korea has undoubtedly been a catalyst for discovering the real me and an opportunity to test what I am made of.  Along with Jennifer, we've embarked on adventure after adventure, each time learning about ourselves and each time leaving us wanting more.

It's with that mentality that we set off, on Dec 31st, to experience the start of the new year with a new light... literally.  The trip had been planned for some time.  I had stumbled on it while navigating the many Facebook pages of holiday activities in Korea.  WINK (When in Korea) was organizing a trip to Busan for New Year's Eve to keep up with the Korean tradition of seeing the first sunrise of the new year... Oh and it would also be a booze fest, from the bus ride all the way to the sunrise.  So of course, we signed up along with our friends Chris, Briana, Alice, Katie and Dana.  The voyage promised to be a gong show.. and it delivered.
The Noraebang Bus

As soon as we got on the bus, some started drinking.  Being past my prime drinking years and prone to being car sick, I decided to wait until we arrived in Busan before starting to kill my liver.  The bus ride was 7 hours and I honestly didn't think I'd be able to last very long if I started right away.  But the ride was interesting nonetheless with an on-board Noraebang (karaoke) and a slew of slightly annoying drunk people getting more inebriated as we drew near our destination.  Needless to say, we were somewhat relieved when we finally got off the bus!
Chris and Briana

Katie and Alice
Upon our arrival, we hurried to our rooms in a nice little rundown motel close to Gwanganli Beach.  Since we arrived late, we only had about 45 minutes to get ready, which wasn't really a problem for Chris and I so we went for a quick booze run to get started while we waited for the girls to "pretty-up".  The night itself began with an Indian-style buffet dinner at HQ bar chased down by some drinking games and a ridiculous amount of beer and liquor.  We followed that up by a short stay at Vinyl Underground where live bands rock the house before transferring and ringing in the new year on the dance floor of the Blue Monkey.  When dancing temporarily lost its charm, we headed down the street to Ho bar where we splurged on bottle service and one too many nacho plate (the server had to come tell us that we could not get any more nacho refils).  It wasn't long until we were back on the dance floor, albeit by ourselves as the bar was getting ready to shut down for the night.  Yes, it was getting to that time... the time to go to an after hours club that is.  When 2am rolled around, we met up with a bunch from our group and headed over to a kickin', smoke-filled dub step club though we didn't stay very long.  Jen's sensitive nose forced her to wait outside while the party was raging inside.  I went in and out as I tried to get the best of both worlds (being with my wife and enjoying a drink with the crowd).  After enjoying some street meat, we opted to take a cab back to our motel and spend the rest of the night on the beach (or in Jen's case, "resting" in the motel room) until the sun would make its grand appearance.  Equipped with a beer and an iPod, I danced by myself like no one was watching on the cold sandy beach in Busan.  I honestly have to say that was the highlight of my night.
Drinking games @ HQ Bar
Soon enough, it was 6:30am and our bus would leave for the Gwanganli Bridge where we could have the best vantage point to spy the sunrise.  Of course, close to 10,000 Koreans would also overtake the bridge to celebrate the dawn of the new year.  Before leaving, I woke Jen to join us.  Unfortunately, Chris wasn't so lucky with Briana who was out for the night.  Although there was a bit of fog that morning, the sunrise was absolutely stunning and as I was beginning to sober up, I felt really good.  There was definitely a moment where I had a feeling of renewal: a new year, new opportunities, new challenges, new friendships, etc.  It was nice to be able to take a step back and put things in perspective even if it was just a short moment.
Celebrating the new year with beer and champagne at 7am

Just before the sunrise on Gwanganli Bridge

Welcome to the new year Mr. Sun

The two  most beautiful sights on the bridge

The short trip back to our motel was extremely quiet as everyone was dozing off.  We then benefited from a few hours of well earned sleep before being awoken by a knock on the door.  No one bothered to answer the first time (we were still half asleep).  But the second time, Jen opened to Dana telling us that it was time to check out... oh, and Katie was missing.  Turns out she never made it back to the motel.  Somehow, her and Alice got separated and Alice ended up with all of Katie's belongings (purse, phone, etc.)  The fact that we were leaving in less than an hour really only meant one thing: We had to go get some breakfast.  Somehow, we knew (more like hoped) Katie would eventually find her way back.  And so it was.  While we were enjoying our first meal of the new year on a terrace by the beach, Katie called her phone and we told her where to find us.  Fifteen minutes later, she arrived, her hair in a frenzy and a smile on her face, escorted by her saviour.  She had had quite the night but it was all better now and we all had a good laugh.

Needless to say, the bus ride back to Seoul was somewhat quieter.  Jen and I swallowed our gravol and before we knew it, we were back home, happy to have experiences an incredible weekend with awesome friends!
Gravol induced sleep on the way back

Chris and Katie sleeping on the floor of the bus

Self explanatory

@ HQ Bar in Busan

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