Time has flown fast, and we’ve reached the end of the epic year of 2022! In the meantime, I became much more familiar with my classmates, and some of us went together to Everland on Christmas day.
To celebrate new year’s, the same group of friends and I decided to see the new year’s celebrations at Gwanghwamun Square. I felt it would be a memorable experience as it was my first time celebrating new year’s away from home and my parents. And so it was. Although I saw many great things at the celebrations, this blog will focus on the even more interesting parts of the night.
Although we did a lot of research beforehand, even including choosing the restaurants, the night still became one of the most dramatic experiences in my life. After dinner, the first surprise came: one of our friends, who decided to have dinner at home and meet us at the bus station at 8.40 pm, did not come. To wait for her, we missed the bus that we originally planned to take and waited for another 15 minutes. However, she still did not turn up. So we went on the next bus and messaged her that we would meet her there.
The first half of the ride was smooth. Then the second surprise hit us: the driver asked everyone to get off the bus, and none of us understood what he said because we were all beginners in Korean. So we got off the bus and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We were also in a slight desperate need to go to the bathroom, which made things worse. My Chinese friend decided to search for a bathroom nearby, while my Norwegian friend and I stayed at the station to find another bus that would take us to Gwanghwamun. Soon, the bus arrived, but my Chinese friend was still not back. So we decided to wait for the next one. She got back soon afterwards, having found the bathroom, which was closed.
We had no choice but to go on the next bus. After a couple of minutes, a lot of passengers got off again. I suddenly realised that there might be road closures ahead due to the celebrations. So I told my friends that we should probably get off, but the doors closed before we could stand up. So we decided to get off at the next station. And so the third surprise hit us: the bus just turned away from the celebrations and went on and on! My friend asked the Korean passenger next to her with a translating app and found out that the bus would take us to Gyeongbokgung. We thought it would be ok then because Gyeongbokgung was not that far away from Gwanghwamun. Then the 4th surprise hit us: the bus did not stop at Gyeongbokgung and went on! We immediately decided to get off as soon as possible before the bus took us any further. And again, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere.
This time, it was worse. Last time there were shops nearby. This time, just a big street that we couldn’t cross and a tunnel. We were all in a deep panic because we checked the route and found out that it would take around an hour to walk back to Gwanghwamun. And we still desperately needed to use the bathroom, which became our priority. So we went for the closest bathroom, which was in a residential area on a hill. We found the bathroom after climbing up lots of stairs. It was in a building which was also closed.
At this desperate moment, we saw some people down the street and immediately decided to ask them about where to go. Luckily they were residents who were familiar with the area and kindly told us the directions to the nearest train station. Despite being vague, all we could do was try it out. On our way, we saw a restaurant that still had lights on. My friends were so desperate that they knocked on the restaurant’s doors although it was already closed. We explained the situation to the boss, who kindly allowed us to use the bathroom even though he had cleaned it. I felt so bad that my shoes with dust made a mess. I tried to clean it up to the best of my ability and expressed my sincere thankfulness.
After leaving the restaurant, we got a bit lost again as the way became a bit different to the description we got. Luckily, we met another resident who kindly helped us find our way. The turning point came at this moment: our bathroom search, in fact, took us closer to Gwanghwamun, and we were only 20 minutes away! We suddenly all got so excited because we thought we were going to miss the show. So we thanked this kind resident and kept going, and soon arrived at the celebration at exactly 11.40 pm, leaving us 20 minutes to see the lanterns and wait for the new year’s countdown. Aside from the excitement that we finally got there, I cannot forget the help from the Korean people who guided us there.
After the celebrations, we thought that getting back would be easier because there was a bus route that would take us directly to Korea University. But the turbulence of the night didn’t just end there. We went to the station and felt reassured to see other people waiting there too. But soon, a police officer came and talked about something, and everyone at the station started to leave. I realised that buses probably no longer stopped at that station due to road closures. Suddenly, I heard two people talking in Chinese, so I immediately went up and asked what was happening. The situation was the same as I expected, and there was no promise that there would be a bus route we needed at the other station we were going to. We arrived at the other station, and there wasn’t a bus route that we could take.
Luckily, my friend found another bus route that would take us back to Korean University and the station was only a 15-minute walk from where we were. So we immediately decided to go there. It took a bit more effort to figure out if we were on the right side because bus routes in Korea are often different for each direction. If we went in the wrong direction, there might not even be a station in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. After careful reading of the diagram and confirmation with locals, we gladly confirmed that we were on the right side.
Although I kind of expected it, I was still slightly shocked to see the bus packed with people. We literally had to try hard to push onto the bus. We were lucky to get on board because the bus became so full that passengers at the next station couldn’t even get in! I was in a slight panic because I couldn’t see the screen that showed which station we were at, and I had to listen super carefully through all the noises. Traffic was still slightly jammed due to everyone at the celebrations going home. The bus kept suddenly braking and starting, swinging everyone back and forth. People even fell on each other a couple of times. All I could do was hold on tight and try getting closer to the doors. At first, I planned to get off through the front. But as more people came aboard, I got pushed closer to the back and was already right next to the back doors when I arrived. So I got off as quickly as I could and was glad that there was no more drama for the night.
What an experience!