One week after the start of summer, the sun sets late in the coastal town of Pyonsan, on South Korea’s Southwestern coast. It’s around eight o’clock and the sun, a golden orb, is shining through the clouds near the horizon.
The local bus I’d taken to Pyonsan arrives at the station, which is really just a dusty mom-and-pop convenience store where they sell bus tickets at the counter.
As the sun dipped down toward the sea, it seemed a hill in front of the bus station was obstructing the view of the glorious rays. Some other bus passengers and I followed some of the locals through a maze of brightly lit fish restaurants on the dockside of a marina where a fleet of small fishing crafts bumped against one another.
The other passengers somehow disappeared along the way, into a fish restaurant, down a winding streets or alleyway. Alone, I noticed on the opposite side of the marina, was a boardwalk under a low bluff.
Reaching a place to watch the sunset involved a great deal of running - running down the boardwalk after passing cars, running past passenger planes, fighter planes and a large cargo ship in retirement. These vehicles served as a reminder of the harsh realities of business and war, and put my crazy desire to see this sunset into perspective.
Yet it wasn’t just me who wanted a glimpse of this sunset, a handful of tourists stood in a line by the boardwalk handrail. Dozens of cell phone cameras all rose to capture the event; indeed there was a glorious flash of gold. The sun then seemed to grow larger as it approached the unwavering line of watery night, and then the ocean seemed to swallow it whole. Do we all have a desire to see where the sun goes as it disappears, taking with it the light of our rational experiences?
Once the sun has set, a gregarious, carnival-like atmosphere prevails on this Saturday night in Pyonsan. Families bantered loudly in the Minbak hotel which was at full capacity. Windows were open to let in the sea air, interiors brightly lit, and a multi-story fish market had baskets and buckets and tanks of ocean life everywhere you looked.