It was 7:00 a.m., I was waiting at the exit 4 of Hongik Univ Station for a tour when I spotted a girl on the side of the street. She stood there with her eyes closed, motionless, and I looked at her wondering what was going on. A few passersby stared in curiosity, the rest went on with their lives oblivious of the woman in an apparent drunken stupor. Soon, the other tourists have started coming in including my friend. We made a beeline to the bus, had to show our vouchers to the tour guide before we could step into the vehicle. As the bus drove away to take us to our first destination, I looked out the window to see the woman. I found her in a different spot, but as before her eyes were closed and she stood there without moving.
The tour has taken us to two destinations, Petite France and Nami Island. I booked this via Klook for ₱1,876, the package includes entry fees and roundtrip transportation. The bus made two more pick-up stops at Myeongdong Station exit 2 and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station exit 10. Our female tour guide took the mic, greeted everyone, and explained about the day’s activities. She translated her announcements, which she first uttered in English, to Korean and Chinese.
Petite France is a French cultural village and a youth training facility in Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do. It has 16 French-style buildings and different facilities, such as Saint-Exupéry Memorial Hall, Orgel House, Antique Exhibit Hall, Europe Puppet House, among others. The place is inspired by the widely popular novella of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, one of my favorite books. It became famous when it’s been used as a filming location of some Korean dramas, such as Secret Garden and My Love from Another Star.
Some people, including my friend, think that the place is not worth visiting; I beg to differ. Maybe it’s my fascination with the French culture, or maybe it’s my love for The Little Prince’s book that I was completely enamored by the village. Anything that makes me feel like a kid again automatically wins my approval.
I had a blast exploring, taking as many photos as I could, and entering as many buildings as the time allowed. The most memorable for me would be the Proposal Room up on the bell tower. The guide said it is quite popular to single women because some believe that ringing the bell would bring good luck to one’s love life. My friend and I, both single ladies, didn’t waste the opportunity to do just that haha… To date, I am still single so I cannot render testimony to this bell’s rumored “magic.”
I had so much fun that I lost track of time. I also had a hard time finding the exit. Good thing the bus didn’t leave me, but it was sure embarrassing to cause a bit of delay.
Business Hours & Admission Fees
Sunday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Friday to Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Adults: 10,000 won ($)
Teenagers: 8,000 won ($)
Children: 6,000 won ($)
Infants (2 years old below): Free
Petite France is just a side trip, the main destination of this tour really is Nami Island. Nami Island was the setting of the TV drama, “Winter Sonata.” It was a commercial success not only in South Korea but also in other parts of Asia. It catapulted its two lead stars to international stardom. It aired in the Philippines in 2013. I wasn’t as keen on it as most people mainly because it was a heavy drama. Nevertheless, I remember being charmed by the beautiful sceneries of Nami Island perfectly captured by the series. Back then I didn’t think that one day, I would step foot in this place.
Namisum is a tiny island in Chuncheon, Gangwon-do named after General Nami, a former military general falsely accused of treason. The island has over 300,000 yards of grass fields, tree-lined roads, camping sites, exhibition halls, education and training facilities. It has resort villas, restaurants, shops, and cafes, and theme gardens.
My friend, having regained her energy from our lunch was in a better mood. We took a ferry to get to the island. Alternatively, you can take a zip wire for a fee of 44,000 won. The island may be small but there are lots of things to do or see. It’s a shame we were only given 3 hours to explore. Because of this, I recommend against taking an organized tour, I think it’s better to DIY a trip to Nami.
I raced through time, barely stopping to fully appreciate the view. It was springtime, which means it doesn’t look anything like in the drama. Still, the sceneries are quite lovely. In my exploration, I found the First Kiss or the spot where the Winter Sonata characters, Joon-sang and Yoo-jin shared their first kiss. There is a table there that had fake snow figures to represent what the characters made in the iconic scene.
I told my friend that I wouldn’t leave without seeing the Metasequoia Lane, a stretch of road with towering redwood trees on each side. I used the tourist map to find the spot. The road was busy, the tourists were busy getting their pictures.
General Rate: 13,000 won
Discounted Rate: 10,000 won
Special Rate: 7,000 won
We had to return to the bus at 4:00 p.m. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave just yet as I wanted to try one of the cafes but we had to follow the schedule of the tour. While I appreciate the convenience of having our own transportation, I was unhappy about the time restriction. When I return to South Korea, I would revisit Nami island and do it on my own.
Nami island is indeed beautiful, however, I think it doesn’t look as pretty in springtime as it is in winter or autumn. You may want to keep this in mind if you want to go there.
On our way back to Seoul, I remembered the girl that I saw that morning. I found myself wondering what happened to her.