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It was 6:00 am in the morning when the five of us started to walk from our accommodation in Itaewon to the nearest subway station on our way to Gyeonggi-do. We were freezing as it was 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) that morning and we had only put on our winter coats without any thermal wear.
Based on our itinerary, we were supposed to explore some of the attractions in Gyeonggi-do province on the second day; however, things did not go as we had planned.
We were at Yongsan subway station trying to buy tickets to board the ITX, the high speed train to Gapyeong, when one of the subway station officers came and approached us, “Have you bought the ITX reserved ticket to go to Gapyeong Subway Station?” He spoke good English thankfully. We were really confused about the reserved ticket as we had thought we could just buy the tickets directly from the machines and get on board the very same day.
“You can buy the unreserved tickets, no problem. But there’s a possibility that you have to stand all the way to Gapyeong since you do not have the reserved ticket.” Seeing how clueless we were, he continued, “Reserving your tickets earlier is much better, today’s tickets are already sold out. Go straight to the information counter and tell the officer you want to buy the reserved tickets for tomorrow’s journey. It will not cost you much. Go somewhere else today, and come back here with the reserved tickets tomorrow. Good luck.” He ended his long explanation and just went away.
We did what he said and changed the itinerary. So we finally managed to get on board the ITX on the third day, and arrived at Gapyeong subway station after an hour of good rest on the reserved seats. Our first destination in Gyeonggi-do was the notable Namiseom Island, better known as Nami Island among the tourists. Waiting for the tour bus to come was such a disaster for us, the weather kept getting colder and colder, and the rain started to pour down, which made things worse.
Just when we thought things were going to be tough that day, we got discounted admission to Nami Island and the rain finally stopped right when we were boarding the ferry. We were treated to wonderful scenery during the ferry ride and, since it was autumn, the colors of the leaves were very attractive. The short ferry ride came to an end. We first rushed to the toilet and, unfortunately, one of us caught a fever since we had spent a few hours outdoors the previous night.
The pictures we had seen of Nami Island did not do justice to this wonderful place. It is hard to explain its beauty in words, people do really have to go there and see for themselves. It’s a truly beautiful place with untouched nature.
The island itself was crowded with the tourists, locals and even some elementary school kids on a trip with their parents and teachers. We saw no cars or other vehicles except bicycles for rent. We decided to be a bit thrifty and so we chose to walk. The island was big and it could be tiresome for some, but we loved it.
We kept strolling and got hungry around noon. We were always hungry, actually, and so we stopped by a Korean restaurant to have lunch. There were a few restaurants on the island, each with their own specialties. We opted for Korean cuisine, and ordered a lot even though we did not know what any of the items on the menu were. The menus were in English, but still, we were not familiar with the cuisine.
The best thing about traveling abroad is that you can always try out new things – and please, when it comes too food, do not be too thrifty! That will always be my motto every time I travel abroad.
We then dropped by a café for a cup of coffee and hot chocolate right after lunch. We were so full that it took us some time to finish. We were stopped several times by people asking to take photos with us. They were from the group of local schoolkids and were playing a game. We believed that snapping a photo with foreigners was part of the game. They were very friendly and we gladly joined them in their pictures. They spoke broken English, but they were so cute that we could not resist.
We took the ferry back to mainland Gyeonggi-Do at 2:00 pm and boarded the same tour bus we took that morning, and proceeded to our next destination, the Petite France. The winding road was too much and one of us got sick, one caught a fever and another one got car-sick, ‘bus-sick’ actually. The situation was not good and we sat down for quite some time once we arrived at the Petite France. We had to leave the one who got ‘bus-sick’ near the entrance, she decided not to follow us and wanted to rest.
So we left and started to explore the place. We strolled along the small lanes and finally learnt that Petite France was actually a French cultural village set in the countryside of South Korea. Our tour did not take a long time as the village was just a small one, not as big as Nami Island.
We walked back to where we left our friend and it seemed that she was not getting better. We were going to visit the Garden of Morning Calm, our supposed-to-be final destination in Gyeonggi-do province. But for the sake of friendship, we decided to skip the park and go straight back to our accommodation. Instead of waiting for the tour bus, we just grabbed a car knowing it would definitely cost us more.
Unfortunately, she was so sick that she finally vomited in the cab during our journey back to the subway station. The cab was not affected, but the driver was so angry. He kept yelling in Korean, which we did not understand. He even overcharged us – for a 10 minute journey he charged ₩100,000, nearly $89! 10 minute journey! We were so angry, but decided that there was no use in arguing with the driver since we could not understand each other. We just paid and entered the subway station.
We pitied our friend a lot and unanimously agreed to stay in our apartment that night so that our sick comrades could have a good night’s rest for the next day’s journey. Nevertheless, we were happy as we recalled the events of the day in a calmer state. We kept chatting and laughing until late at night. Despite the hiccups here and there, we could still say that we had a great time exploring Nami Island and the Petite France – well, put aside the tragic incident with the cab driver of course.
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