Seven years ago this month, I wished Pyeongchang the best of luck in its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics!
And now, it is actually happening!
That year, way back in 2011, when Pyeongchang was finally awarded the right to host the Winter Olympics, I wasn't even sure if I'd still be here in Seoul. But now, it's here and so am I!
I was still in the Philippines when the opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Olympics were held. I was able to watch Michael Martinez (figure skating) and Asa Miller (alpine skiing) of the Philippine team enter the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. I was finally able to fly to Seoul a few days after that and got to enjoy the Olympic atmosphere in Seoul as well as in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, where some of the ice events are being held.
Free Ride to Pyeongchang
Thanks to our friend Gail, she was able to book Rosie, Sarah, Janice and me free seats (with free breakfast!) using the ebusnvan.com from Seoul to Gangneung and back early this week. The arenas of the Olympic sports held on ice like curling, figure skating, speed skating, and ice hockey are all in Gangneung City.
The free ride is sponsored by generous Korean companies for those who want to visit the Olympic venues. Gangneung City is the economic center of Gangwon Province, which Pyeongchang Count is a part of.
Our ride left at 9AM and arrived at the Gangneung Station at noon; we left Gangneung at 5PM and arrived at the Seoul Plaza at 8PM with one toilet stop each along the way. The van seats seven passengers, and our ride was smooth and fun, especially if you're traveling with friends! Thanks to ebusnvan.com, it seemed like we rented our own chauffeured van!
The Olympic Rings @ Gangneung Station
You don't need to go that far to have a memorable photo souvenir at the Pyeongchang Olympics! Right after our arrival, the Olympic Rings by the Gangneung Station welcome everyone to the Olympics with its five colored-rings representing Africa (black), Asia (yellow), Europe (Blue), the Americas (red), and Oceania (green).
In front of the rings, there were young, helpful, English-speaking volunteers who managed the queue and helped take your photos!
Gangneung Olympic Park
Getting to the Gangneung Olympic Park was a short ride on board TS22 bus. The organizers made sure the visitors to the Olympics have convenient transportation to and from the Olympic Park. But getting into the park itself was a challenge as there could be a very long line just to buy tickets. So, it is recommended that you buy your entrance tickets (KRW2,000) online before heading there. Otherwise, you may have to resort to getting entrance tickets at more expensive prices.
(The happy tourists got their entrance tickets!)
As we only had less than five hours in Gangneung, we simply moved around the Olympic Park, visited the pavilions, posed outside the Olympic arenas, and soaked in the Olympic atmosphere. By the way, the food courts at the park only sold fast food and drinks.
If you want to buy some Olympic merchandise, be prepared to queue as the Superstore in the park limits the number of people inside.
Just right before the entrance to the Gangneung Olympic Park is the Canada House (or Olympique Maison du Canada). It's a hang-out place for Canadians and fans of Canadian teams at the Olympics. Luckily, our friend Rosie was able to register us to enter the Canada House. For a fee, we were able to enjoy the fun atmosphere inside the venue, where they have a big screen, indoor bleachers, and tables, where fans can enjoy the events over beer, burger, poutine, salads, and other Canadian delights. You can also get Canadian Olympic merchandise inside.
(Watching the Shibutanis at Canada House)
For us, we made Canada House our comfortable lunch place where we were able to sit down outdoors (they have a fireplace if it gets too cold) and enjoyed the Olympic experience Canada-style!
I was able to enjoy a Canadian burger with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir staring at me from a magazine.
We met Cam and Daniel Galindo, brothers from Stoney Creek in Ontario, who were there at Pyeongchang as volunteers. Cam was also a volunteer at the Rio Olympic Games! How cool is that?
(Inside Canada House)
And as if the gods of Mount Olympus were watching us enjoy our Olympic trip, we got to meet an Olympic gold medalist! Gabrielle Daleman, a Canadian figure skater, already won gold at the figure skating team event. Gabby was also competing at the ladies' figure skating event a couple of days later. I wondered if we had visited another day, we could have met Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir!
How we wished we could have stayed longer at the site, but unfortunately that day, we had a free van ride to catch! We decided to traverse a small hill going back to Gangneung Station as the bus line going back there was too long. It only took us less than 20 minutes on foot to get there.
So, if you haven't been to the Pyeongchang Olympics, make sure you get there in time for the closing ceremonies. Or, you can always head down there for the Pyeongchang Paralympics starting on March 9.
Some tourists who wanted to stay longer at PYeongchang Olympics book hotels or sleep at the local jjimjilbang overnight as it is far from Seoul, just like waht our Canadian friend Bruno did when he missed his KTX ride back to Seoul.Yes, the event site of the Pyeongchang Olympics is far from Seoul.
So, it was indeed a fun day for us at Pyeongchang Olympics! Who knows? We may go back there again another day!
And to all the Olympic medalists and Olympians, congratulations and enjoy the closing ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Olympics!