If you haven’t read the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Misadventure Part 1 (seriously, you should read that first; what’s the point in a sequel if you didn’t read the first part?), allow me to fill you in…
My friend and I planned to go to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics for one day from Seoul, watch two events, then catch the express bus back to Busan once we arrived back in Seoul. We booked our trip with Wink Travels. They offered a special one-day Olympics trip during the Lunar New Year holiday. At the Olympics, we went to the Women’s Cross Country Skiing and the Luge. We also met some Olympians and saw the medal ceremony for the Women’s Alpine Skiing. Now that we got that part out of the way, we can skip ahead to us leaving the Olympics in a grand Hollywood Blockbuster style.
The Luge started around 9:30 p.m. The Wink bus was leaving Gangneung Olympic Park at 12 a.m. to head back to Seoul. The last pick-up was at the Kwandong Hockey Center at 12:15 a.m. The group leaders made it clear that if you missed those pick-up times then you would be stuck in PyeongChang.
We left the Olympic Sliding Center at around 10:45 pm. It took an hour and a half to get to the Gangneung Olympic Park from there. Plus, we had to take three shuttle buses during our journey. My phone had a low battery and my portable charger was too low to charge my phone. My friend was relying on Wi-Fi to operate her phone and since we were in the boondocks. Unlocked Wi-Fi (or any Wi-Fi, at that) was nonexistent, which left communication up to me.
I figured we would be running a little late to the pick-up spot and contacted the group leader via text. Reaching out through the Facebook event page, I contacted the group leader. I contacted the previous group leader from the morning as well, but responses were slow and my phone was on less than 5 percent at that time.
While transferring shuttles, we were rushing and just jumped on the first bus that was going to the Gangneung Olympic Park. However, the bus we took dropped us off at the north gate of the park, but we needed to be at the south gate!
We figured that we could catch another shuttle to the south gate or walk to the gate.
We couldn’t find where the shuttle buses were (since the departures were in a different area from the arrivals, it was also too late to catch one). Nor could we walk to the gate because it was too far. We couldn’t cut through the venue either, because we needed tickets. I had just deleted the ticket app off of my phone on the shuttle ride. I thought that we wouldn’t need the tickets anymore since the events were over.
When I re-downloaded the app, the tickets were not available because we had already used them. Plus, the guard said it would have taken us an hour to walk through the venue to the south gate anyways.
By this time it was about 11:50 p.m. We had no way of making it to the first pick-up location by 12 a.m. My phone was on 1 percent and I was just praying it would stay on long enough for us to figure the situation out. I called the group leader (because he never texted me back earlier) to let him know the situation and that we were going to meet the bus at the Kwandong Hockey Center. He told me to get there quickly, because the bus couldn’t wait for us since they were already behind schedule.
Our next best bet was to take a taxi (which were severely scarce at the Olympics) to the Kwandong Hockey Center. I tried to call a cab on my Kakao Taxi app as we sprinted to a nearby taxi stand. No vehicles were available on the app and when we got to the taxi stand, there was a long line there already. At that moment, the group leader called me back… the bus was at the hockey center. He needed to know where we were.
When I informed him that we were still waiting for a taxi from Gangneung Park. Then he hit me with a hopeful/ your SOL (shit out of luck) speech. He said he would try to stall a bit, but my friend and I might have to look into KTX train tickets or booking a room in PyeongChang. My friend was panicking by now. I was also uptight. We both did not want to get stranded in this cold country city in the middle of nowhere.
I took a step back and started telling myself: “Things are always working out for me.” “We are leaving on that bus tonight.” “We are going to make it.” After repeating those phrases, I visualized us on the Wink bus on the way back to Seoul and my nerves calmed down.
The nail-biting wait
Taxis were coming few and far in between and we still had a few people ahead of us. We also didn’t know how long the ride to the hockey center would be and my phone was still on 1 percent. Talk about a stressful situation!
My friend explained our situation and asked the people ahead of us in the line if we could grab the next taxi. They refused to give up their spot because they had waited for over an hour for a taxi. So, we had to anxiously wait in line stressing about if we were going to catch the bus back to Seoul or not.
The shimmer of hope
The group leader called me again to check in on our situation, but right as he called, two taxis pulled up and we got into one of them. I was telling the group leader to please stall the bus, we had just gotten into the taxi and we were on the way. The group leader told me he couldn’t hold the bus but he had an idea and instructed me to give the phone to the taxi driver. They had a conversation for a little while. The whole time they were on the phone, I was praying that my battery wouldn’t die during their chat. Then the driver gave me back the phone and the group leader told me that he told the driver exactly where to go. He wished me a weary “good luck” after that.
I put my seatbelt on and the driver looked at me and said, “He told me to go fast.” I looked at him and said, “Yes, please drive very fast. We need to catch a bus.” The driver told me okay and sped through the streets like a manic as soon as we passed the taxi in front of us. I was so stressed the entire ride. We kept getting caught at the red lights along the way and our window of opportunity was closing fast. The last red light we came to, the driver didn’t even stop. “Sorry”, he said. My friend and I were like, “Nope, you are doing the right thing! Just go!”
We were approaching the destination. The driver started asking me for the bus number as his eyes kept searching the streets. I told him there wasn’t a bus number since we came with a travel group. I thought he was confused and looking for a city bus. The driver then filled me in on the group leader’s plan. The plan was for us to come down on the route that the bus was leaving on and flag down the bus when we saw it.
High speed chase
After learning about the plan, I sat up at the edge of my seat with my eyes glued to the windshield. Everyone in the car was on high alert at this time. As we turned the corner, I saw a bus that said “Wink Travels” at the top. I immediately yelled at the driver “That’s the bus!” He slammed on the breaks and started honking the horn, but the bus drivers didn’t pay attention. My friend and I told the taxi driver to U-turn to go get the bus. The man whipped that car like a professional NASCAR driver. He sped down the street and turned the corner. We spun around that bend on two wheels; luckily the buses were pulling over to the side already. The taxi driver sped past the buses and blocked their path on the side of the road.
I praised the taxi driver while paying him and jumping out of the car at the same time. My friend and I sprinted down the street to the bus like our lives depended on it. Everyone that was awake on the bus was looking at us like we were psychos. I don’t even think my feet touched the steps on the way on the bus. We flew into the first free seats we found, frantically apologizing and trying to catch our breaths.
On the road again
The buses pulled off like nothing ever happened. The group leader called me again to make sure we had made it on the bus. I couldn’t thank him enough for all of his help and his brilliant plan. As we calmed down, my friend and I couldn’t believe that we made it on the bus that night. We were extremely grateful to the group leader, taxi driver, and… my phone that remained on 1 percent the entire time.