Want to save money on a ticket to Paris? This might be worth your while

by Hal Swindall
Busan Haps Magazine

SEOUL, South Korea -- Most articles on places you can go are about places the author thinks the reader should visit. This is one of the different ones that is about a place you should not visit unless you are deeply moved by corniness that makes Disneyland look like the real McCoy. In fact, the Petite France theme park (www.pfcamp.com), set on a hectare in Gapyeong County east of Seoul, is a kind of Disneyland—a fake imitation of a fake imitation, so to speak. The original Petite France theme park is, of course, in France near Strasbourg, and is apparently just a sentimentalized extract of what you can find in real French villages all across the country. Many people, it seems, prefer the cartoon version to reality.   

Opened in July 2008, Petite France attracts 600,000 visitors a year. Like the first version in Strasbourg, its inspiration is the novella Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, the 20th-century French aviator and writer. Naturally, the grounds contain a Saint Exupery Memorial Hall filled with black and white photos of the literary adventurer, but they all have captions in Korean only; foreign visitors are better off reading the Wikipedia article on him at home.

Other buildings that clearly came out of children’s story books are the Orgel House, filled with antique music boxes, the House of European Dolls and the Antique Gallery, inspired by the St. Ouen flea market in France.  Having visited France a few times, I can attest that the only even slightly realistic structure on the entire property is the French Traditional House Gallery, which is in fact a 200-year-old French cottage that was dismantled and shipped to Korea for reassembly. Puppet and mime shows and an outdoor theater are there for those who want to spend more time.    

I left Petite France after spending just 30 minutes in it, feeling no desire to see any of the shows. The whole time I was there French café-style music was piped over loudspeakers at great volume, but as I headed out the exit I could hear Psy’s “Gangnam Style” booming—hardly a genuine touch. 

If you really want to behold this place for yourself, go to Dong Seoul bus terminal, out of exit 4 at green line 2’s Gangbyeon Station. From there, a ride of less than an hour takes you to Cheongpyeong bus terminal, where you must wait some time for a green 31-5 or 31-20 bus. After a 20-minute ride from Cheongpyeong, visitors are let off across the street from Petite France, which is on a hillside overlooking Cheongpyeong Lake. Adult admission is 8,000 won, and it covers the various performances. If you want to spend the night, guest rooms are available. If you can speak Korean, you can call 031-584-8200 to find out more.

Busan Haps Magazine website

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