I recently made a brief three-day trip to Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games with my good friend, Kimmy. We were going to watch one event – alpine ski – on Thursday but ended up staying until Saturday, due to a series of strange but exciting circumstances. Kimmy and I both love – and I mean love – everything about the Olympics, so when we arrived to the stadium we picked up some morning beers and took our seats in the stands with enthusiasm.
We both had flags with us – her with a Korean one and me with my American one – and the matching Olympic hats we had been given a few days before. We were dancing together in the stands with our countrys’ respective flags when suddenly a camera crew descended on us and asked where we were from. We answered with the fervor that the Olympics combined with light day drinking gave us, and were given a small blue ball, marked on the side as a “Passion Ball.” This would give us special entrance to the medal ceremony and mini K-Pop concert happening that evening.
This was, of course, super awesome. We were thrilled, but we quickly realized that we had nowhere to stay that night, as we had planned to catch the train back to Seoul. After watching the skiing, we left the stadium and wandered into a random dumpling shop to muse over our problem and grab some lunch.
Pyeongchang, at around 44,000 people, is a pretty small town where everybody knows everybody, and visitors are warmly welcomed. The shop owner greeted us enthusiastically, and served us up some delicious meat and kimchi dumplings. He asked what we were doing that day, and when we told him about our lack-of-lodging problem, he whipped out his phone to make some calls.
Rooms at the Olympics could be pretty difficult to find, especially as this was during the lunar New Year, 설날 (Seollal). If lodging can be found, it’s normally really, really pricy. However, when Mr. Dumpling Shop Man phoned a friend and told them that he had two girls who needed a place to stay, they immediately told us that we could have a room at a very reasonable price.
Mr. Dumpling Shop Man also gave us free coffee and walnuts. He is the guardian angel that all dumpling lovers need.
The place at Mr. Dumpling Shop Man had found for us was called Okay Simul (오케이 시물, with “simul” meaning “country.”) . At around 100,000 won a night, it was extremely cheap for the Olympics – and especailly for a last-minute Olympic stay. The owners said they would pick us up, as it was located pretty remotely in the countryside.
A lot of people might find this sketchy, at best. A random man from a dumpling shop finds you lodging out in the countryside and then a stranger picks you up in their car from the side of the road. However, this is small-town Korea. Crime rates are virtually non-existant, and people are really, really nice as I’ve written about before here.
A woman a bit past middle-age picked us up. She talked rapidly enough in Korean that I could only pick up a few things, such as she would provide us with a free breakfast of coffee and sandwiches and bring up extra blankets later. When we got to our new house, I was delighted with how cute it was.
I’ve seen and heard a lot about tiny houses, but I’d never stayed in one before. There was a large floor area, two lofted areas for additional sleeping room, a mini-kitchen, and a bathroom. The entire house smelled strongly like pinewood, and it seemed obviously that it was freshly-built for the Olympics.
I would estimate that each tiny house at 오케이 시물 could sleep up to six people – two in each lofted area, with two on the floor. As it’s more traditionally Korean, there aren’t beds. Instead, you sleep on mats directly on the floor. It’s actually quite nice in the winter, since the floors are toasty warm from 온돌 (ondol), the traditional Koran way of heating buildings by pumping hot water underneath the floor.
In the morning, we headed down to 오케이 시물’s much larger main house for the breakfast the woman had promised us the night before.
The house has large floor to ceiling windows, which looked out onto Pyeongchang’s specacular mountains and gave a view to the Olympic stadium in the distance. We settled into the picnic benches inside the warm room and watched the live stream of Olympic events on the television while we ate our breakfast.
Kimmy and I ended up staying two nights in our tiny house in Pyeongchang as we explored around the Olympic Villages and had the time of our lives. The owners even gave us a discount of 20,000 off our second night!
It was truly something which could only happen in small town Korea.
We were both so charmed by our experiences in Pyeongchang that we’re planning a trip back this summer, when we can do some hiking around the spectacular mountains there and the massive crowds which descended in for the Olympics have dissapated.
If you want to stay at 오케이 시물 (and your really should consider it), here’s all the information you need.
For the Air Bnb listing, click here.
Telephone: 010 2825 1154 or 010 9037 5370
Address: 대관령 면 솔바위길 23-116
Note: The man’s name is Ham Bong Ho (함봉호). The wife and husband team who owns the place don’t speak English well, but their daughter does.