One particular moment changed the course of our entire trip in Korea and that was down to meeting one tremendously kind and generous man. Seongyong or Jackie Chan as he asked us to refer to him as, approached us whilst we were putting up our tent. Exhausted and without any tent pegs after we had somehow left them at the top of Mungyeong Saejae pass. He asked us if we would like to stay at his guesthouse he was building and with one mention of the words warm shower we were there! What we anticipated to be a one night layover turned into a 3 week traditional Korean experience!
Jackie Chan gave us a place to stay, a delicious array of Korean meals and superb company. The three of us never expected to share such an endearing connection, we just clicked. One vital part of our friendship was sharing food and drinking as a trio. We enjoyed being introduced to the local cuisine, ranging from various styles of pork and beef BBQ to the iconic dish samgyetang, despite its description of sounding a bit icky, the young chicken filled with garlic, rice, jujube, and ginseng was actually very warming and tasty.
Every evening we would eat out and drink makgeolli, a white bubbling mixture that visually didn’t look very appealing but my gosh we couldn’t help but fall in love with its unique deliciousness! We couldn’t comprehend the generosity shown to us as we were never asked for anything in return, Damian even spent his 29th Birthday there!
Whilst staying nearby we decided to visit Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park which consisted of three gates that were built for national defense after the Imjin war. We were able to walk between the gates and through the beautiful forest. Along the way we came across an open set for filming historical Korean dramas. This was really unique to wonder through as there were many imitations of old-style Korean buildings and even filming in process at the time we were inside!
In the following days we made the journey up to Juheulsan mountain (1,025m) which we looked at everyday as it was the main view outside the guesthouse. It was such a beautiful time of year to climb with all the blossoms in full bloom, we had a perfect panoramic view from the peak of the surrounding region. Eating our lunch at the top we were instantly asked to by multiple groups if we would like to join them. Enticed by the offering of makgeolli we sat and drank in the midday heat understanding and appreciating the obsession with this remarkable drink!
It was really difficult having to say goodbye to Jackie Chan because we had grown so close in such a short period of time. Having spent quality time with him and his friends it feel like we were saying goodbye to our Korean home. We enjoyed helping him lime wash his incredible bicycle guesthouse made of mud! Mastering the materials, he managed to construct a natural and breathable building fit for many passing cyclists, looking for a comfortable place to stay just off the cycle highway. With it only being in its early stages and work was still in operation, we promised to come back and visit again a decades time to see how things had developed.
Before leaving with presented him with a drawing Damian and I had created together of the guesthouse and of course including the three of us, plus Bero his lovely golden Labrador. We will remain incredibly grateful for our time spent with Jackie Chan and treasure the many memories we have until the next time we meet again!
Our journey continued onwards to Busan, stopping briefly in Daegu to decided if we wanted to detour to visit the Royal tombs. We decide against this in the end as it would have added too much time to our journey.