There are no shortage of names to describe this place. Gamcheon Culture Village (감천문화마을), also known as Taeguekdo Village, or Korea's Santorini or Machu Picchu or Lego Village.. really take your pick! For every slight angle of this place makes a worthy postcard that would make artists weep tears. The best part is? It's hassle free to get here.
- Take Subway Line 1 and get off at Toseong Station
- Exit at No.6
- Face the intersection (do not cross), and turn right, walking straight for approximately 100m
- When you see the Cancer Center Hospital on your right, look for the nearby bus stop and take the bus number 2 or 2-2.
- Unlike most, the buses will be smaller so that they can navigate the narrow and winding roads. Quite an enjoyable ride actually haha.
- The bus driver will most likely stop there but in any case, the stop is Gamcheon Elementary School (감천초등학교).
- I recommend using a T-money card (which is available from most convenience stores) plus you can use it in other parts of Korea, not just Busan! Fare is 800won.
Entrance to the town is free but for 2,000 won, you can purchase a tourist map with something of a scavenger hunt! Collect all the stamps to receive a postcard! (Which I have both misplaced! Curse my ineptitude!)
CHALLENGE FRICKEN ACCEPTED!!
I seem to develop hard headed determination for the worst possible things haha.
With such a colourful town comes an even more informative history. Named directly after the 4,000 followers of the Taegeukdo religion, along with refugees from parts that were savaged by the Korean War, they settled here in this neighbourhood of Busan, erecting under 1000 wooden shacks. The religion believes the taegeuk, harmonious concept of yin and yang, found mysteriously in aspects of life, captured the true nature, principle and intrigue of the universe. Time passed, and in the 1980s, the population blossomed to 20,000. A person by the name of Cho Cholje, the founder of Taegukdo , had moved his religious headquarters to Gamcheon. Cho promised the refugees that he would help them if they believed in Taegukdo, and so they refugees did. Together with the Taegukdo followers, the refugees rebuilt their shanty homes into concrete homes which we see today.
Due to the unique position of the village, it is bathed luxuriously in sunlight for all of the day, thus making comparisons to Sanitorini, all the more easier. This sunlight over serves to accentuate more of its beauty, pronouncing its colours and from above? It very much resembles a toy. More accurately, with the manner that the homes are stacked upon each other, takes on the appearance of legos.
Make sure to really explore the alleyways! I won't apologise for the unashamedly borderline photo spam, every step seems to unleash another side. Places like this are continual reminders that immersing yourself is the best way for enrichment and that simple pleasures can be gleaned.
In saying that, although it attracts a number of tourists, this is still a residential town. So make sure that you are respectful as you wander though the alleys and keep your noise to a minimum!
But despite the promise of Cho Cholje, Gamcheon was far from affluent, until 2009, when the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism in South Korea launched a project to model the village into a creative community. In a bid to attract tourists, the streets were decorated with graffiti and the homes transformed into studios and galleries. In addition, the other reason why Gamcheon has gained so much popularity of late can be credited to the series Running Man.
Oh, word to the wise. Be prepared to really walk and leave the heels at home. Seriously. There's a funny, only in hindsight, anecdote that follows this post regarding that but fact remains that that there are a lot of stairs, and a lot of uphill walking. And you may find yourself gasping more than breathing.
Fortunately or unfortunately (if you abhor walking), this town is much more than a five second Instagram shot. Every nook and cranny of this town is incredibly picturesque and you may need to open a sole Instagram account merely dedicated to this place.
Inventive, aren't they?
Doesn't this alleyway look like the direct entrance to Wonderland?
Useful signs for the scavenger hunt.
Fishception! Basically, if you get lost, look out for the smaller fish! But they may or may not ruthlessly point you up a staircase that has over 100 stairs. Maybe.
No surface is free from embellishment!
Follow the fish! And wise - kind of for the wolf to become its prey. Not sure if the sheep are as daft as Red Riding Hood however.
If they were cuckoo clocks imagine the ruckus they would make on the hour!
Isn't the graffiti incredibly tasteful?
The town even has photo spots for the most optimum picture taking opportunities! This one was called the Woman and the Fox? What I love most about the Korean girls that proudly hogged the area was that they would yell, 'WAITTTT!' then proceed to fix the hair of the friend that had sat down to pose. Hahaha, appearances are important even when it's only the back of your head shown! Wouldn't want the eternity of an uneven hairline to plague you for life! Nah, but in all seriousness, I found it really sweet of them.
Proof that you can not escape the couple culture anywhere in Korea. Pay for a tag to leave your mark! It was kind of expensive so I saved my touristness for my future visit to Namsan Tower instead.
The toy village blends with the rest of the city.
Let me tell you. I thought Tokyo had finally prepared for the cold weather that Sydney should've taught. Korea was freezing. How? So for a desperate attempt at warmth, I got myself a cereal milk latte. It was delicious, exactly like it promised to be! I look forward to recreating it! And it was here that I left behind an arguably permanent mark at little cost haha.
An entire stairway painted to look like a bookshelf! So realistic that you could plonk yourself down on a step and pull out a book to read.
See the fish? Follow the fish of destiny. Another charmingly adorable alleyway. Isn't this place a dream? Particularly for fashion bloggers, there's no shortage of gorgeous and quirky backdrop! One of the downsides of travelling solo.
What's this? Oh just charming pieces of art that casually deck the halls of where you're stomping around, standing majestically without care.
This is what the fish leads to. So I admired the uniquely textured wall at about the 10th step. And when I saw the 50th step I cursed the high heavens because it was a long way from halfway. Hilariously this was named the 'Pillar to the Stars' or something to that effect with the cheerful statement that the inhabitants who carried immense loads on their backs as they conquered these stairs, would see stars as they did so. Thanks.
What I love is that over shared suffering you can bond with strangers in such profound and unexpectedly intimate ways. Even when you don't speak the other's languages. Case in point, the group of girls that battled these stairs at me, as we rested at almost the same intervals and them yelling ' AISH" and "AIGOO" intermittently HAHAHA. I took those opportunities to be shutter happy, the only energy I could muster.
This cracks me up. No matter in what part of the world you're in, if you leave stamps unattended, you're pretty much guaranteeing this outcome.
JANNNGGGGG! The completed Scavenger Hunt. Alright, call me a sucker for gimmick, I don't care. If it means guaranteed fun then I don't care.
And finally starved from climbing god damn, hundreds of step, I headed to Nampodong once more for Hotteok (unaware that it would be last delicious one!!) and samgyetang (Probably the most healthiest fare that I would have during my stay in Korea AHHAHA). And that's all for Busan! The next time I update about Korea, it will be regarding the Seoul portion of my trip!