Glad to see the return of a bright & sunny day on day 5 of my holidays, just the perfect day to head to Gamcheon Cultural Village (감천문화마을)! As Gamcheon is formed by colourful houses built on the foothills of a coastal mountain in a staircase-fashion, it is nicknamed “Korea’s Machu Picchu”. For that same reason, some call the village “Korea’s Santorini”. The numerous alleys cutting through Gamcheon are filled with vividly coloured murals & sculptures created by the residents, adding an artistic vibrant feel to the village.
Located in Saha-gu (사하구), Gamcheon Cultural Village is relatively near to downtown Jung-gu so getting to the village is quite fast & convenient. From Hotel Foret Busan Station where I stayed, I boarded the train at Choryang Station to Toseong Station (토성역), both on Busan Subway Line 1, just 5 stations apart, & the ride took less than 10 min. Thereafter, depart from exit 6 & turn left. Go straight until you reach the bus stop in front of Busan National University Hospital. Take the mini bus Saha 1-1, Seogu 2 or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop. It is a short bus ride, only about 10 min & cost KRW900 (S$1.05) per trip. There’ll be many people alighting here so there’s no need to worry about missing the bus stop. 🙂
Just down the slope from the bus stop & Tourist Information Centre is the Sky Garden, a recommended photo spot from a high vantage point. Get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful village with colourful houses built on the foothills of the mountain overlooking the sea here. If you visit the village in spring, enjoy a delightful visual feast of the beautiful sight of blossoming cherry trees surrounding the houses, just like the photo you see above! 😉
Many say that Gamcheon began as a slum town in the 1950s filled with refugees from the aftermath of the Korean War. But the truth is, in 1955, during the rebuilding phase after the Korean War, some 800 families of an ascetic religious community called Taegeukdo (태극도, an obscure religion born during political upheavals in Korea in the early 1900s) were ordered by the city of Busan to move into this designated area. Unlike other villages that sprang up in adhoc fashion, Gamcheon’s multi-tiered communal layout was carefully planned, adhering to the Taegeukdo traditional culture of allowing others to prosper, as none of the houses block the view of the house right behind.
It was only in 2009 that the village underwent an artistic makeover to decorate it with pretty murals & sculptures. Visitors can purchase a stamp tour map of the village for KRW2,000 (S$2.40) & have fun locating the prominent murals & sculptures so as to collect stamps at each destination. For me, I chose not to buy this because I thought it’d be nice to just visit the many alleys without any guide maps so that I may be in for some pleasant surprises! Afterall, getting lost in the maze of alleys sounds fun too! 😉
Remember I mentioned about the village beginnings as a designated area for families of the Taegeukdo religious movement? At the later part of my tour, I think I found its religious headquarters, a prominent landmark near the House of Peace (평화의 집). There seemed to be more families staying near the Taegeukdo HQ, as I spotted a temple, mini-marts & a traditional market nearby.
After almost 2 hours exploring the vibrantly decorated Gamcheon Cultural Village, it was time to leave for the next destination. Although I couldn’t bear to leave the gorgeous village, my legs were telling me they were aching. 😛 Because Gamcheon is located on a hill with a steep gradient of nearly 30 degrees, each step you take can be quite difficult & tiring for the knees. There were times I wished I could just roll down the slope instead of treading each step so cautiously, haha… Please remember to wear comfortable walking shoes when visiting Gamcheon so as to enjoy the scenic tour while “working out”! 🙂