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Visit Gamcheon Culture Village
South Korea boasts quite a few traditional, cultural villages, among which are the two most famous: Hahoe Folk Village and Yangdong Folk Village. Yet both of these are located quite a way off the tourist trail, leaving them accessible only to those travelling through the country with a little more time up their sleeves. Yet right in the heart of Busan, South Korea’s southernmost hub, lies a village so pretty and so charming that it gives the more historical duo a run for their money.
Set up high on a hill and brimming with colourful, traditional house, Gamcheon is an absolute highlight of any visit to Busan. Contrastingly unique and utterly enticing, this is about as un-Korean as Korea can get and, if you’ve ever seen a hillside favela in Rio de Janeiro, you won’t help but be astounded at the similarity.
Artistic and vibrant, Gamcheon has enough pizzazz to keep you entranced for an entire day What Gamcheon is all about Gamcheon allegedly started out as an enclave for refugees escaping the most war-torn regions of the country during the Korean War (Wikipedia Article), although many more sources claim it was founded by an eclectic mix of religious followers of Taegukdo, an obscure faith from which the city gets its local name.
The village lived in obscure anonymity until the late 2000s, which is when the government made a concerted effort to revive its arty scene and propel it into the tourist market as a ‘cultural landmark’. The tactic seems to have worked a treat, and Gamcheon is now rated as one of the country’s highlights.
A brand new asphalted road circumvents the village, so it’s not until you tackle the maze of narrow and steep stairways in the very heart of it, that you start to really get an impression of just how unique this place really is. You can, as most visitors do, try to make sense of this beautiful labyrinth, but you’ll no doubt get hopelessly lost within mere minutes. This is when the best part of a visit starts.
How local residents manage to find their way around (which they do effortlessly) remains a mind-boggling mystery to all who visit. Various boards try to help you find your way around, but do keep in mind that discovering the town’s most hidden nooks and cranny on your own, is the best way to go.