Alight at Toseong Station. Take Exit 6.
Once you are on ground level, turn right at the intersection. There is a hospital and a Cancer Research Center. The bus stop is right in front of the center. You can take bus 2 or 2-2. It goes right up to the hill – you will see Gamjeong Elementary School.
A Brief History
The trend must have kickstarted somewhere. Merging antiquated houses with art and splashes of colours. The world has taken up this chance at revitalising a place with fervor and Busan’s Gamcheon Culture Village (부산 감천문화마을) is one of them.
Nicknamed Santorini of Korea, this village didn’t start out to be an artsy village. Rather, it was survival. There are accounts of Gamcheon beginning as a slum town back in the 1950s; refugees from the Korean War escaped to Busan and started anew here. Another version states that the beginning of Gamcheon was attributed to Taegeukdo, a religious community which is scarce today, which believes the meaning of the universe can be found in the yin and yang shape. Perhaps, these two accounts were both in play. After all, the village was built on a hill – each house overlaps one another but not one house is blocked by another. This way, the residents allow one another to prosper and are able to enjoy the view equally.
Remember to be Quiet and Respectful.
Due to the lego-like structures, the entire village brings to mind Mexico’s slum settlements, Rio de Janeiro’s favela or even Chile’s Machu Picchu. It reminded of Italy’s Cinque Terre – a 5 village settlement by the coast. I could get lose in it the whole day – exploring narrow alleyways and feeling guilty about it. Similar to hanok villages, this is a residential area and people still go about their own lives. I wonder how the residents feel about strangers exploring their walkways on a daily basis – I definitely will not like it. We took extra care to be quiet and respectful even as we took numerous photos.
Follow the Fishes
There are lots of fishes-like wooden boards around the village. If you are lost, fret not. Follow the fishes and eventually you will be back in familiar terrain. In all honesty though, the beauty of the village is getting lost in. If you explore it freely without the guided map, you will discover lots of hidden art murals. I bought the map for keepsake and because the design is really cute.
Explore, Rest, Restart
This is the kind of place you can either spend an hour or a full day in. It is really up to you. The hike might not be bearable to some – as the stairs are really quite steep and long. What’s good though is from the entrance of the village (where you can buy map tours for 2,000won and get all 9 locations stamp for a reward), there’s a main road adorned with cafes, shops and street food vendors on both sides. If you need to take a break from exhaustion, they are perfect.
Entrance = Exit
Be careful when exiting Gamcheon. We didn’t realise that because it is situated on a hill, we might have exited from the other side instead – which we did. We walked down hill, and ended up even further away from Toseong station. In the end, we took the same bus 2-2 back to where we started, Gamjeong Elementary School before the bus went downhill again.
As I work in an art gallery, this shop really caught my eye and I spent a good 15 minutes in there selecting the postcards and prints. The artist, Wi Gilho mans the shop and will tell you with pride that he painted each piece. I would have loved to buy an original from him. He even has quite an interesting blog! You can spot this huge banner outside his shop: