Sometimes popular tourist attractions live up to expectations. Gamcheon culture village is one of those. Its claim to fame is that it has colourful houses and art — and therefore photogenic and highly Instagrammable.
The journey to the village (a small town, really) required two buses and took about an hour. I’d read about places to get a good photo of the village. However, the minute I got off the bus, there was an obvious spot to capture the village’s colour. The sun was in the right place and shone all over the houses. I took a quick video.
I’d also read you could buy a map, which had a list of places to visit and three routes around the labyrinthine village, taking increasingly longer (from 40 minutes to two hours). The routes provided some structure and, as an added incentive, you could stamp your map. If you had all twelve stamps, you’d get a free postcard!
There are reminders that people live in Gamcheon. The map said, “Visitor’s Manner: Please speak in a soft voice to avoid causing any disturbance to the village residents and refrain from taking pictures in ways that infringe on their privacy.”
The map also tells you how the money raised through selling maps is used (they cost about $2):
- providing free local transport to subway stations for less mobile residents
- decorating homes in a state of disrepair
- providing a laundry service for elderly people
- giving scholarships, providing lunch during holidays, and paying education expenses for some children
- meeting heating costs for the senior citizen centre, as well providing “silver
Very quickly after starting, I saw the first stamp point. It was the Little Museum, which gave a history of the village.
Gamcheon Culture Village is often called the “Machu Picchu of Korea” or “Santorini of Korea”. It has labyrinth-like alleys and houses that are beautifully painted in pastel colors, and the fact that it was built on terraced fields means none of the houses block their neighboring house’s view.
The village was transformed into a human-centered cultural space filled with creative ideas. It plays a highly educative role in the community by approaching and solving problems through active interaction and collaboration between the local government and residents. It won the President’s Award at the 2016 The Good Place Award and was the winner of the first Educating Cities’ Award, organized by the international Association of Educating Cities (IAEC).
At the second spot, the person gave me an extra stamp and the postcard! The extra stamp was to indicate that I’d already got my postcard so that I couldn’t claim a second one.
It was a lovely day to walk around the village. The houses are picturesque and there are lots of murals and other art to see.
Unsurprisingly, there were lots of tourists, especially since it was a weekend. For some iconic spots there were queues for selfies. At the most famous spot (the woman and the fox), some people took a long time with their selfies even though many people were waiting in the queue. It seems to be the norm. I managed to take a photo without queueing since I didn’t want to stand or sit next to the two figures.
I was glad I followed one of the routes because it was easy to get lost in the many twisty narrow lanes.
After collecting all my stamps, my second destination was Lotte Department Store in Gwangbok. I’d read that it had a (free) observation deck on the top (13th floor). Again, I took two buses and very quickly I was on the roof videoing the view.