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Monday, May 2, 2016

Busan Day 1: Gamcheon Culture Village

   On our flight to Busan, Gamcheon Culture Village was actually featured on the plane's in-flight magazine. My friend showed me the picture which had the caption "Santorini of the East", and we were sold! We were definitely visiting this place.

   Just by looking at these photos of Gamcheon Culture Village, I'm sure you would find it hard to believe that this used to be a mountainside slum area and home to the city's poorest people. In 1950, at the start of the Korean War, the North Korean People’s Army pushed back U.N. forces to a 230-kilometer line near the southeastern part of Korea. This area was called the “Pusan Perimeter” and was the last line of defense. Gamcheon became home to many refugees during the war to avoid forces from the North.

    It became a famous tourist destination in 2009 after the government's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism launched an initiative to turn the village into a creative community. The theme for this was "Dreaming of Busan Machu Picchu". Artists and painters came in to do murals and graffiti, and some homes were converted into studios, cafes and galleries.

   Gamcheon is huge and hilly; and though the entrance is free, there is a map (KRW 2000) that you can purchase at their Tourist Information Center. It isn't just any ordinary map, you can use it to go on a scavenger hunt and have it stamped at the 9 listed locations. In exchange, you can get a free souvenir. We didn't get a map because we weren't planning on staying too long there. 

   To find the most interesting locations in the village, we just followed where most of the people went, and sure enough we were able to spot many photo-worthy places. Some tourists probably thought of the same thing. At one point we were trying to find the Little Prince installation (we could see it from below) and we took a wrong turn and we ended up at a dead end! Haha. Those who were following us probably got disappointed. :D

   But as we were going around, we noticed there were these little painted wooden fish that were shaped like arrows along the walls, and these turned out to be guides to places of interest around the village.

This street is where most of the shops and cafes are located.

Ssiat Hotteok (seed-stuffed pancake), one of Busan's delicacies. Really love this! Warm, chewy, and crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness.

My first time to see cherry blossoms!! Too bad we weren't able to catch them in full bloom :(

Taking in the view of the colorful Lego-block houses :)

We had a great time going around this quirky, artsy village. It's really admirable how the combined efforts of the government and artists were able to convert an old slum area into this living art space that the locals and tourists alike could enjoy.

Entrance Fee:

177-11, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan

How To Get Here:
Take Subway Line 1 to Toseong Station, go out through Exit 8.

Walk straight ahead until you see the bus stop (you will see the PNU Cancer Center to your right)

Take the Mini Bus 2 or 2-2 and prepare for what will probably be one of the most nausea-inducing rides of your life haha. It's a 15 minute ride with a lot of twists and turns through the hilly slopes of Gamcheon, but all the pretty and happy colors you see once you get off the bus will all be worth it :D

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