We started watching Korean serials, dramas, and mainstream movies to get a better understanding of the language and cultural nuances. In the popular Korean series: Stranger, also featured in the list of ‘Best International Shows of 2017’ by the New York Times, (spoiler alert) the protagonist is transferred to Namhae for exposing corruption in the prosecutor’s office whilst solving a serial killer case. Now, if you haven’t visited Namhae, you wouldn’t get the humour or in this case — irony. Namhae is far removed from the overwhelming amount of grey and sparkle in the country’s capital. Life comes to a standstill here and, in summer, ‘green’ takes a whole new meaning.
After spending the morning in Boriam Temple and having a quick lunch at the German Village; we set the GPS for Daraengi Village — the highlight of our trip to Namhae. Google Maps isn’t great for navigating in Korea and we always use Naver Maps to get around. The map above is for reference only and shows a longer route (possibly taken by local transport) than what we took. Again, I cannot stress enough on having your own car or tour car in Namhae. It’s the best way to get around and cover more ground.
Scenic Road of Korea
South Korea has many scenic roads and its long coastline offers a spectacular view of the sea and hazy mountains (some are marine national parks). I couldn’t find the name of this particular route or a list of the scenic roads in Korea. But, if I’m not mistaken, I think this is the coastal route that leads to Daraengi Village.
It was hard to get pictures in a moving car. We found a spot to park the car for a bit and got these gorgeous pictures of the blue sea and green fields.
Gacheon Daraengi Village (가천 다랭이마을)
There are two parking lots for Daraengi Village. We weren’t aware of this and we parked the car at second parking lot. The second parking lot is great for panoramic views of the village, but it’s a steep downhill walk to the base. Most Koreans had parked their cars at the first parking lot (further ahead) that gave direct access to the coast and also Gacheon Male and Female Rocks. There are many maps marking the different trails in the village. Unfortunately, they’re all in Korean and we were too tired to make an attempt to understand them. There are probably some pension houses here; if you’d like to experience village life.
Gacheon Daraengi Village made it to the list of 50 beautiful places to visit in South Korea by CNN Travel. But, that’s not the reason why I wanted to visit this haven of terraced paddy fields. Our trips in China and Vietnam were too packed to squeeze in a visit to a terraced paddy field and it was on my wish list for a very long time. I was taken by surprise when I heard about Namhae on Arirang Travel (the English TV News Channel in Korea) and that’s why we added Namhae to last summer’s road trip itinerary.
It can get pretty hot in the afternoon. There’s a steep mud trail that leads to the base which occasionally meanders parallel to the terraced paddy fields.
We didn’t know what to expect, because we hadn’t found much information on the trails, so we decided to explore each trail on our own. Sangsuri-gil leads to a vantage point and the trail is easy to walk along.
From this point, the sea pales in comparison to the verdant paddy fields. Each angle offers a different perspective to the whole picture.
This is probably the least manicured place in South Korea and it’s as real as it gets. It was strange (not surprising though) to find a photo spot in the middle of farming village.
We approached the meeting point of two trails (mangsu-gil and barae-gil). We were walking along mangsu-gil and skipped the second trail. We didn’t want to follow boards and explored trails that looked interesting. It takes longer this way, but you don’t need to depend on reading or translating Korean.
I wish the boards also had an English description because a lot of historical information is lost for a foreign tourist. I translated this board, using the translator app, and tried to make sense of what I read. Mangsus were a kind of beacon for fishermen. Back in the day, a mangsu would stand on a cliff (about 100 metres from this spot), and guide fishermen (in groups of 6 or 20) on how to cast their nets. His movements, in front or back or sideways, would help fishermen to optimise their catch (mackerel and anchovy) before the fish could escape. There were very few mangsu and this statue was built, in 2017, to honour these men and a long-forgotten cultural heritage.
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
We had soaked in some incredible views of the coast and terraced paddies. We still had time and were quite curious too see what was beyond these trails. We discovered bucolic village roads and somehow got lost in them. Few barking dogs ensured we didn’t encroach private property or offend a local villager. A Korean imo (aunt) took quite a liking to Basil and greeted him warmly. I didn’t get the same greeting and I probably didn’t exist for her.
Basil finally found a trail that broke away from the maze of village roads and joined the main trail below. We spotted gorgeous flowers growing on either side.
This manicured trail, lined by pink/purple hydrangeas, was closer to the first parking lot and saw more local tourist traffic than the ones we had explored earlier.
This trail joins a boardwalk — along the rocky coastline — at the base of the village. It’s not very difficult, although small waterfalls and sea water may wet the floor and you’ve got to be careful.
“Self is a sea boundless and measureless.”
― Kahlil Gibran
We could have spent an entire day here and just explored very hidden nook and corner. These trails are easy to walk along and perfect for curious eyes.
The suspension bridge is seemingly innocuous until you set foot on that rickety floor. There’s a deep chasm formed by sea rocks (below) and if you have the slightest fear of heights (like I do); it’s not a joy to walk across. Thankfully, it gets over in a jiffy.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
I was happy to make it to the other side of the bridge because the views are stellar. It’s not easy to capture the scale of the terraced paddy fields, the mountains, and sea without a drone. But, this vantage point is as good as it gets.
We should have given up, but we found a lone pavilion, and we wanted to explore the trail that lead there. It’s an easy climb and offers a nice view of the sea.
Few couples had made it to this pavilion. The cool wind and calm seas were the perfect balm for sore feet and tired eyes. Take a deep breathe and let your troubles fly away in the wind.
It was truly remarkable how the Korean female tourists looked so perfect even in a rustic setting like this. My hair was disheveled; my clothes were creased; I was visibly tired — with barely any trace of the lip gloss I had put in the morning. But, these women looked like fresh roses — prancing in the fields. It was just like a scene from a K-Drama. On the other hand, the men were just men.
We had to get back to the parking lot and it was a steep climb along trails that were either marked with wood or mud.
The village has many cafes with stunning views of the sea. It would have been nice to sit for a while and let time pass. We had to get back and didn’t want to spend more time here because we were tired.
We finally made it back to the straight route that leads to the second parking lot. It felt longer on the way up.
To get a panoramic view of the terraced fields and mountains, you’ve got to drive further away from the village. The road leading to our pension house (in the northwest of the island) gave us an opportunity to stop and soak in those gorgeous views.
There are many advantages of having your own car in Namhae. You can stop wherever you want and find places that might not even be on the map. The coastal route is scenic and gives you a glimpse of rural Korea.
We found this village on the way back and stopped for a bit. We were tempted to explore the village, but we couldn’t wait for too long, because our pension was tucked in a secluded corner of the island.
Blue & White Pension
We were happy to make it before sunset. It had been a very long day and we looked forward to enjoying sunset and our seclusion. Our pension was loosely inspired by Santorini. It blended well with the blue skies and water.
Sunset was spectacular and perfect to end the day. At night, Basil cooked ramyon (Korean noodles) and we watched ‘Murder Mystery‘ on Netflix. The next day, we had to leave Namhae for Tongyeong.