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.” 
― Plato

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.

Pyeongsanri Village

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.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

44 replies on “Gacheon Daraengi Village: South Korea’s Terraced Paddy Fields

  1. If there’s anything I’ve discovered about you two, it’s that you are not giver-uppers! 🙂 🙂 Spectacular scenery, and so nice to see those hydrangeas, taking me back to my magical Azores !

    1. Aww! Aren’t you such a sweetheart. The past month has been a kind of rollercoaster and you just said the kindest words to boost my morale. I loved your walks in Azores! Take care and stay safe! ❤

  2. I love reading about your travels in Korea. Can’t wait for lockdown to be over so we are able top travel again. Keep posting your adventures!

    1. Your comment made my day! It’s been so gloomy in Seoul these days. 😦 We did travel around Korea last year. I’ve got quite a few posts lined up. Thank you for reading and travelling virtually with us. Take care and stay safe.

    1. How have you been, Helen? So many friends were supposed to visit this year. Not sure when international tourism will resume in Korea. The 14-day quarantine and also medical tests report (new rule) may hamper it. People have started travelling internally in Korea. We’re taking it slow and waiting. Not in any hurry right now.

  3. I can see why it rates high in the most picturesque areas in Korea. Your pictures are beautiful. I appreciate your suffering at getting to those sites so we could see them too.

    1. Thanks a bunch! 🙂 Namhae was just so off the popular tourist track that it was frustrating at times. We got lost a couple of times and it was a test of our patience. And summer can get quite hot and humid. But, those views made it worth it. 🙂

  4. Another amazing location. I loved that English/Korean TV channel and think I watched the same show. I remember seeing one on food in Singapore and they mentioned a restaurant that had the best biryani so visited it after I left Korea.

    1. We loved this quaint village. 🙂 Arirang has some nice travel and cultural shows. Also, the evening news is great for expats. 🙂 I’m craving for biryani. Basil has kind of mastered it with the spices we have. 🙂

  5. Sounds like you are making the most of your time in Korea. Had no idea there are so many scenic spots and villages to explore and photograph. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    1. Thank you, Aiva. 🙂 We travelled a lot in Korea last year. It’s kind of nice to reminisce about those trips when we’re mostly at home these days. Hope you’re doing well! 🙂

  6. Another wonderful post. You make the country and all its charms come alive. The Korean government should seriously give you an award for all your detailed, beautiful posts. 😊

    1. Hi Rama! Thank you for such a wonderful compliment. I’ve worked with a local Korean tour agency. I also considered becoming a cultural ambassador or sorts. But, I’m too much of a recluse (& introvert) to be ‘out there’ and follow the mainstream line of tourism. Actually, there are so many bloggers (expats and travellers) who’ve covered Korea. 🙂

  7. An eye-opening post! I’ve never thought that SK has terraced paddy fields. But here they are, built on the hills facing the sea. Thanks for sharing 😀

    1. Tell me about it! So many places in Korea are of the tourist radar. The sea was quite something. Honestly, these pictures don’t do justice to the beauty of this place. Hope you’re doing well!

      1. I wish this concept existed. But, I doubt that’s going to happen. SK is changing rules for re-entry quickly and I’ve read elsewhere about China too. It’s going to be wait and watch for sometime. 😦

  8. I’ve seen very few rice paddies in my life, but the few I have seen (and these!) are so appealing to me. The green, of course, but also the terraced patterns, the way they curve and wave. South Korea has so much to offer, and I hope to explore more of it than just Seoul someday … if we ever get to travel far away again someday!

    1. How have you been? It’s been a while since I heard from you. I was born in a coastal village surrounded by paddies. 🙂 I guess I’ve got some kind of connection with them. But, terraced farming is fantastic!
      I know what you mean about travel. I’m torn between the urge to travel to broaden my perspective and just to be able to hug my mum. Both seem like a very low probability of happening any time soon. 😦

      1. After visiting my latest post, you know a little more about how I’ve been doing! (Pretty much like you and everyone else, except for the new baby!) Hugging my mom and dad seems very distant also – because of both geography and their vulnerability due to age; it would be another super long car trip to get to them and even then, I’d be terrified I might make them sick. I really hope this fades out soon or that we can get a vaccine up and going so that we can all return to our lives. 😦

  9. I didn’t know South Korea had paddy fields! This was such an informative post about Darangee village and its surrounds, and you took us along like a tour guide 🙂 It is interesting to hear the signs are in Korean and you had to translate the information on your phone. Maybe this is a place frequented more by locals than tourists. Really like the Photo Spot sign. It’s probably a great guide for Basil – but he probably didn’t need that. He took some really sweeping views the paddy fields. Interesting to hear a Korean auntie took a fancy to Basil but not you – so strange!

    You’re probably not the only one who looks tired and disheveled after a hike. I also look out of it even if it’s just a slow walk for a whole day on a nice day. I also think part of why I’m usually tired when walking or exploring a new place is my brain gets overactive and tries to take everything at once, so naturally I’ll be tired physically and mentally.

    Hope you are doing alright Cheryl. Take care 🙂

    1. Hi Mabel. So good to hear from you. Korea is such a treasure trove of hidden gems. It’s relatively harder to reach these gems hidden in the countryside. Yep. I think fewer foreign tourists visit this village and that’s what most of the signages were in Korean. We can read basic Korean, but bigger boards are difficult to understand. Most of the pictures in this post were clicked by me because Basil’s camera had a glitch and I couldn’t use the bulk of his pics. 😦 Korean aunties and uncles love Basil more than me. haha…He would disagree though. 🙂 I know what you mean about walks. I rarely care how I look on a trip. The magic is all around me! 🙂
      I’m doing okay now. Life’s got its highs and lows, but I’m trying to stay positive and just write about our old travels. How are you?

      1. Maybe when things get better you can show us even more about Korea’s countryside. Awww no, that’s no good Basil’s camera had a glitch. Hopefully his camera is all right now.

        I’m doing alright over here. Like you said, life has its highs and lows. I’m happy to be safe and healthy over here. Take care.

      2. We travelled a lot around Korea last year, so I still have quite a few posts to write. I’m not in a hurry to travel within the country immediately. 🙂 Basil would want to travel though.
        His camera started working in Tongyeong (the next city in our trip). 🙂 It’s like murphy’s law.
        So happy to hear that you’re doing well, Mabel. Take care!

    1. We had to make last summer’s trip count because we cancelled a trip to Russia. I was disappointed, but we decided to explore SK as a traveller. Looking at it from that lens changes everything. 🙂 I still haven’t finished writing about the whole trip. 🙂 Hope you’re doing well! xoxo

  10. Hmm…don’t know that I’d be disappointed at all about a transfer to Namhae…then again I’m a huge admirer of greener spaces. 😁 Your rice paddy photos so lovingly capture their undulations and the little tender shoots swimming in their place. Sending lots of love and wishing you are safe and healthy.

    1. hahah…I know what you mean. Although, green isn’t for everyone. I had suggested Namhae to an Indonesian friend and she had quite a tough time navigating around the island. Also, she’d prefer fall or spring colours to green. 🙂 We loved the rice paddies and were quite excited to finally visit them in SK. We’re fine, just getting used to the up and downs of life — without letting it get to us. 😦 Thank you for sending positivity across continents! Hope you’re doing well yourself! xoxo

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