How are things in your part of the world? We are still observing a Movement Control Order here in Malaysia. During this time everyone seems to be learning or encouraging to learn new skills or hone existing skills. It’s hard to entertain yourself when you’re 10,000 km away from home and all you have is a computer, kindle and a 38l backpack. So in between my remote working commitments I’ve signed up to ALL the 30 day free trials. Along with tagging onto my Dad’s Netflix account (thanks Dad!), I’ve got Amazon Prime again, although it’s limited choice to view here in Malaysia. A free trial with Kindle Unlimited so I can ‘borrow’ Lonely Planet books and plan future travels for when we’re allowed. Skillshare has a 2 month free subscription so I’m learning more about photography editing along with a free trial of Lightroom & Photoshop. Now I just need to remember to cancel all of these before I blow my backpacking budget in one month on subscriptions!
Anyway I digress, well, kind of. I had been wondering what to pick for this weeks iso blog whilst I was binge watching both seasons of Jack Ryan (season one is MUCH better than season two btw). In one of the later scenes of Season 2 they are chasing through Caracas, Venezuela and up on one of the hills is a brightly coloured village. If you know your locations and have an eagle eye you may realise at this point they’re not actually in Venezuela (also politically it’s kinda obvious they wouldn’t be filming there) but it’s Bogotá, Colombia. During these iso blogs not only have I realised I have a thing for abandoned theme parks but also I have one for painted villages. A very tenuous link but there we go, that’s how my mind works!
I haven’t made it to South America yet on this trip… that was supposed to be my next stop, so for now I’ll have to make do with my Kindle free subscription to transport me there but in the meantime here’s the run down of the colourful villages I’ve visited in South and East Asia.
RAINBOW VILLAGE, TAICHUNG, TAIWAN
Take a wander round Rainbow Village and you might be lucky enough to meet Grandpa Rainbow. Huang Yung-Fu, or more affectionately now known as Grandpa Rainbow is the last person to be living in his small village in Taichung, Taiwan. The village was only supposed to be temporary base – a low cost solution to house veteran soldiers from the National Liberation Army that had fled to Taiwan in 1949 following their defeated leader Chiang Kai-shek. As the village fell into disrepair, in 2010 developers started moving in and buying up the land. Huang refused to leave and bored without his fellow neighbours he started painting the buildings. His artwork is bright, VERY colourful and almost childlike, but when I say childlike – I still couldn’t paint half as good as him!
Local University students discovered Huang’s paintings and vowed to help him. Popularity grew, photos went viral and tourism is now booming (*before COVID-19), with an estimated million visitors a year! I visited back in 2017 but as far as I know the developers have backed off and Grandpa Rainbow can stay. At 96 years old, he still makes appearances outside his home to meet and greet, but if you don’t get the chance to meet the man himself, there are some great little gifts and knick knacks that can be bought to help support.
Getting there: we got a taxi booked by our hotel in Taichung.
GAMCHEON CULTURAL VILLAGE, BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA
Located on the hillside in Gamcheon-dong in the port city of Busan it’s hard not to miss this colourful village. Once housing poorer income families that were hidden away from the eyes of the port, it has now been transformed into a cultural hub showcasing works of art amongst the brightly coloured painted houses. In 2009, the local government provided a grant and the village has undergone a successful urban regeneration. Street art, painted houses, sculptures and art installations line the streets.
Start at the Gamcheon Culture Village Tourist Information Centre and pick up one of the beautifully designed guide maps for 2,000 KRW (~ £1.30) and follow the art trail. Not only is it a nice souvenir to take away with you (one of the only souvenirs I collected on my long term travels) but it’s also interactive. Collect stamps at different works of art and if you complete a full set you can claim 2 free postcards from the shop. It’s fun, could be competitive if you’re travelling with friends but regardless it will take you to all of the main pieces of art. I followed the map but also purposefully got lost amongst the windy steep streets at times.
You can easily spend a few hours exploring here, or more if you choose to stop at one of the many cafes or eateries or just stop to take in the view.
Getting there: From Toseong Station (Subway Line 1), take Exit 6. Then take the local bus Saha 1-1, Seogu 2, or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.
KAMPUNG WARNA WARNI JODIPAN, MALANG, INDONESIA
Oh the stories I have about my journey to get here but you don’t need to hear those… let’s just say, I finally made it to Malang and got to visit Kampung Warna Warni after a frustrating failed attempt a few weeks earlier. As what is becoming a recurring theme, the district of Jodipan in Malang was once a dilapidated village, a poor community which was struggling. Along with a group of local University students the community gave their district a brightly coloured painted make over and renamed it Kampung Warna Warni – literally translating to “colourful”. Every inch of the village is covered in paint, it’s incredible. The town is still weather worn but the colours shine on through.
There’s a small entrance fee to pay both sides of the river – 2,500 IDR (~ 15p!) and plenty of small shops and refreshment places to stop in around the village. There are some incredible pieces of street art to be found (and some, ummm, not so – look out for Thor..), these are just two of my favourites but there is so much to discover on each windy alleyway and streets. Don’t forget to explore the river banks too!
I loved getting lost amongst the alleyways. It got me away from all of the overtly keen Instagrammers and gave a little more of an insight into daily life. The alleyways are very narrow but interestingly most of the windows are darkened so the residents still have their privacy without peering tourist eyes looking in.
Tourists have flocked here since opening which has provided a much welcomed income for the locals and improved their lifestyles. Whilst it is now a tourist hot spot, please don’t forget people do actually live here, be respectful and keep the noise to a minimum.
Happy exploring x