Busan is a city of many mountains. Spanning over Dongnae-gu, Geumgjeong-gu, and Buk-gu, Geumjeongsan Mountain is the tallest among the mountains in Busan. From Godangbong Peak rising some 800m above sea level, ridges extend down to the center of Busan, forming the city’s base. Embracing Beomeosa Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple from Silla, within, Geumjeongsan Mountain is surrounded by Geumjeongsanseong Fortress with four gates.
Mandeok Pass is an old road located to the south of Geumjeongsan Mountain. This was the only road connecting Dongnae and Gupo prior to the opening of Mandeok Tunnel. There must have been a band of thieves on this mountain road as the road was used by peddlers carrying bags of goods to sell at Dongnae Market and Gupo Market. According to a legend, the road was called “Manneunggogae,” meaning that you must cross over the pass in a group of ten thousand in order to avoid the thieves. Locals say that the current name of this road, “Mandeokgogae (Mandeok Pass),” originated from “Manneunggogae.”
With two tunnels and even a subway line opened under this trail, there is no longer any need to climb over Mandeok Pass. Nevertheless, Mandeok Pass Trail is coming back to life thanks to the magnificent nightscape spreading at its foot and the surprising treasures hidden throughout.
1. Mandeok Pass Trail
The starting point of Mandeok Pass Trail begins to the right of the bus stop at the entrance to Mandeok Tunnel 1. After a short walk up along a wooden deck, a dense forest spreads right before me. The green foliage that surrounds me instantly refreshes my eyes. The scent of grass wafts into my nose and the gentle breeze of the forest tickles my ears. Everything around me is so completely new that I have forgotten all about the urban landscape I was in only several minutes ago.
The trail is not too steep. Strolling along, feeling the energy of Geumjeongsan Mountain with my entire body, I soon arrive at an underpass, which is a boundary point between Dongnae-gu and Buk-gu. From here, the trail continuously descends. The distance from the bus stop at the entrance to Mandeok Tunnel to Buk-gu Recycling Center is approx. 4.5 kilometers. Even at a leisurely pace, it’s only a two-hour walk.
2. Café Mandeokgogae-gil 436
Walking for a short while along Mandeok Pass Trail from the entrance to Mandeok Tunnel 1, I run into a café hidden in the forest. The address, “Mandeokgogae-gil 436,” happens to be the name of this café. Designed under the concept of rabbits on the moon, which, according to the legend, used to dwell on Mandeok Pass Trail, the most noticeable feature of this café is the garden. Nestled in the dense forest with tables and chairs sparsely placed, it makes me feel as though I am camping in the forest. The charm of Mandeokgogae-gil 436 is that it embraces and harmonizes with nature.
At night when lights are turned on, the café transforms into a romantic space. As I enjoy a cup of fragrant coffee while listening to the sounds of insects, the fatigue of the day washes away. This café is worth a visit even just to experience a nature-friendly café in the heart of the city.
3. Geumgangdae Okbulsa Temple
Continuing on the trail for approx. 1km from Mandeokgogae-gil 436, I arrive at Geumgangdae Okbulsa Temple. The unpaved forest trail, which starts at the entrance to the temple site, soon changes into a steep slope. Geumgangdae Okbulsa Temple is situated at the end of the slope.
The stairs extending from the slope guarded by Twelve Zodiac Animal Deities lead to the temple grounds. With precipitous cliffs and magnificent rocks surrounding the temple buildings, what immediately draws my attention is the statue of Buddha engraved on a gigantic rock. This 6m relief stone statue of Buddha with eleven faces is the Rock-carved Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva of Geumgangdae.
Standing in front of the statue, I not only see Dongnae right below my feet, but see Jangsan Mountain in the far distance. It is quite interesting to observe the buildings on the temple grounds as these differ from those of ordinary Buddhist temples. This is not a crowded temple, which makes it an ideal space for relaxing and enjoying a moment of tranquility.
4. Rest Area
Mandeok Pass Trail meanders on, maintaining a gentle slope. The walk is not too strenuous as the slope is gradual enough even for children. If you are not familiar with trekking, you can take a moment to catch your breath at the rest area located along the trail.
From the rest area, I catch a glimpse of the cityscape in between the trees. I am only a few hundreds of meters from the main road, but it feels as though I am standing at a faraway distance. With few cars passing by now and then, it is quite an alluring feeling to have this tranquil forest trail entirely to myself.
5. Mandeok Pass Trail Observation Deck
Passing through the rest area after Okbulsa Temple, I am getting close to the end of my trip. Mandeok Pass Trail Observation Deck, the terminal point of the trail and my destination, is just around the corner. I am walking on a trail deep in the forest one minute and entering a wide open space the next. Then, the hidden cityscape unfolds before me like a scene from a movie.
I cannot just pass by this magnificent point. An observation deck was built to help visitors like myself enjoy the scenery comfortably. The observation deck stands dizzily on top of a steep cliff, as if floating up in the air. Under the observation deck below the mountain, spreads the landscape of Busan. I see Centum City in the distance and the blue waves of the sea in the backdrop. To the left lies Dongnae-gu and to the right Yeonje-gu and Busanjin-gu. I can also see Jangsan, Baesan, and Hwangnyeongsan Mountains afar. The one-hour walk along the trail was certainly worthwhile.
The sun is about to set. I am just in time for the gentle rays of the sun transforming the city into a golden yellow. I could not otherwise enjoy this beautiful scenery when moving briskly about in the city like a part of a machine.
As the sun slowly sets, everyone from couples holding hands and families with children to photographers holding cameras flock around the deck. Now that the sun has set, I wait for the lights to turn on in the city. There are many great observatories in Busan, a city of mountains. Mandeok Pass Trail Observation Deck is one of them located only an hour’s walk away from the starting point of the trail . It is also a short ten-minute drive, which is why this observatory is popular these days as a destination for people out for a drive.
Darkness falls in the city and the buildings light up one by one. The gray city takes on a tinge of blue momentarily. Then, the red lights from cars filling up the roads infuse life into the pale city. The gentle breeze brings with it the scent of the sea. The crescent moon over my head brightens up the observatory. What more could I want?
Mandeok Pass Trail becomes very dark at night. There are no streetlights. So, a flashlight is a must. I recommend taking this trail with friends or family rather than alone just in case of an unforeseen accident.