Of monkeys and mountains

Last week I visited Monkey Mountain three times, and saw plenty of monkeys…

A young monkey eating a plant next to a paved pathway.
A Formosan rock macaque on Monkey Mountain. Photo: Zhen-Kang.

Monday: NSYSU

National Sun Yat-sen University (國立中山大學) is wedged between Monkey Mountain (壽山) and the coast.

Its campus is notable for the monkeys that break into student dorms, its beachside location, and for being accessed through a pedestrian tunnel:

The entrance to Sizihwan Tunnel, with three pedestrians about to enter and two walking out.
Sizihwan Tunnel (西子灣隧道) was constructed 90 years ago, during Japan’s 50-year occupation of Taiwan. In World War II it was used as a bomb shelter and Japanese command center, with a capacity of 2,150 people in a secret side tunnel.
A sculpture of a monkey riding a cloud hangs from the ceiling. A cloud-shaped video of Chinese characters is projected on the tunnel wall.
The tunnel is 260m long and decorated with video projections and hanging installations. Here, a mokey peeks down from a cloud.
Thousands of fairy lights hanging from the roof and walls of the tunnel, with the tunnel exit visible in the near-distance.
There are fairy lights at the NSYSU end.
A cartoon-style map of the National Sun Yat-sen University campus painted on a wall.
This campus map was painted on an outdoor wall at the end of the tunnel. Note a couple of features not found on most university campuses: a beach resort at left, and happy monkeys reaching for the dorms up top. The tunnel’s on the right.
A 7-story building made of red brick and unpainted concrete. The building shape is inverted—with the floors getting wider towards the top.
Here’s the Administration Building from the center of the map.
A small concrete bridge in the foreground with a pagoda and multi-story university buildings behind.
My friend and I stopped at the pagoda on the left to drink tea. I forget the air temperature but it was pleasant—maybe 24ºC.
A large tree growing atop a pile of rocks.
I thought this tree, growing out of the rocks, was cool.
A fish pond with arched bridge and pagoda in the middle, and a fountain at right. The pond is surrounded by a green hedge and trees.
This fish pond was full of koi (although there’s only one in this photo—so trust me).
A two-lane road under a vehicle overpass, with a painted relief depicting a fish jumping from the water.
We followed the road below this sea-themed bridge…
Wide-angle shot of Sizihwan Beach, with dozens of people on the beach and the buildings of National Sun Yat-sen University in the distance.
…To Sizihwan Beach (西子灣). The beauty of the beachside campus was obvious from this spot.
Cargo ships entering Kaohsiung Harbor in front of the setting sun. The rocks of a breakwater are visible in the foreground.
Turning to my left, south of the beach, ships were entering Kaohsiung Harbor as the sun set. On the walk we hadn’t seen any monkeys, and had only skirted the side of Monkey Mountain (although we did walk through it). But this was just day one…

Tuesday: The Former British Consulate at Takao

Britain was one of the first countries to establish a consulate in Taiwan, in 1879.

The Former British Consultate at Takao (打狗英國領事館) comprises two buildings: the harborside Consulate Office, and the Consulate Residence on the peak of Shaochuantou Hill (哨船頭), at the edge of Monkey Mountain.

The consulate closed during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. In 1931, it was converted to a marine observatory and then a meteorological observatory, before being restored in 1985.

I arrived one-and-a-half hours before closing time, which was nowhere near enough time to properly look around, take photos, and enjoy coffee.

I was advised the cafe was about to stop serving, so I bypassed the Consulate Office and headed uphill to the Residence:

A gentle wooden ramp leading uphill.
The Residence track started gently enough…
Stone steps leading uphill.
…Before getting a bit more challenging. Each of these steps was double-height. However, the total climb might’ve been equivalent to a six- or eight-story building, so it was a non-issue in the cool weather.
Life-size statue of Robert Swinhoe sitting on limestone rocks, with three monkeys alongside him watching.
At about the half-way point, I stopped to look at this life-size sculpture of Robert Swinhoe—the first vice consul and consul general in Taiwan, and the biologist who made the Formosan rock macaque famous. From Swinhoe’s samples, the British Museum identified the species as endemic to Taiwan. So it was fitting that, literally as I took this photo of Swinhoe and the monkeys…
A Formosan rock macaque sitting on the platform to the side of the sculpture of Robert Swinhoe and three monkeys.
…A real-life monkey appeared next to me. My first time seeing a wild monkey. While I was watching it from two meters away, I saw it look directly at my bag. In that moment I remembered they’re famous for bag snatching, so I gently backed off. The monkey stuck around for a few more seconds before disappearing into the trees.
Looking downhill over the stone steps and apartments towards Kaohsiung Harbor. Two scooter ferries are visible in the middle of the harbor, and cranes and skyscrapers can be seen in the far distance.
I continued up the hill. Looking back down, I could see two scooter ferries crossing the harbor.
Wooden steps in the foreground lead to an open date, bordered by red brick pillars.
A couple of minutes later I reached the gate of the Consulate Residence.
When I someday upgrade from public transport to a yacht, it’s reassuring to know I’ll be able to find it from atop this hill.
The former British Consulate Residence at Takao.
Here’s the former British Consulate Residence. A beautiful brick building, now housing a museum and cafe.
The sun setting over the Taiwan Strait. In the foreground, there are a few dozen people on the promenade watching.
There were 270º views from the garden—including towards the setting sun. People were gathered on the promenade below to watch.
A book on a coffee table, with a view across the water below.
I took a seat on the verandah and ordered coffee from the “Tea & Art” book.
Close-up of a cup of coffee with an intricate pattern in the foam.
My coffee was indeed artistic.
The verandah with harbor and city views in the distance, through the verandah’s red brick arches.
The coffee had taken 20 minutes to arrive, so I didn’t have long to explore afterwards. But I liked the evening views from the verandah.
Across the harbour I could see some of Kaohsiung’s most interesting buildings: Kaohsiung Music Center, 85 Sky Tower, the Main Public Library, the Exhibition Center, the Cruise Ship Terminal (which just opened two days ago), China Steel Corporation Headquarters, and also Great Harbor Bridge.
Life-size sculptures of a historic street scene outside the former Consulate Office building. Sculptures include people carrying bags and goods, and talking with each other.
Back at the foot of the hill, I stopped for a quick look at the Consulate Office. Life-size sculptures were installed out the front. I didn’t have time to take it all in, or to look inside for more than a minute. I look forward to coming back.

Sunday: Monkey Mountain

I’ve wanted to climb Monkey Mountain (壽山) since arriving in Kaohsiung. The opportunity to see wild monkeys on a place called Monkey Mountain—a name straight out of a fantasy novel— is too good to pass up.

It’s a place to visit in winter or early spring, as summer temperatures likely make climbing infeasible for most people.

(Climbing at night to avoid the heat is inadvisable: that’s when the snakes come out.)

So, on Sunday, a friend picked me up at 7am to make the most of the cool morning. We rode his scooter a few kilometres to the start point, then set out for the one-hour walk to the top:

View of Longquan Temple, looking through the temple gates towards the main building.
The walk started next to Longquan Temple (萬壽山龍泉禪寺).
The first few steps up Monkey Mountain; a narrow staircase between small shops.
The start of the track involved climbing these steps between shops that sell drinks, food, and hiking supplies.
Two signs with cartoon monkeys and notes about how to behave around them.
As we entered the forest, a series of signs warned “Why feeding and touching monkeys is a bad idea”, and explained what to do if a monkey jumps on you: Slowly walk back, and wait for the monkey to jump off when it gets bored.
Wooden stairs in the forest diverge into two separate paths. There are a few people climbing the stairs.
The entire walkway to the top comprised wooden stairs…
Two people walking along a boardwalk in the forest.
…And boardwalks.
A woman squeezes between two boulders covered in vegetation, on a narrow dirt track.
The only time we touched the ground was when squeezing through these rocks. Otherwise, the whole multi-kilometer-long track was elevated. (There were more challenging dirt tracks, but I’m scared of snakes…)
View of Kaohsiung from Monkey Mountain. The city buildings are hazy, in smog.
We could see the the city a couple of times on the walk. As you can see, air pollution was bad on Sunday morning—but the mountain air was fresh.
A bamboo grove.
We passed a couple of bamboo groves. The bamboo was thick and perhaps 20 or 30 meters tall.
A man climbing some wooden steps in the forest, carrying 20 liters of water on his back.
I saw volunteers carrying 20L water containers to the top of the mountain. I’ll explain this later…
Two monkeys sitting on the boardwalk, in the sun.
…But first, monkeys! I lost count of how many I saw. Perhaps 50 or 100.
A young monkey eating a plant next to a paved pathway.
Some were really young, like this tiny monkey at the start of the track.
To monkeys eating in a tree.
Many were in the trees.
Most of them ignored people passing by. I only encountered one that was aggressive, lunging as I passed. But it had done the same thing to someone ahead of me, so I didn’t take it as a personal affront.
An adult monkey holds the hand of a younger monkey, while sitting on a bannister at a rest stop pavilion.
There were small pavilions along the track. At one, a man was practising tai chi. At another, an adult monkey was holding a younger monkey’s hand.
A mountaintop pavilion with people making tea inside. A bunch of people are gathered around, and one monkey is sitting watching.
Remember those volunteers carrying water up the mountain? Here, at the mountaintop pavilion, they make tea for the hikers. It’s completely free; they don’t accept donations. Taiwanese people are amazing.
A monkey sits amongst hikers on the top of Monkey Mountain.
On the mountaintop we sat amongst the monkeys, having a drink…
…And enjoying the view over Taiwan Strait. Recommended.