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Seeing my First Wild Monkeys in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

It had always been a dream of mine to see wild monkeys, but after six months living in Taiwan I was yet to lay eyes on one and I was getting restless. To me, seeing a monkey in the wild was a sign I’d finally ended up somewhere exotic, a magical place far away from New Zealand.

So, after six months of disappointment, I was heading to “Monkey Mountain” in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. Kaohsiung is located in the south, pretty much as far from Taipei as you can get. This was also my first experience on a bullet train, which is like the resulting baby of a plane/train romance. It’s obviously a train, but some of the features, particularly the speed, seats and overall atmosphere inside are much more airplanish.

Climbing Monkey Mountain

My eyes were darting everywhere while I walked up the mountain. Still no monkeys. We kept walking and walking. Anticipation was building. Suddenly I saw some rustling leaves. I finally saw one, then another, then another, until I could see more monkeys than Taiwanese men could shake sticks at. It was pretty exciting for a start, but I noticed that these monkeys weren’t exactly friendly. They had angry red faces and there were signs urging people not to make eye contact with them.

I went from being excited to a bit scared. We’d walk past gangs of them with our heads down for fear of catching their eye and angering them. This was their turf and they knew it. Eventually I found out why they might have been so angry; Taiwanese men, usually old ones, would carry sticks and shake them at the monkeys, scaring them away. I guess they enjoyed taunting them, or maybe monkeys murdered their wives and this was their revenge, but it didn’t seem like a good thing to be doing.

I even got caught in the crossfire of one of these battles. Some old guy was waving his stick at a group of monkeys but after he passed they turned their attention to me, who of course wasn’t bearing arms. Sensing an easy target, one of them chased me. It was only for a few seconds but it wasn’t fun and suddenly my first monkey experience had turned sour. I didn’t have any more dramas after that and all in all it was a great experience, but it was like walking through the bad neighbourhood in town.

Don’t make eye contact with anyone, always be prepared and try to stay out of other people’s scuffles – this is universal advice when in dodgy parts of town, and as it turns out, on Monkey Mountain in Taiwan. Thankfully not all monkeys are born equal and I haven’t seen any more of those menacing red-faced ones. I have seen a lot of monkeys in Southeast Asia and they still always fascinate me, but I’ll never forget my first experience on Monkey Mountain.

A sunset after seeing monkeys in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Sunset in Kaohsiung

Have you seen the monkeys in Kaohsiung? Were they nice to you? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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  1. JR Riel
    January 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm — Reply

    Yes, I’ve lived in Kaohsiung for almost 4 years now and have seen those monkeys many times. They can be a mean, aggressive bunch, one of my friends even got bit by one once. Thankfully, as you say, not all monkeys are as grumpy as this bunch.

    • January 4, 2014 at 11:17 pm — Reply

      I’d recommend a nice big stick to anyone venturing up there!

  2. Doug
    January 6, 2019 at 7:59 am — Reply

    In 68 I was there and street vender’s were selling Monkey on a stick.
    They would bar-b-que strips of meat on a stick over coals in 1/2 of a 50 gal drum. Not bad.

    • January 9, 2019 at 8:35 am — Reply

      Hey Doug, sounds like things have changed quite a lot — must have been interesting to travel this region during that time!

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