Do you like monkeys? How about hiking? If you happen to be in Kaohsiung then you are in luck! Known to foreigners and locals alike Monkey mountain is a great place to get a workout in ( your stair master would be proud of you ) or to get out and have some fresh air. This place is called Caishan Natural Park on trip advisor or Shoushan by locals but it’s all the same place. There are loads of paths that weave around these mountains but if you don’t want to get lost you may want to opt for the stairs. This is the most direct route up to the top where there is a large viewing platform and a hangout for the monkeys. You will be treated to a refreshing cup of barley tea by kind hearted locals. They make trek this journey every morning just to make tea for the visitors who wander up. How’s that for hospitality! And once you make the hike up you can see what a labor of love this. It requires toting about 50 lbs of water on their backs, up what seems to be a never ending staircase of stairs.
This hike will take you to one of the highest vantage points in Kaohsiung and give you a great view of the city. You can see the 85 SkyTower and and a panoramic view of the entire Kaohsiung area. It’s very popular with the locals and early in the morning this place is buzzing with activity. You will be amazed by the individuals that will pass you up. Don’t be surprised if a 90 year old man outpaces you as you struggle to manage all these stairs. And if you get a chance to see the water bearers jaunting up you will be as shocked as we were, just thinking about their daily ritual made my back hurt. It’s all quite entertaining especially when you throw all the antics of the monkeys in as well.
The monkeys here are Formosan Rock monkeys found only in Taiwan. There are lots of monkeys and they are harmless but just a friendly reminder if you carry food or plastic bags that look like food you could be accosted. It’s better not to carry anything except a bottle of water. You can run across the monkeys all along the paths and they are quite fun to watch. Babies that chase each other around, older ones grooming each other or as you get up to the platform many will be lounging around on the trees. It’s a great place to get a serious workout in and feel as if you just entered a Nat Geo show.
There are also other wildlife that call this place home. We had the are opportunity to see a Formosan barking deer, which is a tiny dog sized deer. Birds and butterflies flit in and out and around the trees. There are some cool caves that some locals have been exploring, for the more adventurous. We ran into an older man that wanted to give us a tour of the cave he had found. It was a fun experience and the cave was quite a bit bigger than I had imagined it would be. He also wanted to show us a shortcut to the top which ended up being a long cut in the end but it took us along some paths we had never seen and gave us some spectacular views that were not available from the stairs. The locals are friendly and helpful and if you get lost don’t worry someone will always help you along or point you in the right direction.
We like to hike up from the middle trail which is near Wan Temple. This particular trailhead is located near a 7-11 on Lane 51, Gushan 3rd Road. Lane 51 runs right next to the 7-11. Follow it all the way around, as it turns into Alley 47, until you see the 4 monkey statues. The stairs leading to the trail are about 50 meters behind the statues. Just beside the Chinese Buddha Culture Center, 中華會館, GPS coordinate: 22.655596, 120.272640. There are other tail heads available but this seems to be the direct best route up. Best way is to check bus routes from where you are staying or jump in a cab and give them a look at the map to get you there. And when you come down from your hike make sure you stop along the stairs and get a refreshing cup of Aiju to drink. This is a cubed jellied fig with lemon. It tastes way better than my description sounds. Similar to lemonade. A fun way to spend your morning or your afternoon Monkey mountain does not disappoint!