From Taipei, we took the high speed railway southbound for 90 minutes and spent a long weekend in Kaohsiung. On Sunday, we went on a hike to Monkey Mountain (Shoushan or Chaishan) after the sky cleared up a bit.
There are a few entrances to the Shou mountain, with many intertwining trails and caves to explore. We took a pretty easy loop for about 4 km and 2 hours, starting from Long Quan temple (龍泉寺) and turning back at Yazhou pavilion. The trailhead is reachable via a few bus lines or bike share, and is also within walking distance from the Kaohsiung Art Museum train station.
When Dutch colonized Taiwan in the 17th century, they named the mountain “Apen Berg”, Monkey Mountain in Dutch, on the map. The monkeys in the mountain are Formosan rock macaque, and we spotted a bunch of them at the beginning of the trail. Along the hike, we didn’t see many monkeys until Yazhou pavilion. The monkeys liked to gather where people were for food, and we were warned by the signs about not bringing food and making gestures like taking out food.
Yazhou pavilion (雅座)
This was the highlight of the hike for me. After climbing some stairs, we reached the Yazhou pavilion. I heard many people chatting while climbing the stairs, and it was like a party up at this pavilion. Many local volunteers carried jugs of water up the mountain multiple times a day, and they brewed a few kinds of tea in large quantities for every hiker to enjoy and rest. Just as I was regretting not bringing a cup, a volunteer pointed me to a rack of metal cups and a water bucket to wash the cup. I was really touched by how people collaboratively and selfishly set up this tea pavilion. We rested and sipped the barley tea for about half an hour, observing monkeys that were seeking open backpacks from the trees.
Along the trails, we saw cliffs and caves with stalactite. Shoushan is made up of coral reefs and calcium carbonate, with evidence of the landscape rising above sea level. To explore more of the geography, there are a few limestone caves by the trails that looked really cool. At the time of writing, visiting the caves or rock climbing required online reservations or onsite registration. The most popular caves are 天雨洞 and Lotus Cave (蓮花洞).
Gushan military air-raid tunnel tour
We meant to check out this official tour but didn’t make the reservation in time. The Gushan cave (鼓山洞) was built as one of the anti-raid caves in the mountain during the Japanese colonization days. Inside the tunnels, there were rooms for interrogation and military/police purposes decades ago along with the stalactite that formed in the cave. I’d love to try this tour next time we visit, and the tour was only 50 NTD.
It was a unique experience to hike with the monkeys, and the trail was well paved and easy to follow. Despite the excitement of seeing monkeys up close, we were also cautious about following the rules. When a fellow hiker’s backpack was accidentally left open at Yazhou pavilion, a monkey quietly jumped down from the tree to explore the backpack. In addition to the monkeys, I would love to check out some of the caves as well the next time we are in Kaohsiung.