Take your stinking paws off my picnic …
Monkey Mountain, known more formally as Kam Shan, is located in Kam Shan Country Park in the northern reaches of Kowloon. It is known as Monkey Mountain because as soon as you step off the bus upon arrival, you will most likely be attacked, eaten and have your remains dragged back to a mountaintop lair to be presented to the Monkey King that lives there.
But this is what happens when people ignore the warnings not to feed the animals and instead come bearing tasty treats in the hope that they will be spared the same gory fate as those that came before, such is the undying ignorance of mankind. It is such ignorance that has seen the Hong Kong monkey population rise to an annual growth rate of 7% a year. A figure made all the more alarming given that Hong Kong’s actual birth rate of just 0.9 children per woman is one of the lowest in the world.
It is said that 70% of Hong Kong monkeys live in the area around Kam Shan Country Park, almost all of which are thought to be descended from a few released pets from the 1920s. In the last twenty years or so, numbers have grown from around 600 to over 2000 in the territory as a whole. Indeed, take a trip to Kam Shan almost any weekend and you won’t struggle to understand why, as you watch members of our own “more intelligent species” throwing peanuts from car windows, distributing biscuits and generally giving little cause to doubt any one of the 93.5 per cent of DNA they share with their fellow residents. Should Hong Kong soon decide to start allowing mainland monkeys to give birth in the territory, thus securing for their offspring precious residency rights and all the benefits that come with it, you may see monkeys queuing for the Star Ferry sooner than you think.
How to get to Monkey Mountain
Kam Shan Country Park is the closest of Hong Kong’s parks to the Kowloon urban area. All it takes to get to Monkey Mountain is a short bus ride along Nathan Road and up the hill along Tai Po Road.
From Kowloon, take bus 81 anywhere along Nathan Road from Jordan Road onwards. Or, take bus 72 from Cheung Sha Wan. Check out the KMB website for further information. Just type the route number in the search box and press Display Route to see the stops.
The best place to get off is at the start of Kowloon reservoir just before the bridge crosses the road. There is a toilet block and some litter bins – or “litter stockades” as they are optimistically named here – that will no doubt have been ransacked before you arrive. Many monkeys congregate around the main road waiting to pounce on anything that dangles and looks like it will contain food. If you take any food or drink make sure it is securely stowed inside a backpack. Be careful of your camera too.
Hong Kong’s monkeys have long since lost their fear of humans and have no worries approaching anyone foolish enough to come swinging their picnic around in a plastic bag. This also means that if you are sensible, prepared, and watch your back, they will likely take little interest in you or your belongings. The monkeys are fast, often rather intimidatingly big, and at times they can seem like they are everywhere, particularly around the main road. If they see something on you and decide to go for it, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The sheer numbers of monkeys was particularly evident as the sun started to go down. As we made our way back to catch the bus back into Kowloon there were literally hundreds of them walking in troops across the slopes on the other side of the road and crossing the bridge. They were sitting on railings, swinging from lampposts and essentially occupying the walkway. Yet still people were daring to run the monkey gauntlet and cross to the other side. Check out the video below to see for yourself.
Kam Shan Country Park hikes and walks
It is not only monkeys that can be seen in Kam Shan Country Park. The park contains four reservoirs and takes its name from the 369m Kam Shan or Golden Hill, giving views of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak, to the north, Sha Tin and Lion Rock to the east, Tsing Yi and Tsuen Wan to the west, and northern Kowloon to the south. There are also remnants from Hong Kong’s wartime defence, with bunkers still visible along Smugglers’ Ridge which made up part of the Gin Drinker’s Line during the 1930s.
The park also sees stage 6 of both the Maclehose Trail and the Wilson Trail passing through. Each starts around Tai Po Road and crosses the hills towards Shing Mun Reservoir giving superb views of the surrounding areas before continuing their way into the New Territories. There is also the shorter Kam Shan Family Walk, the Kam Shan Tree Walk, and numerous jogging trails around the reservoirs to enjoy.
To reach the park from the road, walk from the bus stop down Cheung Yuen Road. It will take you across the southern end of Kowloon Reservoir from where you can join one of the various smaller walks.
To join the Maclehose Trail, continue walking along Tai Po Road after you get off the bus until you reach Golden Hill Road. Following Golden Hill Road will take you along stage 6. For the Wilson Trail, stay on the bus until the next stop and join stage 6 of that trail from there, though this will pretty much follow the MacLehose Trail along Golden Hill Road for the most part.