One sunny July Sunday, my best friend Gair and I decided to take a little trip to Monkey Mountain (Kowloon Reservoir in Sha Tin, for those of you that know better).
Off we toddled, two bus rides to Monkey Mountain, because, well, Gair loves monkeys and my cousin Justin, went earlier in the year. His pictures looked like something out of Dr Who and that really had me desperate to visit this part of Hong Kong.
After an excited and jolly ride Gair and I got off the bus and immediately realised we were both inappropriately dressed in pretty sun frocks and flip-flops, with no bug-spray whatsoever. The night before we visited a friend’s rooftop in Tin Hau (i.e. the city) and, of course, I had insisted we both protect our ankles and backs of knees like there was some kind of blood shortage amongst the mosquito population of Hong Kong.
We decided that as long as we were careful to avoid puddles and other sources of stagnant water we would be fairly safe from mosquitoes, and so we flip-flopped our way down an old disused road. Before long, a one armed monkey approached us. I have never been too sure of monkeys. They are clever and strong, probably capable of not only ripping my arm off but also sending it to my family while holding me for ransom (bananas). He seemed okay though, and so we took some photos and carried on and soon there were tens of monkeys, all ages and sizes, lolling around us. Some were carrying babies others were just lazing on a wall. ‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘this is fine. None of them have asked for money after having their photo taken, they seem friendly enough.’
“I'll have to bring Alice (my sister) and Benjamin (her four-year-old son) here, they would love it! And Ollie, and Ben and Christina, and everyone!” I remarked, now almost excitable myself. That's how secure the feeling of safety was that those little monkeys had lulled us into.
We realised that we had come to a dead end unless we walked into the forest of mosquitoes, which we did give our best efforts to, but soon left because we were beginning to feel as sapped as post-juicer vegetables.
Making our way back to the road we spotted a handy footbridge from where we hoped to get a view of the reservoir, so we climbed the stairs and appreciated the view. Then something caught our eyes - monkeys on the bridge!
"Er, Gair, there's a monkey behind us. I think it is following us," I hissed through gritted teeth.
"Oh it's ok," said Gair, "he's just having a look at us!"
Perhaps still not convinced I realised that I should try to appear relaxed in case the monkey sensed my fear and decided to rip my arm off. 'Ok, I can do this,' I thought.
We walked a little farther down the footbridge, relaxed and happy to be moving away from the monkey, when Gair muttered, “er, Vickie, it's following us.”
“Okay, don't run. Let's just go slowly.”
We ended up stopping (why?) and while I was thinking how narrow the footbridge was, Gair decided to get her camera out to take a photo of the cheeky little imp. That is when the monkey SHRIEKED and raised his arms (contact Gair to see a great impression of this).
At this point Gair began to panic a little too. I grabbed her and ducking, we ran-walked away from the monkey, while trying to maintain some air of calm to prevent the monkey from deciding to rip our arms off.
Personally I was so hysterically afraid that I burst into laughter/ tears and nearly wet myself. Gair however was in shock, because she liked monkeys in the first place. We also scared some people (who were at the other end of the footbridge) so much that they decided not to cross at all!
Still feeling traumatised we headed down a new, wide and safe looking driveway towards the reservoir. It looked beautiful and I really wanted to get closer to it. We passed a large sign with lots of information on how to handle monkeys, including 'DO NOT STARE AT MONKEYS' and 'DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS' because apparently that could cause a frenzy amongst them leading to fights, and presumably, arms (mine) being ripped off. There was also a sign saying 'KEEP YOUR LARGE DOG ON THE LEAD' coupled with an illustration of a large dog with pointy ears and a big smile on his face. I am pretty sure that any real dog would not be smiling at these monkeys. This at least made me laugh, though I had the feeling that the trauma of the Evil Monkey had made me lose all ability to control my stomach. I then remembered something about pelvic floor muscles being ruined after childbirth. 'Must be like this,' I thought and amidst my hysteria I shivered.
The driveway was wide enough that I felt safe walking down it, though the monkeys sitting on top of the wire fence by the bridge didn't leave me feeling too happy. Gair was still pretty positive about the whole affair, acting as if it was just the monkey on the bridge that was Evil and Scary.
Once we had passed that bridge we came to a short stretch of road beyond which was another bridge, just wide enough to allow you to drive across the reservoir in a car.
On that short stretch of road we encountered a strange repetitive scene of a nasty man who was standing in the road, with his wife and son inside the car (engine running of course, because he would rather melt the world than his family). The scene went like this:
1. Son throws peanuts out of car window.
2. Monkeys - all ages and sizes –come running from their respective bushes to grab peanuts.
3. Nasty Man would starts beating monkeys with umbrella
4. Monkeys run back to the bushes.
And so the scene would repeat. Personally I didn't want to pass this scene for fear that an angry monkey would try to rip my arm off. We watched for quite a while, getting more and more annoyed with the Nasty Man, who by now had lured the monkeys in several times with the peanuts and then chased them away. Every time the herd came back, they grew in numbers.
Eventually, we dared to walk past the other side of the car, onto the amazing bridge crossing the reservoir. We passed a little doorway that said 1910 on it, and stopped to take photos of one another. The next thing we knew a car had pulled up behind us and wanted to get past. We had to stand on a ledge and clutch to the rusting railings in order for it to get by and once it had we spotted a couple of monkeys running after it. Not eager at the thought of being trapped on an even longer narrow bridge with a monkey that had been baited by Nasty Man, we walked as quickly as calm appearances allowed in order to get off the bridge, and away from the monkeys. Then another car, and another pulled up behind us. We let one pass us, and as it did a monkey came running behind it SHRIEKING.
This was far too much for me. Hysteria retuning fast, I stepped into the road in front of the car, a van of some kind, and made it escort me to the end of the bridge. Once there we sat down by a little pagoda, I trying to catch my breath (and missing pelvic floor), Gair deciding where to go next. I text my cousin Justin:
Been eaten by mosquitos,
nearly got attacked by monkeys
on footbridge, then saw man
luring monkeys with nuts then
beating them with umbrella.
Monkey Mountain is DANGEROUS.
His response was:
Oops, forgot to warn you.
All too much for me, I had to leave. We made it back across the bridge by following an aged and experienced local walker who seemed fearless of monkeys. Thankfully he just happened to wait at the bus stop with us too, and it wasn’t until we got on the bus that we saw that several monkeys had been sitting on the bus shelter, above us. I didn't feel safe until we hit Mongkok (i.e. the city) and even then I kept glancing over my shoulder to check for more monkeys.
Gair stated that Justin was not her favourite person of the day, and that he was “bloody useless.”
I asked her if she still liked monkeys, and she replied, "yes… when they are on TV."
"Well, at least we still have our wallets. And our arms. Can we go for a Jameson now?"
© 2007 Vickie Chan