Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A typical day (except with monkeys)

Fictional reader Norris Dudgeon wrote in to ask:

Dear Dave W,

You seem to have an atypical life.
What is a typical day in your life like?

Today was pretty typical of my life in Taiwan. Except with monkeys *

Monday, 24th January 2010


This week's neighbourhood

I think there were some Koreans staying here last night, but they must have snuck in and out without me even noticing. Made mental note Re: Koreans - polite but sneaky. The good thing about travelling off-peak is that I mostly get rooms to myself.

I don't know what I'm doing today; this is pretty normal. It's day four of seven in Kaohsiung and I've done most of the recommended tourist stuff, as well as plenty of aimless wandering, but then I come across information that Formosan rock macaques (those red-arsed primates from Taipei Zoo) roam free and wild on the nearby mountain.

The nearby mountain

Why isn't this listed as the #1 thing to see in Kaohsiung travel guides? Is Lotus Lake really more essential than seeing wild monkeys? It's probably because most of those guides are written by people like me, who haven't actually been to the places they write about (for money) and don't have a clue what I like.

I then hypocritically spend an hour or so writing a load of travel articles (for money), all about places I haven't been. This provides the funds that keep me alive and helps me pay off my student loan, on the rare months that the company decides to actually pay me.


Sun Yat Sen University and Hamasen beach

I get clean etc. then head to Sun Yat Sen University, where I know there's an entrance to the hiking trail. I buy a hearty lunch at the last 7-Eleven before I leave civilisation behind: some seaweed wraps, a blueberry bagel, some kind of Belgian bread and some coconut biscuits, because I saw coconuts hanging from palm trees as I walked past the beach and am not as resistant to subliminal advertising as I like to think.

I don't buy anything for the macaques (which are considered pests by some locals), correctly anticipating signs like this:

I head up the mountain and plonk myself down for lunch. I wonder how far I'll have to go before I enter Planet of the Macaques, and if I'll even see one today. It takes less than three minutes of walking to see two of them casually strolling along.

Elated by the apes, I head further up the mountain and literally go off the beaten track. It's about now that I realise I forgot to buy a drink. After a while, I hear what sound like distressed cries and come across a tiny wild dog (I think they're called puppies?) lying on its back, that seemed to be in pain. But what the hell do I know?

I watch the little guy/bitch for a while as it struggled to stand up, shaking and frail and getting caught in twigs. There's probably something wrong. So I do what any good Englishman would do: I alert the attention of a passing elderly couple, show them the animal, and they say some things to each other that I can't understand. Guilt and responsibility transferred, I head down the mountain again, as hiking has lost its appeal.

The macaques cheer me up as I pass them again, and they now seem to be using my picnic spot to hold some sort of impromptu Monkey Council. The rules are fairly loose it seems, with some council members eating fleas, one doing a big poo in the middle of the footpath and another having a quick bit of rape for a few seconds until he's shuffled off.

At some point a dog comes along and eats the poo, and I use up all my camera batteries documenting the events for me and you, but mostly me.


I get back to the hostel feeling knackered (typical), sort through today's too-many photos and start to write this. Tina asks if I want to check out the night markets in town, and although my first thought is that it wouldn't fit into the established narrative of the day, I realise this would be a stupid reason not to go. Besides, she's incredibly attractive, and probably has a nice personality too etc.

Ruifeng night market is entertainingly crowded and a lot of fun.

The more famous Luihe 'tourist market' is just two rows of stalls on either side of a street, demonstrating once again the unreliability of tour guides.

It turns out Tina has a boyfriend, and that she's Korean by ethnicity, so I had a narrow escape there. But at least it restores the day's narrative arc, and that's all that matters. I should never actually get with all these girls I fancy, that would be disastrous.

Retro kids at Luihe night market

Pig dumplings: making little eats even more fun

Revenge of the Killer Crabs

Remembering to be responsible, I book five nights at a hostel in Kenting, then remember Kenting isn't the one next to Green Island and Orchid Island, is it? That's Taitung. Never mind, I'll go there after. I can stay in Taiwan until 10th March, and plan to delay the return to Taipei as long as possible. At some point I fall asleep, and wonder if that little dog's okay. Not the one that ate macaque shit: he was having the time of his life.

Monkey fun

* (Yes, I know macaques are not monkeys (or apes), but this is my bloody website, okay?)