Hong Kong from 0 m to 554 m a.s.l.


An Ingenious Solution to a Hilly Terrain ?

The renowned skyline of Hong Kong

The city of Hong Kong is built on some serious hilly terrain and one is not always far from the hillsides if they bother to look up between the skyscrapers for that sliver of green forest and granite above them.

buildings
They’re mind-bogglingly crowded it’s suffocating just to look at !

Despite some extensive land reclamation on both sides of Victoria harbour and particularly so on Hong Kong island side land is still scarce and a premium resource so much so that more and more buildings have to be built on the hillsides but that came at a price : all the roads hug close to the hillsides and are dangerously windy as well as being so narrow that at peak time traffic simply clogs up.

So born the Central-Mid-Levels elevator system to facilitate residents on the western side of Hong Kong Island to get to work easily – a meandering system of 20 escalators and 3 moving walkways between the many skyscrapers on the steep hilly streets of Hong Kong Island . The system is not continuous and at places it is connected via a series of footbridges. If one starts from the harbour front it takes about 20 minutes without stopping in between to reach the affluent district of Mid-Levels some 135 meters a.s.l. covering a distance just shy of 1 km.

The course of the Central-Mid-Levels elevator system 

Whether it has served it’s purpose is yet to be seen as the traffic is still pretty jam-packed most of the time but the system has become a tourist attraction for it is reputed to be the longest outdoor escalator system in the world and it really brings people to see the different facets of Hong Kong society cheaply and comfortably as the system courses through the different districts of Hong Kong, from the impoverished to the well-off and finally to the realm of the super-rich.

So hold tight to the handrail as we begin the tour to see a part of Hong Kong Island that I always find fascinating. We’ll begin by taking a ride on the iconic Star Ferry from Kowloon side first 🙂

OPERATING HOURS:

Downhill direction: Mid-Levels – Central 6am to 10am daily
Uphill direction: Central – Mid-Levels 10am to midnight daily


This has to be my most ambitious project up-to-date with over one hundred 360° panoramas shot over a couple of months with information assembled from several sources to give you not just an immersive tour but also history and current affairs about this colony of Britain that was handed back over to China in 1997. You will enjoy more of the Monkey Hill Tour if you also take your time to try this tour as well !

The Untold Story

Where to find monkeys in HK

Getting to Golden Hill ( Kam Shan ) Country Park is easy for most people – just hop on bus 72 or 81 or drive right through the country park in the comfort of your own car along Golden Hill Road to see the mischievous monkeys that make the place synonymous with them amongst most residents of Hong Kong.


Travelling to Monkey Hill like a local on bus 81 for less than 1 USD each way !

Golden Hill road also doubles as part of a section of a long hiking trail, stage 6 of MacLehose Trail named after one beloved former Governor of Hong Kong. This popular trail, about 100km long traverses Kowloon from east to west mostly following the main mountain ridge on Kowloon Peninsular. It is against such fact that I came to know this road and later this place when I began to call Hong Kong home in 2009.

As a matter of fact I tried to ignore our primate kin which share almost 94% of our DNA at first as I always and still think the best way for any wildlife’s conservation is to leave them well alone so as not to draw human attention to them.

However it then came the exception when I saw what human beings were capable of a few years back to inflict on these little critters.

I still remember vividly that it was a cool morning one day in November in 2011 as I hiked from stage 7 to stage 6 on the Maclehose Trail when I first bumped into a little macaque, no bigger than a small puppy with its right forelimb – if you could still call it as it’s avulsed from the shoulder and hanging limply and awkwardly down with most of the forearm element missing, leaving a red and angry open wound at its end emitting a low shrill cry, all alone by the kerb halfway along Golden Hill road.


A poor maimed macaque alone by the kerb 🙁

I guessed it was less than a year old then and normally an infant should be accompanied by its mother and so I was really curious and at the same time worried about it. Clearly at this young tender age it would still rely on its mother for milk and on its own in this shape it wouldn’t be able to forage anything meaningful to survive. There’s still a lot of skills it had yet to learn from its mother.

I waited at some distance away so as not to disturb the baby and hoping that its mother would somehow turn up to claim the baby miraculously.

As it began to pick off grit and other dirt from the wound I was really surprised how neat the wound appeared, in fact it’s like an amputation and I began to suspect it was the work of a trap – probably a steel-jaw type – which I later learnt from the local press that such devices were being discovered at a few other country parks at an alarming frequency. As most wildlife ( except wild boars ) is protected by law ( a legacy of its British past ) people suspected they were laid down illegally by smugglers coming from China across the border as game is highly sought for and valued medicinally in China so much so that most forms of wildlife are now extinct there. In Hong Kong however wild mammals like the Red Muntjac ( a kind of dwarfed musk deer ), pangolins, porcupines, civets, leopard cats, bats and wild boars are abundant and still roam free in large swathes of protected countryside that cover almost three quarters of all land area of Hong Kong, another legacy of its British past.

To make matters worst these mainlanders ( as opposed to Hongkongers ) seem to have de facto impunity under the new administration of Hong Kong as the authority would often not react or just let them off easily in petty crimes or even serious misdemeanours. No wonder these unscrupulous traders whether in animal or rare wood trade would come to Hong Kong to make quick money – a case in point is the protected Buddhist Pine ( Podocarpus macrophyllus ), an evergreen that is highly valued in China for its good Fengshui. Another is agarwood which fetches high price in the market for its aromatic resin. These two have almost all been cut down now by smuggling gangs coming from mainland China at night. Now they have turned their attention to less valuable but still highly profitable game trade.

My hope however grew thinner at each minute passed as the baby’s shrill became more desperate. It’s jittery and nervous but just when I was wondering whether I should call the appropriate authority for help ( whether it would response is another matter as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, SPCA, the R which stands for Royal had been dropped since the handover in 1997 to China is well-known for putting animals down only. Furthermore to catch an agile animal like a monkey on its home turf one would require more than just a few personnel, besides by the time they appear the animal would have been long gone into the woods ) an older female, probably its sister came to his side to comfort it. The maimed little critter huddled close and appeared to be pacified somewhat. No sooner had this happened an entire troop of monkeys appeared around this stretch of the road and the moment I tried to get closer to the maimed monkey a few became aggressive towards me. I knew then the little baby at least wasn’t abandoned by its troop.

At last someone came to his aid 🙂

But still there was no sign of the whereabouts of its mother. I suspected whatever was the cause of this little baby’s injury also claimed the life of its mother : if it was a steel-jaw trap the stronger bone of an adult meant that it was still immobilised by the trap and probably had died from a combination of both exhaustion and exsanguination. The small and brittle bone of a baby resulted in an instant amputation and avulsion of what’s remaining. Whether it had scurried away in the subsequent confusion and pain or was simply ignored and pried away by the game smuggler as it still clung to its mother with its only hand left is really anybody’s guess.

The following weekend I came again specifically for the little critter – and there it was still in good health. The wound was still red and raw but at least it hadn’t deteriorated. As it climbed and jumped from tree to tree I knew the injury hadn’t incapacitated it – it’s still as playful and energetic as most other babies, a testament to our primate kin’s amazing tolerance and ability to survive. I also noticed it was receiving many treats from passers-by so obviously many kind-hearted locals were taking mercy on it. Given it was still in a troop and all the protection that came with it as long as the wound healed properly without complications this little baby should survive.

He has since been known as ” Stumpy ” for those who have been following his progress on youtube.

Photos of Stumpy just before I left HK for one whole year in 2012

As I hiked along the road and really started to see these critters properly I became horrified at the sights of many injuries these poor animals suffered : some were missing an arm, others had their legs chopped off. A few babies were blinded, others were horribly disfigured – to the lay person they might think these were natural injuries but to the trained eyes, these were the result of machetes and even corrosive agents. Clearly there was an evil at work for quite a while here besides illegal poachers – an animal abuser. Judging from the injuries the perpetrator of such heinous crime had taken advantage of these poor animals’ trust on us so as to get close enough to commit such atrocities.

Victims of animal abuse 🙁

For that this individual is even worst than the illegal poachers for he simply tortures and kills just for the pleasure and fun of such act. Clearly he’s not content with just simply drawing blood and was hell-bent on inflicting as much pain on the animals as possible hence he improvised with corrosive agents – which I suspected was some kind of chemical drain cleaners.

How could anyone hurt these animals who are one of our closest kin in nature ?

Why the hate ?

I took many pictures of such instances of abuses and asked my local hiking buddy to write to the press and he duly did. It didn’t at first draw a lot of attention but soon word began to spread as people were disgusted by such cruelties. A few newspapers also picked up on the story as well as stashes of machetes, half-empty bottles of corrosives began to be found in various spots amongst the thick undergrowth inside the park. As more instances of abuses began to surface a demonstration against animal cruelties was called for as the public demanded actions from the government. That same year 2012 while I was away from Hong Kong news had reached me that by early summer enough momentum had been gained so much so that the administration could no longer pay a lip service to the demands of many animal lovers of the city and began to act, much like any bureaucrat – comically and ruefully inadequate by simply putting up giant banners inside the country park reminding people NOT TO HURT MONKEYS and TO REPORT ON SUCH INSTANCES and that FEEDING MONKEYS IS ILLEGAl and CARRIES A FINE OF AROUND 2,000 USD PER OFFENCE, much to the chagrin of all those concerned in the cause as the original demand to set up a dedicated squad to deal with animal abuses and to catch those responsible seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and continues to remain so till these days err …. on the laughable grounds of inadequate resources ( despite Hong Kong having the second highest ratio of police officer to citizen ratio in the world since the handover to China – not that the crime scene has deteriorated significantly since but that the alienating administration popped up only by China is feeling increasingly edgy as more people are displeased and disenfranchised by the political setup in Hong Kong, a case in point is the largely peaceful ” Umbrella Revolution ” in 2014 which saw tens of thousands of people, mostly students and young people who took to the street to demand China to stick to its original promise to grant people in Hong Kong at least UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. After nearly 3 months of street occupations, the movement lost focus and petered out and everything remains status quo if not worsened since ).

People taking to the street in Central, HK in support of the ” Umbrella Revolution

Fortunately the exposure seemed to have stopped any further spate of abuses by the middle of 2012. The perpetrator(s) of such heinous crime though is still at large.

We parted in the evolution tree about 30 million years ago but they are still uncannily similar to us, like a smaller spitting image only cuter.

However there is no stopping to poachers and smugglers coming to Hong kong at night as the border is increasingly porous nowadays and the administration has no intent to patrol it like it was then under the British. After all Hong Kong is now part of China and the administration is only doing its bidding. And the police force is increasingly being used to stifle oppositions only, much like its counterpart in China.

I fear for all the wildlife in Hong Kong : not only are they being hunted their habitat will shrink as the administration is increasingly clear with its intent to cede piecemeal the once protected countryside to urban development as the city swells with immigrants from China – indeed some 2 million New Hongkongers have settled down legally as China continues with its policy to dilute the indigenous population of Hong Kong so much so to the extent that nowadays almost every one in three Hongkongers belongs to this new category – your average Mandarin-speaking and brain-washed mainlander Chinese, hostile to many western values and not very much law – abiding and worst still all bigot-minded. I’m sure you must have met one in your own country ! To make matter worst in this small city of 7 million it has to cater to the various needs of mainlander Chinese who swarm this overcrowded city by tens of thousands everyday ( in total about 45 million mainlander Chinese visitors per year ) as some vote with their money and feet on Chinese merchandise, others just want to take advantage of various legal loopholes to make a quick buck.

Once “ mainlandization “ of Hong Kong is complete which at this rate is not far off in the future it will spell the end of Hong Kong as we have come to know it, much like what’s happening in Tibet.

Sad.