Monkeys; Not As Sweet As They Look.
Those who know me know, I am not a fan of monkeys. I understand why people often think they are so damn cute and cuddly and want to feed them bananas and bonbons. But after hearing stories and seeing first-hand how destructive these sneaky bastards are, I avoid the cheeky beasts at all costs. Allow me to explain.
My first experience with monkeys was in Jodhpur, India, in 2001. These were a pretty harmless group of big guys that rambled through the rooftop restaurants, scavenging leftovers. But the Irish girls I had befriended kept their distance and told me stories of monkeys breaking into their hotel room windows, destroying property inside and making off with valuables, along with making an absolute mess. I started giving monkeys a wide berth.
A few years later, I was living in Malaysia and visited one of the lovely remote beaches that dot the peninsula. About 30 feet from me, I watched a woman sitting on a bench under the trees unwrap a sandwich and lift it to her mouth. Before she could take a bite, a monkey landed onto her head from his perch above, and grabbed the food out of her hands. He then pushed off her head, back up to the jungle canopy and out of sight.
Later on, I was visiting another beach in Malaysia on my own. I hiked over the thickly jungled hill from the main beach to a smaller hidden one. Looking back, this was not the smartest choice in solo activity. Luckily, the small beach was not totally deserted; a couple of German tourists were enjoying the tranquility as well. I lay my bag on the sand and waded into the water. About 10 feet in, I heard shouting behind me and turned to see a monkey had opened my bag and taken out my mp3 player (those were the days). The Germans were shouting at him and I started running back through the water to save my only music source. The cheeky little thing scampered back towards the jungle and turned around one last time. I don't know if he felt the guilty twinges of an ancient heritage or just felt lazy, but fate smiled on me, and he dropped my mp3 player before leaping back into the jungle. Since then, I have been extra cautious.
Oh, I begrudgingly gave my heart to an insanely adorable domesticated spider monkey in Laos who swung around my legs like they were a jungle gym, and gazed at me with liquid mournful eyes. But other than that, it's just been destructive little beasts marauding through towns around India, Ecuador, Thailand, you name it. Many of these places have a town bar policy; all building windows and doors have bars on them to keep monkeys out of homes and businesses. This makes me feel safer, but I have also heard of the sneaky creatures picking the locks and wreaking havoc.
My most recent experience with a destructive monkey was this summer in Bali. I was walking by Monkey Forest (only because the alternative route was ridiculously long), and was, obviously, walking on the opposite side of the road to the forest. A young couple was walking down the sidewalk on the forest side, carrying a small brown bag. As I gazed on, a monkey descended from the jungle canopy and scampered over to them, scratching at their legs and eventually grabbing the brown bag from out of the young man's hand. The monkey leapt back into the jungle and the couple ran across the street to me. They were a sweet young British couple and I asked if they were alright. They were physically fine, just shaken. Before traveling, they had taken the precaution of getting rabies shots (more on rabies another time), so felt alright about the scratches. The only casualty was the t-shirt they had just bought that was in the stolen bag. Who knows if the alpha monkey is sporting that shirt now, or if they just dropped it in another part of the jungle. But I am confident that couple will not be so laissez faire around monkeys again. And I hope, dear reader, that you will maintain your guard around these destructive littles beasts too!