Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Monkey Not-So-Magic

To me monkeys are a little like certain family members; just because you're related doesn't meant you have to like them.

I can't claim to have a paranoid fear of them, I just don't like them.

This dislike has developed nicely following recent trips, particularly to India and Morocco.

When others were marvelling at a monkey's "cheeky" and "mischievous" nature, I was standing as far away as possible.

Every time I see a monkey, I'm reminded of the scene in the movie A Passage to India where the main character Adela is chased away from the temple by a terrifying pack of shrieking monkeys.

There's something about a monkey's "almost human" behaviour, boldness and intelligence which makes me wary.

And even when you try to scare them away, they don't flinch as if to say: "I know you're bluffing".

Monkey Not-So-Magic Moment Number 1:  Elephanta Island, Mumbai

Bold monkey who stole a tourist's Coke bottle from her hands
It was hot and humid.  I was trapped on an island.  And these monkeys seemed to sense my uneasiness... so pursued me.

Elephanta Island, located in Mumbai Harbour, contains a series of temples which have been caved into the rock.  However, to access these you must first pass a troop of local monkeys - the equivalent of a gang of young hoodlums.

For some reason, they seemed to ignore my travelling companions and honed in on me, lunging for my bag and water bottle.   I was outnumbered and attempts to scare them off with sudden moves and noise proved fruitless so I ran.

Thankfully another hapless tourist arrived and they decided to pick on her.   They stole her bottle of Coke straight from her hands.   Ahhh, but the joke's on you monkeys when you start getting cavities in their teeth.  Am I right?

Monkey Not-So-Magic Moment Number 2:  Marrakech, Morocco

Monkeys of Marrakech: coming soon to your back

Walking across Marrakech's main square is like traversing a mine field.  Apart from people trying to sell you things and pick your pockets, you also must contend with people trying to put monkeys on your back for photos (requiring later payment) without invitation.

"Free range" monkey in the Atlas Mountains.  Here they grow big on mountain air and tourists
On one hand I feel sorry for the monkeys who are on leashes and in nappies so they can spend the day being continuously thrown at tourists by their owners.   On the other hand, I don't want them anywhere near me.   Best advice?  Don't stand still here.

Another Atlas Mountain monkey: he's watching you
Morocco turned out to have quite a few more monkeys than I had bargained for.  In the Atlas Mountains, monkeys swing around the cedar forests just waiting for tourist buses to arrive.   They know their fellow primates usually come with food and other offerings.

Monkey Not-So-Magic Moment Number 3:  Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

Just waiting for you at KL's Batu Caves

There are 272 steps up to the Batu Caves, a cavernous Hindu temple on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.   There are seemingly about ten times that many monkeys roaming the place, preying on tourists.

These monkeys have seen tourists like you before and know instinctively how to corner your group, distract you and run off with your camera or bag (To do what?  Take them to Cash Converters?).   Positioned strategically on the stairs, they know you have to pass them first if you're going to make it to the top.

He doesn't speak but his eyes say: "none shall pass here"

Are all monkeys evil?


But there have been some monkeys I've actually liked.  Not just because they haven't lunged at me or robbed me, but also because they've looked as though they weren't carrying the ebola virus.

Dare I say it but Japan's snow monkeys were cute

This one didn't try to rob me (maybe too cold to move?) so I liked him

Japan's snow monkeys are a chilled bunch spending their day soaking in thermal springs

This guy was playing the legendary character Monkey (later made famous in the TV series  of the same name) at a Peking opera performance.   Possibly the best monkey I've encountered during my travels.

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