Visiting areas of Asia with monkeys can be very exciting. As monkeys are such intriguing creatures, people often consider them to appear friendly, especially if they’re not scared of humans. These monkeys usually expect people to give them food, whether the humans want to or not and they can be very cheeky if not dangerous in certain circumstances. Want to hear Scott and Trevor’s monkey stories? Listen to our Monkey Tales episode now!
Once you spend a reasonable amount of time in Asia where monkeys are found in so many places, you’re very likely to begin amassing some stories of encounters with them. And more often than not, it seems that such encounters with monkeys are not entirely positive interactions. Scott and I realized we have some pretty neat stories of monkeys (and apes) and on this episode of Talk Travel Asia will be sharing our Monkey Tales with you!
Trevor and one of his first monkey friends!
Scott and Trevor share their first memories of seeing monkeys in Asia and how they felt:
TREVOR: My first experience in Asia was the Ubud monkey forest, which I’ll discuss once we really get into the tales. I’ve been a number of times back to the monkey forest since then. It’s probably the best monkey experience you can have in Asia. If this is your first monkey experience, it’s going to be a memorable one. The only thing I could imagine would be better is snow monkeys in a hot spring in Japan.
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Before we move on to tell our monkey stories though, I think we should differentiate, right off the bat, the difference between monkeys and apes. On a recent episode of Tantalizing Travel Tales (Episode 120), I told the story of going to Sumatra in 1996 which was another of my early monkey and ape encounters. There I had two interactions with apes and one close call with monkeys. The apes were Orangutans and Gibbons and each one of the most amazing animal experiences of my life. The monkey experience was terrifying. That’s my difference between monkeys and apes: Apes good, monkeys bad! (you can go to our show notes to listen to the reasons why).
SCOTT shares when he realized monkeys aren’t necessarily ‘cute and friendly’ and how he learned that apes were.
Trevor learned that he liked apes much better than he liked monkeys!
Scott and Trevor’s Monkey Tales!
Indonesia: Trevor explains how the The Ubud Monkey Forest is the sanctuary and natural habitat of the Balinese long-tailed macaque (crab-eating macaques). More than 1000 monkeys living in six different tribes are scattered throughout the 12 hectare (30 acre) forest (Wikipedia says 186 species of plants and trees), where there are three temples and a holy spring built by humans in the monkey’s protected home, which is actually owned by the local community. Pretty cool, really .
Everyone wants to go to the Monkey Forest when they visit Bali. It’s like how everyone wants to see a Ping Pong show in Bangkok. But going to the Monkey Forest in Ubud for your tenth time to take your friends around Ubud is slightly more interesting.
First they steal everything from everyone and you really get an appreciation for how dumb humans are (or how dumb those monkeys probably think humans are) – putting red bull cans on the ground next to your bum bag while taking a photo?
Moving over to Malaysia…
Scott’s Malaysia Monkey Tales
- A guy gets his wallet stolen by a monkey at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.
- Monkeys in KL stealing smokes and Fisherman Friends on a golf course.
- Monkeys while mountain biking at Bukit Kiara – ominous!
Trevor: Malaysia has some epic monkeys –and apes. I saw two more Orangutans in the wild in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo), which is one of the last refuges of some of the world’s most outstanding wildlife, including the Proboscis Monkey, which I unfortunately did not get to see. Few people travel to Borneo without seeing the proboscis monkeys, really, but we wanted to see Orangutans, so we went to the Danum valley. So many cool creatures there but our Orangutan sightings (two of them at Danum) weren’t as amazing as my first encounter in Sumatra.
Monkey stories from Cambodia…
Trevor: Most of my encounters came at the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity – Quite a few monkeys there, but Gibbons too. It’s a sanctuary. Many times people keep gibbons and monkeys as pets. I came across one such in 2008 or 9 while I was exploring Central Cambodia with Siem Reap Dirt Bikes. One of the photos of me with the gibbon: the gibbon sitting on the front of the motorcycle with me, because the brochure cover for SRDB.
Otherwise, there used to be two gangs of monkeys in Phnom Penh. Their gang fights used to make the news. Not sure where they all moved to. A friend even had a phone stolen from a monkey here in Phnom Penh. She was convinced someone trained it as it hopped in the window and saw the phone (she was wearing a towel, just out of the shower) and it grabbed the phone and split.
Quick shout out here to the Loris: slow loris and pygmy loris, which are primates, but not monkeys or apes. Closer to us genetically than the monkeys are. Been a long time since I saw one in the wild. They don’t swing from trees like gibbons, that’s for sure. They’re slow, so they get caught a lot. For pets and as traditional medicine. Fortunately they love to mate, so they seem to be hanging in there, so to speak.
Scott: Best place to see monkeys in Cambodia is Angkor?
Trevor: Watch out for the Angkor monkeys! They’ve had too much exposure to humans. The wild ones around Lazy Beach were much more chill. it was kind of nice to have them hanging out in the field around me as I worked recently. I find that the more wild monkey are (e.g. the less they’ve been fed by humans), the more I enjoy having them around. Sneaking past my door
Nepal Monkey Tales from Scott:
- His friend Kate got bit at the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu
- Scott’s fish & chips in Patan get stolen
- Monkey in Scott’s window in Kathmandu
Thailand Monkey Stories…
Trevor: Gibbons in the back of West Railey behind the Railey Beach Club. At Monkey House you need to close the mirrors or the monkeys (not the gibbons) might smash them. They don’t like seeing their reflections: they think it’s another monkey and attack it!
Scott: Guest gets bit at cave in Chiang Rai as she had peanuts in pocket
Trevor: Lopburi – The ultimate Thailand monkey story is the Monkey Festival!!! I’ve only been there just after it. Most of the year the Monkeys of Lopburi live in two places. The largest group lives at a 13th century Khmer temple built when the region was reigned by the Cambodians of Angkor. Like the monkeys at the Ubud Monkey Forest, these are Crab-eating macaques. The others live kind of across the street at the Phra Kan shrine, where people get lucky lottery numbers and then have to come back and feed the monkeys.
But that’s not even the main event, which is the Monkey Banquet: 2000 monkeys feast and then run amok..
Scott: Lopburi monkey gang war of 2020.
Scott: Highland Farm – monkeys and apes: don’t insult the apes by calling them monkeys!
Trevor: Phi Phi newspaper story about the lady who was raised at a zoo and tragically fearful of monkeys.
Scott: Swimming monkey off pier at Ko Samet fetching a can.
TREVOR: OH YEAH, I saw swimming monkeys on a boat trip from Koh Yao Noi. Definitely have photos of that for the gallery!
Oh and there’s monkeys that did coconut picking too. Which was a big thing before. I even wrote a little story about it because one famous coconut-picking monkey from Surat Thani carried the Thai flag in the ASEAN games once (I think). Now I think that’s all gotten shut down because some SJW in California found out and got all the monkeys laid off.
Honestly, I shouldn’t advocate this as I don’t know that all such monkeys were treated fairly, but picking coconuts doesn’t seem like such hard work for a monkey. I feel like this is something they could do responsibly. I suppose if it was apes I’d probably so no, so… maybe I shouldn’t weigh in here.
Stories about monkeys in Sri Lanka…
Scott: Monkey fighting snake at Galle, Sri Lanka
Links for more monkey stories
- Lopburi monkey gang story
- Coconut monkey boycott story on BBC
- Rebuttal by Thai monkey trainers
- First School for Monkeys
- How a monkey earned the honor of carrying the Thai flag!
- Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity
- Tantalizing Travel Tales I
- Tantalizing Travel Tales II
- Tantalizing Travel Tales III
- Tantalizing Travel Tales IV
More about hosts Scott & Trevor
- Follow Scott on Twitter: @scottcoates73
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- Groovy Map Seoul
- National Geographic Cambodia
- National Geographic Thailand
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