Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don’t Monkey With the Monkeys!

Jason with monkeys at Penang Botanical Gardens
Recently while in Penang, we decided to play tourist with the boys and did the usual things, visited Penang Hill, posed with a python draped over our shoulders, road in a trishaw, ate a lot of food, and took photos of the monkeys at the Botanical Gardens.  The boys even posed by a band of monkeys that had spread across the road in front of us.  That’s when the trouble began.  First the monkeys scared off Justin, age five, and then one started to take swipes at Jason, age seven.  The monkey kept advancing on Jason and it got awfully close before I charged in to distract it, to allow Jason time to escape.  Two monkeys then charged at me.  

I wisely backed off and showed my empty hands.  I thought that was that.  But the monkeys kept lunging toward me, their teeth bared.  We couldn’t get around them since they blocked our path.  Jenny, realizing how dangerous this was becoming, urged all of us to back up and go another way.  The lead money kept lunging toward me, baring its teeth, and then the other would do the same.  I kept my eyes on both of them, as I carefully edged backwards, not trusting them, not wanting to trip and fall either. 

Finally we put enough distance between us.  When a sandal-clad, bear-size gentleman with a camera approached, I warned him about the less-than-friendly monkeys; his exposed toes looked like fair game.  He shrugged it off and thought the best advice would be to charge the monkeys to scare them off if they decided to attack him.  I told him that I tried that approach and they weren’t particularly fazed.   Following my advice he did veer away from the road and then found a bench to sit down on and proceeded to take their photographs.  The monkeys gamely posed for him.  They did the same for us, too, before they changed their mind and went after Jason.

Mother and baby
Later, at another section of the Botanical Garden, we came upon the same pack of monkeys.  They were easy to identify since there were seven of them, plus one was carrying a baby.  They were on a fence, and when they saw us, saw me and Jason leading the way, they started to climb down the fence and made their way toward us.  Why us, I wondered, and then I remembered that earlier we first came upon this batch on the other side of the gardens.  They were climbing down a tree on top a small hill.  Jason and I had climbed it to get a better look at them and snapped some photos.  They obviously got a pretty good look at us too, and maybe they wanted some payback so they decided to block our path.  Monkeys, I’ve read about on numerous occasions while living in Malaysia, have a good memory and they will take revenge out on those who try to disturb them.  They say making direct eye contact is not recommended.

Having lived in Penang for 21 years, never before had I had any real problems with the monkeys, but there is always a first.   Later, I found out they had become quite aggressive over the years and many of the monkeys had been moved out.

As we got in our car, the boys still wary of the monkeys, and several of the monkeys still straddling the fence watching us, we decided to have our own revenge.  We noticed that the monkeys were positioning themselves by a guard rail near the exit of the parking area.  We slowed down as we passed by, and from the safety of our car, we all made monkey faces at the monkeys.  They were not impressed.  Of course we were being silly.  Yet we had such a good laugh and were glad to leave the Botanical Gardens in good spirits.

Not only did we make faces at those monkeys, we also had the last laugh.

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