I felt the delicate fingers of the small monkey climbing up my arm, around my back and before I knew it, I had a new friend sitting on my shoulder nibbling my hair. This little monkey was so cute but I didn’t want to scare him or piss him off.
Courtesy Meghan Bunchman
It was my first experience seeing monkeys in Thailand. We traveled by longboat that first day in Koh Phi Phi to Monkey Beach and observed a handful hanging out near the water. They were completely unphased by us, as if entertaining tourists was part of their daily routine and I’m sure it was.
Monkey Beach, Koh Phi Phi
Seeing monkeys in Thailand was part of the journey. Coming within a few feet, inches or even directly interacting with them was not a rare occurrence. In fact, it was all too common.
I felt fortunate to create such incredible memories with the monkeys the first time I saw them in Koh Phi Phi. When we went back to Monkey Beach the second day, I was eager and a little overzealous to repeat the experience. We saw even more of them flooding the beach this time. Most of the monkeys were much bigger than the ones we had seen the day before. Among them was a mother nursing what must have been two brand new babies. The way she carried them away to an area that felt safe, watching us humans closely to be sure we didn’t hurt her offspring was beautiful. It touched me.
I reached out my hand to another monkey and he started to climb my arm just like the one the day before. He didn’t make it very far before biting me and that was the end of that. I had gotten too close and pushed my luck. Fortunately, he did not hurt nor injure me. Another monkey stole my sunhat and would not give it back until our longboat captain chased him off. Some of the other monkeys started running towards us and we knew it was time to go.
Fast forward a couple of days later to our arrival at the base of the Tiger Cave Temple hike in Krabi, I was shocked to see so many monkeys populating the grounds of this tourist attraction. They were everywhere! I could not believe how many monkeys were scavenging food. We pushed past them to start our steep trek to see the top of the temple and it was not until we came back down that I noted some compelling behavior.
Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi
First I watched a monkey picking the bugs out of another monkey’s hair and when I looked a bit closer, I saw a huge gash in his arm. The gaping wound was fresh. He had just been in a fight. I pondered how great his threat of infection was and how that wound would ever close.
Just a few steps below, I saw a monkey dangling a toad by its legs. The monkey was trying to kill the toad, beating it against the concrete steps, tugging at its legs and picking at its tough skin and eyeballs with his fingers.I felt sorry for this poor little toad and shooed the monkey away hoping I could help it escape. Unfortunately, it was too late. The toad, injured and exhausted, had already accepted its fate.Through these experiences, I learned how fortunate I was to observe the behavior of monkeys in such close proximity. I was also made very aware that no matter how tame and approachable they might appear, monkeys are still wild animals! Beware!!