Thursday, June 28, 2012

Monkey Business in Malaysia

Travel Stories
Monkey Business in Langkawi, Malaysia, June 2012

My husband and I don’t get to travel together too often now that my elderly parents live with us. But we decided recently that we would brave a very quick holiday together on an island resort quite close (by air anyway) to Singapore, where we live.

So off we went for a “long weekend” (actually Monday-Wednesday) on the Malaysian island of Langkawi. We stayed in a lovely resort, where we were given a nice large room with a fabulous view of the bay below us. Green hills along two sides of the bay and rainforest just behind our room on the other side.

On the morning of our second day there, we went for a guided walk through the rainforest. Being Malaysia, it was nice and easy, along a proper path, but we did get to see langurs, limurs, grasshoppers and various kinds of birds. Incidentally, a langur in south-east Asia refers to a rather small monkey – in sharp contrast to India, where it’s a very large monkey with a red behind (it’s a distinguishing feature, ok?). I know these creatures quite well because my cousin and I were once chased through the streets of Ranikhet by one of them. In the long ago past, of course.

Anyway, to get back to our walk in Langkawi. We ended our walk by walking along the beach, beside the resort, where we saw quite a few of the larger Macaque monkeys. Some of the members of our group nodded sagely when our guide told us the monkeys sometimes enter the rooms.

Although this was meant as a warning to us to keep our windows and balcony doors closed, secretly I thought it would be kinda cool to be visited by a monkey.

The day wore on, with sea and sand and chatting on the beach and so on. The next morning, after some more vegging out in our beautiful surroundings, we got ready to leave the resort. I stepped onto the balcony to take in the sights and sounds of the sea one more time. I took a few last pictures with my phone. As I stepped back into the room, my finger must have hit some icon on the phone. Suddenly it started playing the one song I have so far managed to download – Allah hoo, a beautiful Sufi song sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This song always transports me into another state. Pretty soon I had my eyes closed and was swaying to the familiar words and Nusrat’s beautiful voice.

Suddenly I heard a “chir-chir-chir” sound. I opened my eyes to see a monkey standing by our mini-fridge unwrapping a chocolate! For a brief moment I was torn between the urge to shoo him away from the fridge and clap my hands in glee. Not to mention switch from music to camera mode on the phone. The first instinct won and I literally yelled “shoo shoo” at the monkey. My husband came out of the bathroom where he had been packing up our toothbrushes and all, and added his voice to mine. The monkey quickly retreated through the balcony door.

My obsession with recording everything now took over. I closed the door, but started clicking. The monkey quickly moved off the balcony, but then, much to my delight, he came back again. He seemed wary of my husband and me, watching us intently from the other side of the door. But he wouldn’t go away.  Then, tentatively, he stretched out an arm and reached for something in a corner of the balcony. I realized he had dropped a small part of the chocolate, still in its wrapper, on the balcony. On his second try, he was more courageous, reaching all the way to the wrapper, picking it up and licking off the chocolate. Then he disappeared.

It was the perfect going-away gift, that visit from my monkey friend. I marvelled at how well trained and focused he was – he must have come in quietly, made straight for the fridge, opened it and grabbed the biggest of the chocolates. It was only the sound of the unwrapping that gave him away.

I forgot to tell Reception to charge us for one chocolate. I don’t think they did.

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