47. Not Letting the Monkeys Win

Not Letting The Monkeys Win: This is a cautionary tale for you, because you live in the city, and you may have forgotten what we have recently re-learned. Monkeys are not your friends.

In India, we saw lots of monkeys from safe distances, all kinds of monkeys. Little ones, no-tailed ones, super long-tailed ones, bearded ones and even those really gross-butt ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. I think it’s time we start teaching those things about pants. They can learn. That’s not what this is about though. This is about the monkey that tried to eat my iPod.

On the Malaysian island of Pulau Pankgor we found some great jungle swimming – Lush, tree-lined beaches, surrounded by real jungle wilderness on all sides. It was the stuff of legends, postcards and reality television. Everything was perfect until our last two days on the island when, for some reason, the booming monkey population of Pulau Pangkor turned on us. Amy was the first victim.

Sloan: How was the beach?
Amy: Well, you left me alone and I got harassed.
Sloan: Oh no. You’re kidding.
Amy: By monkeys!

Monkeys tried to steal her peanut butter sandwich crackers. I can’t tell the story as well as her, so you’ll need to imagine her in a standoff with a monkey who’s just opened her backpack and is about to reach inside for the crackers when she shouts something like “NOT TODAY, MONKEY!” and starts running furiously towards him with a stick and a handful of sand. It’s a good story and, we thought, an isolated incident.

We went to the same beach spot the next day and noticed a group of monkeys patrolling the road nearby. Still pretty far away, we set up blankets under the beach trees and had a good solid hour of quiet, long enough to build up a healthy sense of false security. Amy heads for the water first and I followed shortly after. Naturally, we swam farther than ever from shore, far enough that it would take about two long minutes to freestyle back to land but close enough that I could watch a monkey drop from the trees and ransack our belongings like moms at a sale on sensible undergarments.

Incredibly, the monkey missed the remaining peanut butter sandwich crackers in the backpack and instead retreated into the trees with my iPod. I suppose that’s kudos to Apple’s design team. So pretty, monkeys will mistake it for food. High in the tree, he took a couple of good hungry bites into it. My favorite bite is the one that shredded the protective plastic over the little middle wheel thing, because I didn’t like that part anyway. My least favorite bite is the one that left a deep gouge in the center of the screen. Put off by that bland consumer electronic taste, he immediately dropped it into the sand and watched me dive for it. As he sauntered away, I noticed he was missing one of his paws. I actually, briefly, felt a little sorry for him. Then I just thought a lot about that movie, the one where some kid buys a magic monkey paw at a Chinese antique shop and it turns out that it grants evil wishes. Maybe that was a childrens book? Anyway, I like to think it was this monkey’s paw.

Foolishly, we assumed the attack was over and went back to lazing under the same tree. Sun, wind, wanderers’ bliss, whatever, we didn’t notice the pack of monkeys sneaking up behind our heads until a Dutch guy yells, “Hey look out for that monkey!” I wish there were a way to write that with a Dutch accent, because it sounded a lot funnier that way. This second attempt on our snack bag kicked off an hour of coordinated snatch and grab from the bags of all the backpacking tourists on the beach, a full-on monkey army assault. Monkeys were suddenly everywhere and the attack didn’t subside until a local man showed up with a stick and some really fancy self defense moves that looked a lot like interpretive dance. Awesome. We thanked him and slowly backed away from the beach, with all the remaining monkeys now rallying around a Swedish kid who thought he too could beat back the monkey menace. God speed, Swedish kid.

Hours later, sipping tequila drinks in the safety of our hammocks, we thought briefly about never returning to that beach. Maybe never speaking of it again. And then we remembered – we’re Americans, goddamn it. If we don’t go back to that beach, the monkeys win.

Not today, monkey.


  1. Erin says:

    I knew that people were lying when they said monkeys were harmless. I KNEW it!

  2. rja72 says:

    dude if you dont fight them there, you gonna have to fight em back home….

  3. furey says:

    some very interesting things happen to Amy when Sloan is off looking for a bathroom, taking photos, etc.

    I hope you two have a good supply of Clorox Wipes…remember the movie Outbreak?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I thot I warned you about the monkeys on Wild Thornberrys. And you thot there was no educational value to cartoons. Next time you’re home, I’ll let you watch them with me.By the way. I never liked those episodes with the rude monkeys. They scared me. Love ya. Mom

  5. hank hill says:

    “Dang it Sloan, I’m trying to contain an outbreak and you’re driving the monkey to the airport”

  6. Todd says:

    Damn monkey bit me when I was in Thailand. I don’t trust the lot of ‘em. Oh sure they are cute and all (not them monkey butt ones), but I know they are really out to get back at us for stealing all the bananas.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I think the monkey paw thing you remember is from a Simpsons episode.

  8. sable says:

    Nope, the monkey paw thing is a very old story written by W.W.Jacobs in 1902 (Simpsons just ripped-off the story).

    Maybe the monkeys are pissed because they missed the Ape gene pool that we branched out of. Or, maybe they know about their distant relatives suffering in animal research facilities.

    Regardless.. I have to side with the monkeys. It’s their home.

  9. S says:

    You would side with the monkeys, you pinko vegetarian. Nice work with the W.W. Jacobs reference though. Viva la H. Erectus!

    Also, kudos to my mom for making her first appearance. Didn’t see that one coming…