When you exit the station in Lop Buri, Thailand, the first thing you notice is the monkeys. The whole area is ruled by a street gang of thieving monkeys that stalk visitors from above, creeping along roof tops and power lines just waiting for the opportunity to make off with anything and everything they can get their grubby little hands on.
My friend and I were on a train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and we decided to hop off in Lop Buri for an hour or two to check out a temple near the train station. My friend was hungry and I was thirsty, so we ducked into a convenience store. She bought a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and I got a bottle of water.
The second we stepped outside, the monkeys had us in their sights. Before we even knew what was happening, a monkey had jumped on my friend and had basically taken her sandwich out of her mouth. I don’t think she even managed a single bite. Then the monkey sat down right in front of us and enjoyed his lunch.
When my friend made like she was going to take it back, the monkey let out a loud shriek and bared its fangs like some genetically mutated, rabid animal from one of those ‘animals mutate and take out an entire town except for the newly arrived divorced dad, the local cute girl he falls in love with, his two children and their dog’ movies—you know the ones with a single animal name in the title (“Python!” or “Spiders!” or “Mosquitos!” and the one I’ve been waiting on for years: “Cows!”).
I suppose I could have tried to help her, but I was much too busy laughing hysterically and once I calmed down, I obviously had to take pictures. While I was distracted with my photography, a sneaky little monkey jumped on me and pulled my newly purchased bottle of water out of my pocket. Luckily, it was cold and covered in condensation, which made it hard for the little pickpocket to keep a tight grip. He sat down ten meters from me and started working on getting the cap open. This gave me a chance to chuck a rock in his direction, which sent him scampering off without the bottle. Monkeys 1 — humans 1.
From that point on, we were much more careful. The monkeys, realizing this, changed tactics as well. Now, a few of them would dart toward us from one direction to distract us, while another one would jump us from behind and grab hold of anything they could. My camera bag was a favorite. They tried to grab it over and over again, but clearly did not understand the concept of a shoulder strap. Stupid monkeys.
At one point, my friend let out a scream behind me and I turned around to see a monkey sitting on her head. Literally on top of her head. I really wish I had a picture of this, but since she was less than happy with me for laughing at and photographing her first encounter, I decided to try and help her this time. Of course, my help amounted to little more than saying, “Just……push him…” and then laughing. A lot.
After that incident, we stayed near a Thai tour group. We noticed that the tour guide had a long stick he would use to keep the monkeys at bay and as a result they kept their distance. Once we had a little protection, we were able to appreciate the monkeys a little more, especially the families with their ridiculously cute babies. Of course, like all little babies who grow up in gang territory, we knew these, too, would eventually join the other thieving monkeys in a life of petty street crime.
Tiffany @ thUnimaginedLife says
I’ve had quite a few experiences trying to reclaim my possessions from thieving monkeys…sadly, to no avail 🙁 That high pitched shriek (and those hair raising fangs) typically results in “winning”, lol
Chubby Chatterbox says
What a fun post, and thanks for the warning. The wife and I are planning a trip to India next year and I understand there are lots of monkeys there.
I think the ratio of monkeys in India to monkeys in Thailand is probably about the same as the ratio of people between the two countries, so yes, you will see a few monkeys. I never had any monkeys in India try to pick my pockets though. In fact, they pretty much just ignored me altogether.
Daniel recently contributed to world literature by posting..Singapore Jungle–Exploring the Heart of Darkness
Oh no! I love a good ham and cheese toasted sandwich. I had a similar experience with a raccoon stealing my lunch (and entire bag with it) while I was asleep on a beach in Costa Rica.
Arianwen recently contributed to world literature by posting..Barichara to Guane: pueblos bonitos
Lawrence Michaels says
I really use to like monkeys until I moved to Thailand, now I can’t stand them. Their aggressive, pushy and if they want something they are going to get it. Nowadays I stay away from them and let the tourists occupy their attention.
Lawrence Michaels recently contributed to world literature by posting..Top Ten Phuket Beaches
Hilarious, they look so cute but are such schemers!
Ayngelina recently contributed to world literature by posting..Torn between two worlds
I’ve heard about thieving monkeys in some tourist spots in various countries. Has this become a sort of attraction to tourists that people in authority just allow these monkeys to steal things from tourists? Anyway, I enjoyed your story. They say that “Fake friends laugh at you behind your back, while real friends put you on youtube and then laugh at you.” I guess proves that you’re a real friend. lol
For the most part the monkeys are just trying to survive, but I’m sure there are some cases where people actually train them to steal from tourists. As for the authorities–they don’t do much of anything that doesn’t put money in their pockets. If someone has trained monkeys to steal, you can be sure the authorities are getting a cut.
Daniel recently contributed to world literature by posting..Spanish Football Dominates Even Retiro Park in Madrid
Funny! In India these monkeys have even learned to do geometry and calculus! the following decade story should prove it:
After a visit to Elephanta caves, we were relaxing at a cafe somewhere midpoint along the side of a narrow but long stairway that leads to the caves. A dad was walking down the stairs carrying a toddler on his shoulders and the boy was busy eating some pastry. As we were watching, a monkey sitting on the ground did some quick mental computations, ran quickly to achieve escape velocity, hopped on the sidewall, leaped over and grabbed the pastry while mid air, and landed on other side wall with accuracy, hopped on the ground and disappeared. After T+2 seconds, the boy realized his pastry was gone without a trace. It took me few minutes to calm down from laughing. End of story.
Daniel McBane says
I’ve never seen one pull off a trick like that, but I definitely believe it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Asia, its that monkeys are very accomplished thieves. I like that you laughed at the poor kid.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Arriving In Manang…Two Weeks Later Than Most