Vagabond Travel Tips

Vagabond Travel Tip #2 — Never Trust a Monkey


While traveling in many parts of the world, you’ll run across many of these deceptive creatures. Yes, monkeys are cute. Yes, they look just like tiny, furry people. Just never turn your back on one — they can turn vicious in an instant.

I first learned of the monkey’s true nature while visiting the Elora Caves in India. I’d just arrived in Bombay a few days before and this was my first stop — it was also the first time I had seen monkeys roaming freely about the landscape. There were a least a dozen gray and black macaques milling about, grooming each other, and generally looking adorable. A woman was seated conveniently nearby, selling small bunches of over-priced bananas to tourists. I, of course, couldn’t resist and bought a bunch.

About this time, one of the larger males saw what was happening and slowly approached to within a few feet. I tore a banana loose in my left hand, leaned forward a bit, and held it out for him. I’d just almost finished saying “Here’s a banana for the cute little monkey” when the little bastard leapt straight in the air, screeching, baring his teeth, and spraying spittle in my face.

I was suddenly trapped in a scene from The Matrix where the monkey seemed to hover in the air while I was frozen in place.

I was suddenly trapped in a scene from The Matrix where the monkey seemed to hover in the air while I was frozen in place, hypnotized by his flashing incisors. His hand snaked out in a blur, snatching the entire bunch from my other hand and he then ran off at full speed.

This all happened in exactly the amount of time it takes to soil your pants. I quickly tossed the remaining banana after him and retreated to hide behind the banana vendor.

Later in the trip, while seated at a cafe overlooking the Ganges River in Varanasi, a similar macaque overturned my table and spilled hot food in my lap while stealing the salt shaker. Later that evening the same monkey stole my socks. I’m 99% sure it was the same monkey, though I have to admit that I never saw him actually wearing the socks.

Monkeys were leaping from one side of the street to the other, bouncing off vendor carts, screeching, and raising hell.

A month later I was walking through a small market when a full-scale monkey war broke out on the roofs above. Monkeys were leaping from one side of the street to the other, bouncing off vendor carts, screeching, and generally raising hell.

While airborne, one of them managed to crap on me, depositing a moist green pellet on my shoulder. An Indian man passing by laughed and told me that this was actually a sign of good luck. I thanked him, but I really didn’t believe it — I think he was just trying to distract me from the fact that I’d just been crapped on by a monkey.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

julie February 6, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Ha! So true. I’ve been attacked by monkeys on three continents. Never make eye contact.
.-= julie´s last blog ..A quick trip to disney =-.


Nomadic Chick February 6, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Nothing worse when a monkey stalks you. Maybe she was the reincarnation of your ex? Ooh, I just added another layer to your paranoia. Sorry. Anyhoo, I completely agree! I first encountered a monkey in Cambodia. It snarled at me and swiped at my leg.
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..Gypsy Bits and Bytes =-.


Budgets are the New Black February 6, 2010 at 8:15 pm

My uncle once got attacked by a monkey in (what was then) Zaire. He fended it off, then the monkey chased him all the way along the trail from the school where he was teaching to his home, where my aunt saw him burst out of the trees like a crazy man. I think that’s when they stopped thinking monkeys were cute.
.-= Budgets are the New Black´s last blog ..How Much Do You Spend on Groceries? =-.


wes February 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm

ah, so nice to know I’m not the only one that monkeys like to torment. thank you all :)


TR February 7, 2010 at 2:00 am

Maybe they don’t respect you because you were raised by ‘possums . . . .


groucho February 7, 2010 at 4:02 am

…An’ sometimes the locals don’t take too kindly to ya when taking a few macaque heads with a machete.
Self-defense, I say… and quick bbq fixins if ya ain’t partickular.


Michael February 7, 2010 at 5:52 am

ha! cheeky monkeys…


Dave and Deb February 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Your Matrix moment made me laugh out loud! It is true, I just had a monkey experience the other day. I didn’t even realize there were monkeys on the path when I bought a sliced mango from the nice vendor. I didn’t make it 10 steps when the monkeys came out of nowhere. they suddenly turn vicious! Dave stood in between me and the monkeys while I scarfed down the mango. I guess I could have just given it to them, they are already corrupted by tourists feeding them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to perpetuate the problem:) Now, if the started attacking, I would have been throwing the mango at them and running!


wes February 7, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Haha, it sounds like you were set up in a monkey ambush — sneaky little buggers!


Cornelius Aesop February 8, 2010 at 1:22 am

Geez enough with the monkey bashing, and socks work as an amazing tail warmer on cold nights so that’s dismissible. As for being pooed on, well at least it wasn’t flung at you.
.-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..Loans Will Be the Debt of Me =-.


wes February 8, 2010 at 2:06 am

Gah!! Is nowhere safe?!


Ladyexpat February 8, 2010 at 3:14 am

I was once decorated by a pigeon in downtown Montreal. I was on my way to a meeting. Thankfully, my customer new me well, so we had a bit of a laugh. She too told me that it meant good luck. I never wore that outfit again!

Had my water bottle stolen by a monkey last month in Bali. He ripped it out of my hand and then when he discovered that it was just water he through the bottle away in disgust! :)


Anil February 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Monkeys are cute…from a distance.


Sofia February 10, 2010 at 9:13 am

Hahaha monkeys can really be a pain in the ***! the worst are the ones that are trained to mug tourists of their money..


Jodi February 13, 2010 at 12:07 am

Glad to know I’m not the only one that despises monkeys. After a few near attacks, I live in fear of them. Watch out for the ones in Emei Shan, they’re brutal!
.-= Jodi´s last blog ..A final farewell =-.


wes February 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

monkeys = evil


polly February 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm

A bit of advice:

my monkey story:
A couple of years ago I was taking an early morning stroll in Moradabad India looking for a good chai vendor and, as usual, there were lots of monkeys rummaging around. I was not very awake (no chai yet) and not paying attention to things not related to chai when all of a sudden a little hand slipped into mine as I walked along. Somehow I managed NOT to shriek like a maniac. I stopped and looked down and there was a monkey standing there holding my hand. I said “hello” in the smallest and calmest voice I could muster – I was sure I would be bitten and maimed by the little fleabag. The monkey looked around kind of shy – almost embarrassed, let go, and sprinted for the nearest group of monkeys who were ignoring the whole scene. This cured me of my need for chai. I went back to the hotel and washed my hands for a very long time.


wes February 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Wow, what a way to go: “The deputy mayor of New Delhi, India, fell off his balcony and died Sunday after being attacked by monkeys, his family members say.”

Beats getting hit by a bus, I guess…

Thanks for the link and the story!


Amber Chalus March 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I feel for you! I was once attacked by a female monkey at Angkor Wat, Cambodia…the tuk tuk driver said it was because I was too close( Getting a photo taken) and that she could sense that I was a female also, which prompted her to be defensive. Hmmmmmmmmm……….apparently competition.


wes March 19, 2010 at 2:18 am

haha. We really are all primates, aren’t we? :)


kate April 1, 2010 at 9:10 am

i had a monkey steal my empanadas in bolivia. i had two steal my brand new hiking boots AND camera in peru. and i had another monkey steal my walkman speakers and haircutting scissors in bolivia also. this same monkey then stole a baby monkey from my lap that i was caring for, took him up to the highest branch in a tree and drop him! trust no monkey… absolutely loving your blog by the way. keep up the good work. i’m so jealous and inspire at the same time. just came back from a years trip of not a dissimilar route. will you sail from panama to colombia? please please do. you won’t regret it, one of the best things i’ve ever done. i can give you the name and contacts of a really good boat and captain. happy and safe travels! kate.


wes April 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm

wow! someone with worse monkey luck than me?! unpossible!

The trip from Panama to Columbia sounds awesome — I’d love to but I don’t have any firm plans yet. I really don’t know how my budget will look by that time, so the Americas are a little hazy at the moment. Would love any info you’d have to share, though because I *really* hope to do it.



ayngelina August 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Why do people always say bad things give you good luck? If you had good luck they wouldn’t happen.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..Is Panamanian Pio Pio better than KFC =-.


wes August 5, 2010 at 7:20 am



Adam October 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Glad we’re not the only ones with monkey stories. We have a few, but I’ll just tell one for now.

One early morning in Rishikesh, I awoke to the sounds of “someone” in our room. I was a bit scared, so I slowly rolled over to see what the noise was, and lo and behold, there was no burglar in our room, it was a monkey, sitting on the coffee table going through my pack, holding our malaria meds of all things, in his hand. I screeched like a little schoolgirl, apparently scaring him cause he threw the bottle of medication and scurried back out of the room (in true India fashion, our room had bars but no screens and gaps in the windows. He chilled on the balcony for a while, observing and waiting for us to go back to sleep I guess. We did not, and he finally ran away.
.-= Adam´s last blog ..Getting used to a New Culture The Perfect Introduction to Argentina =-.


wes October 28, 2010 at 10:57 am

Wow, talk about a close encounter. As if worrying about the cleaning lady going through your goods wasn’t bad enough…


Melvin October 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm

I’ve just seen a monkey with socks on the other day, when I was in India… LOL
You have to see it from the monkey’s kind of view. You got a lot of bananas & just wanted to share one! Can you now understand why the monkey jumped as crazy… ;-)
.-= Melvin´s last blog ..Canopy Tour at Hacienda Guachipelin in the Rincon de La Vieja National Park Costa Rica =-.


wes October 28, 2010 at 10:55 am

I think at this point, the monkey an keep the socks ;)


Jannell May 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

Wow! Who knew?? I vow to remain untrusting of Curious George :) However, I will morn the loss of my loveable childhood friend.