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Wednesday, January 21, 2004



Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Elizabeth and I are both monkeys – naughty monkeys – and this is our year, the year of the monkey! These photographs were taken at the monkey temples in Bali, which I insisted we return to day after day even though the monkeys filled Elizabeth with terror. The monkeys would climb all over us, demanding bananas, and although occasionally mischievous, were kept in check by a local guide armed with a slingshot, which they definitely respected. I couldn’t get enough. And doesn't Elizabeth look like she's just having the time of her life? (photo left) Doesn't she?

On our trip to the Philippines a few years later, however, we had a very different monkey experience, a quite ugly encounter. To get to a famed underground river we hiked through the charmingly named Monkey Trail on the island of Palawan. We didn’t see any monkeys until we were about a mile into the hike and we had to cross a bridge, where there was a troop of them lying in wait like little toll taking trolls. When we tried to cross one of them, a young male, approached in an extremely aggressive manner, hissing and baring his fangs like that infected monkey in Outbreak. He jumped right on my back and began trying to unzip my backpack, tugging and yanking on the zipper with all of his wicked simian might, neither intimidated nor deterred by our frantic cries of, “No, monkey, no!” I just knew I was going to end up with a horrible monkey bite, but Elizabeth managed to divert him long enough to reach into my backpack and grap the cookies he was after and throw them over the bridge. As he darted after them we flew down a huge flight of slippery, rickety wooden stairs until we reached the safety of the ranger station, where the rangers were all lying around enjoying cigarettes. After we breathlessly reported the incident one of them asked, “Deed he bite-uh you?” And then they all laughed, which was not the call to action or, at the very least , sympathetic response we were looking for. Shaken, we had our boat ride through the underground river and then braced ourselves for another cookie shakedown at the bridge. Who knows what would have happened if a noble dog named Pogie had not come to our rescue. He is owned by one of the villagers and has invented a job for himself as protector of tourists on the Monkey trail. He accompanied us the entire way back, occasionally treeing a monkey. The monkeys are terrified of him and left us alone, but we could see now how the trees were full of them because they would angrily chatter warnings to each other when they spotted Pogie. We rewarded Pogie with a can of tuna once we were safely off the trail and back in town.

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