There is an abandoned temple near Ban Phe that is overrun with monkeys. I love monkeys! My decorating scheme at home is mostly pictures, figures and masks of monkeys. It's kind of ridiculous. So I jumped at the opportunity to visit the monkey temple on Saturday.
I hopped on the back of a motorbike and ventured with a group of ten TEFLers to the fabled temple. One of our group had visited the temple on his own before, and he led the way. We made a brief stop at a roadside stand to buy big bunches of green bananas for 20 baht (about 70 cents) a bunch. It had been suggested that we leave our helmets on. I joked that we might end up barricaded in the abandoned temple, subsisting on bananas as monkeys methodically sought a way in. Ha.
As we approached the sacred grounds, we entered a less-abandoned area with a huge staircase going up the hill. The railings of the staircase were five-headed snakes. Rather than climb the stairs, we followed the road up the hill to the beautiful temple. The surrounding trees were infested with small monkeys. One or two was carrying a baby on its stomach or back. The monkeys were adorable and a little shy. They loved bananas but only a few of them were brave enough to come very close for them.
Then there was this guy. He's the Baron of this particular band of monkeys and he did not seem to appreciate our visit. When one of our group bent down to hand him a banana, he bared his teeth and ran at her, which was terrifying. We tried throwing what was left of our bananas at him to make him happy, but he had no interest in them and continued towards the group of six or seven of us as we backed away from the temple, the angry Monkey Baron, our motorbikes and our companions.
Inside the temple gate, the others continued to feed the nice monkeys and take some amazing pictures. Outside the gate, I was completely terrified and so were most of my companions. Monkey Baron ran at us a couple of times and we backed further down the hill. He sat and stared at us. In our frantic fear, we attempted to scare him by singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." He was not amused. Finally we realized that there were still some bananas in one of the backpacks. In the hope that the Baron could smell them and that was why he hated us, these last bananas were tossed toward the jungle in an attempt to get him to follow. It worked, after a fashion, and he moved to the side of the road. We hurried past him, back to the temple and our bikes.
Back at the temple, the few people who had stayed behind were still taking pictures. At some silent signal, the monkeys retreated suddenly into the jungle.
We cautiously rode back down to the base of the staircase, wary of any attempts the Baron might make to have his troops jump from the trees and attack our faces as we tried to leave.
Safe at the bottom of the staircase, we put on our best monkey faces and laughed at ourselves.