Attack of the Monkeys

My English travel buddy Sarah and I went to Penang Hill today for a look around. The tram up and back down the hill was a ridiculous 30RM (what?? Local price only 8RM…not cool) and we decided to only ride the tram up before walking the 5km back down. Down is easier than up, right? It was a good plan. We checked out the sights and took some photos at the top before making our way down. Turns out the 5km down to the bottom is a lot steeper than you would think, and it wasn’t easy in flip-flops despite being on a paved road. You could hear trucks struggling up the hill and honks as they went around the corner to alert you of their presence. We had made it just over 2km down the hill, enjoying watching the macaque monkeys swing through the canopy far above us, when we encountered our first group of about 20 vicious little creatures in the middle of the road.

They aren’t normally vicious, normally they are quite cute. And when we first encountered each other, they gazed upon us with nothing more than curiosity. I kid you not, in the half a second it took Sarah and I swing our backpacks around and reach for our cameras the scene went from charming to terrifying. (This also explains why there are no photos to go with this post…we were literally too scared to get our cameras out) I think they must have assumed that we had food, and people….don’t feed the monkeys. Seriously, they aren’t messing around when they say don’t do it, feeding them makes them evil. As soon as we swung our bags around, you could literally see a change in their faces as all 20 or so macaques turned to us, their beady little eyes filled black with greed and I swear they grew fangs. All exaggerations aside, you really could see a physical change in them. They all began approaching us, which was funny until their speed increased and their faces didn’t turn cute and innocent, but remained frozen with malice. We slowly put our packs back on and began to walk past them, I very acutely aware of how close they were getting to my bare feet and legs. Our pace quickened as most of them began to run towards us (the few that didn’t were too busy screeching and clawing at each other, locked in combat in the middle of the road), and let me tell you….seeing 2o greedy monkeys running across the road at you is actually quite unnerving. We ran past the first group of monkeys only to be faced with a second, equally as sinister mob. We stopped short (not an easy feat on a steep decline) and, hearing their fellow attackers ruckus, decided to join in. We were literally surrounded by monkeys, all of them quickly closing in on us.

“Back off!” Sarah yelled, swinging her backpack like a weapon to ward them off. “Back off!!” She swung a couple of times as we ran through the furry mob, bursting out on the other side and running for freedom, leaving a loud and fast  flipflopflipflopflipflop echoing in our wake.  We rounded the corner before slowing to a walk. We both shot glances over our shoulders before looking at each other, breathless and bewildered. “I don’t think they were going to stop…” Sarah said. It didn’t seem like it, and if we had stayed put I honestly don’t know what would have happened to us. We walked just under a kilometer farther before taking a break on the side of the road, sipping our water and making jokes about monkeys rounding the corner, still after us. “Watch,” I joked, “they will all come around the corner soon…” Sarah looked at me, “If they do I swear to God I am not waiting for you, I’m outta here.” We laughed and enjoyed the break, well, enjoyed it until I discovered my sunscreen had burst.

As I stood there trying to wipe everything clean and fix the sunscreen explosion that happened in my backpack, it happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes. One of the monkeys comes around the corner, followed by another one. Sarah, it turns out, was not joking. The second we saw those monkeys she was gone, booking it down the hill as I frantically tried to gather my belongings, not waiting around to see if the rest of the monkeys were rounding the corner or not. “Wait!!” I yelled as I ran after her, arms full of sunscreen slathered items. She stopped briefly in front of a few bikers resting on the hill, her long, curly red hair flying every which direction in the wind and arms flapping about with no real sense of order. “The monkeys!” she frantically yelled at them, eyes wild, “The monkeys attacked us!!!” before she took off again, leaving in her wake three stunned Chinamen for me to contend with as I followed in close pursuit, hindered by my crippling roars of laughter. “Is the ok?” one of them asked me in concern. I couldn’t stop my giggling fit and had to catch up with her. “Yes,” I gasped through my tears, “the monkeys….” I shrugged and could offer no other explanation before running off. I was laughing so hard at the whole scene while chasing Sarah I actually could have passed out from lack of oxygen.

All humor aside though, it really was a terrifying moment. We were legitimately chased by a horde of monkeys for over a mile. I am forever grateful that it was downhill, it would have been game over if we had to run UP that steep slope. There is a lesson learned here, and for once it is a lesson I don’t need to learn personally but I learned it anyway. DON’T FEED THE DAMN MONKEYS!! We saw two guys at the bottom of the hill feeding the macaques. They had a bag of food and would throw a piece of fruit to the monkeys surrounding them, who would viciously turn on each other before gobbling the food and moving in again on the men. They would angrily shoo them away just far enough so they weren’t a danger, annoyed that the monkeys would still be bothering them before giving them more food. Idiots. They are the reason we got chased down the hill. Oh well, it’s a memory and we had a good day once it was all said and done.

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