Ao Ling, (Monkey Bay), Koh Phi Phi.
While staying on Phi Phi Island, we took a day-long speed boat tour of nearby Maya Beach, did some good snorkeling on Phi Phi Ley, and visited the amazing Viking caves, where they collect the Swift and Swallow nests to sell as gourmet delicacies in Bangkok, Phuket, and of course, China.
We were then unloaded onto Monkey Island to see the monkeys who lived in the jungle there, and are said to come and eat out of your hands.
Every year some tourists get bitten by those monkeys, which for some bizarre reason, does not seem to deter anyone from trying to get up close and personal with them. They are wild animals and not tame creatures, after all. But if anything, these reports of severe bites and subsequent rabies shots seem to add a certain adventurous cachet to the idea of trying to feed and handle them.
On the day of our visit, there were only two pretty fat and lazy monkeys on the beach.
The rest stayed in the steep jungles above….
While the rest of the tourists offered the two lethargic monkeys bananas and packets of fruit juice, I found my own mind wondering about what was REALLY going on here:
It was the day of the annual meeting between the Associated Phi Phi Tour Boat Operators (APPTBO) and the representatives of the Union of Monkey Entertainers, Phi Phi Division (UMEPPD).
A long table made of bamboo is decorated with tasty bowls of bananas, pitchers of Coconut water, and plentiful ash trays. The APPTBO executives sit on chairs at their assigned side of the table, nervously strumming their fingers, waiting for the UME reps to arrive. The executives don’t know quite what to expect, as this year’s visitor numbers have been down recently, because of the political unrest in Bangkok that has made worldwide news headlines, and tourists’ inability to distinguish between Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi in making (or canceling) their vacation plans.
The senior monkey negotiators enter, wearing dark glasses, smoking cigars. They are not smiling as they sit at their side of the table. They immediately adopt a hard line attitude.
“You must know we’re not happy. Numbers are down. We’re not getting the bananas we expect. If you want our best monkeys, you’re going to have to raise your guarantees.”
The TBO executives try a conciliatory approach.
“You know, we’ve had a long and fruitful relationship. You provide the monkeys, guarantee a few bites of juicy tourists, just to make it interesting, and we provide the bananas. It’s worked to our mutual benefit for years… Surely you can’t blame us for those crazy government protestors driving down our numbers…”
The UME monkeys are in no mood for conciliation.
“Listen, relationship, shrelationship,” (sometimes the monkeys spoke in gibberish, especially when they got excited), it all comes down to the bananas. You guarantee enough bananas, we provide our best boys…the ones who know how to bite, who can put on a good show for your tourists…Do you want our best boys, or not? You know, we can always find a few of our retired music box dancers instead of our young acrobats. The old guys will work for less…”
Beads of sweat are visible on the foreheads of the TBO execs.
“Of course we do, you know we do, and that’s why we’re prepared to make you a very generous offer. How does 3,000 bananas and twelve bites sound?”
The monkeys snort in amazement and disgust.
“You can’t expect our best boys for those kind of numbers. Like we said before, it all comes down to the bananas…you want our best boys, our good biters, you’re going to have to do better than that…”
The TBO execs huddle and confer in nervous whispers.
“How does 4,000 bananas and eight guaranteed bites sound to you fellas?”
The monkeys light fresh cigars and permit themselves a smile.
“Now you’re talking. For 4,200, we’ll even bite a few extra tourists for no additional charge.”
“Friends, monkeys, fellow labor leaders, I think we have a deal!”