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Beware the Monkeys, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Wherever We May Roam

By Steven Moore

As an Indiana Jones wannabe, I left the tourist trails seeking solace from the throngs and discovered a beautiful pyramid with zero tourists, the perfect place to absorb the jungle’s magnificence and spy on the monkeys.

Atop the isolated pyramid, I had a great view of monkeys playing in the human-less jungle, and for an hour I was in my element. But, ready to continue exploring Angkor, I made my move. The monkeys had disappeared, all except one older male. He wasn’t interested in me, so I tried to photograph him with the pyramid behind, and it became a game: when I moved, he moved, spoiling the perfect shot. I moved again; he did too. And then again.

I must stress, I didn’t get too close…. I’m not one of ‘those’ tourists. But I believe he grew tired of our game, and when he issued some aggressive grunts I knew it was time to go. I backed away, and when I turned, my heart stopped. Lined up ten yards away were about eight large monkeys and several smaller ones. S**t!

I took a few steps to edge past, but—and I’ve no doubt it was coordinated—they moved to block my exit. One of the larger specimens darted forward, threatening, and I didn’t know what to do. I looked behind at the old male, unmoved, his eyes on mine, unwavering. Beside him were others, large males I guessed. Bodyguards. They began to shriek, and everywhere I looked, monkeys moved towards me from the jungle. I sensed they would attack, and if they did I’d have no chance. They were big, the size of large dogs, and they were many. I was isolated, no humans anywhere, and shouting was futile. I was in this alone.

So I ran.

I ran as fast as my flip-flops would allow over the uneven jungle terrain and—you guessed it—the monkeys chased me. At one point they clamped their jaws on me, one on my arm and one on my camera bag that swung wildly from my arm. But I kept running, about two hundred yards in total, and … and then my flip-flop flew off. I turned and faced the pack. They shrieked and lunged, but I grabbed my flip-flop and ran again, and this time they didn’t follow. Thirty more seconds of hard running and I was onto the tourist road, heart pounding, legs shaking, but safe.

I know what happened. I’d wandered too far from the main trail, and the elder patriarch simply lost patience with the stupid intruder. I didn’t do anything wrong, just lingered a little too long, but it was a terrifying experience, and I was lucky to escape with a few scratches and a story to tell.

When I looked at my photos weeks later, I found one of a mother and baby, which I didn’t notice while I was there. I assume they considered me a threat, and the monkeys did what they had to and chased me the hell out of their jungle.

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