Don’t monkey with Miss Mason

Since arriving in Bangkok, I have been busy. On Sunday we go to the weekend market and shop for clothes for Dog. Mr Mason and all concerned will be pleased that there are not any suitable garments in Dog’s size. We think briefly about buying him a jeans and t-shirt combo bearing the legend ‘I ❤ Hip Hop’ but feel it would not have many outings, particularly if Mr Mason has anything to do with it. There is a quilted coat which looks quite cosy but not large enough. There is also a fluffy towelling dressing gown which we think would do perfectly for those after-bath moments but on closer inspection, we see it is just a small dressing gown, probably meant for a child and decide not to buy it on principle.

Monday evening sees us at a fabulous bar on top of a skyscraper. We arrive in time to grab a seat on the rooftop bar on the 61st floor and have a couple of cocktails while watching the sun go down. The bar is busy and the view is fantastic although not one for the faint-hearted or Mr Mason. He would particularly not like this bar as while we are enjoying ourselves, we feel the building swaying. We busily discuss the merits of making buildings in this way so that they stay upright during earthquakes and inclement weather, little knowing that the swaying we feel is actually an earthquake which began in the Chiang Rai area. It is so disappointing to realise I have felt my first earthquake but thought it was a particularly gusty bit of wind.

Today we set off early to go to Lopburi in search of the monkeys. We take a taxi to the train station where the monks have their own roped-off enclosure. Once on the train, we are greeted by a woman who thrusts a tray of food at each of us. It contains chicken noodle soup, mackerel in a chilli sauce and a bowl of rice. I am not sure whether this is included in the ticket or not, having been fooled by a wily old man on a train in Thailand before. However, everyone around us starts eating so we do, too. A big black sack is then passed around and people put their rubbish into it. It all seems very organised. The sky looks very black in places as we travel and it seems as though more rain is on the cards. Why did we leave the umbrellas on the coffee table? By the time we get to Lopburi, however, the sky has cleared and the sun is hot. The air feels less humid, too. We decline the offers of rickshaw drivers who shout “Monkeys! Monkeys!” at us. Well, not at us in that way. We walk down the road and after a couple of minutes we see the first one. A macaque, strolling across the road apparently without a care in the world. There are others lined up in front of shops and cafes. We cross the road to go into the Khmer Temple, Prang San Yot, pay the man at the gate and walk into a macaque wonderland.

The first to draw our attention are the baby macaques. They are tiny and simply adorable with little tufts of hair on their head and huge eyes. They hang off their mothers and babysitters in casual ways, wrapping themselves around with their long limbs and tail. We try to admire the temple as it is apparently a rare example but we can’t help look at the macaques. After just a few minutes, the first makes a kind of kamikaze leap onto Miss Mason. It is shortly joined by another and they examine her closely while I take photographs. She does the obligatory monkey selfie (although I have to say, Bangkok is a selfie obsessed city) and then one decides to try his luck on me. We have no food on us so we think we are relatively safe. This one lands on my shoulder and decides my earring is just right for pinching so it does. Miss Mason sees it and tries to retrieve it but it is up and off before we know it. I decide to put the other one in my pocket for safe-keeping. We are assaulted by macaques on all sides so we move a little away. The man selling peanuts to feed them has more luck with a Japanese couple who come in and immediately are beset by the monkeys. We know this because we hear her scream. A little while later I am joined by another macaque who thinks it will be fun to steal an earring. At this point, confusion reigns. Miss Mason indulges in what can only be described as a monkey fight in an attempt to retrieve my earring and we are not sure who has won when suddenly the earring goes shooting up into the air and the monkey makes a dash for it. We look on the ground and cannot see it. It’s 2-0 to the monkey. There is a sudden contretemps between a couple of the females and we see one trying to run along with a baby under each arm. Another couple of females bear down on her and prize a baby away which runs to the side of the pursuer. I think we may have seen a case of macaque kidnapping. In between stealing things from us and each other, our hairy little chums try tasting us to see if we are worth eating. A couple of them do an experimental bite to see if anything dislodges but I am clearly too big to eat. It licks a bit and then bites a little harder in case I am just plain old tough. After a few experimental bites, we have had enough and leave the macaques to their playing. Later, while having a drink at a local cafe, she feels something down the back of her top. This turns out to be a mangled pearl earring. I think at least I will be able to make a pendant out of it and put it safely in my bag.

Our journey back to Bangkok we do by minibus. The minibus cannot leave unless it is full and when it is full, there isn’t an inch to move. As we leave Lopburi, the skies darken and the rain begins to fall – and fall and fall. The roads turn into rivers and the amount of water being thrown up by the minibus is huge. We slide and aquaplane our way back to the city at top speed while the minibus springs a leak at the back and drips onto Miss Mason who tries to plug the hole with a bunch of tissues. By the time we get back to Bangkok, the skies have cleared and the rain has stopped. The air seems to have cleared a little, too. Back in the flat, I check in my pockets for tissues to throw away and tucked in a corner I find an un-mangled earring. This means the earring thief, having stolen one, came back with it, presumably to steal another. The monkey fight we thought Miss Mason has lost suddenly becomes a triumph of human over macaque. I would like to say at this point that she did a little celebratory dance but she was a bit too tired. Instead, I can give you a flavour of what her fight looked like.