The highlights of Hainan, after the beach and the warm weather (flips flops and short-sleeves all day) included two day trips. The first was a visit to the hot springs where we moved from pool to pool, trying different temperatures and different additions to the water (Chinese medicinal herbs, coconut milk, multiple types of tea, etc.) The highlight of that day—beyond fingers and toes so wrinkled they almost hurt—was two pools where little fishes come and nibble dead skin off your bod. It seemed very circle of life-ish. In the first of these pools the fish were really quite small and the sensation was of being nibbled. In the second one the fish were almost alarmingly bigger and there was much more of a sense of them taking a bite out of you. Whoa. I did think my feet, especially my heels, seemed much smoother after the experience.
The other memorable trip was to Monkey Island, an island that features around 1800 endangered Macaque monkeys. These monkeys roam the island freely. Yes, you read correctly. They roam freely. All I can say is this would never—and I mean NEVER—last in American. Like, two minutes maybe. This was, of course, too good of a commercial opportunity to pass up, so it has been made into a park. And as it’s a commercial venture, it carries, of course, a fairly substantial entrance fee. C’est la vie. Of a tourist, that is. Anyways, we coughed up the dough and proceeded to take a gondola ride from the peninsula to the island. It was a rather zippy ride, soaring over the coastline, over a few forested hills, into the heart of— (ominous music plays) Monkey Island.
Now, as the monkeys are free to range the island there is, of course, the possibility of monkey-human interaction. In general I supposed the monkeys would be rather scared of humans. But these are monkeys that have been dealing with humans for awhile and they’ve learned a few tricks. We’d heard that the monkeys could be “playful” and that you shouldn’t antagonize them—a good rule of thumb with any wild animal. Okay, shouldn’t be a problem; we’d be on our best behavior. No monkey taunting. However, we saw a possible interpretation of “playful” when a monkey went a bit postal on a man, biting and scratching at him while pulling on his clothing shortly after we arrived in the park. This was as they say, foreshadowing, if I may be a bit dramatic.
A few minutes later we were walking down a lane when I felt a large-ish something jump on my back. It happened very suddenly. One minute, nothing. The next, monkey. A literal monkey on my back. He was on my shoulder trying to paw through my bag, which contained nothing of interest, and then moved on to my camera case where he was actually attempting to operate the zipper. Sarah thought I remained very calm through this whole affair. I didn’t really know what to do or how long he would stay. Didn’t seem like a good idea to scream or jump or do anything wild. I asked her if she could get him off, which seemed like a good request at this time. She said no, but that she could take pictures! Good one. Yes, document this experience. After what seemed like a while, but was probably like a minute. I sort of reached back, thinking I could “shoo him off”. Bad call. Seemingly irritated, he turned and bit me of the shoulder where my hand had just been. Good lord. Images of the medical station at the front the park danced in my mind. After that I just stayed still and let the man, er, monkey, work. He fiddled with the camera bag zipper some more, hung out on my shoulder for a bit longer and then leapt off.
The monkey and a crony then went for Sarah, but she was smart and just lowered her bag down to the ground. They lifted a 6-pack of cereal bars, several mandarin oranges, and an apple off of her, immediately tearing into their “hot goods”. We made sure that we didn’t have anything else edible on us and then hurried down the lane towards a large tour group.
Sarah checked on my monkey bite. She reported that there were clear teeth indentations, but no broken skin. Whew! I think I would’ve been in for a shot if that’d been the case. Interestingly enough, in Chinese the expression “monkey bite” does not, in fact, refer to a real bite, but rather a hickey. I, on the other hand, had a real monkey bite and not a “monkey bite.”
Monkey Island. An experience guaranteed to never happen in America.