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About the time the monkey stole my GoPro… (WITH VIDEO!)
I’ll start off by saying I half expected this to happen – and took steps to prevent it. I learned that it only takes a split second for things to go from ‘under your control’ to ‘not under your control – especially with an adept and agile creature. If you came for the video, here it is:
The destination is Kosamphi Forest Park (AKA Kosamphi Monkey Park), located in Maha Sarakham, northeastern Thailand. It’s about a 40km ride from Khon Kaen, the largest city in the region. The park itself is free to enter, but you’ll definitely want to purchase a bag or two of bananas near the entrance at a nominal fee. Once inside, you have no shortage of monkeys to feed, photograph, video, or simply enjoy being around. Plenty of them hang out around the entrance, smartly realizing that being close to the food source makes you more likely to get the grub.
A bit further in, you’re faced with a choice – do you stick close to the road or venture a bit into the forest? You’ll see plenty of monkeys either way, and we started off exploring towards the trees a bit. I set my GoPro and pole down just behind a banana, hoping to get some video of the close-up variety. The monkeys, quite aware of my presence, cautiously grabbed the fruit and ran off… D’oh!
Then we came across a picnic bench further from the road, the sort of place where monkeys had the home-field advantage. Approaching the picnic table meant distancing ourselves from our rented scooter. Since the last thing I wanted to do was pay for damages caused by monkeys, I scared them off – naturally, they jumped back on the bike as soon as I was gone.
But no matter – they weren’t going to do much damage to the bike, I hoped. I planted the camera and pole on the picnic table, angling the lens up to catch more of the approachers and less of the table. No bananas this time – they were already approaching out of curiosity, or perhaps the blinking red light.
Just then, the unmistakable plunk! of a helmet hitting the road rang out by my bike. It had been hanging on the mirror, which of course the monkeys had knocked off. One of them looked like they were trying to chew their way to the styrofoam inside the helmet, which caused me to run over and scare them off…
In the few seconds I was away, one monkey managed to grab the pole, climb up a nearby tree, and get to a branch maybe 12 meters off the ground. The red light was still blinking – it’s still getting video! – so I held out hope for some interesting video from a monkey’s point of view. The monkey seemed more interested in the orange rubber tip on the pole (which helps keep the GoPro in the plastic frame). Chewing on that eventually dislodged the camera and sent it tumbling towards the earth. See the very end of the video (if you haven’t yet) to see what happens!
With the camera safely retrieved, I wanted my pole back, too. At first I threw some bananas, hoping he’d let go of the pole while catching a banana. My throws weren’t all that accurate, and before long I had worked my way through a bag and a half of bananas. The monkey, still on the same branch as before, seemed to realize he was a bit trapped – he wasn’t nearly as agile while carrying a meter-long pole, but didn’t want to give up his new possession. I happened across a beer bottle, and after a couple tries hit the branch. Seconds later, we saw the pole drop… into an area of thick brush and a steep hill. It was near impossible to reach, and after a half an hour of looking in the area we gave up.
And so, the lesson was learned – get a bigger pole, and anchor it to something!
Chris Backe is the travel blogger behind One Weird Globe. He’s authored over a dozen books and itineraries about Korea and Thailand, and is currently working on a book about Thailand’s offbeat and bizarre destinations. He currently lives in Khon Kaen, Thailand with his wife, Laura. Find him onFacebook and Twitter.