Sunrise at Angkor Wat is a magical (if crowded) experience. However, one of the highlights for many visiting this temple and the rest of the temples of Angkor, are seeing the Angkor Wat monkeys.
There is a band of about sixty macaques that control Angkor, right down to its last banana. And let me tell you, while they may look cute and adorable, they’re actually vicious, conniving little thieves. They may be adorable, but these are some naughty monkeys!
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Angkor Wat Monkeys Behaving Badly
Obviously, no Siem Reap itinerary is complete without a trip to see Angkor. After witnessing a truly stunning sunrise, and then walking through Angkor Wat, I decided to spend some time on the grounds.
The temple, which is the most magnificent of the temples of Angkor, is huge. There are many small corners or peaceful spots you can find if you need to get out of the way, and after watching about twenty-thousand Instagrammers take nearly identical pictures, I was badly in need of some peace and quiet. I walked over to a section of lawn where two older women were sitting quietly, holding onto sack lunches, minding their own business. Then the monkeys showed up.
Of course, when I first spotted the monkeys, I was excited. Even though I knew their propensity for mischief, it’s hard to remember that when you’re watching wild animals playing am ancient temples. The lure of their mystique is too great a pull.
Until they start stealing. One monkey walked up to one of the two women, grabbed her sack lunch, and startled rifling through it. When he found a box of food, he started chowing down. The woman shrieked when he took it from her, and then looked at him in horror as her lunch got devoured.
After a few minutes, a local boy threw a stick at the monkey’s general direction to scare it off, but the woman’s meal was unrecoverable.
When the chaos died down, I made my way back to the center path of the temple only to find another group of monkeys surrounded by a bunch of tourists. One monkey was charming the bananas from people, while another went around snatching any banana he could find.
When a girl hid one behind her back, he started groping and climbing her until she handed over everything she had. Then he threw the bananas on the ground in disgust and walked away.
And of course, there are the monkeys who steal any banana they can find and then flash their butt at you.
Such little charmers.
The Angkor Monkeys are Jerks!
After witnessing this bad monkey behavior firsthand, I decided to ask some of my favorite travel writers about some of their weirdest monkey experiences on the road, and let me tell you: monkeys are jerks! No fried rice, banana, or iPhone is safe. And make sure they don’t pee on you!
After, you’ll find my Cambodia travel resources, including information on visiting Angkor.
When they Confuse You for a Human Banana
Contributed by Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz from Getting Stamped
When You Learn that Monkeys Can Swim
I was on a sea canoe excursion outside of Phuket, Thailand with some friends (who photographed the entire encounter) when I first learned that monkeys can swim. I remember being so excited to see monkeys in the wild, but then things took a dark turn.
One of those little bastards swam right up and hopped into my canoe. Then that wet monkey sat right next to me and caressed my upper thigh to lull me into a false sense of security. As I was trying to take a selfie with my new friend, that jerk reached out and tried to snatch my cell phone.
Luckily, the phone was in a dry bag attached with a string around my neck and the monkey jumped back into the water when it proved to difficult to rob me. To make matters worse this happened the day before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, so being borderline s**ually assaulted by a wet monkey wasn’t even the worst part of my week.
Contributed by Mags Garvin from Mags on the Move
When You Just Want to Be Friends
I always dreamed of having a friend monkey. It wasn’t until I encountered my first wild monkey ever in Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest that I discovered that dream will never come true.
Like an idiot, I bought the bananas from the lovely smiling lady at the entrance of the monkey forest. I realize now that you are not supposed to buy the bananas. I was young and inexperienced what can I say?
Anyways, I went into the depths of the sacred monkey forest marked because I smelled of delicious bananas – because I was carrying a whole bunch of them.
There were a few sweet monkeys who politely took one banana and went on their way, then there was one rogue alpha male who came up and decided he wanted all my nanners.
This monkey grabbed onto my dress like there was no tomorrow and started yanking and pulling. If I had been wearing a skirt I would have been exposed to all of Ubud.
I ended up having to toss the whole bunch of bananas and run for it. I was able to get my freedom from that monkey but I was scarred for life.
Also, while visiting the Bali zoo their male orangutan Jacky, who was a good 200 ft away, decided he didn’t like the way I looked and threw his feces 30 mph right at my mouth.
Contributed by Megan from Bobo and Chichi
When All They Want is a Juice Box
While walking through the streets of Vrindavan, one of India’s holiest towns, I had my glasses ripped off my face by a monkey flying by. Other than for a light pinch on my arm where the monkey grabbed hold and the fact that my eyesight was now significantly blurrier, it was like nothing had happened because it happened so fast.
A local boy threw the monkey a juice box which caused him to promptly release my glasses much to my relief. It would have been a miserable rest of the trip without them!
My tour guide suspected that the boy had set the monkey on me in hopes of soliciting us for money for the release of my glasses. Regardless of why or how I’m now extremely wary of any monkeys.
Contributed by Adelina from Pack Me To
When they Use You as a Human Shield
While in Sabah in Malaysian Borneo we visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Established in 1964, as the first official Orang Utan rehabilitation project for rescued orphaned baby orangutans. It was a great place to admire Orangutans from afar, learn more about the issues they face in the wild and to understand what role we play in protecting their habitat.
The visit started off well, as we watched the orangutans jump from tree to tree and enjoy their habitat. Until two male orangutans got into a little kerfuffle and decided to take their fight out onto the boardwalk. There are no barriers at the Rehabilitation Centre and the staff had asked us to get out of the way of the orangutans as soon as the fight broke out.
We did our best, but in the process, Max got stuck in between the two of them and ended up serving as a human shield to one of the orangutans. The orangutan almost ripped his shirt while pulling on it. No one was hurt in the end and we all walked away laughing, but Max admitted that being pulled by an orangutan was definitely a bit unsettling.
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
When They Get Too Cheeky
While we were touring southern Spain when our kids were younger, we decided to check out the Rock of Gibraltar. At the top of the mountain, we had the opportunity to meet the infamous Barbary Macaques of Gibraltar up close and personal.
They must have realized that they were the last monkeys left in all of Europe because they were quite cheeky, literally. Not only were they wrestling on the hood of our car but they were mooning us through the sunroof and using our car antenna as a merry go round. Luckily they never caused any damage but other tourists aren’t so lucky. The best part, the kids still laugh about it today.
Contributed by Micki and Charles Kosman from The Barefoot Nomad
When the Monkeys are the Boss
While island hopping in Koh Lipe, Thailand, we stopped by a deserted and exquisite beach in Koh Dong. Locals call it Monkey Beach. True enough, after our group had alighted from the boat, 2 monkeys turned up and tried to grab a camera pouch from someone in the group.
We laughed at what happened. Our guide told us we should eat lunch in the boat to prevent further incidents. More monkeys came, stood close and kept watch of us as we did so. The monkeys were naughty, but as the name of the place implies, it is their home!
Contributed by Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere
When the Monkey has Your Passport
Contributed by Taiss from Together to Wherever
When Monkeys Get Angry and X-Rated
My ex-BF and I were in the lakeside city of Hawassa, Ethiopia which has rich wildlife including hippos, birds, and monkeys. We had a beautiful lake view room with a balcony. One day we baited a couple of Guereza (black and white) monkeys to our balcony with some locally grown bananas that had gone brown.
The monkeys got mad when we ran out of bananas and started showing their teeth. We had to go inside and lock the door we were so scared. The monkeys lingered looked at us in anger for a bit, then they proceeded to have intercourse.
Since it was unsafe to watch the sunset on our balcony, we went out to the lakeside bars for some beers. When we got back, we found the monkeys had destroyed the light fixture on our balcony and there was glass and 1000s of dead insects everywhere. We played dumb when we informed the hotel about the damage in the morning.
Contributed by Lisa from TheHotFlashPacker
When You Think You’ve Really Got the Hang of It
I LOVE monkeys and have had plenty of great experiences with them. You’re probably reading a lot about people who had food or other items stolen by monkeys but the truth is I’ve never had anything taken from me when I visit monkeys.
Then again I KNOW that they will take things so I never bring anything that they could take. I especially never buy food being sold and try to feed them. That was until I went to the sacred monkey forest in Ubud.
I guess it was the fact that a park ranger was there selling me the bunch of bananas that drew me in. I trusted him and thought “it’s just a few bucks, why not!” Everything was going well as the park ranger helped us feed a monkey.
He helped the monkey climb onto my head and showed me how to feed him properly. (Be sure to hold it in an open palm rather than between your fingers or you risk getting bit) I got a few funny photos as the monkey had a banana snack when suddenly I felt a warm sensation trickling down the back of my neck. Reaching back it felt warm and WET!
I wanted to freak out but knew that I still had a monkey on my head and if I did anything drastic he might bite or scratch me. So there I sat until the little rascal finished peeing all over me.
Contributed by Mike from Live Travel Teach
When You Catch Them in the Act
We waited nervously in the sweltering humid afternoon sun at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo. The orangutans were due any minute now. We had all paid an entry fee to experience the feeding of these incredible creatures. But some of us would get more than we’d bargained for!
I’d heard a gasp from behind so I swung around to see. It was a false alarm. There was only a squirrel. Then in the distance, we could see an orange fuzz coming closer and closer. It was a large mother orangutan with her child clinging to her.
As we watched her more and more orangutans came out from the thick surrounding forest. Followed shortly by the macaques. Raw pumpkin appeared to be the highlight of the menu, as it was sending the monkeys ape-s***.
A teenage aged orangutan broke away from the food and climbed along the rope directly above us. He held his hand out towards us, wanting food. And then it happened. I didn’t see it coming until it was too late because my camera was pointed at him. I didn’t notice it until droplets were upon my lens.
The little bastard! The cute little thing had just pissed on me! What a legend. We couldn’t do anything more but laugh.
Contributed by Crystal from Castaway with Crystal
Have any naughty monkey tales? I’d love to hear them!
More Cambodia Travel Resources
Headed to Cambodia? I have lots of resources to help you plan your trip!
Will you be spending time in Phnom Penh? Check out this awesome Phnom Penh Itinerary
5 Things to Bring to Cambodia
The Lonely Planet Cambodia guidebook for your trip. I used a Kindle version during my time in Cambodia. It’s hard to find guidebooks once you’re actually on the ground.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Full-Sized Travel Towel for anyone taking advantage of Cambodia’s hostels and guesthouses. This is the best travel towel in the world, and you’ll need it if you are staying in hostels or anywhere that requires you to bring your towel.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Cambodia because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets. It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Cambodia make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities like Hanoi where tourists can easily become the targets of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.