Macaques

Ipoh part 2

After a late breakfast we decided to take a look at one of the temples located close to Ipoh. We drove about 20 minutes to Kek Look Tong (or Kek Lok Tong or Kek Lock Tong, as usual in Malaysia you get several spelling options). It is a Buddhist temple located inside a cave and as you walk into it there are several small rooms to visit. There is also a garden sorrounded by the mountain and it is really peaceful and quiet. The school holiday had ended on the day of our visit so it was not crowded at all. We could walk around and take our time which was really nice. The whole family enjoyed it. Near the entrance/exit there are signs telling the visitors not to feed the monkeys. As we exited the cave we saw people feeding the birds and of course the more courageous monkeys where quick to grab the food. They were macaques and that is not the type of monkey you want to feed. They tend to get very cheeky and agressive once they become used to the easy access to food. After our close encounter with aggressive macaques on Langkawi I am not overly fond of that particular breed of monkey. I do wish people would make sure not to feed them as the result more often than not is that the monkeys are shot. As they become so aggressive they are a danger to people so please, no matter how cute they are do not give food to a macaque. It rarely ends happily. 

The children were tired in the evening so my mother volunteered as babysitter and my husband and I went for a walk. Ipoh is the fourth (or fifth depending on which source you’re using) largest city in Malaysia but it is not that busy in the evening. The areas we walked through were nice and quiet and lots of shops and restaurants were open but closed around 10pm. There is a night market just of Jalan Iskandar called Tingkat Pasar that opens at 8pm and closes around 2am every day of the week. Not much food on sale but lots of mobile phone acessories and other trinkets you might not know you need.

We ended up buying some popiah and ice coffee at a hawker place and slowly walking back to the hotel.  

Langkawi, island life.

As we are on a six month long vacation it might seem weird that we go on vacation from the vacation sometimes. But that is what it feels like, going to a place like Penang or Singapore or Langkawi.

We felt we needed to see the ocean so we hopped on a plane from KLIA2, the new and very swanky airport right next to KLIA outside Kuala Lumpur. After an hour long planeride (and 50 minutes spent waiting on the plane as one passenger apparently forgot to check the time and head for the gate when he was supposed to) we landed on Langkawi. The island is perfect for a short, or long vacation, if you like the ocean and nature here in Malaysia. Langkawi is not too crowded but you will find plenty of tourists, mostly families and couples. This is not a party island, this is a place for peace and quiet. And going on hikes, boatrides, snorkelling and what not.

We have been to Langkawi twice before, last time in January 2013 for two weeks. That time we rented a car for 10 days and went exploring a lot. This time we decided to stay a week, 8 nights in total. We rented a car but only for three days and we mostly hung at the beach, looking for shells and digging holes. That is what you’ll end up doing with children. I enjoyed it immensely.LK-5

We had booked a family room at the Cactus Inn which opened last year and is located a stone’s throw (if you throw long and hard) from Pantai Tengah (Tengah Beach). That is in my opinion the best beach to stay at, Pantai Cenang is far more crowded and there is usually more jellyfish there. During January and onwards through June you will unfortunately find jellyfish around Langkawi and it is the stinging kind. We were lucky and none of us got stung but we met people who had been less fortunate. If you get stung, pour some vinegar on it and it will stop hurting in a bit. If you get stung really bad, have someone take you to the closest hospital and try not to move around to much as that will make the venom spread faster. That being said, most of the stings will be harmless and only a bit annoying for a short period of time.

The Cactus Inn was really good, the family room turned out to be two bedrooms, two bathrooms and one livingroom. Sweet! The people running the place are so friendly and helpful that you feel more like a guest at someone’s house than at a hotel. If you book directly with the hotel and stay for a couple of nights they will give you a really good price. We booked via Air Asia as they had a package deal with planetickets and hotelroom. There is a restaurant right by the inn, they are owned by the same couple and is called the Cactus. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is good and at the same pricing as most of the restaurants around the hotels and beaches. If you are looking for really good and authentic food on Langkawi you will have to leave the tourist areas. For example, in Kuah you will find Wonderland which is a really good seafood restaurant. And as usual you will find hawker stalls that serve tasty food for less than RM 6.

One day we went to Pantai Tengkorak, or Skull Beach. It is a really beautiful and secluded public beach with lots of shade and really clear blue water. Sadly the tourists have fed the macaque monkeys that live in the jungle close by and they have become very bold and aggressive in their search for food. When we were about to start packing our stuff two male macaques ran up to our bags and starting to pull at them. I clapped my hands, no reaction. I shouted as that usually makes them run away. Not these two. Instead they snarled at me and showed me their teeth. And then they started running towards me. Our youngest daughter was sitting in the sand a couple of meters away from me, suddenly one of the monkeys changed direction towards her. I ran up to her, grabbed her and ran into the water. Luckily the macaques are scared of water and so they stopped, all the time showing me their teeth and being very hostile. My oldest daughter had run to get my husband and has he came running towards us he shouted and waved a big stick he had in his hand. Still the monkeys started to run towards him, not away as they normally do. When he threw sand at them they finally retreated but not far. I have never packed our stuff so fast in my life, and my heart has never beaten so hard and loudly. I can honestly say that this is the most scary situation I have been in and I am not fond of macaques at the moment.

The sad thing is that they are normally pretty friendly and easygoing monkeys but as we humans feed them their behaviour change and they become more aggressive. In the book A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Southeast Asia by Chris R. Shepherd and Loretta Ann Shepherd it says:

People often feed them, especially in tourist spots, and this is heavily discouraged as it alters their behaviour, and can make them aggressive and overly dependent on people. As a result, aggressive macaques are frequently killed.

So please, they might be cute, especially the young ones, but do not feed them!! The macaques we have met in the jungles around where we live on mainland Malaysia are very shy and that is because the Malays don’t feed them. Ever. They have to live with the monkeys close by, the tourists get to go home.

Luckily there are friendly monkeys on Langkawi too, every morning a group of Dusky Leaf monkeys gathered in the trees outside our hotel to eat. They are very shy and totally adorable, our youngest ran to the trees shouting “apa!” (monkey) every day.LK-4

The Cactus Inn also have two cats that are friendly and sleep wherever they want to. Our porch was a favourite place as it was always shady. Felt like we had a feline doorkeeper!LK-3

After a week we left Langkawi, probably not for the last time.