• Rich

My Brush with a Popcorn-obsessed Monkey and Rabies

Updated: Mar 28

The family only had three days with us in Chai Nat before they had to leave for Bangkok.

We had shown them around a few of our usual hangouts but seeing as it is a small town, that did not take too long! The beautiful thing about this little town as it is not a place for tourists, it is as close to cultural immersion as you can get really for the majority of Thai lifestyle in this area. We did want to give them a taste of the unusual as compared to the UK, so we decided to take them to a temple completely overran with monkeys.

This is not uncommon here. Many temples are very in touch with nature and their surroundings with the monks helping many animals that require assistance, or in these cases, really not worrying about any sort of monkey infestation!

If you travel over here, it is worth the effort to go and see one of these apey attractions. Back in the west, there are opportunities to see monkeys but seldom the opportunity to hang out with them. Most likely we’ve all seen them behind either tempered glass or a windscreen, witnessing them doing all sorts of embarrassing and sometimes, filthy things whilst trying your best not to make eye-contact with any immediate family. In these temples, you are up-close and personal (how great that is, is really down to the individual).

There are a couple of things that need to be remembered when spending time with our more unrestrained cousins. They have their rules and they DO NOT adhere to yours. Additionally, trying to reason with the buggers does not work, trust me, I’ve tried.

So, we arrive at the temple, everyone excited at seeing the monkeys and feeling rather like Indiana Jones. As soon as the monkeys see their human counterparts rock up, they usually swamp the vehicle as they know treats are on the way. They’re odd, monkeys, they eat all sort of things but can be so picky with others. Pop-corn that hasn’t quite popped will be deemed unsatisfactory and deftly swatted away with unabashed snobbery, yet in another instance, they will be eating their poop.

We had bought more than amply sized bags of popcorn for these guys and they were chomping at the bit. Each individual seemed pretty put out that we did not simply hand over the booty and leave but they played the game, swiftly gobbling all that was thrown.

If you have fair-sized plums, you can sit and feed them by handing the popcorn over to the monkeys, having them take it out of your grasp. That’s were my problems stemmed from that day, big plums, small brains. There is a certain speed in which you should hand these treats over and if that speed is not up to speed, you are provoking the ire of the monkey, who’d have thunk it? The monkey I had cozied up to had gotten grumpy with me for handing him substandard popcorn, so I was already treading a fine line. This grumpiness culminated with the little git snatching the bag from me so he could govern his own snacking. Reflexively, I had tried in earnest to snatch the thing back, which was, retrospectively, a bad idea.

He bit me before I could get any purchase on the popcorn, so in my opinion, the assault was pre-emptive, your honour. He knew what was going to be the outcome of these events, demonstrated by the speed in which he got me! The bite was not bad at all. His teeth had left but a mere scratch. However, the powers of Google convinced me I was going to die an agonising death. To be honest, looking back, the slight over-reaction to this was prudent. All joking aside, rabies is serious stuff. Admittedly, the threat of rabies here is slim but there have been cases and the main carriers are dogs and monkeys, so I was not going to leave this to chance.

The rabies virus can infiltrate even the slightest bit of broken skin and that mere scratch was a grandiose palatial entrance for the nefarious bug so off Kate and I went to the hospital. I wasn’t expecting to be thrown on a gurney and rushed into isolation by government agents in hazmat suits but the reception I received when I explained that I had been mauled by a ferocious, fang-wielding maniac was more sympathetic shrug than full-on code red. It is more of a common occurrence than I had realised.

Calmly, the nurse explained that they had the drugs I needed but they weren’t cheap. It was initially 1500 baht and then a further 5 dosages at 750 baht afterwards. Now, let us be clear, the only real medicine that's available is the rabies vaccine. This is good for people who are about to be exposed to the risk of rabies but is not completely infallible to people who have already been exposed to the risk, i.e me. As the nurse said, I had come to the hospital immediately, therefore I was 99 per cent in the clear but them there’s odds that I still wouldn’t usually take when it comes to something that can turn you into a contorting, writhing, frothing, aqua phobic disaster. I was not worrying too much. There is always a niggling doubt when you come up against something that is as nightmarish as rabies but the nurse's confidence and complacency sorted me right out.

Several months on, I still like water, I only froth occasionally and I am a writhing, contorting mess only when I am trying to get out of bed whilst my back is having a bad day. I would never play fast and loose with something as dangerous as rabies or any other exotic disease that you can be afflicted within this part of the world. Depending on what you are doing coming to Thailand, don’t brush off the importance of getting your inoculations as, like me, you might encounter an impatient, cantankerous, popcorn-loving primate who happened to have gotten out of the wrong side of his bed that morning.

If you need to know what sort of vaccines you need for Thailand, please check out this website;


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