Monday, May 26, 2014

Good-bye Penang #1 - Taman Botani and Monkeys!

26 May 2014

I went out to the Botanical Garden, Taman Botani, on Saturday.  It was great!  I wanted to see monkeys, beautiful plants, and get in a good walk.  Did all of that!

The Taman Botani is way out of town, up against the hills in the center of the island.  In fact, there's a trail up to the peak of Penang Hill, which rises 833 meters (2,707 feet, or over half a mile) above sea level.  Quite a hike!  It wasn't on my plan for the day, so I just had a nice couple of hour walk around the park.

Here's the website for the Botanical Garden:

The gardens are free!  FREE!  How often do we find free places like this?  Okay, the Botanical Gardens in many places are free, they were in KL.  But still, you don't often find free spots to hang out.  And watch monkeys.

So I walked in through that gorgeous entrance gate.  Tried to get a map from the security guard, but they didn't have any maps.  Asked about the shooting sounds echoing through the area - turns out the lovely, serene, peaceful, Zen-like gardens are next-door to the police academy shooting range.  So the background music track for the park is a constant barrage of pow pow pow!  Oh well, the farther I walked in, the fainter the gunfire became, until it finally was silent.

As I walked in, I saw two black monkeys run across the road and climb up a palm tree, then jump into a big leafy tree.  I couldn't get close enough to get a decent photo, but I did manage to get a picture of one of the monkeys sitting in the tree.  (Lower righthand area.)  And here's a close-up of the same monkey.

These are the dusky leaf monkey.  (I don't know why they're named that.)  They have big white circles around their eyes, making them look like they're wearing white goggles!  So cute!  Since my photo doesn't show the goggles - the monkey was reaching for a leaf - here are a few photos of the dusky leaf monkey that I grabbed from the internet.  
Yes, they have very orange babies - don't you love that colour?  Bright orange monkeys!  They darken, obviously.  I didn't see any dusky leaf monkey babies, so I don't know at what point they get black, or if they go through a series of colour changes going from orange to brick to brown to black, or something like that.

They seem to be shy monkeys, not pushy like the monkeys I met later in my walk.  They tried to stay away from people, and didn't care about grabbing food or anything.  But so cute!!!

I walked on, admiring the views, the rolling lawns with benches and covered areas, the hills rising up in the distance.  Peace, green, so relaxing even walking uphill.  

And then, another monkey!  Walking along the electric wire, just like a four-legged tightrope walker!  These are the pushy monkeys who try to take people's food - we saw this in Bali, at the monkey forest.  This is a  long-tailed macaque.  So I kept an eye on this monkey, but he just walked along and let me take his photos.  

The information around the park, as long as on their website, gives a few park rules:  Don't feed the monkeys.  Don't walk around with food, the monkeys will try to take it away from you.  Don't let small children walk around with food, the monkeys will try to take it away from them.  And if you meet a group of monkeys on a path, either wait for another person to come along, or slowly back away - don't do anything to intimidate the monkeys.  (Monkeys have been known to chase and mob people, especially if they have food.)

So when I came upon a group of monkeys (called either a troop or a barrel - really, they're called a barrel of monkeys!) I walked as far away from them as I could, hands out at my sides, saying "No food, I have no food."  It seemed to work - the monkeys glanced at me and watched as I walked by, but didn't walk toward me, didn't mob me, just kept at eye on me.  Especially the mother monkeys, who were nursing their little monkeys (who start out black in colour).

My favourite, though, was this reddish female who was more interested in pulling up this plant and eating it.  Which may be how the government can afford to have free botanical gardens: the monkeys do the weeding for them.  And pruning the trees.  (You think?)

The park seems fairly popular with locals as well as tourists - though Malaysians tend to walk with umbrellas.  I especially liked the red and pink combination.

There were butterflies all over, in orange, white, yellow, black, brown, pale green.  And an occasional black with bright blue edging, sort of a reverse blue morpho - gorgeous, just a small flash of brilliant blue every so often!

This large spotted butterfly was nice enough to pose for me.
Walking along, I saw some branches moving and thought, oh, it's another monkey.  And I saw something small with a long black tail moving in the trees.  But instead of hearing normal monkey-ish noises, sort of a high eee-eee-eee or grunts, this sounded more like an old manual typewriter.  Really, sort of a high-speed click click click.  I looked around and realized there were a few large black squirrels in the tree - and this park is known for having the giant black squirrels, whose tails are longer than their bodies, and they sort of jump and glide in addition to climbing around the trees.  Again, I couldn't quite get a photo, so here's one from the internet.

I like talking to animals, so I tried making a click click click noise, to see what happened.  Wow, freaked out the poor squirrels!  They started scurrying around the tree, leaning over branches to look at me and clicking in reply, all in hyper-speed, as if there was some serious emergency!  I have no idea what I said, but it looked like the equivalent to yelling Fire!

Anyway, definitely get to the Penang Botanical Garden - it was beautiful, and it's one place you can see several kinds of monkeys in their natural environment!

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