Thursday, June 5, 2014

Don't Turn Your Back on a Monkey!!!

4 June 2014

I signed up for a tour to see the fireflies of Kuala Selangor.  Richard wasn't excited about this, but I've read about the fireflies and really wanted to go.  (More later.)

So I booked through the travel desk downstairs in the bus station, and ended up being the only guest on the tour.  Oh well, not a problem, just a little extravagant.  But at least it meant I had the front seat of the car!

We drove out to Kuala Selangor, which is a town on the Selangor River, very near the Klang River.  Kuala actually means the point where two rivers meet.

Before heading out to see the fireflies (which one obviously needs to see after sunset), we went to the highest hill in the area.  There are two communications towers behind a fence, but the whole place is covered in monkeys!  Monkeys monkeys everywhere!!!  In the trees!  On the fence!  All over the towers!

These are very friendly long-tailed silver monkeys, or maybe silver leaf monkeys - I heard both names.  They are REALLY friendly monkeys, just naturally friendly.  And not in the least bit shy!

My friendly driver, Mike, bought food for me to give the monkeys - sliced raw sweet potato, which the monkeys seemed to like.  They'd come over for food, and when they saw me reaching in my jacket pocket for a slice of potato, they'd grab onto the pocket to try getting the food themselves - pushy little guys!  I gave several monkeys slices of sweet potato, they happily munched on them, then one very assertive monkey latched onto my pocket and wouldn't let go.  I couldn't get one slice of food out given the way this monkey was holding on.  So I took the entire bag of potato out of my pocket - which, of course, Pushy Monkey grabbed, gave a scream of triumph, and raced off, with the entire bag of sliced sweet potato in hand.  Well, what could I do but laugh and yell after the greedy monkey "Don't eat the plastic bag!"

Mike then bought some sliced long beans, and I fed some less pushy monkeys.  (Or maybe they just don't like the green beans as much as they liked the sweet potatoes.)  People fed the monkeys apples, small green bananas, more green beans, more sliced sweet potatoes.

They were in monkey heaven!

There was a mama monkey with her little orange baby, just about a week old - bright orange!  Good thing the babies cling to their mothers, since the moms focus on getting food.  This little baby was holding on for dear life as his mother bounced around looking for food, grabbing beans, tossing down the beans to grab an apple - all the time the mama sat down, she'd be sitting on orange baby's tail!  It was so funny!

There was another mother monkey with an older baby who was already grey - they change colour when they're about a month old.

So, remember I said these are pushy monkeys?  Assertive?  Aggressive about getting their food, although not mean about it.

Well, the monkeys have no problem jumping on people to get food.  If they see someone holding food, they'll jump up and cling to a leg.  (Did that to me.)  They jumped on these two men.  And just held on, eating.  Asking for more food.  I love this photo of the older Australian man, monkey eating with one hand, the other arm wrapped around his head for stability.  So funny!

At about this point, there was a major clap of thunder, sounded like two shots fired at close range and then normal thunder noise - scared all of us, including the monkeys!  They scattered, and one monkey was so startled he flinched and smacked one lady in the face!  She was okay, but it hurt enough that I saw her rubbing her cheek.

It took a while, but the monkeys started coming back for more food.  Each time a new car arrived, more monkeys would come racing to the parking lot from the trees, despite the fact that it was raining the entire time.  

Some of the young guys (people, not young guy monkeys) thought it would be fun to have monkeys jump on them.  So they'd put some food on their shoulder, and try to call the monkeys over to jump up.

Sounds reasonable, right?  Though monkeys aren't very cooperative.

So I'm watching these guys trying to get the monkeys to jump up, with my back to the fence.  There are some monkeys on the fence, eying the food, but I'm a good 5 or 6 feet (almost 2 meters) from the fence.  Standing there minding my own business, just watching.

All of a sudden BAM I'm hit from behind!!!  Something smacks into my head/shoulders/neck - and I realize a monkey has jumped on me from the fence!  I don't know if I looked like a tree, someone with food, or just an easier and softer landing than the ground - but I'm standing there with a monkey on my head!  Of course I started laughing - here I am with no monkey food, my camera in my purse, and a monkey on my head!

He clambered from shoulder to shoulder, trying to find some food, but eventually gave up and jumped off.  Whew!  Those are heavy monkeys - I swear I have monkey whiplash!!!

In the midst of all the monkey chaos, two Malaysian women came up and asked they could take their photo with me.  I said yes - so one poses with me while the other takes a photo - but this woman, whom I just met, whose name I don't know, hugs me around the middle and smiles for the camera!  I just laughed, it was too funny!  Then, since I was so nice about posing for the photo, I asked if I could get a photo of them, since their dresses were so pretty (and so traditionally Malaysian).  Well, what could they do but pose for me - so here are the two cute women in the kind of dresses we see everywhere, although these two don't have the typical head scarves we see.  (Don't you love the peace sign?)

After about an hour with the monkeys, it was time to head out for dinner.  We drove over to the river, and went to a nice restaurant.  Mike had pre-ordered dinner for me, to speed things up - I had nasi goreng, the traditional fried rice which comes with a fried egg on top.  Okay, so I skipped the fried egg, I'm not crazy about them.  But with a couple of hot cups of tea, it was tasty and warming after a chilly and rainy afternoon.  With lovely watermelon for dessert.

And then it was firefly time!

I know, this doesn't sound very exciting - but if you check here, you can see why the fireflies are so cool and such a popular sight and site.  and this is the place to stay:

I walked to a place next door to the restaurant, where all the tour guides had their guests put on life jackets, and climb aboard a few boats.  We settled in, and headed up river.  

There are huge colonies of fireflies who eat the leaves of a tree, the flamingo tree, which grows along the banks of the river.  These little fireflies congregate every evening, rain or shine, to munch on the leaves and signal to friends, mates, potential mates, and everyone and anyone who is around.

So both sides of the river really do look like the trees are covered in twinkling holiday lights, blinking at different rates and speeds.  But in little clumps, the fireflies start blinking in synchronized flashes, so it looks as if they've practiced this particular routine!  Really, the craziest thing!  Imagine little fireflies doing synchronized blinking!  Wow!

Here are a few photos from the internet - our boat driver said no camera flashes, and I couldn't imagine the little flashes showing up on my camera.

There has been some firefly die off in recent years due to factory pollution in the area, and the display isnt quite what it was.  I'd say what we saw is about half what is shown in these photos.  Still really remarkable!  It definitely looks like some movie set for fairyland or something!

Our boat pilot caught a few fireflies so we could see them - they look very similar to those little brown moths that tend to get into woolen clothing, very little innocuous looking insects.  Nothing like the fireflies of my youth.  One of the little Australian kids carried his firefly up and down the boat so we could all see it - so here's this little Aussie kid showing his firefly to a family maybe from Saudi Arabia, the mother being in a black burqa from head to toe, only her eyes showing through the rectangle.  One of those very sweet, "why isn't the world like this everywhere" kind of moments.

Actually, the burqa mom picked up a firefly that was on the canopy of our boat, and gave it to her son to hold.  Except when the boat got going, the wind blew poor little firefly onto the wet floor.  Dad tried to pick it up.  Mom tried to pick it up.  I tried, with the dad holding his cell phone as a flashlight.  Problem was, the floor was so wet the poor firefly was swimming around.  So I pulled out a small paper from my purse and the mom used it to pick up the firefly - yay, we saved one!  (We were able to converse in minimal English, but I could understand a little of their Arabic, it was close enough to Hebrew that I could catch a word here and there.)

The guy next to me showed me his firefly, and I commented that growing up in New York, we had bigger fireflies.  He said yes, at home in Korea, their fireflies aren't this big.  Then he says, very seriously, "Just like people in the west are bigger than people in Asia, maybe so are the fireflies."  I laughed and could only agree.

Well, our boat tour was about an hour.  All too soon, it was time to go back to KL.  Monkeys were sleeping.  Fireflies were continuing their show without an audience.  Mike drove me back to KL, I arrived about 10 PM, home from fairyland and firefly lifesaver.  And back to life as a rolling luggager.

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