I love the elements of surprise and unpredictability that are associated with travel and the Malaysian island of Penang will forever hold a special place in my heart. Having solely followed the itineraries set up for me when travelling in groups, the spring of 2011 was the first time then eighteen-year-old me ever traveled completely alone with no idea of where I was going, what I was going to do, completely broke and terrified.
After volunteering in Thailand and Cambodia and visiting family in Singapore, I had to get back to Thailand on my own to reunite with some friends and catch a returning flight home, but I was totally scared of whether or not this young female solo traveler will be able to successfully hop through the islands of Malaysia without a group or guide. Regardless of these doubts, travelling possesses this ability to test one’s skills of resourcefulness and additionally has this magical way of bringing people together. Before I knew it, I was not alone on this foreign paradise and ended up successfully sailing through Penang and Langkawi and arrived in Thailand all in one piece! Accordingly, finding new friends along the way, who were coincidentally from my university back in Canada, as well as mingling with and consulting the help of the locals were extremely valuable experiences for me.
From sharing a dorm at a heavily discounted price with my fellow Canadians and bonding through jungle treks to gaining ‘sympathy money’ from locals since ATMs don’t function at ungodly hours, I made good use of my time in Penang, learning things about myself that I did not know I had or could do. While getting out of my comfort zone led to making new self-discoveries and challenging myself to test my limits, it was my interaction with the wild monkeys of Malaysia that was priceless.
The sun was setting on Penang Hill, which signaled that it was time to make the three hour trek downhill, but my new friends and I were distracted by a family of wild monkeys that were around us. As depicted in the photo, we were mesmerized at how they were either giving each other a good butt massage or picking lice off one another. However, one of us apparently upset our simian friends and before we knew it, we were running for our lives down this extremely steep hill as the “chief monkey” was chasing after us with a vengeance.
Once we thought we were safe, we realized that we disturbed another family of monkeys eating their dinner and that “chief monkey” would not let us get by, growling at us to mark his territory. Terrified of being trapped on a hill with rabid simians along with the notion of getting rabies, we were desperate to get home and waited for help until we finally convinced a driver to let us use his van as a barrier between us and the monkeys. We got our “Pink Panther” on behind that barricade of a van as we heard the taunting cackles of monkeys from the trees above us. Subsequently, we encountered two locals trekking up the hill this late and warned them about the monkeys. They offered us local words of wisdom, explaining to us that monkeys only chased after women and as the only female in the group, everyone blamed our misfortune with monkeys on me.
Regardless of actually being the catalyst for our monkey chase, this was definitely an unforgettable experience for me. I mean, who would have thought that getting chased down a hill by Malaysian monkeys as the sun was setting would make the best work-out of my life plus a hilarious conversation starter! So, what are you waiting for? Get off your couches and start making amazing memories now by planning your next travel experience! Just so you know, monkeying around Malaysia is always an adventurous option.
About the Author: Catherine Reyes is an avid backpacker and travel junkie from Toronto in her last year of university, studying archaeology and education. She is currently itching for a new adventure to embark on and is anxious about what she is going to do with the rest of her life.
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