Monday, February 1, 2010

Monkeys are Really Cute Until They Attack Your Wife

Our junk boat pulled anchor at 8:30 this morning and set its course for Cat Ba Island, which is known for its diverse wildlife, tropical vegetation, and rugged hikes. The hour long trip on the boat was once again filled with amazing karst features and floating villages that dotted the landscpae of Ha Long Bay's emerald waters. We checked in to a hotel on the mainland after a very muddy hike, ate some lunch, and proceeded to board a smaller vessel for a short trip to "Monkey Island". The island was absolutely amazing, as it was filled with scenic hill-top views and amongst other wildlife, monkeys.

Fast forward...

Charlton Heston bravely shouted "Get your hands off me you dirty ape" as he was accosted by advanced primates on a foreign beach in the epic film "Planet of the Apes". On our excursion, Mariana opted for the slightly less intimidating scream followed by a frantic "No, No, No..." as a smaller, less educated primate charged at her and grabbed her leg. I am not trying to compare my sweet little wife to the former head of the NRA, I am merely trying to drive home the point that the monkey that attacked Mariana was unable to comprehend her pleas for mercy. To her defense, Mariana did not do anything to merit an attack, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. You see, our trustworthy guides were playing a game of cards as the tourists explored the island. Sidetracked by his love of gambling, one of the guides did not even know that one of the monkeys had taken his jacket hostage and effectively created a defensively hostile environment amongst the other monkeys as they all tried to take sway over the no-doubt valuable article of clothing. Upon realizing that the monkeys were playing with his clothing, the guide quickly grabbed his jacket from the monkey seemingly thinking that swift justice was a good strategy when dealing with wild primates. Needless to say, all hell broke loose and the monkeys began attacking the guides as Mariana and I tried to distance ourselves from the situation. Unfortunately, Mariana was confronted by a warily curious monkey as we made our retreat. The monkey charged her and grabbed her leg, as I simultaneously reached down and grabbed a handful of sand and rocks to pummel my wife's attacker. The monkey backed off immediately after I sprayed it with rocks and remained distanced as I grabbed Mariana and reloaded. We were unfortunately reminded that a wild animal is for lack of a better word, "wild".

In retrospect, any excursion that allows 20 "amateur" bioligists to mingle with over 500 monkeys on a small, isolated island hardly seems like a good idea. We had hoped to gain a more profound respect for mankind on our trip, but we somehow managed to include additional primates in that mix as well. In the end, we were very lucky that Mariana walked away with only a few scratches, especially considering that monkeys are capable of inflicting far worse injuries on unsuspecting foreigners. We later visited a hospital in Hanoi and were told that the transmittance of rabies through scratches (especially superficial ones) is extremely rare, but that getting six rounds of shots would assure complete safety. After a long amount of discussion, Mariana confidently decided that she did not need the immunization and we opted to refuse the almost $2,000 USD of treatment. I completely support her decision, but the ordeal was much more difficult than I initially expected. It is never fun to consider worst-case scenarios pertaining to your best friend, even when those scenarios are rare and highly unlikely to occur.

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