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Tonsai monkeyIn the Northwestern US, when you go out into the forest, you bear-proof your camp by hanging up your food in a tree. Here in Thailand, it’s a little different. Here, you’ve got to worry about the monkeys. The very first person I ask about lodging says that monkeys broke into his bungalow and went through his stuff looking for food, and made off with his girlfriend’s perfume. They found the half-empty bottle discarded a short distance away.

This person tells me that the monkeys cannot get into luggage, so I keep most of my stuff in my bag, zipped up. This is probably better anyway, since it also keeps the dust and the bugs out. I tie up my food in a cloth bag and hang it up high on a nail: separate, so there’s less temptation to try to get into my luggage. As a bonus, this also foils the ants, who try unsuccessfully to get into the bag, as I discover later. Thailand does not appear to have nearly as many ants as some other places I’ve been, such as Belize, but still. Keeping my clothes in my bag also seems to keep them drier, as everything that I hang up to air out in the room becomes slightly moist from the humidity.

Apparently the sanitation is also a problem in this fairly primitive inlet: people get sick here by the droves. They tell me of the ailments they contracted, from Dengue Fever to what sounds like food poisoning, describing the color of their vomit in intricate detail. I decide I should only eat cooked food, use a new pair of cellophane-wrapped chopsticks every time, and brush my teeth with bottled water. No matter what I try, however, I can’t seem to avoid getting bitten by bugs, and before long I count over 60 bites. Combined with my white skin and the stubble on my legs I can’t see to shave in the semidarkness of my lodging, it makes me look dead sexy in a bikini.

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