Chris

Lee

Freelance writing

&

Content strategy

Sidecar monkey


January 4, 2020

I saw a monkey today. The first of the trip.

(S)he was in the sidecar of a motorbike, nonchalant as anything, sharing the space with a lovely bunch of coconuts.

There they were, all sitting in a row.

Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head.

And all freshly picked.

I learned that they recruit such specially trained monkeys here, to fetch coconuts from the tall palm trees.

Once fetched, the coconuts are sent off to be hewed, dried, and variously consumed. You find them everywhere. A fresh coconut with the top knocked off is a refreshing drink. Add rum, and it’s an instant cocktail. Endless combinations of coconut water, milk, and flesh bring flavour and tropical silkiness to a majority dishes on a majority of menus.

And today’s discovery that at least some of them are retrieved by monkeys makes their constant presence that little bit better.

It’s my favourite example so far of the otherness that you gradually embed yourself in while away. Most things are the same at surface level – trees, water, sand, buildings, people, roads – but the nuance and layering is different. And these differences are the exotic things people feel compelled to seek out.

I wrote before about how space feels different here. More osmosed.

But scenes are different, too.

The roads are coated mainly in mopeds – hundreds of them – with cars being a real rarity. You see one or two a day, max.

Each restaurant has a live-in cat, and generations of different genetic pressures have given them subtly different facial structures.

And monkeys commute in motorbike sidecars, without seatbelts, completely nonplussed by the fact they have jobs, colleagues, commutes, and an expectation to participate in the local economy.

All these subtle things imperceptibly shift the window of your perceptions so that when you return to somewhere familiar, it, too, takes on a certain novelty.

(Photo by Kalpesh Patel from Pexels)