Adventures in Thailand: Live Monkey Show

Everybody’s got something to hide, except me and my monkey.

After our curiosity was peaked from seeing several signs for “live monkey shows” while driving motorcycles through the mountain city of Chiang Mai, Thailand (during the summer of 2004), my college roommate Josh and I decided to drive further up the mountain to put ourselves in a vulnerable situation: to venture into whatever a live monkey show was, up in an isolated village where we were indeed the only “white people”  (or “farang”, as the Thai natives called us, which simply translates “foreigner”) for possibly hundreds of miles.

The anticipation rose in my mind like the dust on the unpaved road leading the site, having just turned at a hand-painted wooden sign with a picture of a monkey putting his hand in a jar with the words “LIVE MONKEY SHOW”.  I imagined a sort of a toned-down Floridian Sea World time of venue, with possibly even a hundred people in the audience with us, as was the case with the live elephant show we saw (where the elephants played soccer and painted pictures).

We cautiously marched up to the front window.  With the ticket girl basically speaking no English whatsoever, she called out the manager to help answer the question, “How much does this cost?”  We were expecting around $5 per person, based on the elephant show price we paid earlier.  Instead, he grunts to us, “Ten dollars per person”.  While that may not seem like a lot in America, that’s more like fifty dollars in the U.S.

I began walking away, only half-way caring about seeing the show, partly out of the mindset: “What are we getting ourselves into, anyway?”  Josh stayed behind as the Thai man was eager to negotiate a better price.  It worked.  We got in for $4 per person.

We hesitantly paid our dues and asked if we were late or early for the next show.  The man’s response: “On time.  Show begin soon.”  He smiled.  We walk in.

Cement bleachers.  Enough seating for about 5o people.  And there was only one other person sitting there with us in the audience.  A Thai guy.

We looked around for signs of activity.  About twenty feet in front of us (we were setting about halfway towards the back of the venue) was the flat cement “stage” and a Thai girl standing, happy to be there, looking at us.  By the time I had the chance to say to Josh, “So we must be pretty early, huh?”, the other audience member began walking up to the stage.

The Thai girl simply said, “Welcome… to live monkey show.”  Then the Thai guy who was just moments ago a fellow audience member, was indeed the show’s leader.  He brought out a monkey.  An impressively trained monkey, who did push-ups, sit-ups, could find the hidden key in one of five cups turned upside down and rearranged, and who dove off a small diving board into a miniature pool of water to find a coin, sometimes while blind-folded.

Of course, to make sure it would become a memory we would not forget, we both had the chance to become “volunteers” to help in the act.  It’s the only time I’ve ever had a monkey in my lap.  Fortunately, he didn’t bite me.

After forty-five minutes of live monkey antics, the show was over.  We knew this when the Thai girl walked back up to the stage and said, “Thank you” and did her Thai bow to us.  Then she walked back to the ticket booth, returning to her other job.

So that’s a Thai live monkey show.  The Thai guy who runs the place serves as an audience member and ring leader, and the Thai girl is the ticket booth operator and announcer.  And a trained monkey with a metal shackle on his foot is the star of the show.  And evidently, two white guys sitting in the bleachers constitutes as a full audience.

When does the live monkey show begin?

As soon as you show up.


Food Fast Companies Use Red And Yellow In Their Logos

Sometimes as an elementary school kid I would just simply luck out. An announcement would come over the brown loudspeaker in class to announce that in the afternoon in the auditorium we would be having a Snake Show. Maybe this is just a northern Alabama thing, I don’t know. But what I do know is the entire school got to skip Social Studies once a year to see The Snake Man share his crazy collection of snakes onstage.

Cobras, water moccasins, racers, and even a giant anaconda which he let a group of volunteers hold in a group effort. Every once in a while, he would purposely (“accidently”) let a snake slither off the display table onto the stage of the floor. And whenever that happened, a piercing scream filled the non air conditioned room as many of the girls (and boys) yelled in terror at the top of their lungs.

The Snake Man defined what it meant to have a backwoods country Southern accent, like the kind State Troopers have in Virginia. He had these old fashioned jokes that he thought were hilarious. And by the 4th grade, I had memorized his routine. When he pulled out the albino rattlesnake, he would always say: “The reason this snake is white is because of lack of pigment in his genes. Now I don’t mean blue jeans…” At the end of the show, he gave us all some tips on how to know which snakes were poisonous and which were not. And I will never forget this:

“Red and black, you can pet his back. Red and yella, will kill a fella.”

After the days of Snake Shows were done, I was part of DECA, a Marketing class and club in high school. I loved it. I was actually good at it. We had competitions and got to travel. In the class I learned some neat behind-the-scenes stuff about advertising. One of the things was this: Fast food restaurants usually only use two colors for their signs: Red and yellow.

A quick Wikipedia search of some of the meanings of these colors is interesting. Red: exit, energy, passion, love. Yellow: Slow, fun, happiness, friendship, hope. A person is driving along, sees the red and yellow sign, and subconsciously thinks, “I need to SLOW down and EXIT here, because I have a PASSIONATE LOVE for that food. It brings me HAPPINESS and HOPE, not to mention ENERGY. And Ronald McDonald is my FRIEND.”

It’s hard to find an exception to the red and yellow fast food sign rule. McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardees (Carl’s Jr.), Krystal, Sonic, In-N-Out Burger, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Pizza Hut, Bojangle’s. A Google image search will cease any doubts.

Red and yella will kill a fella. Applies to snakes and food.