Hon Lao (Monkey Island)
Is located 30 km North of Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa province, VietnamPrices
Entrance ticket: VND 150,000
A tourist trap popular with local tourists, the 1000 or so resident monkeys on this island are accustomed to receiving food handouts (peanuts and potato chips are for sale). However, these are wild animals and should be treated as such. Bear in mind that monkey bites are a possible source of rabies.
Aside from being unwilling to participate in a cuddle, the monkeys are materialistic. They’ll grab the sunglasses off your face or snatch a pen from your shirt pocket and run off.
A word of warning: there’s also a bear-and-monkey show that you may want to avoid. Travellers have reported seeing the animals being abused.
Feeding the monkeys
The most popular thing to feed the monkeys is corn, which is sold for 4,000 dong per bag at a little shop nearby. Unfortunately, this is exactly the same stuff the monkeys are fed when there is no one around so they aren’t too thrilled by the stuff. Strangely enough, there are no bananas to be found, though I’m sure the monkeys would be thrilled if you brought some of your own.
There’s a snack stand between the main feeding area and the go-kart track, and for prices starting around 12,000 dong (60 cents) you can buy various cookies and cakes and other things the monkey really like and will go crazy over. They’ll gladly eat the corn but they don’t show much enthusiasm so the cookies are the keys to their little hearts and stomachs.
If you are there as part of a group then you can feed any one of dozens of monkeys that will come up near you, but if you are there on your own or as part of a small group then you’ll notice an interesting phenomenon. When the monkeys see only one source of food then the “king monkey” will sit himself in front of the food source and then try to eat every bit of it. If you toss something to another monkey then the king monkey will race over to try to take it away. This pecking order is obviously based on many fights that took place when no guests were around.
If you buy some snacks and you wave them around then I can tell you from experience that one or more of them will sneak up on you to attempt to swipe the bag from you. They won’t attack you and they aren’t known for stealing sunglasses or other things to hold hostage like at other monkey places elsewhere, but they will try to get the food from you if you aren’t careful.
The best part of it is a small island with a mote surrounding it that looks like it could be part of an elaborate miniature golf course. If you are there around midday then you’ll likely see loads of monkeys, including many of the babies, climbing up into the overhanging trees and then jumping into the water, over and over again, just for the refreshment of it. It’s damn cute.
The dog and monkey show
If you are there at 10am, 2pm, or 3:20pm, you’ll be able to take in the show for no additional charge. It starts out with trained dogs doing some cute things and then transitions to about 15 minutes of monkey tricks.
There’s balancing and other things you’ve probably seen before, but the highlight is probably when each monkey climbs aboard their own little bicycle and rides around in circles for a while as a big group. It’s even more adorable than it sounds.
I’d heard from a few people that the monkeys were treated cruelly, but I didn’t see any of that. A few of them are on leashes as they are led to the center ring, but after that they are unhooked to perform. They seem to like the crowds and applause, and unlike a circus where the performers might have to get back in a cage, this whole island is for them so it seems like things could be worse.