Feeding Monkeys of Angkor Thom

After I was done exploring the Chapel of the Hospital, I was already so worn out by the scorching Cambodian sun, I didn’t have any strength left for any more temples. The day was drawing to a close anyway and I spent much of it battling the heat and the relentless touts so it was time to call it quits and start making my way back to Siem Reap. That heat definitely gets you. There is absolutely nowhere to escape the boiling hot temperatures within Angkor Archaeological Park so sooner or later, you’re bound to humbly yield to this mighty element hours of unceasing exposure to which will floor you. Luckily for me, Chapel of the Hospital was the last temple ruin on the Petit Circle through Angkor Archaeological Park I have not been to yet so I could consider this part of my Angkorian adventure successfully concluded. I only had one more stop to make – to get one more coconut at Angkor Wat just before they close the park for the day and night falls on the area. To get to Angkor Wat, I had to first ride through Angkor Thom the southern end of which gets busy with monkeys looking for handouts from people heading home this time of the day.

Photo: Angkor Thom Monkeys Feeding on Food from Humans
Photo: Angkor Thom Monkeys Feeding on Food from Humans

I was only steps away from Angkor Thom as the Chapel of the Hospital is very near the Victory Gate so I rode right through and then left at the Terrace of the Elephants, and straight down to pass by Bayon and further along the road leading to the South Gate. It was on this stretch of the road – between Bayon and the South Gate where hundreds of monkeys seem to descend from the jungle to look cute as they prance alongside the road to entice the visitors to Angkor to pause on their way back to Siem Reap and have a picture of themselves taken with them while at the same time feeding them. Needless to say, this dependency of monkeys on food from humans is bad for the wildlife and could have detrimental consequences but in Cambodia nobody cares as long as in the end there is some profit for them in it. And if engaging foreigners in feeding monkeys gets them all excited to spend money on overpriced seeds to give the anxious animals, they won’t let that opportunity to pass them by. Wildlife and all tree huggers can go eff themselves. Cambodians want tourists’ money. They care less if it results in gradual dependency of wild monkeys on humans and loss of their ability to fend for themselves.

Photo: Visitors to Angkor Thom Feeding Wild Monkeys
Photo: Visitors to Angkor Thom Feeding Wild Monkeys

There was a pretty sizable group of people engaged in monkey feeding along the road out of Angkor Thom. I got attracted by the crowd and paused to see what was so engaging about this tree-lined road to have everyone stop and hang around. I pulled over and pulled out my camera to take a few pictures to document what’s going on, but that didn’t go without attention from the monkeys who seem to switch their focus on a newcomer almost immediately, unless a person whom they are around is currently feeding them. As I had observed – they (the monkeys) are rather ungrateful creatures when it comes to that. People would spend money to feed them and for as long as their supply of monkey munchies lasts, the monkeys are all over them but as soon as they’re out, monkeys ungracefully move on to somebody else forgetting all about that original donor.

There were monkeys of all shapes and sizes along that road – from young and agile to old and grumpy. And they are uncontrollably attracted to shiny things and… well, basically all things that they can carry. Insatiably curious and investigative, these monkeys will steal anything that can be stolen. Put your bag on the ground to free your hands so you can feed a monkey that starts to cutely climb up your leg and next thing you know, other monkeys are already in the bag and if they grabbed something, consider it gone. They will climb up a nearest tree and you will see your possessions disappear before you’re able to do anything about it. I already had my scary encounter which nearly cost me a camera equipment before getting to Angkor Wat so I knew that one needs to watch their stuff really closely and have it safely mounted against themselves or put into something that’s tricky to open and unmovable. But as I stood there and had a few monkeys probe my wallet and key chain and my bag I had over my shoulders, I saw one lady lose her sunglasses after a monkey snatched it off the top of her head and disappeared into the crown of the tree above.

Photo: Monkey at Angkor Thom Creeping In to Check Out What He Could Steal
Photo: Monkey at Angkor Thom Creeping In to Check Out What He Could Steal

Once my presence away from the main group attracted attention of way too many monkeys, I perceived it was time to move on. I mounted my steel horse and rode off to have my last coconut of the day at Angkor Wat and then head back to my room in Prom Roth Guesthouse. I was looking forward to meeting with Ha again in the evening.

Coconut Meat

When it comes to health benefits of coconut water, the nutritional value doesn’t end with water itself. When you’re done drinking, ask the vendor from whom you bought the coconut to cut it in half for you. If the coconut water you were drinking came from a young and fresh drupe, slicing it in half will reveal the jello like substance commonly known as Coconut Meat.

Photo: Coconut Meat Eaten with Improvised Spoon Sliced Off Nut's Skin
Photo: Coconut Meat Eaten with Improvised Spoon Sliced Off Nut's Skin

Coconut Meat is basically the gel covering the walls of the coconut insides. To eat coconut meat like a native to tropical regions, slice a narrow strip of nut’s skin to serve as spoon and scrape the meat off with this improvised, disposable tool.

The younger the coconut, the softer the meat will be. Older coconuts will have the meat harder and sometimes so hard it’s virtually impossible to scrape it off. The gel like meat of very young coconuts is my favorite. I don’t particularly enjoy the taste of that hardened mass. Unless the meat is very hard, you should not pass up on eating it. Health benefits of this gel are undeniable.

If young coconuts are not harvested, the drupe will continue to ripen and the water inside harden with white flesh of the coconut gaining on volume. Eventually, green coat will peel off and the water inside will become meat.

Coconut Meat – Good News

Coconut meat is very low in Sodium and Cholesterol but rich in Manganese.

Coconut Meat – Bad News

Coconut meat is high in Saturate Fat.

Well, that’s a bummer. Unfortunately it is true. There is some good news to come with the bad news, though. While coconut meat IS high in saturated fat, it’s also high in medium chain triglycerides, which is also a type of fat, but this type of fat reduces appetite and may help to eliminate abdominal fat deposits. Early studies of medium chain triglycerides suggest that these fats are more likely to be burnt off as fuel, instead of being stored as fat and may boost metabolism enabling the body to burn excessive fat on its own.

Coconut Meat and Cholesterol Levels

Early studies of coconut oil showed increase in LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins aka bad cholesterol) levels however this theory was negated with newer studies which attributed the differing results from the old studies to the use hydrogenated coconut oil which is known to contain trans fats (commonly associated with heart disease). Newer studies showed that coconut oil helped to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. The studies are ongoing but initial research suggests that the ability of coconut oil to reduce bad cholesterol could be attributed to high concentration of L-Arginine, an amino acid known for its protective properties against heart disease. More studies are needed to back up these theories, though.

Coconut Meat as Protection Against Bacteria and Viruses

Just as is the case with coconut water, coconut meat is also rich in Lauric Acid and Monolaurin, the components known for their bacteria and virus killing properties. Monolaurin is of particular interest because it’s shown the ability to eliminate the growth of the HIV virus which is responsible for dreadful AIDS.

Lauric Acid, the same acid which is found if milk of breastfeeding mothers is the component which helps boost newborns’ immunity and protects them against infections.

Despite its high Saturated Fat content, coconut meat has significant health benefits and is rich in nutrients that help maintain good health and protect against bacteria and viruses. I eat coconut meat each time I am done drinking coconut water, unless the nut is already too old and meat too hard. If I get young and fresh coconut with jello like meat, I won’t pass on the opportunity to munch on this yummy substance which further benefits my body and allows me to stay healthy on my travels.

Coconut – Essential Source of Hydration and Energy

I have said it before and I will say it again – exploring Angkor Wat or any other temple at the Angkor Archaeological Park is an extremely hot and sweaty effort. Cambodian sun is scorching hot and the stone blocks temples are made of get exposed to it on daily basis and radiate this heat back. You have nowhere to escape the heat and it will wear you out sooner than you would care to admit. It is absolutely essential that you keep well hydrated in this heat but your body will certainly need more than just water to keep going. For that, there is nothing better than coconut water from fresh (green) coconuts.

When you start traveling a lot and leave your home country for an extended period of time, you’ll soon grow to realize that you need to do more for your health now than you would at home. Getting sick in a foreign country could be a traumatizing experience but moving from one geographical zone to another changes the demands of your body making good care of your health confusing. So what do you do to provide your body with what it needs regardless of whether you are sweating in a tropical country or freezing up in a snowy mountain? The answer is simple – fruits and vegetables endemic to that area.

Nature has the best answers for the needs of people so look to the nature and stick with produce that’s endemic to the area where you currently are. Fruits and vegetables that are native to the geographical zone you are in will contain nutrients you need to keep you going in weather typical of that particular zone. Coconuts are endemic to the tropical climate zones, such as that of Cambodia and contain nutrients that are an essential source of hydration and energy you desperately need in this heat.

Clean, safe drinking water is without doubt essential no matter where you are, but if you are in a tropical location and exposed to excessive heat such as when exploring Angkor temples, you need more than just water. You need an additional source of hydration, which is also a source of essential vitamins and minerals you burn off the fastest as you sweat excessively and is at the same time a source of natural energy.

This is exactly what you get from fresh coconut water. It is 100% natural and full of biologically pure natural sugars, vitamins and minerals to beat off fatigue, boost immunity and hydrate your parched cells. It’s like drinking the most potent energy drink but all natural, without harmful chemicals and preservatives. Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium contained in the coconut water are in perfect balance. Isotonic properties of coconut water replace the minerals and fluids that your body loses during excessive sweating or increased physical activity.

Yet there is one more essential fact to consider – energy drinks can strip your wallet off a few dollars per bottle. Similarly, bottle of filtered tap water of questionable quality costs $.50 (or 2,000 Cambodian Riel) to purchase in Cambodia, yet one fresh coconut costs the same: $.50. You get a little less fluid out of a coconut than you would get one of a 1.5 litre bottle of water, but it is pure nature, not potentially bacteria filled tap water and it is full of essential vitamins and minerals you would have to pay a lot of money for if you wanted to buy as supplements. And you get it in purely natural form, and as a liquid for easy and fast absorption and additional hydration.

Savvy visitors to Angkor drink a lot of coconut. Those unwise stick solely with water (again, you do need clean water but it’s simply not enough) or buy carbonated soft drinks and condemn themselves to inevitable burnout. As a guy who used bicycle as his sole means of transportation from one temple to another, I was exposed to the heat and remained physically active at all times. The demands of my body were severely high and coconut was the only thing that kept me going.

Photo: Monkey Munches on Young Coconut Shells at Angkor Wat
Photo: Monkey Munches on Young Coconut Shells at Angkor Wat

Cambodian heat and radiation of temple stones make exploring Angkor Archaeological Park an extremely challenging adventure even if you hire a cab and get driven around in an air-conditioned vehicle. If you opt for a less expensive option and hire a Tuk Tuk to drive you around, you won’t get the pleasure of cooling down in an air-conditioned space, but you will get a chance to sit and relax for a moment while the Tuk Tuk is moving, creating a fan effect that washes off your sweat during the transport. However if you go for a self powered, environment friendly transportation option – such as a bicycle the way I did, you will face a rewarding, but excessively challenging adventure. To not give up and see it through to the successful end, do yourself a favour and drink fresh coconut water every time you can. Coconut is an essential source of hydration and energy and provides you with nutrients you desperately need to survive in this heat. And what’s more, it’s one of the most effective antiviral superfoods that’s available (in Cambodia) for as little as 50 cents.