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Koh Phi Phi Thailand, Fun and Battling Monkeys

August 29, 2016

So funny story here, my wife and I recently traveled to Thailand and Cambodia.  Part of our trip was three nights on Koh Phi Phi island.  The place is incredibly beautiful, and the pictures floating around on the internet don't do it justice.

Unfortunately the most memorable part of the island for us wasn't the scenery, the food, or even the cheap drinks, it was getting attacked by a furry little macaque monkey.  The first night we were there we wanted to hike to the top of the island to watch the sun go down.  It's about a 50 minute hike through a tiny road that was cut into the jungle.  The elevation is steep and you need to be in good shape to make it to the top.

As luck would have it about 35 minutes into the trek (it's 100 degrees and thick thick jungle humidity) we saw a large group of people stopped in the road ahead of us.  What was causing these people to slow down?  There was a group of about 15 monkeys standing guard in the middle of the road and not letting people pass.  

The sun was going down quickly and if we didn't get moving, we would miss it.  So my brother in law who actually lives in Thailand (he teaches English over there) decides to walk through the group of monkeys, and they part like Moses parting the sea.  My wife is following about 10 paces behind him, and I'm standing there slightly delirious from the hike thinking if they can both get through than so can I.  At this point the monkeys are getting more and more agitated.  Some people in the crowd were throwing sticks and rocks at them to try and get them to move, but they were holding their ground.  When I'm part way through the group of monkeys they start closing in on my wife, she turns and sprints back to the group.  Now things are happening very fast, monkeys are getting closer, my wife books it past me with the speed and agility of Adrian Peterson, and suddenly I'm stranded solo with these monkeys closing in.  As I turn to run away this furry bugger starts charging me.  I think I'm pretty quick, but these monkeys have a very low center of gravity, and he didn't fall for any of my juke moves.  As I'm high stepping out of there back to the group he lands a good scratch on my lower leg with his claws.

I didn't think anything of it until I got back to the group, and one of the guys there tells me in his South African accent that I should definitely get that scratch cleaned because these monkeys in particular can carry rabies.  I'm racking my brain and seem to hear something about monkeys carrying rabies and some other virus' too.  We turned around and went back to the hotel.  After many google searches on a slow wifi, we decided to hit up the island clinic to get it checked out. 

So we're standing in the clinic and I show the nurse the scratch, she didn't speak much english, but through hand motions and my best monkey impression, we broke through the language barrier.  She pointed to a placard on the front desk that essentially said "Did you get bitten by a monkey? If so here's the steps you need to take to prevent rabies..."  This tells us two things, one, monkey bites must be common here if the have a sign on the front desk, and two monkeys can carry rabies.  The treatment consisted of a shot on the spot, followed by 5 more shots on a rigid schedule.  After speaking with my doctor back in the states I also got two shots called equestrine immunoglobulin which protects you until the anti rabies antibodies kick in and can protect you.

As I'm standing there getting my first shot, a girl walks in with a large scratch on her behind freaking out.  She was just on monkey beach (a tourist destination on Koh Phi Phi) and a monkey clawed her because she didn't give him the soda she had in her hand.  Her scratch was about 10x worse than mine and bleeding too.

Long story short, I'm alive and rabies free, in fact I now have immunity to it for 3 years or so.  After extensive googling I couldn't find a single case of confirmed rabies on the island, but they due treat about 500 patients every year for monkey bites and scratches. This combined with the fact that the majority of people probably don't seek treatment leads me to believe the risk is very low.  That said better safe than sorry as once you show symptoms of the disease, there's no cure, you will die.  I'd definitely recommend getting the treatment (i'm not a doctor and am not giving medical advice, just telling you my experience).  I paid cash for everything and it set me back about $500 usd.  The ERIG was the most expensive part if you decide not to do that it should be much cheaper.

Long blog post, but wanted to share my experience as I'm sure this will happen to folks in the future.

Below are some links that I found helpful:

CDC Link for Monkey Beach Bight



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