Monday, 5 August 2013

Monkeying Around In Bukit Melawati

There does come a point when even the most die-hard bargain hunting KL-ite gives in and admits, 'I just can't take another shopping mall.  I refuse to shop this weekend!'  When you reach that crossroad, it's time to bundle up the children and take the hour's drive to Bukit Melawati (Melawati Hill) in Kuala Selangor for some fresh(er) air and an afternoon with a difference.

Bukit Melawati was the administrative centre of the Selangor Sultanate in the late 18th and early 19th century.  Today you can still see the remains of a fort, palace grounds, a lighthouse and royal grounds.  I would have loved to spend time meandering through these offerings and taking in the extensive view, but there was really only one reason we made the journey to this little hill - Bukit Melawati is all about the monkeys.

Silver-leafed monkey babies work the ginger trend beautifully

Bukit Melawati is home to a tribe of ridiculously cute and friendly silver-leafed monkeys.  You can take a kitsch little tram (RM 5/adult, RM 3/child for a return ticket) on weekends up to the top of the hill where the monkeys congregate.  Once you're deposited here your up close and personal encounter begins.  The monkeys flock around new arrivals and are so tame that they will quite literally stroke your legs.  A few found my red pedicure to be of interest and sat on the ground beneath me twiddling my toes.  

If you're not averse to having monkeys jumping all over you and quite likely sitting on your shoulder, you can buy a bundle of green beans for RM1.  You'll feel like the Pied Piper. 

The silver-leafed monkeys are incredibly gentle.  There's none of the aggressive behaviour of their wild cousins, the macaques, and you get the feeling that they are just as interested in you as you are in them.   (Do note though, that there are macaques in some of the surrounding trees too and it's best to be wary of them). Mister Three, although a little apprehensive at first, was soon comfortable enough to let the silver-leafed monkeys curl their long arms around his little legs.

Making friends

What I liked most about the set up here is that it feels like a win-win situation.  The monkeys are clearly very healthy and respected.  You're not allowed to feed them junk food.  There are people watching over the whole operation to make sure no one (monkeys included) gets hurt.  I've seen other 'monkey feeding' operations where people delight in supplying monkeys with cans of soft drink or packets of crisps.  This, on the other hand, feels like hanging out with much loved friends, rather than a circus act.

The little train will take you back down the hill and on a little extra route that takes in a local park before returning you to the main entrance point for the hill.  There's almost a breeze as you chug along the winding green road - very welcome on a sweltering afternoon.

History buffs, or those who can tolerate the heat better than we could, may prefer to spend more time on the hill visiting the historical quarter, but for us, it was enough to spend twenty minutes hanging with the monkeys.  We were then more than ready to head back to the comfort of our air conditioned car.

Top tips: Bring hand sanitizer!  We were told that the silver-leafed monkeys are very clean and don't carry disease, but still...  And if your little one needs a toilet stop, based on what I saw of the facilities, you may prefer to make like a monkey and head for the trees.  

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