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Monks and Monkeys


Monks and Monkeys

I used to beg my parents for a pet monkey. I had it all figured out. I would build a cage (and by I, I meant my Dad of course) in the outside corner of our house where the monkey would have access to my second-story bedroom. Everywhere I went I’d pull him behind me in my little red wagon.

I would buy all the food, I promised, though I’m not sure how I was planning to get the money.

I would even train him to behave – just like I trained my horse to jump fence and the family dog to roll over.

No matter how many promises I made, the answer was always the same.

They pick their butts.

It’s true, but that didn’t stop my desire. I would sit in my room at night and ask God to miraculously appear a monkey outside my window. I did not grow up religious, but even then I knew God was supposed to deliver things your parents could/would not. In the years to follow, I filled my wants with other things and forgot about the monkey.

Until recently.

I spent the day with two fellow English teachers at Ku Phra Ko Na temple in Ban Ku, about six kilometers south of our temporary home in Suwannaphum, Roi Et, Thailand, where hundreds of monkeys roam free in the forested land preceding the entrance.

At first we were terrified. About a dozen monkeys ran toward us at full speed, wide-eyed and fierce looking, with many more trailing not far behind. I stood still, closed my eyes and braced myself, waiting to be pounced on like a climbing pole. They could outrun me if I tried.

When I felt nothing, I opened my eyes and looked down. The monkeys were crouched at my feet, staring at me as if begging for food like a dog. Their patience was short though, and if I made them wait too long they would creep closer, cautiously place one hand on my leg and reach up to grab a banana with the other.

Continuing through the temple gates was like stepping out of Jumanji and into The Twilight Zone. The chirping crickets were so loud our ears were ringing. There must have been thousands, and the noise was the only sound in an otherwise eerie silence.

A couple of monks sat motionless, presumably in the midst of a deep meditation, not even looking up to notice three foreigners snooping around their peaceful home – a mound of ruins among several newly built and elaborately decorated buildings. Their bright colors contrasted with the dark blacks and browns of an age-old rock formation, which sheltered everyday monk necessities such as a bed, a chair and a seemingly out-of-place, oversized gong one can only presume is used to disturb the calm.

Even though it appeared slightly uncanny, the temple was beautiful. The longer I watched the monks meditate and the monkeys frolic, the more I appreciated their devotion to the Buddha. It is no coincidence that monkeys prelude the monks on this journey, for Buddhism teaches evolution and reincarnation. While monks seek enlightenment to free themselves from the cycle, monkeys serve as a reminder of where they started.

Ku Phra Ko Na temple would be the perfect place to pray. Based on my reading of Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat, Pray, Love I believe meditation is hard to achieve, but if I wanted to practice, this is where I would come, Ku Phra Ko Na temple in Ban Ku. The serenity of the forest, backed by twittering crickets, could make one forget about the complications of outside life and forego all materialistic wants.

I, however, don’t plan on becoming religious any more than I was as a child. Despite the many promises I made to my parents, I no longer wish for a monkey of my own. But if I were nine years old again in my bedroom on my knees with my hands together and my eyes closed – I’d be bowing to Buddha instead of praying to God.




Hopefully the first in a series by,

Jessica Hill
Suwannaphum, Roi Et, Thailand



Jessica Hill developed a love for travel at a young age. Her passion for writing came later. The opportunity to quit her job and write about traveling became possible when she accepted a teaching position in northeastern Thailand, having absolutely no prior experience. She’s currently living in small-town Suwannaphum, which coincidentally has similarities to the rural part of Oregon, U.S. she was raised in. There, she's learning how to teach English and live like a Thai. For her, every experience is writing material, for even the bad ones make great stories.

Follow her journey here:



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