Some tourists in Pattaya think of something else other than the beach thing. They go to Sammuk Hill in Bangsaen and feed some monkeys. That is not to say Pattaya’s attractions are not great, but a day with the cuddly primates is, indeed, another story.
Sammuk Hill is just a short distance from Bangsaen beach and features the shrine of Chao Mae Khao Sammuk, a Chinese girl who, according to one version of the story, committed suicide by throwing herself into the cliff, after her parents refused to give her the blessing to marry her lover. The entire hill is inhabited by wild monkeys, but can be hand-fed if you have bananas.
If you go more than picture-taking and want to do this and you don’t have anything to give, fruit vendors, who ply their trade on Sammuk hill, will provide. The top of the hill where the shrine is located can be reached by cars. The road is winding but not steep so that you don’t have to rev up your vehicle beyond necessary. Besides, monkeys do exercise their liberty, crossing the road at will.
You don’t want having a bad day after killing one instantly with your rubberized tires! There are those who hike their way up the hill. If you do this and you’re over 40, make sure you had taken a dozen of energy drinks prior to embarking on this short journey. Halfway up the road is the first stop, though. Take a rest, deep breath, under a shelter, and enjoy a spectacular view of the sea. Right here is a relatively large tree where lazy and overfed monkeys take their nap.
If you need additional energy to reach the top, buy a bunch of bananas and do feed yourself first, before you do to your ancestors. Look through the thick trees and bushes beside the road. You’ll find a lot of baby monkeys, breast-feeding mothers, and banana-belied males. Most of the time, especially when many other people have come before you, the monkeys will not even throw a glance at your bananas. You need quail eggs to lure them towards you for the photos. This is a more expensive commodity around here, but it is readily available.
The top of the hill is a watering hole in itself. There is a car parking area. The shrine is never without people around it, devotees and curious onlookers alike. Ironically, despite its sad story, people worship it for luck and to improve on their love relationship. Another legend has it that this spot was used as “Lover’s Leap” where couples kill themselves after making a vow to their forbidden love.
Still another tale says that the shrine was built in memory of a fisherman’s wife who waited atop the hill for her husband who was lost at sea. They are not so sure, of course. It’s an old tale and we are talking here of an 18th century story. — Jony Reese
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN BANGSAEN • Bangsaen Beach, ideal for swimming, windsurfing and other water sports. • Wat Saensook, where there are many statues, describing hell and heaven stories. • Ang Sila Village, where large oysters, lobsters and shells are kept in a fisherman’s farm. Also in this village are many stone handicraft factories, where you will be surprised at the craftsmanship skills of artisans in creating beautiful sculptures out of stone boulders.