Celebrations have started around the world to mark Chinese New Year today, as we enter the Year of the Monkey.
Each Chinese New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 houses like its western counterpart, but each house has a time-length of one year instead of one month. The monkey is the ninth animal in the cycle.
I really wanted to see monkeys when were in Cambodia – I’m animal mad and I love monkeys in particular!
My first monkey experience was at Banteay Srei, a 10th-century temple in the Angkor complex dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
This was probably my favourite of all the temples. Because it is 20 miles from the main group, it’s not as crowded. It’s also quite unique because it’s built with rose-pink sandstone, which gives it a different look.
The temple is elaborately decorated with floral motifs, female deities, and monkey guardians. The modern name of the temple means “citadel of the women” or “citadel of beauty” – and you can see why when you study the detail in the carvings.
We caught a brief glimpse of one on a rooftop in Siem Reap but it wasn’t until our last day (when I was beginning to lose hope) that I was lucky enough to get an up close encounter with them, and it was worth waiting for!
We’d gone down to Angkor Wat to watch the sunset and as we were walking down to the lake (an amazing place to watch the sunset because the light turns the whole temple golden and you get an incredible reflection in the water – very Instagram-able!), we came across a whole monkey family.
They had found some coconuts and were tucking into their dinner – there were also 2 very small babies being carried by their mothers and looking really cute.
You shouldn’t approach the monkeys as they are wild animals and can give a nasty bite, but they definitely weren’t shy around the tourists and they did come very close to us. Just be careful if you are monkey watching – don’t get distracted and leave your bags on the ground as you might find they run off with it!
As Chinese New Year marks the end of winter, the beginning of Spring and a fresh year ahead, we wish you luck, prosperity and good fortune during the Year of the Monkey!
Love, peace and lotus
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