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Monkeys for Breakfast

Sentosa Island
March 21, 2005

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I was already pretty impressed when, on my first morning in Sentosa, the hostess set me up at a table on the patio, overlooking the Straits of Malacca, and brought me coffee and The Straits Times while pointing me to the buffet inside. But things got more interesting yet when a few minutes later the woman at the table next to me yelped as a monkey swung down from the roof and snatched a pastry off her plate, munching it for a moment in front of her before scampering off to the jungle.

This sort of thing happened occasionally while I was there for a few days for a training workshop. Once, while I was walking past the bar to the splendid pool, a monkey dropped down out of the rafters onto the table next to me, snatching a handful of cashews before the man seated there could shoo him away. They are like squirrels here: charming residents who add to the ambience but can't be allowed to get too comfortable with their thievery.

Singapore is situated at the southern tip of the Malayan Peninsula, and hanging just under Singapore is the island of Sentosa. A few yards off the beach at Sentosa lies a little islet, connected by a footbridge, and this the sign tells us, is the southernmost tip of continental Asia, just 136 kilometers (84 miles) from the equator. Swimming over to the islet got me the furthest south I've been -- maybe. I asked my colleague Rob from Sydney, who had jogged to the islet one morning whether he was impressed with the monument. "Oh, the monument's fine. It's the geographic claim I was unimpressed with. You stand there, and you can see one part of the island on your right extending further than you, and another part extending further on the left... so how are you furthest south?"