Sunday, May 10, 2009

No Touch Monkey! by Ayun Halliday

No Touch Monkey! and Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday
Copyright 2003
Seal Press - Travel/Memoir
273 pages
Author's website

"My dear, do you have any idea why there is a need for volunteers [at the Cambodian polls]?" the Italian asked, patting my hand with a condescending, perfectly manicured paw. Rather than lose face by admitting that I didn't, I treated him to the smirking, opaque shrug I, like so many other young Americans, had perfected in junior high school. "It's because the United Nations people who were supposed to be supervising the elections fled for their lives," he continued, egged on by my insolence.

"Yes, there have been shootings at the polling places," the monk confirmed. "It is not safe."

"When I was in Spain, I had to pretend to be a can opener," I said. "It was the only way to make this man who ran the refreshment stand understand what I wanted.

"How do you act like a can opener?" Kosiya asked.

I demonstrated, opening my mouth wide and pretending to puncture a tin lid with my front teeth. Raising my hands to chin level, I spun an invisible can, growling in girlish approximation of a humming motor.

"Why didn't you just do this?" Greg persisted, squeezing imaginary handles together with his left hand, while turning a crank with his right.

"I was electric."

When we returned from our expedition, we found that the monkey had left a calling card, perhaps a warning of the kind of misfortune sure to befall anyone foolish enough to tangle with him twice. The mangled upper portion of a flip-flop lay on our doormat, chewed well past the instep. Greg leaned down to pick up his souvenir, cradling it gently like the sacred relic it was. "Look," he intoned, "you can see the teeth."

We examined the ruined shoe whose twin would be discovered later that evening, abandoned in similar condition on the upper roof. I fully believed that the missing part had been eaten. "God," we chimed in unison, "monkeys are so cool."

I'm going to try to keep this brief, but you can see from the quotes that Ayun Halliday's writing is a hoot. No Touch Monkey! is all about Halliday's crazy, dirt-encrusted, low-budget hippie backpacker-chick traveling adventures. I can count the number of places she's gone that I'd want to go without using a single finger or toe (or anything else). But, boy, are her travels fun to read about.

No Touch Monkey! can be a little on the personal side. Ayun doesn't hold back when describing her bout with malaria, intestinal agonies, sore body parts (camel ride, anyone?), close encounters with natives, dirt, stench, yucky food. It's such raucous fun, though, imagining someone else smelling rank as a goat, drinking tap water and regretting it, wearing a ridiculous outfit with a hot pink turban, getting screamed at by a madam . . . and on and on . . . No Touch Monkey! is definitely worth the time. I just loved this book.

Highly recommended. Just be aware that the word "gross" frequently applies. I would call this book a little "adult", but I think if your teenager sneaks it off your nightstand, he'll probably just laugh a great deal and have second thoughts about inhaling, drinking or doing certain things. It probably won't corrupt him. Or her. I could be wrong.


  1. That sounds like so much fun. Did you read it before your big trip?

  2. First of all, I love that spam comment above.

    Your review made me laugh. I'll have to look for this one.

  3. This looks hilarious! Great review!

  4. I've been waiting and waiting for you to post this review! I knew I'd enjoy this one from the title alone :p Now I'm convinced I'll enjoy it...I see a bad bloggers point coming your way!

  5. Kathy,

    No, I didn't think to take No Touch Monkey! with me. It would have been a great book to take on vacation because it's such fun reading and easy on the brain.


    I didn't say how deep a hole I think Ed deserves to be thrown into. Wow, that sentence is a horror. How deep a hole into which I believe Ed should be thrown? Sigh. I hate my own language.

    I'm glad my review made you laugh. That makes me happy all under. The book is such fun.


    It's a really funny book. I read that can opener quote to my son because I knew it would make him laugh. She's got a couple of other books out, but they're not about travel. Still . . . I enjoy her writing, so I think the wish list is about to get even longer.


    Yeah, I think you would love it. Plus, you know I've been angling for some bad blogger points. Pleeeease buy a copy! I want to be a Bad Blogger!!!

  6. What an excellent review Nancy! You really capture the comedy and tragedy of this book. I think I'll have to check it out.

  7. Like I said before I enjoy your reviews so much, I believe I get best out of the book lol Love the title, love the review ;)

  8. Teddy Rose,

    Thank you! I had such fun reading this book that I kind of wish she had more travel stories. At least the author has written about other topics!


    Isn't that a great title (and cover)? The book is fun, too. I'm always looking for books that make me laugh. Well, there you go. I'll look up the one you mentioned in the contest post. I'm not commenting on that post to make it easier to sort through entries, when I get to that point. :)

  9. This one sounds like a great vacation read. Even an armchair vacation!

    (Life by Candlelight)

  10. This book sounds fun! I will have to add it to the list. :)

  11. Amy,

    It's definitely great as an armchair traveling read, but also would have been great during a plane ride. I wish I'd thought to take it with me.


    It's definitely fun and very different -- good for a break between heavier reads.

  12. Ayun Halliday cracks me up. I liked The Big Rumpus even more than this one. Looks like her newest book just came out, too! It's a children's book: Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo.

  13. Ali,

    I noticed Ayun Halliday has a new book out. I'm afraid I'll have to get a copy. Rumpus Room is one I'm thinking I'll skip, since I've passed the young-mommying years, but I might eventually read it just because she's such a fun writer. Thanks for the reminder about her new book!

  14. Ayun's beautiful daughter went to the same school as my kids, and she made a blog that the whole class followed when Ayun took them to Eastern Europe. Ayun wrote a series of articles about that trip for a parenting website called Babble. I just checked and they're all archived. Here's the first one:

    It's like No Touch Monkey without the drugs and pooh!

  15. Nan,

    Thank you! I'll check that out when I have a few minutes to burn! I could do without the drugs and pooh, but I thought her writing was so fun that the gross factor was negated.

  16. This book sounds like a riot. I'll have to keep this one in mind for when I'm in need of a good laugh. I've read Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted, and I don't think it's as gross as that book. LOL

    Diary of an Eccentric

  17. Anna,

    Goodness, I don't know about that. Palahniuk tends to be gross and really, really scary. I think it's a different manner of cringe factor. No Touch Monkey! is great. You really should read it when you need a smile. :)

  18. I gave you another point today for Simon Van Booy's book ;)

  19. Chris,

    Wahoo! Blame points! Go, me!!!! And, thanks. ;)

  20. Don't you mean nationals when it comes to natives? I don't mean to be picky but I've been corrected many times especially when I spent some time on a missions trip to Trinidad and Tobago. :)

    This definitely sounds like a good book. :)

  21. Krista,

    By natives, I mean "belonging to a locality or country by birth." It can also mean "indigenous inhabitants" (as in aboriginals), but that's not the definition I was referring to. It's a really fun book. I'll bet you'd enjoy it. :)

  22. LOL That sounds like quite a weird read. Thanks for making me smile.

  23. Callista,

    Yeah, kind of weird, but it's good weird. :)

  24. Hmm...that does sound like an odd book. But you highly recommend it, so odd does not equal bad. I thought the green colored quote was funny. Sounds like something idiotic I would do, not thinking, lol. Thanks for the review.

  25. Rebecca,

    It's just pure, weird fun. The quote about the can opener is my favorite. It made the whole family laugh. :)


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