On Koh Samui, the monkey undoubtedly qualifies as man's best friend. This isn't surprising, since for centuries the people here have used monkeys to do the hardest part of the work climbing to the trees to "pick ripe nuts" on their coconut plantations. Until the advent of tourism, coconuts represented the main industry here, so these industrious little animals were greatly prized. Whether man qualifies as the monkey’s best friend is another matter.
Today, to see the monkeys at work just watch out for signs at the roadside which say "Monkey work coconut" or go to the Monkey Theatre which offers shows in which the monkeys display their dexterity, and not just at picking coconuts.
What you think of the monkey show at the Monkey Theatre will depend on your attitude to animals. Some people will find it amusing and clever while others will be horrified by a male and a female monkey being made to carry out ridiculous demeaning tasks which are an insult to these creatures. The monkey show is followed by a coconut picking performance followed by an elephant show. For a small fee you may even ride bareback on the elephants. The Monkey Theatre has 3 shows each day - 10:30 to 12:00, 14:00 to 15:30 and 16:00 to 17:30. The theatre is located on the left, one street from the main road, when leaving Chaweng on the way to Bophut. There are signposts pointing the way.
Even if you like the ‘show’, I think you will be disturbed to see the conditions in which the monkeys are kept. The monkeys are held in painfully small bare concrete cages that obviously hadn't been cleaned in a very long time. Further down the line of cages were some older monkeys each in individual cages that were nothing short of prison cells with thick iron bars, concrete walls and a carpet of excrement. A couple of monkeys showed clear signs of distress by continuously rocking back and forth. As you approached each cage the monkeys would retreat to the back of their cages and cower, which suggests that they're used to being badly treated. Frankly, this was enough for me and I would recommend that you don’t visit here.
If you decide not to go to the Monkey Theatre you will always be able to visit one of the numerous small "Monkey shows" which you will find on the roadsides for a few tens of baht. These mainly consist of monkeys trained to climb coconut trees and pick the coconuts. It is a pity to see these animals chained up but this is the way that they were treated when they were working the plantations. I’m sure that they would be much happier to be nowhere near here and free to live and play in the trees as they wished. Whether they have retained the instinct to gather their own food if they were free is something I don’t know.