This post was already written. I trashed it. It was a we-went-here and then we-went-there post. I realize I’ve written a bunch of these lately and they are precisely the kind of post I hate. I mean, who really cares if you went to lunch or took a taxi unless you ate a taxi for lunch. Anyway, there’s a bunch of crap that happened before we got to the Monkey Forest, most of it really, really boring. Which I could complain about because I wish we would have gotten to the MF sooner, but I won’t. I’m saving you. Let me bless you with the most interesting thing on the entire island of Bali, because I’ve seen every square inch of it. A lie.
You’ll only agree with me if you are as much of a monkey freak as we are. Obviously you are wrong if you don’t. They’re cute, they’re a little unpredictable, some can swing from their tail and they know the proper way to eat a banana1. They just rock. Some people, like my friend RJ, think they are mangy little nasty rodents. But, of course she is wrong and they are not. That job has already been reserved for dogs.
The Monkey Forest is tucked into a town in the center of Bali called Ubud. If you’re looking for it, just find Monkey Forest Road2, duh. At the end of this road filled with fancy restaurants, hotels and boutiques is straight up forest. Trees, vines, green stuff growing everywhere. You’ll see a Balinese macaque by the time you’ve taken 2 steps into the place. They’re lounging all over the place. On the walkways, in the trees, on ledges, on statues, everywhere. Babies, moms, dads….all 537 of them.
I read in the brochure that it is permissible to feed the monkeys, but don’t try to hide the food, because they’ll find it. Even in your backpack. The brochure also says not to take food back or keep it from them. They could become agitated. So when one climbed on me and tried to get in my backpack, I just took it off. I did not want a monkey this close to me so soon. I mean we had only just met. I also didn’t want a monkey bite to accompany my dog bite. Taking off my backpack was the wrong decision as the monkey took off with it. Dusty did the husbandly thing and captured the theft in progress. I thought, no big deal, not much in the bag. No. Wait. Crap. My 2 month old iPhone, the most expensive and versatile communication device I have ever purchased (guilt!), was in there. Luckily, MF Personnel saved the day by yanking back my bag and shooing away the offending criminal.
We came upon some dudes from Holland that were just chilling on some stairs, allowing monkeys to sit on their laps. What were they thinking? Just when I thought this was the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a while, one of the lap monkeys locked eyes with the guy and it was game on. The gaze was not appreciated and the monkey let him know by biting his hand. Gah! Medic! The guy knew what he did wrong and blamed himself for looking into the monkeys eyes. I worried that he needed rabies shots. Rabies is a problem in Bali, you know.
With this shock that the monkeys would be way more in your face and much less skiddish than I thought they would be, walking down the paths became a little more intense. Especially the narrow stairway that took us down to a small temple next to a creek. Monkeys sat on either side stairs on the ledge staring at us as we inched by. Earlier, we had seen some of them show their teeth if they thought we were a threat to their food. We moved with caution eyeing every monkey we snuck by. Some of them jumped on our leg to make their way up to our backpacks, even if we weren’t carrying any food.
Back up the stairs at the spot where the Holland guys were still sitting, we saw they were back at it with the monkeys on their laps. This time, one with a bandaged finger. An MF “keeper” asked if I would like to have a monkey sit on me. NO WAY! I have had my shots but I don’t need more bites or scars! He assured me that none of the monkeys have rabies and that it would be perfectly fine. Just relax. I believed him and sat down while he put bananas around me and on my lap. Soon, the monkeys came and chilled on my shoulder and lap, having a banana or ten. I was sure to be quite still and keep my eyes off of theirs.
Dusty joined in on the game and sat while monkeys hung out on him, too.
As I was capturing the magic of monkeys on Dusty, a smaller monkey come up from behind and popped a squat on my leg. I didn’t even flinch. Nice monkey. The bandaged dude from Holland snapped this picture of me at that precise moment.
Unfortunately, when it was just getting interesting, closing time came and our monkey business was over. Once again, we concur that monkeys are cool….just like friends. Sometimes they’ll show their teeth if you try to take their food, but in the end they are nice and cuddly.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Hours : everyday from 8 am – 6 pm
Cost: 20,000 Rupiah or $2.20 USD
1 The proper way to eat a banana, from my extensive monkey research and observation, is to either peel it from the bottom (top if you’re a monkey!) or tear into it like a rabid dog, spitting out the peel when it gets in the way.
2 Funny thing, I could not remember the name of the place and kept calling it Monkey Farm and Monkey Festival.