First Time Making Friends With A Monkey – Monkey Forest – Ubud – Bali
After spending two days in Ubud, we still hadn’t been to visit the monkey forest that was the town’s most famous feature. Realising all of a sudden that our time in Ubud was all too brief, we woke up with a resolve to head to the southern end of town and with it, the Ubud Monkey Forest.
The forest was theoretically a 10 minute walk from our hotel. However in practice, it turned out to take rather longer, as the narrow streets of Ubud were thronging with people. We arrived at the gate to the forest, paid our entrance fee (50,000IDR /about £3) and headed in. After our previous brush with the spoilt monkeys of Uluwatu, we were fully expecting to be mugged. However, a short way into the forest we were offered the opportunity to have a picture taken with a monkey for 20,000IDR – or about £1. Laura wanted a photo, and the man sat her down and waved some food above her outstretched arm. Sure enough, the monkey clambered his way up and took a seat on her shoulder, I’m not sure he really saw Laura as anything further than a frame to climb to reach the food, but at least it had no interest in stealing anything from us. We took some pictures, paid the man, and were on our way.
As we walked towards the centre of the monkey forest, we passed a number of stalls that were selling some very similar items to those we’d seen in Ubud’s bustling street markets. There was something very curious about walking into a supposedly sacred area and coming across a wooden penis-shaped bottle opener. There is actually a historical reason for the abundance of wooden phalluses in Bali – beyond it being a popular lads holiday destination – involving warding off bad spirits that were blamed for killing boys before they became adults. Apparently equipping your child with a wooden wang was supposed to trick the spirits into leaving them alone.
We followed the path, coming to a busy area nearer the larger of the two temples in the monkey forest. We decided to skip the first, as it was looking fairly crowded and we were mostly there for the monkeys. We passed alongside it, and saw a mother nursing a baby monkey, whilst a third monkey picked lice out of the mother’s fur. This was a pretty adorable sight to see, far nicer than the criminal elements in the monkey species that we had already witnessed in Uluwatu.
After following the path until we came back out into the main street, we turned to head back in. Along the way back in we saw one of the members of staff in the forest stroking a monkey’s head, lulling it to sleep. This was a stark contrast to the people we’d met in the Uluwatu monkey forest, who seemed far more like custodians of the ill behaved monkeys.
We came back to the hub area, and struck out towards the spring water temple – not a shrine to Evian and the like, but a temple built right next to a spring. Reaching it involved crossing a very old bridge, covered in Bunut Tree vines, crossing high above a deep gorge, with a small stream running down the middle. It was hard to believe that we were a 2 minute walk from Ubud, but were crossing a bridge that would not have been out of place in a tomb raider game. In the distance we could hear fights breaking out between monkeys, but the ones that were more willing to engage with people were much more friendly, sitting still for pictures, climbing on people to get bananas (only 20,000IDR / a little over £1 for a small bunch).
We continued along the path on the other side of the bridge and descended into the gorge. With its nigh vertical sides covered in vines, and pools of azure blue (possibly as a result of runoff from the shops above), it too felt like it should have been somewhere much further away from civilisation. It seemed curious that of all of the mentions of Ubud’s monkey forest in videos and articles that we’d read, there was no mention of these awe-inspiring sights.
After struggling to get a picture that didn’t include at least 2 or 3 other tourists, we turned around and headed back up to the main centre, before heading out. This was slowed down somewhat by the fact that we repeatedly stopped to take pictures of monkeys, the novelty obviously having not worn out.