One place I’d heard was an absolute MUST in Ubud, was the Sacred Monkey Forest.
So on my third day in Bali’s funky capital of art and culture, I ventured down windy Monkey Forest road to see what it held in store.
On arriving, dodging the many bikes and cars squeezing through this bit of town, I paid my 40,000Rp (about £2) entry at the ticket office, picked up a little guidebook and strolled on in.
The first thing I was greeted by was many signs detailing ‘Monkey Forest Tips’ all to the tune of not carrying water bottles, carrier bags, Bananas(Unless you are a nutter) and such like. Warning avidly that if they do get your gear don’t try and pull it back, they’ll ave ya! (I paraphrase)
There ARE staff dotted around who will shoo off a monkey or challenge them, but they seem to have established a dominance and you my friend have not, so I wouldn’t risk it.
It’s also recommended that you refrain from eye contact, showing your teeth (a sign of aggression) “please don’t smile at the monkeys” and any sudden movements or closed body language.
However if you obey all these rules then “generally monkeys will not come to you”.
LIES. But we’ll get to that.
The monkeys are curious, greedy and fast, the most common sound you hear when wandering is a piercing tourist shriek as a monkey jumps on their head or snatches their water bottle, sunglasses or snack.
My personal favourite being when five English girls bought a bunch of bananas from a vendor near the entrance and were totally mobbed, climbed on and harassed till one cheeky chap scampered off with the whole lot.
Despite all the chaos, it really is a beautiful place, with some incredible grand Bales (pronounced ‘bahlay’ a wall-less raised building common in Balinese villages and home compounds) and temples throughout. Nature is in abundance all around with Rivers and forest stretching off beyond the tourist access on most sides making for lovely viewing – If you can avoid the monkeys that is.
Despite following all the tips I was strolling down a nice path when I got quite the fright as monkey leapt from nowhere onto my head.
And there is just nothing you can do! He was fiddling with the zip on my backpack while I bobbed helplessly up and down making strange noises and thankfully he eventually leapt off and I carried on walking, albeit quite ruffled.
I then wandered on and spent a lot of time watching the cute baby monkeys scamp about and flail in the trees, from a distance though- monkey mamas be fierce.
If I thought my monkey attacks were over, I was incorrect.
After a hilarious half hour watching some juveniles rush up trees around a little pond and throw themselves geronimo! style into it.
Weary from hours in the heat I sat to watch them begin play fighting, when all of a sudden they somehow in the space of a second, bounded two meters towards me jumping onto my head without even disentangling.
Suddenly energetic again I bounced up and they bounced off, leaving behind them wet mud all over my shirt and hair and a scratch along the back of my neck.
I tried to continue enjoying the place, walking alongside a nice little river but all the while
a little voice in the back of my head was yelling RABIES!!?!
With a level of truly British polite calm I told a guide, he didn’t seem phased but recommended I pop to the medical building.
Pop I did, where I was met by a few other worried damaged tourists and a nice medic who gave me a swab of anti-septic and the reassuring words ‘No Rabies here! No worries!’.
And with that huge relief I set off back into monkey-free Ubud in search of a nice spot to write, sip tea and live to wander another day :).
P.S On walks out like this in Bali or anywhere hot and humid on holiday, be prepared to sacrifice your clothes to the sweat devil.
It was active wear everyday pour moi!