Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bali: Sacred Monkey Forest

Monkey Madonna
The Sacred Monkey Forest at the edge of town in Ubud can be a dangerous place. Many of the macaques are so habituated to people feeding them that they get somewhat aggressive in trying to get it from tourists (women sell bananas and other fruits and vegetables at the entrances). But mostly once they have something to eat (and they are fed by the staff) they’re happy to hang out, munch on some cucumbers or taro, and groom each other. In many ways, any trouble in the forest is just what you brought with you.  Namely food or water.  If the macaques can see either, they’ll try to get it, and chances are good they’ll succeed.  We didn’t have any problems; we simply kept our water hidden in our bags, and didn’t bring any food in.
A monkey sitting back to enjoy his spoils.
In addition to the photogenic macaques, there were some really interesting statues outside the temple in the Monkey Forest that were fun to photograph. Bali is unlike the rest of Indonesia in that it is 80% Hindu. We weren’t sure what Hindu gods these statues represented, but they sure were interesting.

I mean, this one eyed one toothed guy? No idea.
It was a nice, shady place to while away a hot afternoon. There was no one trying to sell us a massage or a taxi ride or sarong. It was quiet, peaceful, and as the sun got lower, the light got more and more beautiful.
This poor guy was in need of some care—we saw him licking the stone for an extended period of time. Poor thing, either he’s got a vitamin deficiency or one too many coconuts have fallen on his head.
Either this guy was surprised by something one of his brethren did, or he just bit off more than he could chew. We did see a monkey jump down on a woman who had a basket of bananas, and abscond with a bunch.  The woman was very angry, but in some ways it felt like an occupational hazard (she was selling bananas to tourists to feed the monkeys).  Lana also had a bit of a run-in with a brave young macaque, who climbed up a woman’s purse. Lana was trying to help her out by shooing him off the woman and he took it as an invitation to shift his focus, which she noted immediately, and reversed course. He grabbed (but very gently) at Lana’s ankles as she was walking away. They were very soft and small, but thankfully he didn’t do more than suggest she should come and play with him.
I know monkey! Shocking!