Ayu had suggested paying the monkeys a visit.
‘Have you been to the Sacred Monkey Forest?’ she asked me.
Ahhh have to go there, I thought. They’re not just monkeys, they’re sacred monkeys. (Yes, my thoughts are like Marks and Spencers adverts.)
After waking up from my cat nap, I decided to make my way there. To get to the forest you walk down Monkey Forest Road past temples, shrines, offering of petals lining the pavement and a myriad of gift shops, so colourful that if I had been a bumble bee I’d have overdosed on nectar. And even though the walk was a treat for the eyes, the sun was out and blaring in all its glory. Five minutes into my walk, I already felt like I was in need of another cold shower.
After perhaps a mile’s walk, I found one of the openings to the monkey forest. After a payment of RP 20,000 (around £1) I ventured into the forest. And it was not long before I saw…
‘MONKEYS!’ (I actually said this aloud.)
They were everywhere. On the path right in front of me, hiding in the bushes to the side of me, jumping in a pond in the distance and hanging off the enormous tree at the centre of the forest. Literally, everywhere.
I’m no expert on our simian relations, but I think the type found here are macaques. Although some were quite large so I there may be other kinds. Anyway, whatever they were, they are FASCINATING. I of course attempted the monkey on the shoulder shot, but the pesky little thing was a bit too speedy for the camera to capture.
If you do go to the monkey forest, walk through it and get lost. Don’t get fooled into thinking it’s pretty tiny when you walk the along the main path to the other entrance where the other clusters of tourists are. Go along one of the narrower, windier paths – or down the stone steps that seem to lead right to the bottom. The Sacred Monkey Forest is dense; complete with gushing river and Indiana Jones style temple ruins and moss stained monkey statues. In the midst of the buzzing town of Ubud, you were transported to a chapter of the Jungle Book. I could have stayed there all day.
One weird thing though – I swear I saw former Man Utd and now QPR football player Ji Sung Park roaming around amongst the other forest visitors. So much so that I did a not only a double but a TRIPLEtake, and pondered whether the fates had finally listened to my desires and were giving me the opportunity to finally become Mrs Park. Sadly inhibitions overcame me, the moment passed, and it shall now forever remain one of those niggling ‘what ifs’. Ah well, you win some you lose some.
After further exploration and attempts of trying to get the perfect monkey photo, my dear old stomach was grumbling. I made my way out of the forest, my possessions all still intact and with me and stopped at a small café at the base of Monkey Forest Road for a milkshake and tourist break to consult the holy Lonely Planet Guide. Remembering that Ayu had recommended Café Lotus earlier this morning, I gulped down my milkshake and made the long, perspiring traipse back up the road in the heavy, thick humidity.
Café Lotus sits adjacent to Ubud Water Palace, a beautiful place which I noted down to explore for another day. Although slightly touristy, I couldn’t fault it for being the perfect, shaded and candlelit end to the sizzling day. With a dinner of Mahi Mahi fish, watermelon juice and a ice cold Heineken (oh yes, two drinks) I tucked into my Indonesian dinner and watched the gold glowing Legong dancers shimmer and sway in front of the palace. Put on top of that an afternoon full of monkeys, despite not having met Mr Ji Sung Park, the day would definitely be counted as a win.
*Tune in next time for some elephantine antics…
Go Go Go!
Where: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
Why: Temples, wildlife, rice fields, beautiful food and friendly people.
How: Flights from Jakarta to Bali are extremely frequent, with almost every airline flying there. Depending on the time of year, a return ticket can cost anywhere between 400,000 Rp – 2000,000 Rp ( approx. £20 – £100).
I stayed at Nirwa Homestay in Ubud, which I can’t recommend enough; spacious, clean rooms, hot water, western toilet, incredibly friendly and helpful staff, all set in the most scenic of surroundings and only a ten minute walk from all the buzz – all costing just 150,000 Rp for a night (approx. £7.50).
Be careful when entering the Sacred Monkey Forest, as the monkeys are very clever at stealing your belongings. Don’t approach any baby monkeys too closely as there will no doubt be a much larger, snarling monkey nearby. You can also buy bananas to feed them, but I’d be a bit wary about this, unless you want a swarm of monkeys around and crawling all over you. There are park rangers in the forest who speak English and will help you with any problems.