Friday, May 4, 2012

Bali: Ubud's Monkey Forest

One of Ubud's famous sites is the sacred monkey forest sanctuary (Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana), which is a combination nature reserve and sacred temple, housing somewhere between 300 and 600 crazy long-tailed macaque monkeys.

The monkeys spilled out of the forest and literally onto the streets- we caught these two chillin' in the road as we walked from Alam Jiwa towards the forest:

 

The monkeys, as the guidebook warned us, are "greedy" and "ever vigilant for passing tourists who just might have peanuts and ripe bananas available for a quick hand-out."  Another source called them "ravenous," and suggested that by going in the forest, we would "risk bites and a need for rabies injections."   Furthermore, a couple we ran into the night before we planned to hit up the Monkey Forest told us their story, which involved monkeys climbing on the fellow's head, stealing his water bottle and sunglasses, and generally harassing them.  Comforting!  After hearing this, we were a little bit worried about how aggressive these monkeys would be, so we stripped our bags of all food and drink, hid our sunglasses and earrings and soldiered on. 

When we arrived in the Monkey Forest, the monkeys were everywhere... on the sidewalk, in the trees, on statues, on people (more about that later!).  They were definitely getting a little bit closer than necessary and giving us the once-over to see if we had anything of interest, but none of them really bothered us.


The monkeys were lounging, grooming (see below, left), eating, playing, fighting...


This monkey (below, right) was doing some pretty intense stretching/calethenics.  Yoga, perhaps?


I think the strangest part of our venture into the monkey forest came right around when we decided to enter the main temple.  Prior to entering, you must borrow a sarong from a man with a big stack of them at a stand adjacent to the entrance.  While waiting in a short line for our sarongs, we watched the sarong distributor playing with a monkey that seemed to have befriended him.  The monkey was sitting with his legs splayed out (see photo below), and the sarong guy was persistently trying (successfully) to touch the monkey's testicles (and giggling each time) while the monkey swatted the guy's hand away repeatedly and practically rolled his eyes.  Seriously.  It gets worse, though.  When it was our turn to get our sarongs, the sarong guy insisted that he be the one to tie them around our waists. With his monkey junk hands.  Thanks, guy... as if we weren't already feeling gross from the sweating and heavy bug spray and sunscreen application, we really need monkey nut hands touching us, too.

 

Anywho, we made it into the temple eventually, perhaps a little shell-shocked (nut-shocked?):


The gate above is the gateway to the temple's inner courtyard, adorned with fierce guardian spirits, including Boma, to ward off evil spirits. The snakey-looking statue we're standing in front of above is Bedawang Nala, a mythological turtle who supports the world on his back... he's surrounded by 2 giant serpents that bind him to human/earthly needs.


Cool carved statues, in profile... one of these things is not like the others:


Boma, one of the guardian spirits: 


In addition to the main temple, we also visited the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, or the cremation temple. This terrifying statue below is Rangda, a demon queen who eats childen:
 

Cool dragon statue: 


Once  in the monkey forest, we were finally able to observe exactly why we had been warned about the monkeys and their grabby habits... but we quickly realized that it was the tourists that were the true culprits in this scenario.  As I said above, the monkeys generally steered clear of us since we a) had no food and b) did not purport to have food.  The monkeys will only bother you if, like these folks below, buy bananas from the vendor and wave them around behind your daughter's ear, enticing the monkeys.  Then you risk having not one, but two monkeys climbing on your head/back/shoulders/legs.  Oh, tourists.  Sigh.


Aaaand one last monkey for your viewing pleasure:


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