All hail the monkey king of the Ubud Monkey Forest!
November 9, 2014
"You cannot touch the monkeys. The monkeys are not your friends. Monkeys are not to be trusted. The monkeys will steal your possessions and hold them ransom until you pay them off with bananas. Promise you won't touch the monkeys. If you get attacked by an angry monkey I'm not helping you." These were just a few of the things I said to Jeff leading up to our trip to the Ubud Monkey Forest.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a small jungle sanctuary and temple complex that serves as a home to hundreds of macaque monkeys. Monkeys are regarded as significant creatures in Balinese Hinduism, as they are thought to embody both positive and negative forces. Due to their proximity to the temples, the monkeys who occupy the Ubud Forest are regarded as sacred, as they are thought to be acting as protectors, and are therefore not to be moved or disturbed.
Sacred though they may be, these monkeys are no saints. It wasn't far into our stroll along the path through the lush, green (monkey-filled) forest that we encountered our first would-be criminal. We were ambling along, happily taking in the light-dappled trees and the adorable, innocent looking monkeys perching, snacking, and scampering about, when I noticed a monkey taking a particular interest in Jeff.
He began to follow him, and when I saw the same naughty glint in his eye that our cat, Nola, gets right before she snatches food off our plate and makes a run for it, I knew that he was up to no good. Jeff, lover of all animals, happily welcomed the attention....until it became apparent that the monkey was trying to steal his wallet. Fortunately, Jeff secures his wallet to his pants with a chain, and the monkey wasn't quite able to make off with his prize.
Not to be deterred by their theiving ways, and despite my many warnings, Jeff and our guide began to solicit monkey attention by feeding them. The monkeys were climbing on Jeff like a jungle gym, and he was loving every second.
Unfortunately though, the light was dim and our camera was not capturing these friendly exchanges, so we decided not to leave well enough alone, and head to an area at the edge of the forest, where the light might be better.
We found a good spot and Jeff and Gede, our guide, once again lured the monkeys with food.
A cute, little monkey was perching on Jeff's shoulder, prancing along his arms, and eating the candy right out of his hands, when out of no where, an angry, mama monkey charged, baring her teeth and hissing.
So, I did what any reasonable person would do, and abandoned my monkey-loving husband to his fate. (In my defense, I had warned him!). Jeff and Gede were able to escape, thankfully, but not unscathed. Mama Monkey gave Jeff a nice scratch as a souvenir.
Fearing rabies, I contemplated whether or not we needed to cut our honeymoon short and fly to Singapore for a rabies shot, but Gede assured us that the monkeys were not rabid, and that Jeff had not actually been bitten, so disinfecting the scratch was the only action we needed to take. We took our chances and luckily Jeff survived. The only side effect suffered (by me) is that he now refers to himself as "Thunderbeast the Monkey King."
In all seriousness, though - while the Monkey Forest is a great place to visit, the monkeys can be aggressive and there is a risk of rabies if you get bitten. The chances may be slim, but the consequences are severe. If you visit, don't be like my husband - follow my advice and admire the monkeys from a distance. Don't feed them, stay on the designated paths, and when you see a particularly bad-ass looking monkey, don't make eye contact. Also, leave jewelry, sunglasses, and anything shiny at home and secure all other possessions. These monkeys are no fools and nobody wants to spend their vacation in hostage negotiations with a macaque!