Ubud was a massive disappointment.
Regarded as Bali’s cultural centre, Ubud is a small town in central Bali. It’s a world away from Kuta’s crazy party scene. The tourist brochures show images of a town surrounded by picturesque terraced rice-paddies and Hindu temples.
My impression was different. A walk through the town’s streets revealed store after store selling local arts and crafts. Duplicate stone carvings stood in long rows. Call me ethnocentric, but Ubud felt like one big garden-centre. The only thing missing was the smell of soil-fertilizer.
I hurried past restaurant-ushers, trying to get me to buy expensive steaks. From out of nowhere a yoga centre would appear, offering a bottle of organic alkaline water if I signed up for ten classes. I kept walking.
Ubud’s famous rice terraces were also a let down. I marveled at the agricultural engineering, but the verdant greens were absent in the overcast weather. I felt sick when I saw the contempt some visitors had towards the poor local farmers.
All this gave me low expectations of Ubud Monkey Forest. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed it so much.
Ubud Monkey Forest
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a sacred nature reserve and Hindu temple complex. The grounds are large, with mysterious temples and strange carvings hidden all over the forest.
However, with around 10,000 visitors a month, Ubud Monkey Forest is no serene temple sanctuary. The paths were crowded by visitors with selfie-sticks and dudes holding GoPros. But they weren’t the only ones squeaking and grunting.
Like me, they were here to see the monkeys — all 600 of them — inhabiting Ubud Monkey Forest. The monkeys roam the grounds freely, alpha-males chasing rambunctious juveniles while mothers care for the young.
I was thrilled. Primates have fascinated me ever since an ill-fated dabble in biological anthropology at university. While many see monkeys as pests (which I’m sure they can be), I find the little buggers enthralling. Watching their little hands as they used a tap or played with a stick was like glimpsing our very distant past.
But that’s not to say that the monkeys aren’t annoying. In fact, their behaviour is rather infamous. The Ubud Monkey Forest’s entrance is plastered with signs warning visitors to hide shiny objects and food. Some of the monkeys are very aggressive, fearlessly swarming visitors who hold bananas for too long.
The monkeys are harmless, but it’s another case if you get scratched or bitten. The internet is awash with scare stories about rabies-infested monkeys. I was relaxed — but that might’ve been because I’d had the rabies vaccination. So long as you aren’t an idiot like the guy in the photo (he let the monkeys climb on his head), you’ll probably be fine.
The monkey family
I was thinking of leaving when I stumbled upon the monkey family. Hanging out beside a cliff, this group was relaxing in the Balinese sun. Mothers nursed their babies while receiving a monkey massage in the dirt.
Less inquisitive than the temple’s other monkeys, this group ignored their great-ape cousins as we snapped away with our cameras. Nothing could interrupt this monkey chilling session.
I looked around and noticed a pair of monkeys hanging out beside the group. They sat together, two conniving schoolboys with a naughty plan up their sleeves. Their innocent expression couldn’t fool me. I kept a wide berth.
Opposite the two was a smaller monkey, his face pressed against a tree. He kept glancing back at a bigger monkey, his face full of remorse. Perhaps it was his mum, and she’d sent him to his room for punishment. I felt sorry for the little guy — but at least he didn’t have to go back into Ubud.
Would you like to visit Ubud Monkey Forest? Have you been to Ubud? Was my criticism unfair? Let me know in the comments below
Ubud Monkey Forest is a 20 minute walk from the Ubud’s centre. Entrance to Ubud Monkey Forest costs 30,000 Indonesian Rupiah. Don’t take any food or drink if you want to avoid the monkeys’ attention.