Sunsets, Rice Fields and a Hostage in the Monkey Forest
If you are visiting Bali you cannot miss the charms of Ubud, whether you go for a day trip or stay for a week, you will not regret it. There are many things to do, and as such, it does attract many tourists. As long as you visit understanding that are many markets with pushy sellers, men on corners making a strange clicky noise and shouting “Taxi” and accept for what it is, then you’ll have a blast. The good point of this is that there is a lot of accommodation in Ubud for all budgets. However, you don’t have to go far to get out of the way to find a little piece of calm and tranquillity as I found out on day 2.
Finding hotels in Ubud
My first day was spent looking for a place to stay, and this was my stand out memory number one. I spent about half a day nosing around various places to stay and enjoyed every minute of it. Most accommodation is hidden behind imposing stone gateways that face onto the narrow streets. You can often walk by without even realising. When you do pass through you’ll find amazing places to stay hidden away in lush tropical gardens. As well as being a great way to find the best value place to stay, it is also a great way to see the town and a cheap way to spend the day exploring the wonderful tropics talking to locals about what to do.
Sunsets and Rice Fields
Day two was spent enjoying the markets followed by a massage and making every effort to avoid people clicking at me and offering taxis. In until the evening I went for a sunset walk around the rice fields.
Just to the north of the main part of the tourist area are wonderful little footpaths that wind their way through the paddy fields. This is my second stand-out memory of Ubud, as I walked and when the orange sun dipped below the palm trees, the light reflected off the flooded fields and filled the air with colour, it was like a moment of magic had struck.
Then I got bitten by a mosquito which snapped me back to reality, but after re-applying my DEET, I could refocus on capturing pictures and simply enjoying the moment. Note the subtle advice there, take mosquito repellent or go with someone that tastes sweeter than you do.
Visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest
Finally, day three and my overall highlight. If you have read any much of my stuff or seen many of my photos, I am sure you have realised that I can never miss the chance to interact with my primitive brothers.
You can imagine my excitement to visit a place named the Monkey Forest. Now depending whose blog you read you will find mixed reviews about this place. Some people (like me) love it; whereas others recommend avoiding it and you’ll read why in a bit.
From the main tourist area it is probably about a 20-minute walk south, conveniently located at the end of Monkey Forest Road. If you get tired there are plenty of bars and restaurants you can stop for a drink along the way which all have amazing views across the paddy fields behind. The Laughing Buddha is one that was recommended to me although I didn’t get to check it out as it was closed when I passed.
I visited with a travel friend I met along the way, for the sake of this blog, let’s call him Ronald. We went in the morning; I think the best time to visit the Monkey Forest is either early before it gets too hot or probably late afternoon when it cools down a bit. The Forest is open every day from 8.30am-6pm and the price to get in is 40000 IDR, about $3 at the time of writing.
Once we paid at the small hut we entered the forest and followed the footpath for about 200 metres where we found a small stone fountain which acts as an anchor point for various trails starting and ending there.
This is also where we encountered our first large group of monkeys, they were diving in and out of the water, swimming and fighting for control of the water on such a hot day. This alone could keep me amused for hours.
Within the forest are various walks to explore further, none of which I’d say are difficult. As we wandered, we discovered stunning moss covered stone statues and small pagodas dotted around as well as a small river. To be honest, I think a lot of the statues have been imported to appease the tourists rather than having any significant history to it but they are still pleasant to look at. Another quick tip for you, wear good shoes, some of the walks can get rather slippery, especially down by the river.
As we explored further, I did get the opportunity to enjoy one girl’s misery – I know, that sounds pretty heartless, but it was her own fault.
A young Spanish tourist decided it would be a good idea to give a baby monkey a small snack. A very bad idea. What she didn’t realise is that mummy was watching and promptly stole the gift from her little one. I know, not nice mum.
Anyway, as mummy walked off, she dropped the food on the floor, whether deliberately (I like to think so) or not, the Spanish girl sensed an opportunity to pick it up and give it back to the baby. But it was a trap. No sooner had she touched the food, that mummy was back on the scene and planted a ninja kick to her face, threw an uppercut and went for a bite on the shoulder.
Screaming as loud as anyone would when under attack from ninja monkey the girl ran away, sadly the wrong way and got herself cornered! She had her back to a building with the only way out next to the wall that mummy monkey now guarded.
This is when mummy started to tease her, she sat there with her back to the girl pretending to be uninterested, every movement the girl made she spun around and hissed at her. Meanwhile, the baby monkey just sat there looking desperately at his little monkey paws that only a minute ago had a delicious morsel of food, now nothing.
Luckily some of the crowd thought it would be best to get help and tracked down a park attendant who arrived with a big stick to negotiate the release of the hostage.
Given ninja monkeys previous moves I thought a stick would not pose much of a problem, but she must know that sticks hurt and after a couple of swings she fled bringing the Ubud monkey hostage crisis to an end. It turns out the tourist did get bitten on the shoulder but the skin wasn’t broken so she should be safe from rabies.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the exact reason that you’ll find some bloggers recommending that you stay away from the place as the monkeys can be aggressive. I’d counter that by saying if you are sensible, hide your food, remember that the monkeys, no matter how fun and cute, are still wild animals you’ll be fine. Zip up your bags, hide your food, don’t tease them, don’t try to feed them, be sensible and you’ll be fine.
I wish I took my own advice
Having said that after our entertainment was over we wandered a bit further and felt a little peckish. I found a safe spot to eat a biscuit; I checked every direction and was feeling confident.
We were in an alleyway, no monkeys in front, none behind, an 11-foot wall to the left and long building to the right; we were as secure as we possibly could be. Within seconds of the unwrapping our snack . . . BOOM . . . I received a killer blow as a monkey from nowhere landed on my head.
No sooner had he touched down that he launched himself at Ron, who was in possession of the packet of biscuits, 360 flipped in mid-air, cartwheeling over his head and snatching the biscuits out of this grasp and fled to the wall. We had just been mugged.
Then, to rub it in, he just sat there staring at us, munching on my biscuits, eyes saying to me “come and take these delicious oat cakes back . . . I dare you.” Luckily the torment didn’t last long as seconds later a group of four more monkeys swooped down, stole the biscuits off him and scarpered . . . Karma bitch!
If only I had had the opportunity to read this blog before visiting the Monkey Forest in Ubud. I would have known do not to get my food out, no matter how safe I thought I was, they are watching, they are always watching, you can’t see them, but trust me, they see you!
Defeated and hungry we left the Monkey Forest to find some real lunch. Sitting at one of the many restaurants overlooking Ubud’s rice fields, we cracked a beer, watched another amazing sunset and laughed. Will Spanish girl will ever go near a monkey again? Lucky little buggar got my delicious oat cakes? Who knows? Cheers!
Love monkeys too? Read about when I visited the Monkey Temple in Lopburi here: Visiting Lopburi and the Monkey Temple