The rooster crowed at 6:30 am. I lay in bed listening to the birds chirping and the river gurgle its way through our tropical-looking garden. What a wonderful start to our first full day in Ubud, Bali. All was right with the world until 6:35 am; the time that my husband opened his eyes.
“Let’s go to Monkey Forrest!” Ryan’s words had a near instant effect. Time slowed, and I saw myself standing in a forest surrounded by monkeys. Staring. Scheming. For me, this is the stuff of nightmares. The only thing that could make these furballs scarier is clown makeup. Ryan was well aware of my reservations, but there was little hope of dissuading him from his mission; to take a “monkey selfie”. I could hear his response without even asking the question. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Life is all about putting yourself out there, right? This became my mantra for the day.
After enjoying a lengthy breakfast, and quadruple checking that we had, in fact, packed the sunscreen, Ryan popped a helmet on my head and pointed me in the direction of our scooter. It was time for me to meet the monkeys.
As always, our scooter ride was an event in and of itself. In Bali, you have to drive like a local to survive. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like, though, because my eyes instinctively shut the second Ryan yells “HOLD ON TIGHT!!” Fortunately, the drive was relatively short, and we arrived at the forest in one piece.
We paid our Rp 30 000 entrance fee ($3) and stepped into the vast and beautiful forest. The first thing that I noticed was a concerning safety discrepancy. A voice boomed over the loudspeaker: “for safety, please no feed the monkey”. While we listened to these words of warning, we watched vendors selling monkey treats to the tourists. In some ways, this was reassuring. I would be the least likely target in a pack of humans. With this reassurance in mind, we started our exploration of the forest.
When we saw the first monkey, he was totally outnumbered. There he sat, playing with a stone while 20 tourists took his picture. The whole idea of Monkey Forest was starting to feel a little more manageable. As we ventured deeper into the woods, however, the picture changed. Pretty soon, they were EVERYWHERE; swinging in the trees, jumping on banana-wielding tourists, fighting with each other over food, etc. They were also unpredictable. One moment the monkey would be feeding calmly on a banana, the next he would be up and running towards you!
While I was hyperventilating, Ryan was having the time of his life; reading all of the info boards and taking pictures of everything that moved. I must say, the monkeys have a pretty sweet deal. Their job is to enjoy a giant forest while their human servants feed them bananas and coconuts. What a life! There was no shortage of hairy moments, but after a couple of hours I started to get into the swing of things, and it became quite enjoyable. The prevailing joke was, of course, that Ryan would lose me in the crowd. Apparently us monkeys all look the same 😉
The quest for a monkey selfie was heating up when we saw one of the monkey keepers luring the animals on to tourists with bananas. While this was quite appealing (to Ryan), he decided not to go this route. The monkey got enticed onto the tourist with the promise of a banana, only to have his prize snatched from him at the last second. How many times could the monkey tolerate this fiendish ploy before going ape?
And then, it finally happened.
After sitting with his back to countless monkeys, trying to lure them onto his head with an assortment of treats, one finally took the bait. Unfortunately, the monkey refused to face the camera, and all that we managed to capture was his butt against Ryan’s cheek. Close enough!
4 hours and 500 photos later, we left Monkey Forrest. It was an awesome experience and one that I highly recommend. Even if, like me, you aren’t excited by the prospect of a monkey in your hair.
It was time for us to move on to the next part of our day, the famous Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Now this was something that I could get excited about. We arrived to a breathtaking sight; we stood on one side of a dramatic valley, filled with lush rice terraces, palm trees, and, of course, tourists. I was beyond excited to cross the valley that lay beneath us and experience the view first hand. So off we went.
We had to be very careful when descending into the valley; the descent was steep and sometimes slippery. Ryan came close to toppling over a ledge at one point, nearly losing our camera in the process. When we reached the bottom, we were met with a rickety bamboo bridge that crossed a deep chasm. To use the bridge we had to make a donation that would go towards the bridge’s maintenance. Apparently they have been collecting donations for years, yet the bamboo bridge looks like it hasn’t been changed since the dawn of time.
We made our donation and then proceeded up the far side of the terraces. It was beautiful; like taking a strenuous walk through a postcard. At this point, I took control of the camera and started snapping away. It was my turn to take 500 photographs. We had to make several additional donations to reach the top, but the view made it all worthwhile.
By now, it was almost dinner time, and we were both famished. So we headed back home to have a meal and talk about our day. When we arrived, the birds were still chirping, the river was still gurgling, and all was right in the world once again.