Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monkeying Around

I checked into the bungalow next door for half the price and fewer ants marching through the room with the promise that I could still use the pool next door and pirate their wi-fi. I don't know if you could find a room in this place that is not outlandishly adorable. This town is not just full of temples, it is a temple! Every building is littered with stone statues shrouded in florescent green moss. I think I'm walking into see a temple and it's a house, guest house, or just a place to eat.

Still not feeling like leaving the place, I walked to the monkey forest just down Monkey Forest Road. It's not that I have some sort of monkey phobia or major monkey fears, but a few experiences in the past has left me suspicious of my karma with the apes. If one of these guys reacted to me like a particular alpha male at the Denver zoo, I'd be monkey meat.

I head into a stunning jungle forest thinking I might see a smattering of monkeys hidden about and the occasional aggressive one intimidating a tourist out of a banana. Thirty paces in I realize there are billions. They all surround me showing their teeth chanting the monkey battle cry as they head in quickly for the groupin' kill. Okay, just kidding, but there are hundreds. Too many to keep an eye on.

I slowly wade through. I did not bring a stalk of bananas that many buy from the vendors on the way in. I was not interested in being hassled for my potassium or even being eyeballed for the yellow fruit. I also took out my earrings. Not because I'm afraid, because I'm smart.

I did the start-taking-a-ton-of-cute-pictures thing for while. Frankly, because it was all very cute. Monkeys getting bananas from visitors. Monkeys fighting for the bananas. Some where lounging, others swinging about. Babies hanging off their mothers. Juveniles wrestling. Some just sitting and meditating. A heavy amount of grooming. The big one ripping up his own coconut. Arguments about who's mating who in front of everyone...

Every once in a while a visitor would squeal when a critter would reach up to check out the contents of their bag, but for the most part these monkeys were relatively docile pretty much going about their monkey business. (ha -monkey business) Rather than walking through taking pictures, throwing bananas, taking more pictures, finding the extra cute grooming scene with a baby nursing, take pictures of that, and then heading out of the forest within an hour, I sat on a wall nearly all day.

I picked a spot along a walkway that had plenty of monkey action, but up the path from the area where fetch-the-banana was going on. I sat a couple meters from one of the biggest old boys that I had seen. He was pretty much sunbathing. Across from me was a lush hill with scores of monkeys and behind me was a shallow gulch with fewer but where I guess kindergarden must be held there because it was loaded with babies goofin' off. I wish I could described each and every one of the thousands of monkey events and interactions that I witnessed. It would take me pages to process what I saw in ten minutes much less a days worth.

Sometimes one, usually a pretty young monkey, would casually walk up sit on the wall with me for a while before hanging from my shirt and sitting in my lap. Once they started climbing toward my head I would calmly stand up and they would just as calmly sit back on the wall.

At one point, this guy, Australian of course, squatting down held bananas over his head to get the monkeys to climb him for their treat. When he had three of them up there I started doubting my own bravado. Why was I not comfortable enough to do that? When he ran out of bananas they got feisty. At first he was laughing, then you heard the "oh outch", then "hey stop it", then "shit they're biting me". There are men there called "monkey experts" that are there for just that reason. They come equipped with a sling shot and are loaded with great suggestions like, "maybe you stand up?" or "maybe try walking to wall - maybe they get off there?". Their approach reminded me of old Willy Wonka sighing "I wouldn't do that if I were you" while looking forward to the girl dropping down the golden goose egg hole.

I could have another exciting monkey story, but I was glad I was not dancing around yelling about monkeys on my back. I use to be that guy. It's even funner to watch the monkey attack than to be the clown in the spotlight. Eventually they hopped off and his panic turned back into laughter while he made sure his friends caught it all on video.

The "monkey experts" were called upon a few more times. Once to help a man chase down a monkey that swiped a VIP bus ticket and another to coax a monkey into giving back here earring (a theft which I thoroughly enjoyed watching). The earring never came back, but the ticket was boring enough for the monkey to eventually drop out of the trees followed by the only action taken by the "expert", slinging a rock toward the belligerent beast as if to say, "bad monkey - you should keep your loot".

There was also a wonderful walk through the forest in steep canyon walls, flowers blooming on plants growing off tree that still yet cling to other trees. Monkeys hanging from vines, a la Tarzan and more moss covered statues. If I am ever short on anything to do here or if can can even dig up more time I will hope to visit the monkey forest again.

Location:Ubud Bali

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