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Bali - Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

baby monkey in Bali Monkey Forest

Finally, I found some time to share some of our great experiences in Bali. Despite making all the mistakes a tourist could fall into (e.g. not spending any night in Ubud, visiting traps like "turtle island") we cherish our week there. Bali is one of the most memorable places we've ever been to, #2 after Hawaii's Big Island.

We start our Bali stories from the sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, which offers the perfect combination of nature, wildlife (read, monkeys) and temples (3 of them to be specific, one with a holy spring to cleanse both body and mind, one major temple to meditate and another with a graveyard, where bodies wait until the mass cremation ceremony which is held every 5 years). Note: We are suckers for macaques and forests hence our extreme appreciation.

Just so we start off right, let's clarify the reason why Bali has become a mecca for yoguis, vegans, surfers and travelers altogether: Hinduism dominates Bali, despite being part of Indonesia (a predominantly muslim country). In fact, Balinese Hinduism resembles more the Hinduism of 2000 years ago, than what we see in India today.

Do you wonder why is Hinduism predominant in Bali? Once upon a time, the Hindu Majaphit empire dominated most of the Indonesian archipelago and had its base in Java (the largest island of Indonesia) around Yogyakarta. The empire was invaded by muslim forces in the 14th-15th century, so the Majapahits took his courtiers, artisans, priests and members of the Royalty and escaped East, ending up in Bali, an island with lots of mountains, quite easy to defend. Bali was a society revolving around agriculture, they were kept outside the Dutch East Indies and the maritime silk road. They just kept growing their rice and keeping their traditions alive.

We visited Monkey Forest as the first step of our Ubud route. It opens 8:30 - 18:00 (last tickets at 17:30). It is advisable for you to NOT bring any food and to keep your belongings packaged, to avoid any bites or thefts. There are about 600 monkeys living in the forest, divided into 5 groups: in front of the main temple, Michelin, eastern, central, and cemeteries. Each group consist of 100 – 120 monkeys containing infants (0 – 1 year), juvenile 1 (1 – 2 years), juvenile 2 (2 – 4 years), sub-adult male (4 – 6 years), adult female (over 4 years), and adult male (over 6 years). The pregnancy lasts 6 months, typically leading to 1 infant that is taken care by the mother during 10 months. While being omnivores - watch out for your sandwich, their main fare is sweet potato, fed by the sanctuary staff in combination with banana, papaya leaf, corn, cucumber, coconut, and other local fruit. They weight up to 8 kg (females up to 6) and live around 15 years (females up to 20).

Monkeys are very amazing creatures to me. As we learnt in Jigokudani, their gestures are extremely human-like, what makes them quite an insightful animal to reflect upon, we are clearly not so far from each other. Definitely a must if you visit Bali.

Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Their sweet potatoes
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
The best is to just sit still for a while, they will come to you.
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Hanging by the statues at the main temple.
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Nursing as a team
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
They were fine with me coming close, but the males got aggressive with Enrique...
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Ultimate relax, but look at the way they tilt their heads or use the hands... So human...
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Huge trees covering the water temple.
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Moss over the statues. One of my favourite things in Bali, which is also common to Japan, is the way temples are built in great harmony with the natural landscape instead of destroying it.
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Stone komodo dragons seemingly drinking from the river
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali
Holy tree marked with a cloth which is similar to my hometown's traditional symbol - the cachirulo - on the way to the last temple, the one with the Graveyard.
Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali

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