My mission this morning is to make it to the world famous Monkey Forest, nestled in the heart of Ubud.
I’ve heard that it is best to get there early, as the gates open at 7am. Try to beat the touring throngs that will arrive later in the morning and to get a glimpse of the beautiful temples in the crisp early morning light.
The Sacred Monkey Forest serves not only as an important component in the spiritual and daily lives of the local villagers, but is also the site of several research and conservation programs. Monkeys are an important part of local culture and Balinese’ rich cultural heritage. Examples of this include stories and dances such as the Kecak and Ramayana, as well as statues and sculptures of monkeys that can be found all over the island.
I paid the nominal $2 USD entrance fee, stepped inside the ornate wrought iron gates, and was immediately propositioned by a group of Balinese Macaques.
The first thing that strikes me about the monkeys was that unlike the primates back home in Africa, these guys are completely unafraid of humans. They also all seem to have mohawk hairstyles. Is this natural? It has to be. An entire species of primate running around looking, and acting, like Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and The Sex Pistols. I momentarily put my bag down to grab some water, and the pack of rock stars make a beeline for my breakfast snack of bananas and apples. Go figure I think to myself,not only do they look like punk rockers, but they act like them too! I decided I best be on my way before I ended up with an empty belly, hungry, and forced to join the local macaque population swinging from the tree tops in a relentless quest to steal food from poor unsuspecting tourists.
The real reason I have come here is to witness first hand some of the spectacularly old and beautiful temples in the Sacred Forest. According to analysis done on the Pura Purana, an Indonesian holy book, The Holy Monkey Temples were built during the 14th century. I spent a couple of hours feasting my eyes on the three holy temples in the sanctuary. I am blown away by the artistry imbued in these temples.
It is absolutely incredible that the Balinese ancestors managed to not only erect these massive stone temples here in the thick of the jungle, but that they managed to do it in such style, with such incredibly detailed images carved out of rock. Of the many thoughts running through my mind during my explorations of the sanctuary, the overriding one is wondering if the architects of these temples had any idea how invaluable their constructions would be to modern day Bali. Not only have they allowed the Balinese people to stay in touch with their own rich cultural heritage, certainly not easy during the modern era of globalization and cultural monogamy, but these temples have also become a source of invaluable income. Tourism accounts for a large majority of the money that Bali generates, and without it, I get the distinct feeling that this island would feel a lot more third world. Indonesia is the 3rd fastest growing global economy, and a large part of this is directly linked back to the inherited cultural history of the island.
After a couple of hours the sweat has started to drip down my face as the sun and humidity levels begin to rise. I also begin to hear more frequently the inevitable shriek as some unsuspecting tourist get their munchies, drink, glasses or camera snatched away by one of the local punk-rockers. I guess its my sign to hit the road.
(written by Bryan Cremer – Photos courtesy of Bryan and Nana Artana)
Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana (Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary)
- Address : Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud Bali, Indonesia (80571)
- Phone : +62 361 971304, 972774 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website : www.monkeyforestubud.com
- Opening hours : everyday from 8.30 am – 6 pm[/learn_more]