Monday, August 1, 2011

Gone Bananas

The town of Ubud in Bali is home to a place where you can go and interact with the local Macaques. These monkeys live in a special area specifically dedicated to them. To tourists and locals it is known as the Monkey Forest. You have to pay to get in and you can buy bananas by the bunch to give to the monkeys. Surprisingly you really don’t even have to go inside in order to see a few monkeys. They wander around the streets near the sanctuary and they even came to breakfast one morning before the staff scared them away. These monkeys were a barrel of fun to say the least. From their sporty Mohawk hairdos to their funny little beards they had us all laughing. At the front gate we bought 3 bunches of bananas for about 50k RP or 6 US dollars. Before my mom could even hide them away in her bag a rather dominant and rambunctious male macaque came and snatched a whole bunch of bananas away from her. He scurried off and sat on top of the statue at the entrance of the forest proudly enjoying his feast. We were all laughing and saying how “Bananas equal death”.

The bad part about the first monkey grabbing the bananas is now all the other monkeys at the entrance knew that we had them too. They are smart little critters. A few of them followed us but a rather brave one jumped up onto my mom and climbed up her until it could reach at her bag. Of course the natural reaction for my mom was to scream and start spinning around and shove the monkey off. One of the Balinese workers started yelling… “Madam give the monkey the banana madam. Don’t shove the monkey. Just walk away and it will jump off.” Well this was partially true. It did get a banana and it did jump off when she started walking away. The guy later explained that they can get aggressive and bite if they don’t get what they want. It had rained earlier that morning so the ground was all muddy and well now so was my mom.

The next person to be accosted by these particularly cheeky primates was Lindsey. She is the smallest of all of us and was trying to hide a banana in her fist but to no avail. They can smell it. It climbed up her and tried to get it as she squealed and threw the banana. We had a bit of fun with the monkeys passing off the bananas from person to person and watching them try to guess who had it. We even saw some other tourists playing Monkey in the Middle, literally, with a few furry friends. We were all laughing, as the monkey would run back and forth before they eventually got the banana. They are really fast!

It was really pretty in the monkey forest and they had trails and temples hidden within its depths. There was a stream that ran through it and statues too. We learned from a local man that the local tribe uses the cemetery there and their dead are buried there for 5 years before they are dug up and cremated. Their ashes are then carried to the sea. I thought it was rather odd to just bury your dead for 5 years and then disturb them to cremate the remains. Seems kind of disrespectful for the dead to not allow them to rest in peace. Apparently the cremation ceremony is a big deal for them as well. To each his own I suppose. 

Perhaps the best part was just goofing off with the monkeys. There is a reason why they say monkey see monkey do. We saw some absolutely tiny baby monkeys and it is funny because they are so dark compared to their lighter parents. They almost look black! My dad as we were walking around saw one monkey and said “wow that one has a tumor.” After looking at it closer we discovered that it was really just a baby monkey clinging to its mother’s stomach and he had seen its feet. We all laughed at that. Those silly monkeys could get quite cheeky with one another and it was fun watching them groom each other and check for bugs. They really do a thorough job. It makes me laugh looking at their behavior and some of our own human behaviors and I think to myself we really aren’t so different after all and yet so far from being the same. The Monkey forest was tons of fun and a highlight of our Bali trip.

Random Fact: Of all the candy that is produced in a year 65% of it is consumed by American adults 18 years and older.

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