Monkey trouble in Ubud (p1)

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May 21st 2015
Published: July 1st 2015
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Captivating Balinese dancerCaptivating Balinese dancerCaptivating Balinese dancer

They dance with their eyes, toes and fingers
Due to the lack of internet in the places for the past few days (mainly in Bromo and Ijen), we were unsure of where in Ubud we intended to stay, yet alone what we intended to do once there. When we arrived we were therefore pleasantly surprised to find that there was an abundance of things to do and that the town was actually quite charming (even if it was more touristy than elsewhere visited). What we did not know was that we were about to fall for the alluring aura that this town exuded.

When we were in our cab we were completely drawn to so many things. Mackque Monkeys relaxing on a high wall that enclosed a jungle clad interior, small temples remaining intact standing into between shops and homestays, and lots of tourists and locals alike casually roaming the narrow winding streets.

The day we arrived was spent relaxing and sleeping given we had had a total number of 6 hrs sleep across the previous 2 nights. We were exhausted. We definitely had some sleep to catch up on.

Feeling more relaxed the following day we shared our time with the 3 guys we had met in the taxi here (a couple; Tom and Laura and a solo traveller Sarah, all from england) and Carter (a Canadian we had met at the hostel).

Before any sights or activities we went for lunch at a local eatery, enjoying the delights of Nasi goreng and Ayam Goreng.

Next stop, the monkey forest. As we approached the monkey forest a monkey came running at us as laura was eating a packet of biscuits and P a packet of sweets. We hadn't even got to the park itself but the monkey clearly saw us coming a mile off. It ran at us, managed to grab Laura's whole packet of biscuits and ran off all smug with its find. We later came across this same monkey who had clearly enjoyed these buscuits as we caught it with a few left, licking his fingers afterwards. The cheeky monkey.

Entering the park we cautiously put all food items away and started walking down the main path where the monkeys were just hanging about. At this point you could buy bananas to feed them. Many of the monkeys were unhappy with the single banana provided and jumped on top of the person holding the bunch and often snatched it out of their hands. While many people threw their food at the moneys if it came at them, one family however with a young boy (aged 9/10) wrestled the monkeys unwilling to let go of the bananas shouting at the monkey that it was greedy. This was very dangerous as the monkey could have bitten him and his parents surprisingly were very relaxed.

As we walked further in the park there were areas you could buy bananas for the monkeys in order for one to climb on your shoulder so that you could take a picture with it.

Watching one Australian young woman do this; the funniest thing happened. While the park ranger had tried to tempt a baby monkey up her back, the baby monkey was very reluctant and in a second the biggest oversized monkey jumped in from nowhere, leaped on her back and onto her shoulders for the banana. This clearly was not what she was expecting with the look of immediate horror on her face. We have to admit that from an outsiders point of view this was very funny. We decided to give this opportunity a miss.

Whilst walking through the park there where many amazing photo moments. We captured monkey family portraits, monkey's eating, playing and grooming each other. One of our favourites however was of a mother monkey holding its baby, both of them asleep. Her face was a sight with her closed eyes and teeth exposed. We just loved these monkeys.

During one area of the park a small monkey jumped on Laura and Precious and started grooming them. At first this was terrifying but we soon got used to them. One monkey decided it also liked Chris and just sat relaxed causally on his shoulders sometimes grooming his hair and ear. When chris tried to stop him he quickly slapped Chris's hand and shoved it away. These monkeys were something else.

One of the rangers told us that many of these monkeys often die at the hands of each other as the families live in too close proximity to others.

While in Ubud, P and Carter in particular wanted to check out the popular yoga scene so we all went to check out a place called Yoga Barn, only to find out they offer a 1 hour free yoga class for beginners to try out every friday evening. Luckily for us it was Friday so we all agreed to go to to the free class at 6. This was something P was very excited about as she had tried a few youtube videos at home before coming out and wanted to get into it herself. Ubud was the perfect opportunity as it is world known for yoga. With Yoga Barn in particular being known to be one of the best here.

The free yoga class was for beginners so while all of us could follow most of it there was plenty of instructors hanging around so if you adopted the wrong position they gently helped us into a better position.

Overall P really enjoyed it while Chris decided it was not for him. P felt both energised and relaxed. Stretched in a good way and vowed to keep it up.

For Chris however it was a bit too much, trying to stay concentrated and relaxed (breathingly slowly) when mosquitos were clearly buzzing past his ear. He didn't know about others but he certainly did not want to get bitten. Also the one liners the instructors came out with made it difficult for Chris to take parts seriously. During a breathing exercise the yoga instructor came out with...

"Put your hands on your heart, and if you have any burning questions you want answered then this is the place you will find the answer"

Was she for real? Chris got choked up, P however searched frantically for a question but unable to find this burning question in time, the instructor had moved on which caused P to be less relaxed than before as she missed the opportunity for 'that burning question' to be answered.

As P however really enjoyed the class she decided to purchase a bundle of 3 classes for 300,000 rupiah/£15. Over the following few days, 90 minutes each. She took both morning and evening lessons and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxation, calmness, inner peace and the challenge to stay focused when attempting different stretches and balance positions. She still however did not find that burning question, maybe life is just too good for questions at the minute. Maybe she's just content.

After missing the traditional Indonesian dance performances in Java we were determined to seek out another opportunity and lucky for us there were nightly performances across Ubud. So on the second night after Yoga we bought tickets for the show. We read that this is a must see when in Indonesia.

The dance performance took place at the Ubud Palace and lasted an hour and a half. With not many plastic chairs and the outdoor theatre being somewhat crowed when we arrived it was difficult to get central seats and so we joined the crowd on the floor to one side of the performance. Views were good but it did make photography rather tricky.

In total the performance had around 8 segments including the instrumental opening, a group of female dancers performing a routine that is generally performed to the sultan, a humorous sketch by a dragon and a monkey, a group of women dancers meant to be practicing dark magic, and the villages ganging up against the witch leader and trying to resist its evil but failing in the end. These segments were nestled amongst others.

It was generally very easy to
Its all in the eyes..Its all in the eyes..Its all in the eyes..

..and finger tips
follow and the information booklet that was provided offered more of an insight into the meanings behind each act. Our favourite bits were the 3 female sultan dancers. They performed with such poise and elegance. You could tell these women were well trained. For their whole performance their knees were bent, with their legs and feet turned out and always flexed when they stepped. Their arm movements were captivating with lots of jerky and flowing sequences, with lots of small movements with their flexed fingers.

The most interesting element of their performance however was their protruding and darting eye movements that shifted up and down and side to side all in time with the music. This gave them somewhat of possessed look but we believe it is meant to be attractive. This must have taken a long time to successfully achieve.

The musicians also caught our attention as their contribution led the whole performance and their instruments were far from ordinary.

Overall, despite the hoards of tourists sharing this experience with us, the floodlit dance floor showcasing the mesmerising dance routines with a backdrop to the palace was one of the most spectacular cultural
experiences we ever have had and we would thoroughly recommend it.

Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


2nd July 2015

Monkeys, yoga and dancers
The photo of Chris with the monkey on his head is so funny, so I imagine that whole monkey day was pretty wild! The monkeys sound both adorable and scary, but were definitely photogenic. Curious that the park rangers let them live so overcrowded that they kill each other. I'd think that they'd put some out in a forest. Like P, I enjoy yoga, but Chris' reaction was priceless--congrats in not bursting out in laughter! Great dance photos--very colorful! I'd thought Ubud too touristy, but it sounds pretty charming!
3rd July 2015

Monkeys, yoga and dancers
Glad you like the monkey pictures. We had some pretty funny videos too. Think you had to be careful with them though. I agree, doesn't sounds as if the rangers are protecting them if they are in too close proximity to each other. Yes Ubud is very touristy but we think it still has charm if you can look past the tourism though. Certainly worth a trip for just the yoga if you are into it. ☺
6th July 2015

Monkeys business... I love monkeys!
I'm usually not a fan of wildlife being fed by humans...but it's a vastly better idea to entice them to stay in the forested area than have them roaming the cities and towns hunting for food. Although it sounds like the rangers are more tourism promoters than real rangers who should be putting the monkeys first :(
7th July 2015

Monkey business. I love monkeys.
We do too (until a recent unwanted encouter in China... yes the experiences keep coming!!). I don't think you can call these monkeys wild anymore with the way they are fed are rewarded by human interaction. The sad thing about it too was as you drove theough Bali you saw cages outside peoples homes with these monkeys within. All possible through the name of tourism I guess. It certainly does resonate with you :(
6th July 2015
Chris making a new friend

How much cuteness??? :)
7th July 2015
Chris making a new friend

It looks very cute but this monkey was responsible for slapping Chris everytime Chris tried to take its hands off his face. It was shocking how familiar they could be.
7th July 2015

The monkey forest
They are sneaky little devils. Glad you discovered relaxation, calmness and inner peace. You've really captured some great shots of the locals beautiful faces. Great stuff. We enjoyed our time in Ubud, although as you say it is touristy and yet charming. Some how you don't mind the activity.
7th July 2015

The monkey forest.
Glad you enjoyed it too. Its strange how the charm somehow overshadows the tourism here. It is in danger of tipping over the edge though. Lets hope it still has more time.

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