I wish I had a chance to visit Bali's Monkey Forest when I was six, when my biggest aspiration in life was to have a pet monkey. It would have spared my parents from me begging for a monkey friend every birthday (and countless notes to Santa).
How cute is this family meal scene? Don't be fooled by their harmless appearance...
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, visited by over 10,000 tourists every month.
Its official name is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (Mandala Suci Wenara Wana in Balinese).
The mission of the Sanctuary is conserving the area based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana ("Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being").
The Forest is a home to rare plants (with 115 species of trees!), a place for research and conservation programs, a spiritual site (the temples were constructed around 1350), and a monkey playground.
As I paid the entry fee and walked into the forest, I noticed a board explaining the rules around monkey interaction along the lines of: "no big bags, don't give sweets to monkeys, don't look monkeys in the eyes, hold your kids tight".
Okay. I'm ready for this!
Just a few meters in, I saw at least a dozen of macaques picking each other's furry little bodies, munching on sweet potatoes (part of their staple diet) and posing for Instagram shots in exchange for bananas. It was pure chaos.
Many people had warned me about the dangerous Balinese road traffic, but even more people warned me about aggressive monkeys. I got to see it in person... A bigger monkey spotted a guy carrying a water bottle right in front of me, and raced to steal the bottle, rapidly approaching from the back and grabbing it from his hands. It then expertly opened the lid and drank the water by first pouring it out on the ground.
A-ha, that's what they were talking about! Freaked out by the fear of my camera, phone or backpack being taken away by a monkey, I power walked through the forest, spotted a HUGE lizard by the river, and peacefully made my way out of the Monkey Forest, unbothered by the animals.
Thank you, Mom and Dad for not getting me a pet monkey.