By Alison M. Brown
Bali, Indonesia is a magical place known as the land of a thousand temples. It definitely lives up to its name, as you can find hundreds of temples strewn along the dramatic coastline or tucked away in remote regions. Many people choose to visit Bali each year to see these remarkable temples. Some are drawn to its paradise appeal, and some are on a mission to find the perfect beaches or unearth the incredibly coveted waves that don’t seem to have an end. Whatever your reason for choosing to visit, make sure that you take some time to stray from the well-worn path.
A Detour Worth Taking
If you are willing to detour away from the coast, you will find that the city of Ubud is just as enchanting. Located several hours away from the main backpacker area of Kuta Beach, you can escape the masses and get lost in the mystifying Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is considered a sacred Balinese Hindu site and represents coexistence between humans and nature as it is teeming with a healthy long-tailed macaque monkey population.
The island of Bali is unique in that it is the only Hindu island of Indonesia, which is comprised of an archipelago of over seventeen thousand islands. Balinese Hinduism is different from typical Hinduism because it incorporates aspects of Animism, Buddhism, Ancestral Spirits, and Hinduism and isn’t practiced in other regions of the world. It has a large focus on rituals and art and less focus on scriptures and law, making the fundamental nature more spiritual at its core.
The Ubud Monkey Forest encompasses the essence of Balinese Hinduism since it is such an extraordinary place of worship. As you walk through the entrance of the sanctuary, you instantly feel like you are in the middle of a jungle, even though you are in the center of a town. All of your senses are stimulated as you stroll past burning incense sticks while listening to the deafening sound of monkey chatter, all while being engulfed by lush terrain that is entangled in draping vines and moss-covered pathways.
Seeing the Monkeys Up Close
Seeing the monkeys in their natural habitat is a pretty incredible experience. You can watch them groom each other, swim in the pond, jump off trees, argue with each other, and even spot mothers feeding their young. Some of the monkeys can get aggressive if provoked, but if you respect them, they will respect you. I once had a couple climb on top of my head and shoulders and start pulling on my shirt, but as long as you’re not frightened by their curiosity they are pretty harmless. If you choose, you can even buy bananas that they will eat out of your hand, but be careful or they may take more than food, so keep an eye on your belongings.
Don’t Be Afraid to Explore!
If you’d like to take a stroll even further into the forest, you can come across a mossy footbridge with a canopy of vines and carved dragons. It’s quite a majestic spot, so don’t be afraid to keep exploring even if you don’t see many people around. All the carvings of the sanctuary are spectacular and covered in moss so everything you see is very vibrant and lively. It also only costs $2 USD to take a stroll through the forest, so even if monkeys aren’t your thing, the carvings alone are worth it.
This article was originally published by Vagabundo Magazine.