Bali | Indonesia: Witnessing Primate Goofing at Ubud Monkey Forest

If gazes could talk, you’d instantly hear the surrounding eyes mouthing off intentions of mayhem. A bedlam not equating to violence, rather through mischievous actions of the more than 700 long-tailed macaques who calls this place as home.

A primate habitat known as the Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana or otherwise referred to as the Ubud Monkey Forest, is another popular tourist destination in Bali. Home to more than 700 long-tailed Macaques, it is tucked deep in the forest covering approximately 10 hectares with a labyrinth composed of zigzagging water streams, hilly slopes, sheltering towering trees – of around 115 different species, and three sacred Hindu Temples.

Banana Crazy Welcoming Party

As soon I walked inside the complex, I heard a Caucasian woman let out a scream – as a macaque climbed over her head. Her male companion was telling her “It will be alright just move slowly and rise you hand”. To which she obeyed by lifting her hand holding a banana. The monkey proceeded to snatch the fruit and leaped back to the ground as the other primates followed suit and they all disappeared into the forest.

As I surveyed the place and took photographs of the first temple, I saw others chilling. Some are casually seated over statues and plant boxes, rubbing their bellies and armpits, while the others went around playfully with the other tourists.

I opted not to interact with them by not buying bananas from the vendors. They seem pudgy and already over-fed to me, so I just avoided eye-contact because I read that some would take it a sign of aggression or playfulness.

After watching the long-tailed creature make fun of the horde of visitors, I turned my attention to the sacred temples housed inside the Ubud Monkey Forest.

14th Century Hindu Temples

According to the Pura Purana, a holy book made from the leaves of palm trees, the three temples inside the Ubud Monkey Forest were built during the 14th century at the height of the Pejeng Dynasty.

Found on the southwestern part of the complex is the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple or the Great Temple of Death. In this temple is where the Hindus worship the God HyangWidhi or Acintya – the Supreme God of Indonesian Hinduism, who they believe is characterizing Shiva the Recycler.

In the northwestern part of the Monkey Forest, the Pura Beji Holy Spring Temple is where the God Hyang Widhi is personifying the Goddess Gangga. Hindu faithfuls come here to conduct the ritual of purification and spiritual cleansing.

Completing the troika of Hindu Temples, is the Prajapati Temple which situates on the northeastern part of the park. This is used to worship the God Hyang Widhi as Prajapati – a creator God. A cemetery is located almost beside this temple, which at that time was unbeknownst to myself. If only I knew of its significance, I would definitely have checked it out.

The cemetery is where the bodies of the departed Hindus are taken for temporary burial before they are sent to a proper mass cremation ceremony – something that is held once in five years.

Lost in the playful presence of the monkeys, are the significant role of the temples plays in the continuous refinement of the local community’s spiritual life. I later learned that setting aside the attraction of the long-tailed macaques – the religious, art and cultural impact of the Ubud Monkey Forest is a more enthralling topic one must learn when visiting this place.

As I inched my way towards the exit, I passed by four Macaques huddled together in one corner. I noticed what appeared to be the mother nursing the baby while the father coolly embraces them. Despite of their goofiness and bouncy attitude, these creatures also make sure to spend some quality family time with each other. I found the scene a very heartwarming one - and just like that, I sort of felt rejuvenated as I exited the Ubud Monkey Forest.

This article appeared on the lifestyle pages of the August 12, 2018 issue of BusinessMirror 

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This Bali, Indonesia trip is part of my Traveloka solo-backpacking series that took me to places around the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Traveloka is a mobile app and web site that makes travel simpler by letting you experience the easiest and fastest way of booking cheap flights and hotels in less than a minute.