Ubud, Bali is rather a special place, but I think what makes it most special, apart from all the fabulous art, glorious food, haunting music, and incredible rice paddies, are the monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We drove by the sanctuary everyday on the appropriately named Monkey Forest Road and marveled at monkeys calming sitting in the streets or on the walls of the temple itself. They seemed undaunted and unaffected by the traffic and pedestrians nearby.
In addition to monkeys, there are several temples and ceremonies performed within the sanctuary each and every day. Tumpek Kandang, is celebrated by making small, special offerings of flowers and fruit to the forest and to all of the animals. Tumpek Nguduh celebrates plants. Bali is a very spiritual place and one instantly feels in tune with the natural world as soon as you step foot on the island.
The Holy Monkey Temples were built during the mid-14th century during the Pejeng Dynasty or the early Gegel Dynasty. There are three holy temples within the sacred monkey forest. Special attire is required in order to enter the temples (sarong, full blouse or shirt sleeves and sash).
The monkeys that live in the sanctuary are called Balinese macaques, also known as long-tailed macaques. There are approximately 200 macaques living in the forest. They are divided into three groups and each group uses a different area of the forest at different times of the day.
Unlike the monkeys we encountered in Thailand, these monkeys, although wild, showed no fear in approaching us, whether we had food or not. I sat down for a rest and a baby monkey jumped into my lap and started picking at my pants. Then it jumped up on my shoulders ran off with my sunglasses! We had to locate some Balinese forest guides and ask them to keep an eye out for a monkey with sunglasses. Much to our surprise, they said it happened all the time. Shortly after, they found the monkey and retrieved my sunglasses.
In addition to the novelty of playing with monkeys, we couldn’t help admiring all the amazing temple architecture and carved stone guardians situated throughout the area. The details on the walls of the temple were absolutely breathtaking, but I thought the statues were somewhat gruesome. There were fierce lions, monkey carvings, skulls, statues of local gods, dragons and other mystical creatures. A thick green moss has crept over everything and an ancient energy radiates within this place. Sacred walkways lead the way to a peaceful soul here in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.