I know, I know … it’s Tuesday and I haven’t put up anything else on our Bali trip. Well, I am the evil Fairy Godmother from Shrek (yes, the Jennifer Saunders version) and I’m here to put a smile on your dial and make those wishes for more Bali blah blah and happily-ever-afters come true!
On our second day in Ubud, the intrepid Gadgetman decided it would be a good idea to hire a motor bike to get around. This solves the problem of constant “you want taxi?” that you get from the many sadly underemployed people who own cars and other vehicles in Bali. It also saves me from having to repeat endlessly: tidak mau (don’t want it) or sudah habis (already have it).
On this note, Australian tourists were the main form of employment for Balinese people until the bombings occurred several years ago, and now there are hardly any Australians in Ubud at all. Whilst staying there, we met French, German, Japanese and Americans – but hardly any other Australians. When I first went to Ubud in 1996, the streets were packed with tourists – it was like the centre of Sydney at lunchtime. I went back to Ubud in February 2005 (after the first Bali bombing in late 2004) and couldn’t believe the difference … a few Australians, but more like a country town at lunch time. This time, it was like a ghost town (at lunch time, even). If you’re thinking about going to Bali, just go. It’s safe, the Balinese love Australians (their sense of humour is just like ours), they adore kids, it’s cheap, it’s beautiful, the food is fantastic. It’s an easy way to see another very different culture and not get culture shock. Damn it, just go!
(If you don’t want to go, send me the money and I’ll go for you).
Back to the motorbike … actually, it was a large motor scooter – about 100CC- and gave us the freedom to whizz about everywhere. It cost us $7.50 AUD per day. And yes, on the subject of motorbikes, some of you will know that I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to riding these as a pillion passenger – even with a very experienced rider like Gary (although Gary is a hoon and that was what I was afraid of). When I first got on, I hung on like grim death – knees gripping his sides and hanging on to his chest- but by the end of the day, I was totally relaxed. If you can ride a motorbike, I recommend it in Bali. There is no road rage, and what might appear to be chaos very quickly becomes orderly – people are ultra-polite and give way to each other.
If you can’t ride a motorbike, be warned: Bali is not the place to learn to ride.
So, on our scooter, we set off for our first day’s activities. Gary wanted to see the Monkey Forest (there are about three monkey forests in Bali) which is at the bottom of … you guessed it, Monkey Forest Road. We reached the gates, paid our money to go in and bought the obligatory bag of bananas from some street vendors. At the gate was this enterprising monkey (left picture, below) hoping to score from tourists with burgeoning bags of bananas (try saying that fast). Which of course, he did.
The monkeys that live in the forest are Balinese macaques (Macaca fascicularis). Both the forest and monkeys are considered sacred according to Balinese Hindu traditions. About 300 macaques live in the monkey forest in several bands. There are about 95 females and 35 males and 170 juveniles. They have a complex matrilineal social structure, and after humans, are the most common primate on the planet. Needless to say, they are charming and intelligent and you could spend days watching them.
The monkey forest itself is a lush green tapestry of figs and other trees, creepers, and dense undergrowth. The forest contains three temples (all main Balinese villages contain three temples), built around the mid-14th Century. One of these temples is a funeral temple, with platforms for laying out of bodies for cremation, and nearby graves.
These are Komodo dragons, carved from stone: