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Life on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud: Lessons Learned

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I spent one month in a bungalow on Monkey Forest Road just outside the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali, and the overarching lesson that I learned there was this: the jungle ALWAYS wins.

Now, I don’t mean to paint my life on Monkey Forest Road as a hardship by any means. It was one of the most peaceful and spiritual months of my life.

My favorite places on Monkey Forest Road:

This map was made with Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

Bali is an island that sits in the middle of Indonesia, the world’s most populist Muslim nation. Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia practices Islam, and yet, in Bali, Hinduism dictates every aspect of daily life.

Ritual offerings in Bali, part of life on Monkey Forest Road
Placing an offering amid incense smoke on Monkey Forest Road

Let’s dive in!

Rituals are a way of life Bali and on Monkey Forest Road

And I do mean every aspect. There are rituals to honor rituals in Bali. Spirits are believed to inhabit every nook and cranny on Monkey Forest Road and beyond. Even the local convenience store houses spirits and gods that must be honored multiple times per day.

A scooter parked on Monkey Forest Road near an offering to the spirits.
A scooter parked near an offering

While Balinese Hinduism is intense (especially when the island goes completely silent), ritualistic, and ubiquitous on Monkey Forest Road, it is also a place that is loving, inclusive, and full of laughter.

A joke painted on a wall on Monkey Forest Road
A little joke painted on a wall on Monkey Forest Road

All of this coincides in peaceful cooperation with monkeys. Lots of them. Not to mention bugs, geckos, snakes, frogs, and torrential downpours.

But it’s the monkeys who dictate the way of life on Monkey Forest Road.

Monkeys Are EVERYWHERE Near the Ubud Monkey Forest

I stayed in the Ubud Bungalows right on Monkey Forest Road and one of the many hotels near Ubud’s Monkey Forest. At the time, I was thinking:

“Yay! Monkeys!”

I didn’t realize that, if given the chance, monkeys will eat your face off and steal your cell phone, or that “nearby” meant that monkeys would be literally everywhere.

Monkey eating cereal. Just part of life on Monkey Forest Road.
Just part of life on Monkey Forest Road

I mean, just because there is a designated Monkey Forest doesn’t mean that these mischievous creatures stay within the boundaries of the trees.

A baby monkey just living life on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud.
A baby monkey just living life in the Ubud Monkey Forest

In fact, the monkeys leave the forest en masse each morning in pursuit of food, scarfing up any edible spiritual offerings left on the sidewalk, foraging above and below the abundant Ubud cafes, and snatching at any dangling bags carried in the unsuspecting hands of tourists.

Watch your bag!

They really do come after any dangling bags in pursuit of food. Once a monkey chased me down while I walked with a red, cloth bag dangling. I squared up in a baseball stance, my red bag as the bat, and he backed away.

I also saw a monkey snatch a coffee cup right out of someone’s hands and another reach right into my friend’s backpack and snatch his water bottle out of the side pocket.

They lure you in, you see, with their sweet faces. And then…boom! Your stuff is long gone. Here’s a video example. My friend Sarah captured the following footage of life in the Ubud Monkey Forest. This is the “sweet” baby monkey pictured above who is suddenly not. so. sweet.

Wait for it…

The Monkey crossing outside the Ubud Monkey Forest

At dawn, the monkeys pour out of the forest at one specific crossroads on Monkey Forest Road. And at dusk, they pour back in. I witnessed this spectacle once at sunset and watched with awe as dozens of monkeys ran en masse across Monkey Forest Road.

A Monkey Crossing is part of life in the Ubud Monkey Forest
This sign says “Caution: Monkey Crossing.” It is bent from monkeys jumping on it.

During the day, there is always a man with a slingshot posted outside of the Monkey Forest entrance who protects passersby. Shop owners along Monkey Forest Road also carry slingshots to protect their wares.

The slingshot guard is a profession and a way of life in the Ubud Monkey Forest!
The slingshot man. That’s a profession and a way of life in the Ubud Monkey Forest!

Some vendors lining Monkey Forest Road sell slingshots to tourists who have learned the hard way that they need to be wary of our monkey friends.

Life on Monkey Forest Road

I woke up each morning at the Ubud Bungalows with monkey footprints on my patio and wafting incense discreetly covering a faint smell of monkey urine.

In the afternoons, I wrote from a co-working space called Hubud and was once joined by this monkey who jumped right up on the table to see what I was writing about.

Monkey wandering just outside the Ubud Monkey Forest
This monkey is apparently one of my readers

I was a little less than amused when the monkeys actually managed to cut the Internet off at Hubud for an afternoon by chewing on the cables. In the end, it’s a monkey world in Ubud, and we’re just living in it!

Bugs, frogs, and snakes, oh my!

The Ubud Bungalows off Monkey Forest Road
The Beautiful Ubud Bungalows

In Ubud, you just get used to the jungle. At the Ubud Bungalows, the staff worked full time to keep the guests safe from the jungle, but there is only so much you can do.

I woke up in the morning to the distinctive call of the geckos who shared my room, and I was lulled to sleep by the frogs who croaked into the wee hours.

One night, my neighbors woke up to a loud bang and found two large snakes mating on their porch. They shrugged it off because, well, what can you do? This is just life on Monkey Forest Road. It’s a jungle!

This was my entertainment for one lunch at a restaurant on Monkey Forest Road

The good news is that – at least during the rainy season – there is a daily downpour when all creatures take a break to watch the rainfall. Afterward, the jungle takes over once again.

Watching another rainfall

Tips for loving life on Ubud’s Monkey Forest Road:

Monkey Forest Road

  • It’s a beautiful place once one acknowledges that the Ubud jungle always wins. That’s my biggest tip: Don’t be frustrated. Just accept the bug bites, the monkey poo, and the daily downpour.
  • Do not carry food near the Monkey Forest.
  • Do not carry dangling bags near the Monkey Forest.
  • Do not feed or try to pet the monkeys.
  • Always mind your belongings, especially mobile phones and sunglasses, which seem to be favorites of the monkeys.
  • Carry bug spray everywhere. Everywhere.
  • Don’t bother with an umbrella. Just expect to duck into a cafe, bar or restaurant when the rain begins. And watch it fall.
  • Do get a drink at a restaurant near the Ubud Monkey Forest and watch the monkeys chase unsuspecting tourists all over the monkey crossing. My favorite stop was Habitat Cafe.
  • Spring for a hotel room near the Ubud Monkey Forest with AC and closed windows. It’s worth it. You’re in the jungle.
  • I’ll say it again: The Ubud jungle ALWAYS wins. Accept it. And have fun with it.

Where to stay on Monkey Forest Road

I loved the Ubud Bungalows! If you can’t find a place near there, check out this map of nearby homestays and hotels near the Ubud Monkey Forest:

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About the Author

Hi! I’m Jen!

I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.

Hotel Near the Ubud Monkey Forest
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  1. Susan Elko says:

    Yikes! I had no idea about these details. You have pretty much seen and dealt with it all!

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