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.
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.
Let’s dive in!
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.
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.
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.
I stayed in the Ubud Bungalow right on Monkey Forest Road and one of the many hotels near Ubud’s Monkey Forest. At the time, I was thinking:
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.
I mean, just because there is a designated Monkey Forest doesn’t mean that these mischievous creatures stay within the boundaries of the trees.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
If you enjoyed this post, you may like my other posts on Indonesia here.