The eager tourist patiently held the banana above his head. He didn't have to wait long before one of the hungry monkeys started to climb up his legs and body. It finally adopted the quintessential photogenic pose on top of his head. As his friend darted around snapping pictures, the monkey suffered a moment of overexcited incontinence. This was accompanied by a cry of “Oh my god, it's peeing on me!” Having finished its business, and the banana, the monkey jumped off leaving a rather large wet patch on the back of the disgruntled man's t-shirt. No visit to Ubud Monkey Forest would be complete without some interesting encounters with the local residents.
Before visiting, we had been assured that the monkeys would only climb on those carrying snacks. This is definitely not the case. Maddy stood still for too long and felt the telltale tug as a monkey landed on her backpack. It then clambered around conducting a thorough investigation. Realising there were no snacks to be had, her new friend jumped off again fairly quickly.
The Cremation Temple
Although the monkeys are the main attraction, Ubud Monkey Forest is also home to three temples. Near the main entrance, we found the Cremation Temple, where mass cremation ceremonies are held every five years. Deceased residents from the local village, Padangtegal, are temporarily buried in the temple's graveyard. This is the easiest way to store the bodies while they wait for the next cremation ceremony.
The Holy Spring Temple
En route to the Holy Spring Temple, we passed a stone pool where a large group of monkeys had congregated. We were there early enough to see the reason why. Just after the monkey forest opened, staff members arrived with sacks of leaves and vegetables. These were hastily tipped out providing a welcome breakfast feast for the hungry primates.
We continued to the bridge, a pair of stone dragons that slithered across a ravine. On the dragon bridge, we passed through a dense curtain of vines that reached down from the forest canopy above. This brought us to the Holy Spring Temple. This small complex is covered in a thin layer of green mould and is used for ritual purification and cleansing. It was also a great vantage point to watch the monkeys playing in the river below.
Rangda, The Demon Queen
The Great Temple of Death
The Great Temple of Death is the largest of the three temples at Ubud Monkey Forest. It was easily distinguished by the hideous stone effigies of Rangda, a child-eating demon queen with a metre long tongue and a snake growing from between her legs.
At this temple we saw a stall selling bananas. A crowd of people took turns holding bananas above their heads encouraging the monkeys to climb on them. These close encounters were very photogenic but one guy got more than he bargained for. Luckily he had a spare t-shirt to hand. The young macaques at the Great Temple of Death frolicked, fought and picked through the offerings left at the gate. The elders inspected each other for fleas. The adorable infants, with their wrinkly faces and tufty mohawks, were closely guarded ready to be scooped up and moved at a moment's notice.
The Monkey Forest is probably Ubud's number one attraction and is an easily accessible place to get close to wild monkeys. They exhibit all sorts of fascinating behaviour. You may see them rolling coconuts to crack them open or bathing in the river. The monkeys are very used to tourists and view them as a great source of snacks. This can be problematic if they feel they're being denied a treat. However, most visitors enjoy a fun, hands on experience.
Ubud Monkey Forest Travel Tips
If you watch the monkeys, they'll always take a few seconds to judge the distance before they jump. Move during that time and you will likely get away unmolested.
Ubud Monkey Forest can get quite busy so it's a good idea to arrive early. You can see the monkeys eating breakfast shortly after the park opens.
If you want to get a photo with a monkey sitting on your head, you'll have to entice them with a banana. There are several stalls selling bananas in Ubud Monkey Forest. There is always the chance however that your monkey will be incontinent.