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  • Writer's pictureChris Mads

Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Nestled at the southern end of Ubud's main drag is one of the most amazing places it has been my pleasure to ever set foot. The Monkey Forest is part Indiana Jones set, part Jumanji and part fairytale utopia.

Here, the monkeys are the stars as they wander freely through a forest which is very much theirs. We humans wander through as guests, like an univinted second cousin at a wedding; alternately greeted with intrigue, amusement and disdain by the residents.

On arrival you are advised to keep your belongings close about you - the monkeys are keen and efficient thieves and endlessly curious about visitors to their domain.

While we were there, S and I saw one baby monkey climb up on a visitor's rucksack and start undoing the zip and breaking in. In a moment which displayed the brilliant humanity of the primate residents of the forest, the baby was sent scurrying by a shout and a raised hand from one of the forest minders.

The baby money scurried behind a larger one, who threw a disapproving look towards the human. Without pausing, and making it clear who is in charge, the minder grinned and stepped towards the monkey offering a hand which was accepted in a primitive hi-five. Drama averted.

Stone pathways lead you through the dense and humid forest, with monkeys swinging from tree to tree and sitting calmly atop the food boxes awaiting a meal.

The residents are such a delight that you almost forget there is a religious significance to the site until you reach one of temples themselves. These houses of worship are hidden among the greenery and are home to moss-covered statues which could have been lifted from Tomb Raider.

Similar carvings adorn the walkways and creep out of the undergrowth like large monolithic creatures, inspecting those who dare disturb their forest.

The smaller, more lively residents are also keeping a keen eye.

What is amazing is how adapted to the existence of humans the monkeys are - but how unconcerned too. They calmly pick up human items with no care for their owners' opposition to it.

The rules in the forest are very clear: don't touch the monkeys, don't interfere with their lives and remember you are a guest in their home.

But what a home it is.

If you have the good fortune to be in Bali, I cannot recommend the Monkey Forest enough. It is a truly magical experience - and your hosts are worth the trip themselves.


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