Bali — the Monkey Forest

Monday, the day after the wedding, we all flew to Bali. This process took all day even though Bali isn’t that far — it was only a 1.5 hour flight. But traffic is bad so we left lots of extra time to be sitting at the airport. When we got here it was already getting dark. The plane lands in…can’t remember the name of the city, it’s the biggest one in Bali though. The landing strip is funny because it looks for all the world like you’re going to land in the ocean, and then suddenly there’s an airstrip there. Drivers from the bed and breakfust (Kutut’s Place) were there in two vans to pick us up. One of the drivers was Kutut. So we drove from…not Ubud, to Ubud. Ubud is sort of in the mountains, in the middle of Bali if you look at a map. It’s kind of an arts center, very touristy of course, but (I gather) a different kind of touristy than nearer the beach. The drive up was beautiful. The standard architectural style here seems really elaborate, and I kept contrasting it with Jakarta, which is architecturally indistinguishable from any other big city anywhere in the world. Also, Jakarta is very difficult to walk around in. People really don’t walk. Here, people do…some. But every step you take there’s half a dozen guys who want to drive you around in a van or rent you a scooter or something.

Last night all we did was get to Kutut’s and then go out for dinner. Dinner was good, a place called the Lotus, where I had some fish thing cooked in a banana leaf. I wish I could remember the names of these dishes. But I don’t. There was thunder and lightning most of the time, and a brief downpour overhead, but most of the time it was just cool distant lightning. Kutut’s is built into an incredibly steep ravine with a river at the bottom of it, so to get to your room you walk down stairs. Walking up and down stairs feels like exercise in tropical heat.

There are shrines everywhere. Think about how many Starbucks there are in Seattle — there are more shrines than that in Ubud. This morning we went to the Monkey Forest, which is a modest walk from Kutut’s. The monkey forest is a nature preserve. It’s full of, yep, monkeys! The people who run the preserve will sell you bananas, which the monkeys want. Badly. They will climb you to get them, and then fight over them with each other. It is one of the weirdest things in my whole life to be climbed by a monkey. Because they have hands. It’s just…weird. Kind of cool, but it was unnerving since they are wild animals. Being climbed by monkeys has fulfilled my dream to be a part of a wildlife show. The monkeys really are adorable though. Absolutely adorable. The monkey forest was cool in other ways too — you can walk to a sacred monkey temple, and a cremation death temple, and a sacred spring temple. The spring was down another one of those incredibly steep ravines.

Another wildlife-show moment: super-spider. In the trees off the balcony (not directly overhead thank goodness) there is a spider in a web. A spider with a body that is at least three inches long, and a leg span of oh my GOD it’s GIGANTIC! It’s also kind of pretty, in a horrifying way. Black with yellow strips on the body, and yellow balls where its legs joint. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s…it’s…well, I took a picture. We’ll see how the picture turns out. It looks like it could eat a bird. Oh my god.

Okay, I think I’ve wasted enough time writing about Bali. Back to experiencing it.