In Ubud there is a magical forest teaming with rambunctiously friendly monkeys. There are literally hundreds of them living amongst three ancient Hindu temples enshrined by hundreds of different species of rare trees. This place doesn’t seem real. It’s like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. The verdant overgrowth amongst the beautiful statues spread across the grounds is indescribable. You are overwhelmed with a sense of light-hearted joy, and peace here. It’s impossible not to enjoy this place.
The purpose of the Monkey Forest park—owned and maintained by the village of Padangtegel—is to help facilitate the Hindu principle of Tri Hate Karana, or the “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being,” which are: to live harmoniously between humans, between humans and the environment, and between humans and The Supreme God. This actually works out quite well, because how can there not be harmony between people when you are surrounded (and sometimes crawled all over) by myriad Balinese long-tailed monkeys?
My personal favorite part of the park is a fountain surrounded by Hindu statues where the older monkeys congregate to cool, and the younger ones come to swim and play. There is something liberating about watching primates play. Somehow so human, but not bogged down with the same sense of adulthood that we humans tend to develop as we age.
Near the end of my visit, I took a seat, and was promptly investigated by a baby who decided to plop down on my lap. Talk about harmony between humans and nature! Sitting there with this little guy on my lap, I was immediately struck by how connected we all are. We share so much in common with all other life on the planet, and we so often take it for granted. My belief is that the more connected we are with the world around us, the happier we can be as individuals on this verdant sapphire planet.
What amazes me is how often we travel to destinations that only connect us with humanity without considering traveling someplace to connect with the other parts of our world. Ancient human history is fascinating, and some of the structures we have built are truly remarkable; but how often can you take a vacation to visit a place that connects you with the world outside our human one? An open mind, and a trip to the Monkey Forest is a great place to start.
A few things to keep in mind when you go. As cute as they seem, these are wild animals, and you should keep a few things in mind. Smiling, especially a smile that shows teeth, is a sign of aggression. So as hard as it is not to, don’t smile at the monkeys. If one crawls into your lap (or decides to perch itself on top of your head) try to stay calm, and not make any sudden movements. These aren’t large animals, but they are strong and have sharp teeth. You don't want to scare them and end up with a nasty bite (not exactly the kind of connection we are going for). If you just keep in mind that these are not pets, and treat them with respect, then you will be fine. In the same vein, even though this is a tourist attraction, it is also sacred ground, and tourists are asked to keep out of some areas, so respect the local’s, their traditions, and their grounds
You can find their website at monkeyforestubud.com to get more information, and plan your visit.