SANGEH, Indonesia — Trouble found me the moment I stepped into Bali’s Sangeh Monkey Forest.
A statue towering over the entrance of the tourist attraction depicts Kumbhakarna, a giant, fearsome humanoid figure devouring what appeared to be small children. It reminded me of Goya’s “Saturno devorando a un hijo” (“Saturn Devouring His Son”). Maybe it was a depiction of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction.
The lack of explanatory signs made it a mystery.
Strolling past the statue and to the threshold of the six-hectare monkey forest, I encountered a guide who offered me a chance to feed the monkeys. He had me sit on the front steps and instructed me on how to hold the tiny banana.
Thinking I am a veteran of this sort of thing from my trip to the one in Ubud, I was immediately caught off guard when one of the macaques, in a single, lightning-quick motion, snatched my glasses and ran off.
To put this unfortunate development into perspective, my eyes can only focus clearly up to a distance of about 8 inches. Everything beyond that becomes so blurry it looks like it’s behind several layers of Saran Wrap.
In other words, without my glasses I’m blind as a bat.
Resigned to my fate and kicking myself for not bringing an extra set of eyeglasses in the spirit of packing light, I just shook my head and laughed.
“No problem,” the guide said.
He took off into the pule (nutmeg) trees and returned less than a minute later.
“Happens all the time.”
Further inside, another guide pointed out the monkey king, an adult macaque about 10 years old, sitting on a stone wall. Presiding over the furry populace, he’ll keep his title until a younger male challenges him — and wins — in a fight.
Word is, the king gets first dibs on bananas, peanuts or presumably any human treasure that finds its way into the forest. Yet from where I was looking, he didn’t seem to require corrective lenses.
It’s good to be the king.