Bali Monkey Trouble

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.

(Only later do I learn Kumbhakarna plays a role in the Ramayana epic of Hindu legend. The reason he chows down on humans is due to a ravenous hunger after waking from a six-month nap.)

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.”

Grateful, I continued toward the Pura Bukit Sari, the main temple, which dates to the 17th century, and a statue of Garuda, the mythical Hindu bird.

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.

En Route: One of the Sangeh Monkey Forest troublemakers.
En Route: One of the Sangeh Monkey Forest troublemakers.
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7 thoughts on “Bali Monkey Trouble

  1. Eli, that story is hilarious! perhaps the guides/monkeys have a bit of a scam going! glad you got your glasses back! perhaps you should invest in one of those headstraps? at least the next time you venture into the land of impish monkeys! hope your travels are full of adventure, joy and memories! can’t wait to read more! M

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I could still kick myself for not having brought backup glasses, though I’m glad things turned out OK. Hope you enjoy the rest of the journey!

  2. Yes, it’s something of a “scam” as u wld find if you go to the temple at Uluwatu on the Jimabaran part of Bali. But the only ransom u pay is the price of a small bag of peanuts for the monkeys! For the return of the glasses.

  3. hahahahahah. The monkeys are really trouble there. I need a buck of banana to bring back my camera when a little monkey snatch it from my hands. But it’s very fun, I never forget that moment. I will back again in next summer holday

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