Bali, Hi - Eight months in Bali

Part III
When in Bali, do as the monkeys do

by Mad Dog


Bali is one of 13,670 islands that make up Indonesia. Iím dying to find out who counted them and whether they used the same rigged calculators some money changers in Kuta use.
    Bali is an island that measures 90 miles by 60 miles. One guidebook describes it as ďmore than twice the size of the Grand Duchy of LuxembourgĒ which really puts it in perspective. This same guidebook says the natives donít call it Bali, but rather Nusa Dua, the Great Island. Iím curious where they found these natives because everyone Iíve run into thinks Nusa Dua is the name of the ritzy resort area which is filled with people who can spend weeks on end there and never realize theyíre not in Cancun. The natives call this place Bali just like everyone else.

    Itís a province of Indonesia. That means itís not in Thailand. Iím not being a smartass (for once in my life). When I considered coming here I looked it up on a map because, honestly, I knew generally what part of the globe it was onóthe surfaceóbut not where. Itís above Australia and under Southeast Asia. Itís one of 13,670 islands that make up Indonesia. Iím dying to find out who counted them and whether they used the same rigged calculators some money changers in Kuta use.

    Other well known islands of Indonesia include Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and of course, Timor, which no one ever heard of Timor until last year but now everyoneís familiar with. My friends and family are convinced itís one rice paddy over and I should be careful of terrorists and guerillas. There are no known guerillas on Bali. But there are monkeys.



 

 

As you enter the Monkey Forest the first thing you see are big signs telling you not to feed the monkeys. Sitting beneath them are women selling plastic bags of small bananas so you can feed the monkeys. Is it any wonder I feel so conflicted?

Going ape on Bali     There are two Monkey Forests here. These are simian ghettos, since as far as I can tell theyíre the only place on the island the monkeys live. Except for one I saw on the end of a long leash at a hot water spring, but heís probably on a work release program since they were doing some construction there. I went to check out the Monkey Forest near Ubud with Marlene, an American woman I met through a German-Malaysian couple my landlords know. You canít say this isnít a cosmopolitan place.

    Amazingly, the Monkey Forest is on Monkey Forest Road, which has the distinction of being the only road around with an English name. The others have names like Jalan Raya, Jalan Peliatan, and Jalan Dewi Sita. It turns out Monkey Forest Road does have a Balinese name but you have to go to the library to find out what it is, and I have no clue where the library is.

    As you enter the Monkey Forest the first thing you see are big signs telling you not to feed the monkeys. Sitting beneath them are women selling plastic bags of small bananas so you can feed the monkeys. Is it any wonder I feel so conflicted? There are about 125 Balinese long-tailed macaques living in the forest. Itís easy to tell the males from the females: the males have what looks like a moustache and the females have beards. This is true. Interestingly, this is also how you can tell the male and female Olympic athletes apart in most Eastern bloc countries. Except, of course, the monkeys arenít taking steroids. Well, as of the last drug test anyway.



 

 

 

 

 

The male mounted the female, going at it while he bared his teeth. After about 20 seconds, or just as I got my camera out and was ready to shoot, he got off and the female groomed him. 

Family portrait?    They say the monkeys can be mean. Iíve heard tales of people having sunglasses snatched, earrings ripped out, and their rent increased to exorbitant amounts by these monkeys. I didnít see any of that. They were well behaved (except for a couple which were fighting amongst themselves) and the babies were downright friendly. Of course they may have seen my moustache and mistaken me for Dad. I saw monkeys playing, monkeys eating, a monkey drinking out of a water bottle it probably stole from someone, and a couple of them having sex. Yes, there was hot monkey love going on in the temple.

    Since I know youíre dying to ask, they do it doggie style, though now that I think of it maybe thatís a misnomer and we should talk about doing it monkey style from now on. The male mounted the female, going at it while he bared his teeth. After about 20 seconds, or just as I got my camera out and was ready to shoot, he got off and the female groomed him. Grooming is important to monkeys. When theyíre not eating (or having sex) they pick insects off each other. If Hartz Mountain made Monkey Collars these animals would have so much free time theyíd be able to do something more constructive, like take turns pounding on a typewriter and seeing if, in fact, they could come up with King Lear. After about a minute of grooming, the male suddenly jumped on top of the female and started in again. Ron Jeremy has nothing on a monkey.

Rangda, a hungry god    There are three holy temples in the Monkey Forest. There are temples everywhere you turn in Bali. They say there are more temples than homes and I believe it. Of course, when you consider that most Balinese families live together in a compound thatís not so hard to do. The images used in temples are wonderful. The main temple in the Monkey Forest has statues of rangda, a widow-witch, eating a baby (something any mother can relate to) and a bell-tower with a striker in the form of a phallus (something for the guys). Sexual images are very out in the open here. And theyíre everywhere. Okay, everywhere except my cottage, but hope springs eternal.

  

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