Sacred Monkey Forest and Goa Gajah – Ubud, Bali
Some last minute change of plans have brought us to Bali, Indonesia – The Island of the Gods – where we will be spending two months before heading home. Now, I’m not complaining, Bali is a wonderful place to visit but Chiang Mai had become our home away from home. It was a bit difficult leaving since we had spent about six months getting settled in and developed our routines. But hey, we get a chance to be in one of the most picturesque places on the planet, so you bet we will be making the most of it!
Our first stop was, of course, the beach. It was a no brainer, not only because Bali is known for some of the best beaches on the planet, but also because it is a 20 minute walk from our apartment. Also, I love the beach! So what are you gonna do?
Our days are mostly spent at a co-working space called Wave, where we strive to work so that we can continue this location independent lifestyle. After work, we tend to try to catch every sunset we can while here so going to the beach has become a regular thing. Whether for a jog, a walk, or just to watch the waves, we are there.
Aside from that, we’ve decide to do a little site seeing on our off days.
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
The monkey forest in one of the biggest tourist attractions in Bali. It definitely deserves a visit and I would recommend it for all animal and nature lovers. It is a forest sanctuary and conservation area that is home to over 600 long-tailed macaques as well as 14th century Hindu temples. The monkeys roam freely and, at times, interact with the people in the park. The cost to get into the park is IDR 30,000 per person, which is just over $2USD. It’s definitely worth more considering the beautiful nature you get to experience.
A word of caution: Please do follow the rules. They post the rules at the entrance and while there are staff members around the park looking out for you, you should be aware of yourself as well. There are bananas for purchase if you would like to feed the monkeys, but do not bring in any outside food. In fact, I would suggest bringing in as little as possible. You will be walking a lot if you really want to get a good feel of the place. You also have the choice to just pick a peaceful spot and take it all in.
If you do decide to walk around, there are steps and some hills so make sure to have comfortable shoes. If you do bring a bag or backpack with you to carry your personal items, make sure you don’t have any food in them and try not to get into the bag if possible as the monkeys may think you have something for them in there.
One thing we learned the hard way, is to make sure to hold on to our small backpack. It wasn’t as if we just put our back somewhere and forgot about it. We had been walking around a lot and decided to sit and chill for a minute at the outdoor theater. As soon as our bag was down next to us, a couple of mischievous little guys decided to come over and try to steel the bag from us. There were three little monkeys that slowly pulled our bag away and were trying to get it open. When I tried to reach for it, one of them hissed at me and seemed to want to take a bite if I got any closer. With the help of some other tourists around us, we were able to snatch the bag back (good thing, too, since our passports were in it!).
Anyway, just watch your stuff and make sure you also don’t have any plastic bags in your hand. They love to play with that too! Other than that, they are really fun to watch and generally are very peaceful. We were a bit cautious and handed the bananas over to them slowly, but a lot of other folks were getting creative and having the monkeys climb their back and sit on their shoulder to get the treat.
It being a forest and all, of course, it was very green and lush. The ravine that runs through also adds to the whole “Jurrasic Park” feel of the place. Add to that some statues and temples and you’ve got yourself a very humbling and tranquil experience.
Our drive to Ubud from Seminyak was about an hour and half on the motorbike. We did hit some traffic just getting into Ubud. The scenery along the way consisted on several small owns connected by rice fields. As a passenger I really enjoyed it, but I know Rob had to pay attention to the road so it was harder for him. We had to use GPS on the phone to get there as there are no real road signs so it is a bit difficult to know where you are at a given time if you are just following a map. It is easy to get a little lost if you’re not paying attention since there are several turns.
After our visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest ( which lasted around 3 hours), we made our way to Goa Gajah, also known as Elephant Cave. It was a short 15 minute drive and the parking there cost IRD 2,000, about $0.15USD.
There are several souvenir shops lining the parking lot. It’s great if you’re in a shopping mood or in need of things to take back home to loved ones. It gets a little annoying if you are just trying to get to the temple and are bombarded my the vendors to purchase something. They try extremely hard to sell you sarongs in particular. They may even tell you that you need to buy one in order to get into the temple. You are required to wear the sarong to enter, but they are provided for you once you purchase a ticket ( entrance fee is IDR 15,000, just over $1USD). Now, if you want a sarong to keep, then it’s a good time to buy one.
Once you enter, you will walk down several steps to get to the cave. The facade of the rock has very intricate carvings. These carving are meant to keep away evil spirits, which explains the art used. The inside of the cave is small and there is not much to see. The significance is the cultural meaning behind the place and what it represents, along with the fact that it is from the 9th century. There are also baths from around that time that were excavated in more recent years.
You can make your way down some very steep stairs (quite a few of them) to the “rain forest” sections where you will find ponds and a couple of small waterfalls. The stream and waterfalls, along with the moss growing on the rocks provides a really nice peaceful atmosphere to sit and reflect. There are guides that can give you an explanation and a small tour. Be sure to provide them a tip if you do use their services. Fallen in the middle of the stream are the remains of, what appears, to have been a very large statue. The whole place looks like something out of a movie.
It’s easy to see the whole place in an hour. We enjoyed the beauty and history of it and would recommend the visit if you have a chance. It worked out great for us because we had a couple of hours before sunset to enjoy more of Ubud before making the motorbike drive back. We do plan on going back to Ubud as there are several other siteseeing opportunities such as the rice terraces and waterfalls.
A side note: Ubud is known for it’s natural beauty. However, if you are a fan of art, there are some beautiful pieces that are produced there. If I had the opportunity, I would certainly purchase some art there.