A few weeks ago I found myself chasing a monkey in the Ubud, Bali monkey forest. I definitely wasn’t supposed to be chasing monkeys, or carrying plastics bags or taunting monkeys with delicious metal elephant sculptures they misconstrued as food. But it turns out monkeys aren’t that bright, in fact they are quite savage in their search for more bananas.
It is probably obvious that I don’t like monkeys. I might go so far as to say they are on my list of least favorite animals because they are intelligent, but disinterested in following human contracts and they carry a number of communicable diseases for humans.
So why was I hanging with a bunch of monkeys in Bali? It was a holiday, for my friend’s birthday vacation and a reunion with my elder brother. I had never visited Indonesia before and it was a pleasant surprise. I appreciated the artistry present in the everyday sculptures and Hindu household offerings: canang sari. And I definitely didn’t appreciate the Muslim call to prayer that was amplified over one town five times a day. It just didn’t sound good.
Balinese people surprised me with their good humor and their hustle. Everyone has an angle and a friend with a taxi, but sometimes they really do just want to help you. Sometimes they feel entitled to your money just for giving you advice whether you asked for it or not. The island is covered in thick, nearly impassable jungle interspersed with rice fields and beaches along the coasts. The flowers and fruit are beautiful. The sarongs are cheap and the festivals plentiful.
The food varies greatly from one region to another. Luckily for me there was an abundance of curries, which I love. There was also a lot of fish and bananas and thick, almost muddy sweet coffee. I really loved the strong flavor of the coffee each morning and the fried fruit pancakes, almost chewy on the inside, and crispy on the outside.
I flew into Kuta at the Denpasar Airport and appreciated some good and reasonable priced Indian food. The next day we headed to a festival in the mountainous region of Candi Dasa. Then we spent a few days chilling in a port town Padang Bai, the leaping off point for the party island Gili Trawangan, known fondly as Gili T.
Gili T, while possessing many water sport opportunities and a colorful range of accommodations from flophouse to fancy resort, and recreational drugs, was the low point in the trip for me because it was all foreigners and people intent on trying to take their money.
After ferrying back from Gili T, we taxied over to Ubud the yoga and art cultural capital of Bali. We went to see a more traditional Balinese dance at the palace on Sunday which ended with characters flying away on a Geruda, a winged-beaked flying monster. We also found the best food the night before we left that offered food from different islands in Indonesia.