Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Too much monkeying around ...

And so it was finally the last full day of our tour with Intrepid Travel, in Indonesia and we had survived the rain sodden evening on Tanah Lot without any of us catching pneumonia.

TC  was still suffering from the Dragon Fruit a few days earlier, but as many of you may now know, nothing and I mean NOTHING gets in the way of TC and her food. So even this didn't stop her stocking up on an assortment of crisps and possibly an ice lolly for our final mini bus ride down to Ubud - this was after our early breakfast so we could be up and on our way ASAP.

Now some of you avid readers may have heard of Ubud before; having been made (in)famous by the best selling book 'Eat Pray Love' (I personally gave up on the book after the first couple of chapters before the woman had even left Italy!)

But we only had one day in this city held as 'The cultural centre of Bali', which really was not enough time to experience all its shops, cafes, museums and art galleries, as well as have a few hours by the swimming pool!

The gods were smiling down on us that day! The sun was shining and continued to shine til nightfall with not a drop of rain in sight!

Having arrived at the hotel - Artini 2 Cottages - we dropped our bags, locked away our valuables and headed up the street (avoiding all the little Hindu offerings scattered over the pavement) and went for a mooch around the shops. The boutiques were all quite quaint, with beautiful, colourful outfits on sale and stunning jewellery. But it was so hot, that we were just grateful to step inside for a moment and make use of the air conditioning. TC was on the lookout for a ring to replace the one she had lost in the 'Room of the flying Beetles', but nothing would suffice, so we agreed it was time to stop off for a drink.

We ended up in a lovely little French Cafe (well we were in Indonesia?!) where we sat for about an hour eating baguettes and pastries, whilst admiring pictures of The Eiffel Tower and the Champs Élysées (well we were in Indonesia?!)

Then after TC managed to prize herself away from chatting to/up the very cute looking French owner, we headed off to 'Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana otherwise known in layman terms as: The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary - which is "exactly what it says on the tin!" 

Rule one: before entering, douse yourself in mosquito spray!
Rule two: don't walk around with an open bag, especially if you have food in it.
Rule three: don't go with friends who are scared of monkeys!!

We paid our tickets and made our way along the winding path that ran through the dense jungle. Built within this thick forestation are three holy temples and living amongs it all are hundreds of 'cheeky' grey haired, long tailed Balinese Macaques, ever watchful and ready to pounce on an innocent passing tourist in the hope of a bit of food or indeed ... To have their photograph taken!!

Like all animals, they are protective of their young, so it's generally not a good idea to approach a female macaque whilst she is in the middle of feeding her baby, as she is likely to get slightly irritated and should her mate walk past at that time, he may feel the need to 'show you what a nice set of teeth he has' before trying to pounce on you.

These things may seem obvious to you and I but you would be surprised as to how many tourists it doesn't! And so having seen a couple of angry primates (of the monkey variety) my friends decided it was probably best to exit, fast!

And so we headed off further down the path where we happened upon a fenced off area where a handful of deer were being 'looked after'. And I use that term loosely, as we were surprised to find that considering we were supposed to be in a 'Sanctuary', the poor deer where held in a tiny exposed part of the huge jungle, where they were having to sit in their own excrement! I don't know who was more upset - them or the four of us?!

With TC mumbling on about writing letters to management etc ... and me realising that the brown mark on my pink t-shirt was monkey pooh not chocolate (why is it always me?!) we headed out.

After another brief mooch around the shops we returned to our hotel and finally had an afternoon lying by the pool in the beautiful sunshine!

That evening we went to see some Kecak dancing. The Kecak Dance is performed every evening at sunset and it tells an episode from the story of The Ramayana (those of you that have been to India may recognise it). But what is so original about this traditional Balinese dance is that it is not accompanied by any musical instruments, but just the sound of chanting "chak-a-chak-a-chak" from a choir of men sat in a circle around the stage.

The story tells us about Prince Rama and his bid to rescue Sita his wife, who was kidnapped by Rawana (King of Lanka) after he bewitched her into thinking her husband dead and his head held before her as proof.

With Sita gone, Sugriwa (the king of the Monkeys), his son Hanaman and the monkey army accompany Rawana on his quest to rescue his wife. (Are you lost yet?) And as the fighting breaks out, the sound of the chanting builds to a crescendo, whereby Meganada (son of Rawana) is killed, which in turn, results in another battle (still not lost?) whereby Sugriwa and his army set out to destroy the giant Kumbakarna, (brother of Rawana), but not before he manages to massacre hundreds of the Monkey Army as well as Sugriwa himself.

However, (not finished yet), with the help of Hunaman, Sugriwa is awoken from his unconsciousness and bites Kumbakarna in the face, infuriating the giant (understandably), and sending him into a rage causing him to be so distracted that Rama and Laksamana (can't remember who that is), manage to cut of both his arms and then his legs! (I seem to remember something similar in a Monty Python sketch?!)

Kumbakarna lies dead on the ground and out of kindness Rama chants a mantra releasing the giant's soul to heaven!

I should point out that during the early part of the dance - which actually was beautifully told - Hanaman moves amongst the audience (and has his picture taken!!) and who should he decide to sit next to at one point? None other than the inimitable TC! But ... not only did he sit by her side, he also decided to go through her hair, looking for nits! (Well he is a monkey) once satisfied the job was done, he moved off to his next victim, whereby TC immediately turned to me in a panic and said: "I am so pleased he was wearing gloves!"

After the show we met up with Sally and walked through the streets (avoiding the small Hindu offerings) to a lovely restaurant for our last supper - together. 

The food was absolutely amazing, however I was left with a sour taste in my mouth after TC asked Sally, during a discussion about laws and regulations in Indonesia, if there were any people not allowed into the archipelago. To which she replied: "Israelis". Shocked, I responded with, "I was only saying earlier today that I was surprised not to have met any Israelis during the tour; usually when travelling around Asia there are loads of them, now it makes sense". To which Sally casually added: "Oh and Jews and Mormons too."

TC and I exchanged a look of horror and I decided it probably wasn't in my best interest to announce which category I fell into!!

And with that, it was time to go back to the hotel and pack, for tomorrow it was time to say goodbye to Indonesia, Sally, Jo n Jo and my long time travelling friend and head off further south. For I was on my way to Australia!!

"Rippah mate, just throw a few shrimps on the barbie!"

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