Monkey Sanctuary Forest
I have dreamt about traveling to Bali for several years now and let me just start off by saying that it is more magical than I could have imagined. The moment that I arrived in Ubud, my jet lag was instantly replaced by my eagerness to drop off my bags and begin exploring the lively markets and bustling streets. The amount of motorbikes and scooters that fill the road is accompanied by patience and respect from fellow drivers. This is pretty incredible especially when there is an overwhelming amount of overzealous and inexperienced motorbike riders. Most of which unknowingly end up driving in the opposite direction of the traffic flow. This just goes to show how calm and welcoming of a place Bali truly is.
One of the first sites I wanted to visit in Bali was the Monkey Sanctuary Forest. I have been a huge fan of these silly creatures since I was a little kid, so being surrounded by dozens of roaming monkeys was unreal. Note to self, beware of holding an ice cream cone or any other type of food when you are walking into the sanctuary. While the monkeys are adorable, they will not hesitate to snatch your tasty treat out of your hand. I witnessed this happen to a couple of people and while they were good sports about the surprise hit and run, I’m sure they would have preferred finishing their snack.
The sanctuary space is large and covered in all types of tropical trees with vines hanging all around. I felt like I had walked into an ancient kingdom and was waiting for King Louie to jump out at any moment. There are three temples located within the sanctuary; Pura Dalem Agung, Beji Temple and the Pura Prajapati, all of which have beautiful intricate details. While taking a break, I was accompanied by a mellow monkey that didn’t seem the least phased that I was sharing the bench with him…hang out with a monkey, checked off my bucket list!
Bali is revered for its gorgeous landscape along with its tranquility, both of which are encompassed in the temples around the island. The temples seem to blend in effortlessly whether they are in the center of a marketplace square or hidden in the lush green landscape. One of my favorite temples that I visited was the Hindu Temple of Pura Besakih located on the slopes of Mount Agung. To get to this temple from Ubud took about two hours by scooter. I recommend stopping to see the Tegalaland Rice Terrace along the way. It’s a nice way to start the ride and it’s only fifteen minutes away from the center of Ubud.
The journey from there was an adventure, as you go through small towns, zip up mountain roads and feel the temperature go from hot and humid to chilly and overcast. When I finally arrived, I was first off relieved to stretch my legs but also in complete awe at what I saw. Located against the principle volcano of Mount Agung sits an enormous temple made out of twenty-three separate but related temples. To enter the temple, you are asked to provide a donation and by doing so, you are guided around the temple grounds and experience a blessing ceremony. What I came to find out was that in 1963 when the volcano erupted, it killed over a thousand people in the area and astonishingly enough the threatening lava flow missed the temple completely. This extraordinary blessing was a sign to the Balinese people of just how holy this temple truly was because they believed that the gods intentionally chose not to destroy it. As I climbed up the steps and made my way to the very top; which is nearly 3,000 feet, I was overwhelmed by the amount of natural beauty that surrounded me from every angle that I looked. I definitely had that moment that all travelers know and love, the moment where you can’t believe that you’re truly there and witnessing what you’re seeing in person.
Everything within Ubud is relatively close, making it convenient to walk around the central market area but if you are comfortable driving a motorbike or a scooter, it will make getting around a whole lot easier. One of my favorite parts about visiting Ubud was the amount of untouched nature that surrounded the central marketplace area. If I travel to a place where I can get lost in the outskirts of the main city, I take full advantage of this. So feel empowered to wander and get lost because by doing so you’re truly experiencing the authenticity of the place that you’re traveling in.