Bali

After staying another night in Probolinggo, we got a train to Surabaya to be within striking distance of the airport, and stayed a night there. We didn’t see much of the town, but found a shopping mall with good restaurants and some retail entertainment for a few hours. Our hostel turned out to be a bit of a nightmare for Blake, as whilst I had earplugs to save me, he was kept awake almost all the night by extremely loud guests and hostel staff, shouting to each other at all hours and giving him two hours to sleep. I got us to the airport, barely functioning, and on our evening plane to Bali. We arrived late and found our aiport transfer had not been booked by our hotel, so it was very late by the time we got there and Blake was more zombie than human. 

We had booked a bit of luxury for a few days, and the next morning we awoke to beautiful views of surrounding ricefields, a gorgeous two-building villa, complete with kitchen, seating area, fourposter bed, huge ensuite and outside shower, and our own private pool (said pool being freezing cold and around 1 metre squared, but still, fancy stuff for us) and complimentary breakfast. I fear, however, that I may have finally pushed Blake over the edge: he succumbed to exhaustion and couldn’t get out of bed for two days, and barely ate for three. Not the worst place to fall ill, but I felt bad he couldn’t fully enjoy our super nice surroundings. 

On the third day, finally, he rose, and we made our way into Ubud, the closest town to our hotel. Ubud, though very touristic as with much of southern Bali, was charming and fun, with hundreds of market stalls, brand shops, restaurants and cafes filling the streets and jostling for space amongst the various temples and homestays. We headed straight for the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, where we watched Macaques playing, fighting, eating and snoozing in the tranquil forest preserved for their survival. 

The locals have a love-hate relationship with these monkeys, and so do the tourists. They are cute and funny to observe, but years of visitors carrying bananas and getting up close for photos has removed all fear and now they can be very confident about doing whatever they want. You are warned not to maintain eye contact, touch or hide food from them as they can get aggressive if feeling threatened. 

Even following the rules, many tourists get closer to them than perhaps wanted, myself included. We were walking along the forest trail when we passed a monkey hanging from a nearby tree about head height. Something didn’t feel right looking at it, so as I passed I turned to prevent my back being to him. Turning, I saw it flying towards me, lunging from the tree and landing on my shoulders/arm. I’d read horror stories of tourists being bitten and from its bared teeth I assumed I’d be next, so I waited. However, upon locating my rucksack in front of me, the monkey pulled our water bottle from a side pocket and hopped onto the ground. In five seconds it had the screw cap off and had pushed the bottle over to drink spilled water off the floor. Then it attempted to drink from the rim, and finally puctured holes in the bottom with its teeth to sufficiently quench its apparent thirst. I was a bit shocked and shaken (monkeys flying towards you and landing on you with surprising weight can do that to you) but also pretty pleased I’d come out of a close encounter with a monkey fairly unscathed.

We saw another monkey land on a baby’s head as his mother held him in front of her, and a more positive encounter as a lady sat by a group and filmed them on her ipad; they gradually grew more curious, examining her hand, climbing on her to pull her hair and glasses, and eventually growing hysterical when they saw themselves being filmed on her screen. 

So our advice is to go and enjoy, but be cautious and sensible; these guys, as Jungle Book rightly says, are kings of their jungle and passing tourists are no match for their daredevil mischief.

After, we strolled round town for a few hours and attempted to form an impression of Bali, though of course one day will never give you that opportunity. We enjoyed it nevertheless and ended our stay in Ubud with a nighttime swim in the heated communal pool, under a gorgeous starry sky and watching the fireflies dance over the ricefields. 

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