Today’s challenge was a combination of learning how to avoid wrinkling my wrist in downward facing dog and conquering my fear of monkeys. Yes, I’m afraid of monkeys and a lot of other furry things on the list. I don’t know how some of you do it but I’m really jealous. I admire those who have a natural affinity for animals and don’t mind when they jump on you or lick you. Okay, I can do without the licking part either way but you get my point. Anytime an animal even looks at me, I immediately think of movies like The Birds and Man’s Best Friend and I go into panic mode. I need to loosen up but I don’t know how!
Instead of doing yoga this morning at the villa, Sura and I wanted to get our zen on Balinese style by experiencing a yoga class at a local studio. We woke up at seven in the morning to go check out Radiantly Alive by way of an overly generous local who volunteered to take us to Downtown Ubud on his motorbike: one of the main modes of transportation in Bali. I’m not sure if the motorbike was made to transport three people at a time but we made it work. With Sura sandwiched between us, I squeezed the poor guy’s ribs as I hung on for dear life. Nonetheless, we finally made it safely.
Our teacher ended up running late and a student in the class who just so happened to also be a teacher helped get us started until the scheduled teacher arrived. After several rounds of breath work, fluid asanas and a relaxing savasana where I nearly fell asleep, it was time to kill my blissful buzz and go see the monkeys.
Bring on the heart attacks.
I’ve read about the Sacred Monkey Forest, seen pictures of the long-tailed macaques showing off their fangs when they feel threatened and even watched videos on social media of people’s scary encounters with them. Two weeks prior to visiting Bali I saw a video on instagram of a monkey smacking a girl because she looked it in the eyes—one of the main things I heard they tell you not to do. It wasn’t a life threatening slap. But, it was a slap nonetheless and a slap by a monkey at that. Just what we all need on a Tuesday afternoon before lunch.
When I noticed we’d be visiting the forest as a group during the retreat, I was extremely nervous. Actually, nervous is an understatement. Let’s go with terrified. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to do it and that I’d just wait outside the entrance until the rest of the girls finished. It’s not hard to notice that I’m not an animal lover: even at times when I try to pretend to be for the sake of not looking so scared. People can see right through the act. It’s really that bad. To save myself the agony and embarrassment of trying to pretend, I’d just sit this activity out if my fear didn’t let up any by the time we got there.
When we first arrived to the Monkey Forest, the fear was still there and had increased as there were monkeys running around outside of the gate! I watched them scamper up to various people and hoped they wouldn’t notice this terrified American trying to be invisible and all decide to attack me at once.
I had to finally choose whether I was going to go through with it or not. I decided that by the looks of it, everyone who entered obviously made it out alive and it can’t be that bad. Even if one of the furry creatures does decide to jump up on me or smack me, is that going to be my demise? Nope. So, I mustered up just enough courage to make my way through the forest with the rest of the group.
We spent about two hours in the Sacred Monkey Forest and the monkeys actually turned out to be less vicious than I thought. That may have been because I walked past each one swiftly with my eyes closed to make sure I didn’t make any eye contact and give them the slightest inclination that I was interested in a friendship or being smacked—or both.
Also, aside from the monkeys being the main attraction, the forest was absolutely beautiful.
A symbol of the coexistence between humans and nature, there are about 115 different species of trees and several sacred temples dispersed throughout the forest.
There were men walking around the park who monitored the monkeys and also sold bananas to the brave souls who wanted to attract the monkeys and get a good photo opp. Once they put the banana in their hand, the monkeys came running fast. They would jump up on their shoulder and eat the banana calmly as people forced nervous smiles while banana fell from the monkey’s mouth onto their laps. Ick!
Count me out on this one. This was one time I just didn’t care about a “you only live once” moment or an instagram photo.
I watched in amazement as people in my group went for the banana photo opps. It’s interesting how we all are hard wired so differently and each have things that make us say either ‘hell yes’ or ‘hell no’. The monkeys for me were a definite ‘hell no’ but I’m happy that I at least conquered the fear, made it through the forest and even better, made it out alive!
Have you ever been to the Sacred Monkey Forest? Did you enjoy it?