Monday, April 20, 2015

Ubud Monkey Forest

This morning we wanted to go check out the Monkey Forest.  We have heard from several people that the monkeys here are "aggressive" and the experience isn't that great so we set out with a bit of hesitation.  We went early, first thing in the morning, and I think that ended up being key for a nice experience!
When we pulled up on our scooters we saw monkeys relaxing about so we started to take a few pictures not knowing if this was "it" for the experience or if there was more to come.
There are a couple of different entrances but I think we went into the main one.  You buy a ticket to enter the forest (About $2 US) and then start walking through the forest.  I have to say it is BEAUTIFUL and COOL!!!  There was LOTS of shade!  A welcomed way to stay cool because Bali is anything but cool right now!  I just remembered being in awe of all of the green that surrounded us!
As you first enter you see a monkey here and a monkey there.  You also will see a stand of someone selling bananas.  Once you open that door and buy bananas the monkeys will be all over you.  Here, there wasn't a monkey handler so I suggest, if you plan to feed bananas to the monkeys, that you wait for a main area where there is someone that is trained to help with the monkeys unless you want to brave the alpha monkeys on your own!
We weren't ready to jump into that whole experience yet so we skipped the bananas and continued to walk around and it was so peaceful!  The monkeys kept their distance.  Another key is to have no food on you and nothing in your hand that resembles what might be food!
If you have nothing of interest, the monkeys which are crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) or the locals call them Balinese long-tailed monkey, will go about their morning eating the sweet potato that they are fed by the park staff!
The Ubud Monkey Forest describes its mission as conservation of the area within its boundaries according to the Hindu principle of Tri Hata Karana ("Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being"), which seeks to make people live harmoniously during their lives.
The "three ways" to this goal under the Tri Hata Karana doctrine are harmonious relationships between humans and humans, between humans and the natural environment, and between humans and The Supreme God. Accordingly, the Monkey Forest has a philosophical goal of creating peace and harmony for visitors from all over the world. It also seeks to conserve rare plants and animals for use in Hindu rituals and to provide a natural laboratory for educational institutions, with a particular emphasis on research into the social interaction of the park's monkeys with one another and their interaction with the park's natural environment. (wikipedia)
Nature, monkeys, and my family.... I was one happy girl!!!!
The Monkey Forest has 3 temples inside of it that were constructed back in 1350.  The temples are not open to visitors, only those that are wearing proper Balinese praying attire and are willing to pray.

We did, however, get to peak inside one of the temples.
We were there close to prayer time so we got to see people from the local community dressed for temple and carrying their offerings head to the temple!
The other fun part was here.  Doesn't look like much but let me tell you.  As we came around the corner we heard and splash and couldn't figure out where the noise was coming from...
then we came across this group of young monkeys playing around.  They would chase each other up the tree and the jump off the branches, sailing through the air, and land in the water with a big splash!  It was SO much fun to watch.  We probably stayed here for 10-15 minutes!  A highlight of the morning!

Once we decided that we had seen enough and had enjoyed a relaxing visit, we told the kids we could buy bananas if they wanted to!  Of course, they all say YES!!! But who ends up being the one to feed the monkeys?!?!
So we purchased some bananas at a main area where there were a couple of monkey handlers around to help if we needed.  See, once the monkeys see you leave the banana stand an alpha male will come over to grab your bananas!
The key is to hold just one banana at a time!
They also tell you to hold the banana up in the air so the monkey climbs to get it.  Otherwise they just grab them out of your hand without you evening knowing!  They are SO quick!
Really, once you have a banana it all happens SO quick!  And it is mainly the large males that come get the food.  The little guys are too scared to challenge the alphas!
Ethan was being SO brave and wanted to try to feed the monkeys!  A large male was eyeing him but I knew Ethan wouldn't be keen on that.  This is when the handlers came in handy.  I asked a handler to help me get a little monkey to come to Ethan.  To do this, the handler had to scare off the big monkey (which he did by just raising his hand to the monkey) and I took Ethan to where this little monkey was hanging out!
I think both Ethan and the monkey were a bit nervous!

The monkey made a quick jump and ended up leaving without the banana!!!  So funny!  Ethan was a bit surprised but he gave it another go!  The next time with success!
This is what happens when monkeys start figuring out you have bananas!!!  They team up!  They are NOT afraid!

After much encouraging, Owen also decided to try to feed a monkey.  He went for the hand off approach!  Addyson, she just sat back and watched the whole thing!  She was also my picture taker for when I was feeding the monkeys so many of these pictures were taken by her!
I have to say that I am SO glad we didn't listen to some of the advice to stay away from the Monkey Forest, it was a really fun morning!  Again, I think going early is key and also not having any food on you or anything that resembles food!  Here is a funny story- as we were leaving I realized we had some dirt on us from monkey paws so I went to get some wipes out of my bag.... I should have WAITED until we had left the forest!   NO, I did it on the way out!  A monkey hear me wrestling with a wrapper and came right over to me to get my package!  I freaked out and threw the package at Brad (hitting him in the back of the head with it), what I thought he would do with it I have NO idea, the package bounced off Brad, landed on the ground, and before we knew it the monkey had it and was up a tree!!!  Ugh!  Ethan is crying because our wipes are gone and I have to flag down a handler to let them know a monkey is about to eat a package of wetwipes!  Way to go, Ambre!!!! 
SO, note to self, don't take out any packages of any kind until you have LEFT the Monkey Forest!
Such a fun morning at the Ubud Monkey Forest!  If you are ever in the area, this is a MUST DO!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nyepi

 Nyepi is a "Day of Silence" that is commemorated every Isakawarsa (Saka new year) according to the Balinese calendar. It is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali. Nyepi, a public holiday in Indonesia, is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese.  It was announced at the parade yesterday to remind people, especially tourist, that NO ONE is allowed out on the streets and there is to be no noise (including tvs and radios).  The police are out walking the streets to enforce these rules! There is a break given for hotels who are allowed to keep minimal lights on to serve their guests and they are allowed to serve food.  Since we are staying in a fully gated villa away from a main road, we were allowed to go outside and use our pool we just had to remind the kids to try to stay as quiet as possible.  This wasn't a bad place to spend our Nyepi!!  And really, after a couple of busy days of vacationing and travel, a down day we welcomed!
The majority of the people, with mainly hotel staff and hospital staff being an exception, do not work.  Since our villa is a small, private villa our staff had the day off.  Our food was delivered on foot (no scooters allowed) by a hotel that is just up the way from us.  This guy came to deliver us our meals three times today!  He explained that the holiday is from 6am today until 6am tomorrow so after tomorrow he will get his time off for his holiday!

 Being stuck inside, we did go for a walk outside of our villa in search for ice cream and because we were walking the little scooter alleys and not on the main road we thought we'd be okay.  When we approached on hotel looking for ice cream they advised us to not go walking any farther and to go back to our villa!  Leave it to us to try to push the rules!  One thing we did set up was in room massages to help to pass our time.  Again, these ladies had the day off from the spa so they could come to us and they had to come by foot.  Brad and I always said we wanted to make sure our kids didn't turn into "Aramco Brats" and then this happens!  You'd swear they are getting spoiled!  However, we are really just trying to take full advantage of opportunities presented to us and this in-room massage was one of those!  An hour massage including a holiday tip was only $10 an hour and we had the three kids split an hour!  It was a fun experience for them and I think they are hooked!  Owen is asking when is next massage is!
 In the middle of the day we saw this amazing sight in the sky!  You can only imagine what the people of Bali were thinking about this as they celebrated their New Year!  While we didn't do any fasting or meditating, Nyepi for us was a day of relaxing and playing together as a family!  We enjoyed it to its fullest  and now we are well rested and ready for another full day in Ubud!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ogoh Ogoh

Our first full day in Ubud exploring included sitting on the side of the street and watching the parade that happens on the Eve of Nyepi every year.  This is Bali's main celebration for the year and the fact that we were here for it was pretty awesome and fun to experience!
What is this parade and it's significance?  Well here is a clip from Wikipedia to explain....
Ogoh-ogoh are statues built for the Ngrupuk parade, which takes place on the eve of Nyepi day in Bali, Indonesia. Ogoh-ogoh normally have form of mythological beings, mostly demons. As with many creative endeavours based on Balinese Hinduism, the creation of Ogoh-ogoh represents spiritual aims inspired by Hindu philosophy.[1][2]
The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). The forms of Ogoh-ogoh represent the Bhuta-Kala (Bhuta: eternal energy, Kala: eternal time), according to Hindu teachings. The imperceptible potentials of nature cannot be thoroughly explored by anyone. Philosophically, civilized men are required to manage the natural resources without damaging the environment itself.
An Ogoh-ogoh is usually made of styrofoam (this is a new tradition) and stand on a pad built of timber planks and bamboos. The pad is designed to sustain the Ogoh-ogoh while it is being lifted and carried around the village or the town square. There are normally eight or more men or even young boys carrying the Ogoh-ogoh on their shoulders. This procession is accompanied by orchestral music performed by the youth.
Before we left for Bali we started researching this parade and wondered if the scary creatures would not only scare away spiritual pollutants but also scare away our kids so we headed out for the day knowing this could potentially not go well for us.
In Ubud, the neighboring communities walk down the main street in Ubud with their floats and then all of the communities gather in the big soccer field at the edge of downtown Ubud.  Here, everyone gathers until the main float of the evening starts.
This gave us a chance to walk around and see some of the statues upclose!

I was even able to bride our kids with ice cream for a picture next to a float!! : )

It was a neat experience to walk around and see these little kids excited about the parade and their chance to carry their community's float during this special event!

I also enjoyed seeing the street food carts and watching how another culture/ country celebrates an important holiday!
After exploring the soccer field festivities, we headed back up to the main intersection in Ubud to watch the evening parade!


Some of the floats were so tall that a couple of men walked along side the float with large sticks used to hold up trees and power wires so the ogoh ogoh could pass through!

If I were to go to Ubud again for Ogoh Ogoh or advise anyone traveling to Ubud at this time, I would suggest NOT getting a curbside seat for the parade.  It is pure chaos, so much so that  it is hard to watch the parade and enjoy it when you are bracing yourself from the push of the crowd and worried about your young kids.  I would go early, get a curbside table at a restaurant on Monkey Forrest Road and watch the parade from my seat!  The main intersection gets SO full of people and no one cares that you have been sitting there for an hour to get a great view for your kids that they then stand RIGHT in front of and end up stepping back on your kids when the BIG floats try to pass through.  So, get a seat up high and watch with a good, peaceful view!
With that being said, the curbside view was perfect for the kids as the communities came by one at a time to head to the soccer field.  It wasn't crowded as half of the people were at the field.  It wasn't until the main parade started when people left the field and filled the streets that the craziness started!
Seeing the floats lite up at night was impressive!  I'm so glad we got to experience this float during the day and at night!
See the masses of people in the street?!?!  Nuts!   So, after about 20 minutes of crazy, we decided to head out!  We had seen them all!  We are also newbies on our scooters and wanted to make it home in one piece before the streets got too crowded and we didn't feel comfortable to drive home!
Good Night Ubud!!!  Thanks for an amazing day!