Day 4 - Monkey Forest and Tanah Lot

Yesterday I spoke to a tour organizer about going snorkeling and it seems like there are three good options: The Gilli Islands (best), Blue Lagoon at Padang Bai (good) and Amed (also good).
The tour lady has return tours to The Gilli Islands for about $120 Australian Dollars, but they leave quite early in the morning and I had already organised a massage for 11:00am, so I would have missed it by then.
After breakfast I spoke to the hotel staff about going snorkeling, they suggested Amed, but weren't quite as helpful as I was expecting - I think I just got a staff member who didn't know too much about the tourism or just wasn't a confident English speaker, because our last tour seemed very easy to organise!

I went for my massage then had a rest by the pool for a little bit.
I thought because it was going to be a little difficult to go to The Gilli Islands for a day trip (which would be about three hours up and another three hours back) maybe I'd spend the rest of the day at the Monkey Forest instead.
I got my gear together and headed outside for a taxi but along the way I saw some more tours.
One of them was a "sunset tour" which goes to the Monkey Forest, a temple, the rice paddies and finishes at Tanah Lot, which is a temple on a rock just off the beach on the south west side of the island - I had seen some nice photos of this before I left.
Unfortunately they wouldn't do the tour for just one person and when I asked the next tour place, sadly I got the same reponse.

I asked a taxi driver from the street near our hotel to take me to the Monkey Forest and while we were on the road I also asked him about going snorkeling. He agreed The Gilli Islands would be the best but would take too much time and suggested Blue Lagoon in Padang Bai. I also asked if he could take me to see Tanah Lot after the Monkey Forest, which is fairly far away (a bit over an hour).
The driver's name was Wayan Suta and he was really friendly and knowledgable. He had been driving for many years and was able to answer all my questions and even provided me with some suggestions.
I paid Wayan about $40, and that got me from the hotel to the Monkey Forest, back to the hotel to pick up my tripod, then over an hour to Tanah Lot where I spent a couple of hours around the market and taking photos, then back to the hotel - I'm not sure if this was too expensive in Bali terms, but compared to Melbourne, $40 for a driver all day is pretty good. He also waited for quite some time while I was walking around Tanah Lot!

I also booked him in for the trip to Padang Bai tomorrow. Because we were starting earlier and finishing later, this would cost me about $60. While this was a little expensive, it was cheaper than the tours and gave me a more tailored experience and a whole day of driving around and waiting for me while I was doing things. This is still way cheaper than in Australia!

The Monkey Forest

Wayan informed me there is actually a bigger Monkey Forest but it was further away. I was quite happy to just see the closer one because I wanted to fit in a fair bit today and I've seen monkeys before.
The Monkey Forest in Ubud is still a beautiful place. While there are monkeys everywhere, just the forest itself is great to walk.
There are really tall trees with huge root systems and vines hanging down with stone paths and bridges stretching over valleys, very scenic.
I took a few photos of the place (but they really didn't just how big the place is), before swapping to my macro lens to take some monkey portraits.

In the middle of the forest, there is a small man-made pond and some young monkeys were playing around there.
They were so quick to run up to the top of the tree, then jump off into the water on top of the other monkeys, then running back up again.
It was actually a little challenging to capture them without it just being a huge blur, but it was very entertaining to watch and the crowd got a good laugh from their antics.

Throughout the forest you can buy fruit to feed to the monkeys. While the monkeys are not necessarily aggressive to humans, they won't hesitate to climb you and snatch the food from you. There are warnings around the forest to not attempt to hide food from the monkeys because they will do whatever they can to get to it.

They will also attack other monkeys under certain circumstances - monkeys have a social protocol and the smaller ones would always steer clear of the bigger ones or run the risk of being attacked. Every now and then you could here some monkeys screaming in the distance, but they mostly ignore humans (without food).
I've fed monkeys before and I was more interested in taking photos of them this time around, so they completely ignored me, even when I was so close that I could brush past and touch them so because you have the option of whether to interact with them or not, the Monkey Forest is a good place to go even just for the scenery.

This whole time, Wayan was hanging out with the other taxi drivers, patiently waiting for me to return - you don't often come across that sort of service in Australia!

Balinese Culture

From here Wayan dropped me off at the hotel to pick up my tripod and we headed out to Tanah Lot.
It was quite a long drive, but it was really nice to see the more rural area's of Bali. There are a lot of small villages that don't get anywhere near as many tourists, so instead of surviving on selling goods to tourists, they survive by farming. There are rice fields everywhere!
Talking to Wayan was a really good experience too, I learned a lot more about Balinese culture through our conversations.

For example, Wayan explained that a traditional Balinese house follows a principle called 'Tri Hita Karena' which loosely translated means "Three causes of well-being":
A connection to god: every house must have a temple
A connection to nature: every house must have a garden
A connection to humans: every house must have a neighbour

He also explained how the crazy roads work. Unlike here in Australia where we have our own lane and we really don't need to concentrate on where the other cars are unless they are in our lane. In Bali most of the streets are very narrow, two lane roads, but its very common for an oncoming car to overtake someone and enter our lane. Wayan would slow down to let them in and he wasn't angry at all. In Australia, that would have caused road rage, but in Bali people are very forgiving and they know the streets are small, so they make use of the space as best they can, which means there is generally three lanes of traffic (of bikes and cars) in what looks like only two lanes of road!
On the roads in Bali, people are constantly alert in case someones darts out of a side street on a bike, or moves into your lane, whereas in Australia, I think most drivers are a bit more asleep, so while it looks crazy at first, I don't think it's really that bad because all drivers are alert and the speeds are much lower.

Tanah Lot

We finally arrived at Tanah Lot, I paid the entrance fee and walked through the huge market to get to the shore.
This was the first time I had a good look at the ocean here in Bali.
We got there just in time for sunset, so I started making my way through the crowds and down the beach to get a good shot of the temple.
Even way down the beach there were people sitting around enjoying the views and waiting for the sun to go down.
This was a very popular photography spot too, so there were a lot of other photographers with tripods too!
After walking along the sand for a while, I found a spot with a nice foreground and started setting up my camera.

Before I knew it the sun had set and tide was coming in fast, I was wearing shoes and socks and before long the tide had completely filled the spot I was in and my feet were soaking! I got a few more shots and then I noticed that along with the tide coming in were lots of crabs! It looked like the rocks were alive and crawling!

Just as the sun had gone down, I made my way back to the beach entrance but the path that I took was completely under water, so everyone started forming a line and were crawling though a cave in the rock cliffs. It was quite funny to see a whole beach worth of people all picking up their things and leaving the beach at once, some groups going through the water and others through the caves.
I went up the stairs and took a few more from this new vantage point before heading back to the car where Wayan was patiently waiting.

We eventually got back to the hotel in Ubud and I got dinner at a local restaurant, then out of the blue Suzy had arrived.
We exchanged stories and I invited her to join me for snorkeling tomorrow, which was great!
It also brought the $60 price tag down to $30 each.. Bargain!

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