Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Horrifying Legend Of Monkey Forest

monkey on my shoulder
The Horrifying Legend of Monkey Forest

The truth is that there are no real forests left on the island, they have all been cleared and the land turned into plantations or rice patties. Even so, Bali’s lush tropical fauna is a pleasure to look at, a stark contrast to the brown, fire scorched hills of Los Angeles.

Still, there are isolated groves of trees, mainly acting as tourist attractions, and that definitely includes Monkey Forest.


Monkey Forest derives its name as its trees, in effort to reforest some of their lost lands, were systematically planted by monkeys. The Balinese, believing it cute to see monkeys working in far greater unison and technical proficiency than most human beings, dirtying their little paws as they dug small holes to plant their favorite seeds (banana) decided it would be good to let the trees stand, mainly because who wouldn’t pay big money to see monkeys performing such work.

“These monkeys would make a great tourist attraction,” observed one Balinese man, as he handed a small shovel to a monkey, who, apparently more finicky than the rest, wanted to keep his paws out of the mud. (this particular monkey got manicures too)

Having completed the job, for five minutes the monkeys happily frolicked in their trees. Then the tourists started showing up.
“What do these people think we are?” screamed the monkey chief, “A tourist attraction?!!”

Realizing they had been duped, today the monkeys have a far different attitude. The simians no longer happily leap from branch to branch, groom their cousins, toss their feces at each other, the joy filled life monkeys are known for.
No, today the monkeys have formed gangs of murderous bandits and the moment you enter their forest you are on their "turf."

The Set-up

A friendly Balinese woman sits right outside the woods, selling bananas.
“You are hungry?” she asks, “I have tastiest bananas in the world, just for you,” she smiles at you, winking devilishly, knowing that you won’t live long enough to ever taste the sweet fruits.
Being na├»ve, you purchase a large bunch of bananas, licking your lips as she evilly waves you into the hell that is “Money Forest.”

I heard many legends of the dark fate that befalls visitors of Monkey Forest, some so awful I have tried to block them from memory. While no one has ever made it out of the forest alive, the Balinese for centuries have told the following fairytale to their young children who ask about this dark place. It might give all but the bravest of you nightmares, but I am only the reporter.

The Balinese Fairy Tale of Monkey Forest

The traveler stepped into Monkey Forest, the sound of his foot against rock echoing amongst the unmoving trees, the warm sun drowned by the canopy of cloud scraping trees, a shadow of darkness falling over him. The only light in the hushed forest was the glow of fearsome eyes plotting his demise. Three unsure steps forward and suddenly the apes silently leapt down from the branches, surrounding him. He gazed at their crude unsophisticated weapons, a sharpened stick, a rock, a loaded Uzi they recovered from the body of a visiting Israeli Commando.

“Give us the bananas and no one gets hurt,” the monkey chief grunted, knowing his true intentions were far darker.
“No,” thought the brave traveler. He bought these bananas for himself.
Fight or flight? Noting the Uzi, he chose to run. But there was nowhere to go! More apes fell from the trees, some landing on his shoulders, jumping on his leg, picking his prized bananas off him one by one, cackling evilly, until the travelers bananas had been “redistributed.”

Having got what they came for, now it was time for the bandits to tear him to pieces.
“But you said if you got the bananas no one would get hurt,” screamed the frightened traveler.
“I lied,” replied the monkey chief, baring his teeth ominously.

The traveler ran as fast as he could, monkeys chasing after him, grasping at his heels, the spray of the Uzi’s bullets missing him by millimeters. He ran through the dark jungle, jumping, barely clearing the crocodile filled moat marking the forests edge. Confused, frightened, gasping for precious breath he stops. A banana peel hits him in the back of the head. He turned around, but there was no one to be found.

The Awesome Hero of Awesomeness

Despite desperate pleas from the locals, I was not about to leave the island without exploring the infamous forest. Climbing the mountain, the hot sun and humidity trying to beat me into submission, I refused to turn back.

Arriving at the forests edge, I purchased several bunches of bananas from the impish she-devil keeping watch for the bandits, at least one of which I intended on using as a bargaining chip to negotiate the release of one of their hostages.

I step foot into Monkey Forest. It is as exactly as the legends describe. The path, visible only by the glow of evil monkey eyes is rough and dangerous. The monkeys soon appear, demanding my precious fruit.
I refuse, gravely insulting the chief monkey by showing him the sole of my shoe. (like most of Indonesia, the monkeys are Islamic.)
Militant Islamic actually. Instantly the spray of AK-47 and Uzi bullets fills the air. I can feel them whizz by me. Regretting my decision, I sprint, the wrong direction. The simians laugh at my mistake. They don’t even rush after me. They’re going to enjoy this.

They’re closing in on me. Frantically I try to find some sort of escape. A teleport machine would do, but they’re never around when you need them. Beam me up Scotty.
Looking around I see an ancient Hindu Temple. Two monkeys guard the entrance. I race for it, bracing myself for the onslaught. I stiff arm one, and kick the other, and somehow make it through the doors.
“Sanctuary!” I cry out. “Sanctuary!!”
Having seen many movies, the monkeys know better than to violate the santictity of a temple. I’m safe here, however temporarily.

The Hindu Temple

Inside the temple, the evil monkey powers are muted.
Yes, the monkeys here are still banana thieves, but they don’t stop there. Exhausted, I put down my water bottle. Elsewhere on the island, several monkeys tried to grab bottles and run off with them, but they were invariably too big and they all fumbled it, so I didn’t really concern myself.

Like clockwork, a monkey came sprinting full speed towards me, scooped up the bottle like a linebacker does a fumble, and ran towards the end zone, somehow holding onto the “ball.”
Now this was my only source of water, and I was thirsty, and sweating in the humidity; so I took after him. Bounding onto a rock, the monkey turned and grinned at me, but that quickly turned into a full teeth bared warning as I got close. He clearly wasn’t going to give up his treasure.
He actually bit into my water bottle, puncturing it, and its precious fluid began to leak away.
I really didn’t want to fight him for it, and risk going to the doctor.
Doctor: “So what is this gash mark here?”
Me: “Monkey bite.”
Doc (bewildered): “How did that happen?”
Me: “We were fighting.”
Doc: “Over what? Did he say something bad about your Mom?”
Me: “He stole my water bottle, dude.”
Doc calls out to his nurse: “Make sure to give this guy the “idiot surcharge.”
Nurse: “The moment he opened his mouth.”

So what did our hero do? Quick thinking, I pulled out a banana and showed it to the monkey, who immediately became envious of Rich’s possession.
“You want banana?” Rich asks.
Monkey squawks affirmatively. Rich places the banana beside him, theorizing, scientifically speaking, the monkey’s paws are too small to carry both.
The monkey looks at Rich disdainfully, thinking to himself how he will be able to claim ownership over both treasures. Meanwhile life sustaining fluid continues to rapidly seep away.
The lure of the banana is too great. He drops the water bottle and sprints towards the fruit, while Rich leaps towards the bottle. Arriving at the same at each other’s possession, they turn and glare at each other, and take on threatening postures, each baring their fangs at the other.
Suddenly realizing the few drops of precious liquid left, and “il mono” that his banana wasn’t getting any younger, they quickly consumed the contents of their possessions, and walked away with their heads held high, each silently daring the other to make a move.

So, um, I’m still at the temple. Luckily somehow there’s a wireless signal that reaches here. The monkeys outside are cackling, and hooting, surrounding me. Though I know my demise imminent, there’s no way I’m going back out there. As I told you, I traded my last banana for the now empty water bottle. If it rains I should last for a month here. Please tell my parents I love them.

cute monkey, easy easy


  1. Would be nicer to have a factual story of your trip.

  2. So many other places to go for factual stories, the usual this beach that beach story... That is, of course, an assumption that this is not factual. It's a strange world, after all, and I thank Richard for all these tales of travel around the world. I can't stop clicking on more and more - I'll have gone 'round the world by the time I go to bed!

  3. Thanks Tom! Glad you are enjoying! Feel free to subscribe by email/ follow the blog. Always coming out with new content and fun stuff!


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