1-25 Jogja: The Lies of Google Maps and Pushy Rickshaw Drivers

The view from the train window.

We took a train from Jember, in the southeast corner of Java, to Jogjakarta (Jogja) in the central south of Java. Of course, the train route ran through Surabaya, in the northeast corner, which meant we did a nice big V of train rides. It was fun to see the beautiful countryside and the train was comfortable. Even Jason had enough legroom.

We arrived in Jogja a bit after 10 pm. We’d booked a hostel that google maps told us was near the train station, specifically so that we could walk from the train station to the hostel and back to the train station 2 days later. We set off, after refusing several taxis and rickshaws, by following the map on Jason’s phone.

Half an hour later, we were in the right area. So, we start looking around for the hotel. We see a few swank hotels, cheek-by-jowl with some super run down places, but nothing in the sweet spot of “cheap,” “safe,” and “clean.” We keep walking, thinking maybe the addresses are just a little off. Since we are carrying our hiking bags and looking a wee bit lost, we have become prime targets for rickshaw drivers. (Seriously, they are like vulture around carrion when they see people carrying baggage.)

We politely and firmly declined several more offers and continued walking. We pass a gentleman in a parking lot. We keep walking. The gentleman from the parking lot jumps on his rickshaw, bikes down the block and swings around so that he meets us at the corner. He starts asking where we are going and saying, “cheap, cheap” more times than a hungry baby bird. Since we are now lost, we figured we should at least ask directions. He looks at the address and starts shaking his head. It is, “Long way. Long way. No walking. Long way.” When we didn’t immediately agree to his offer, he started in on a different line, “Cheap place, very close. I take you. Very close. Very cheap. My brother give you good price.”

We were walking around in there, except darker. 

Now, had he said something that translated to, “Are you lost? Can I help point you in the right direction or give you a ride?” We might have said, “Umm, yes please. We are lost.” And then when he said, “That’s is very far away, you are better off getting a ride. Or maybe you’d like to go someplace closer, its cheap and clean. My brother runs it,” I might have believed him. But since his come on was, “cheap, cheap” and “You come. You ride,” you can’t blame me for being skeptical of his motives.

We said politely no, and then more forcefully no and then we just walked away. We headed back up the block where the rest of the vultures were napping in their rickshaws. Like sharks smelling blood, they started hawking, too. We ignored them and kept moving.

The foyer of the hotel.  We made it eventually.

After a few more minutes and an attempted phone call to the hotel, we ducked into a parking lot with a security guard. We showed the address to the security guard and asked direction. He hadn’t a clue, but it gave us a minute of breathing space and another chance to call. Still no answer at the hotel.

We left the parking lot and walked into one of the swank hotels. (One of the less swank, I might point out.) We asked at the hotel desk where our hotel was. He pulled out and map and pointed to the other end of the city. We asked him to call a taxi.

The taxi came and very politely asked where we were going. We showed him the address, he nodded and took us straight there, without any hassling.

Maybe I should be more trusting of strangers when they tell me that the hotel is “Long way. No walking. Long way.” But I can’t help but think it is a conflict of interests when someone who has been hawking hard then tells me the only option is in his rickshaw.

1-24 Ringing in the New Year with Guinness in Jember, Indonesia

We spent New Year in a hotel bar in Indonesia. This might sound like we spent it alone, having not ventured out, in fact it was quite the opposite.

Late night, or is that early morning? in the rain, like you do on the New Year’s

We left our hotel to find a taxi in the rain. After fifteen minutes, we determined that there were an insufficient number of taxis on the road, at which point we went back to our hotel and asked them to call a taxi. Fifteen minutes after that, we were in a taxi with a “broken meter.” In Indonesia, taxi drivers tell you the meter is broken so they can over charge. This is particularly used against tourists. Lucky for us, we were going to meet our two PCV friends. That meant, they could argue with the taxi driver in Bahasa, making it much less likely we’d get scammed. We hoped.

After a wrong turn and a phone call to the PCVs which got passed to the driver, we found them. They then noticed that the meter wasn’t working, which caused a bit of an argument. The PCV in the back with us quietly muttered, “If we get out and give him money, just jump out.” The driver and the PCV in the front seat reached an agreement and we continued on our way.

We were planning on going to a club, because why not. We arrived at the club doors and it looked swanky. We sent the best dressed of us in to scope out the scene. He came back out 60 seconds later and jumped back in the taxi. It had a $10 cover fee and a dress code. Not our kind of place. (A $10 cover fee is steep for Indonesia. We were both eating entire meals for $6-8.)

Chow time!  The low tables were standard for street food stalls.

We continued on, at no additional fee from the scammy taxi driver, to a slightly less swanky hotel. The month before, the PCVs had found cheap drinks there. They had increased their prices for the evening, so it was $3 for a giant bottle of Guinness, instead of $2. The PCVs were disappointed. We were delighted to have Guinness.

We spent the next three hours drinking Guinness and discussing politics, corrupt governments, educational policy, the importance of fiction, and other such weighty topics. I also got a serving of banana fritters topped with chocolate sauce and parmesan cheese. I know it sounds weird, but I promise, it worked.

A few minutes to midnight, we started a countdown on Jason’s phone. At 20 seconds to midnight, our companions interrupted the band to get the countdown going. Since we were the only ones in the bar, that wasn’t really a problem. We toasted the New Year with double shots of Johnny Walker.

Sorry it is blurry.  Long exposure + Alcohol = Difficult.

The bar was trying to close, so we decided to leave and go find some food. We ended up at a park of some sort that had wonderful patios lined with food stalls. It took a few tries, but we found one that suited our PCV friends and ordered food. Indonesian food is perfect drunk food and fairly vegetarian friendly. I had fried noodles with veggies and egg.

We walked from there back to our hotel. We got in at two in the morning, like one should on New Year. I woke up with a minor hangover, which was justly deserved. Luckily, it didn’t last long since we were on a train from Jember to Surabaya to Jogjakarta at 10:30 in the morning.

1-25 Peace Corps Indonesia

Getting from the bus stop to his house.  (Jason is in front.)

While in Indonesia, we spent a night at another PCV’s site. While we were visiting, he had another PCV visiting as well. The four of us stayed up way too late chatting about life in Peace Corps, how similar and different our lives were and all the food we missed eating.

Let’s start with some differences. The most obvious was his housing. He lived in a house with a family, in which they lived downstairs and he lived on the second floor. Please note: there was a second floor. The house had indoor plumbing, a gas stove, running water, electricity, glass windows and internet. He was required to give a portion of his living allowance to his family each month, for which in return they fed him and payed the bills.

He worked in a school about half an hour away and biked to and from work each day. He had a set schedule at school which had him there every day for most of the day.

Visiting the nearest town was a 30 minute bike ride and a 15 minute bus ride away. Getting to the capital and the PC office was a 30 minute bike ride and a 4 hour bus ride. The whole thing could be accomplished for less than $20.

Shot from the second floor.  Look at all the buildings!

And that’s about where the differences stopped.

When we went for a walk, we got a lot of “tourist” comments. Things like “You from?” shouted from behind us, (meaning “Where are you from?” and often used as a greeting/conversation started with outsiders). Because, you know, waiting until someone walks completely past you is a good time to start a conversation with them.

We bumped into one of his students on the road. Not like we were walking someplace that the PCV was well-known and ran into someone he knows from there. No, we were in an area the PCV had never visited in his town. The student immediately recognized the PCV and stopped to say hi. They chatted for five minutes before we moved on.

We shared a common sense of disbelief, frustration and confusion over some of the local customs. Even though the cultures are wildly different, the emotional response of being outside your culture is the same. We swapped a ton of stories about the intensity of cultural activities, everything from funerals to butchering animals to church holidays.

Transport, fun in every country.  Also, bananas seem to be rampant.

The laid back attitude that comes from an overwhelming amount of confusion. Its not that we don’t want to know what going on, its that we’ve accepted that we might never know what’s going on. So instead, we just roll with it. Now is time to butcher a pig? Ok. Now is time to take a nap in the middle of the floor? Ok. Now is time to take off shoes and pray in the temple? Ok. Now is time to teach class? Ok. Now is time to wait for the bus? We’re still waiting for the bus? You mean the bus isn’t coming today? Ok.

Overall, it was striking how our lives paralleled theirs. Though the culture and trappings of life are different, the things we took away from Peace Corps were very much the same. Our attitudes, our hopes for our communities and our love for our country were all similar.

The other major theme of similarity? TexMex is amazing and how have other places not caught on?

1-14 Silversmithing or How to Make a Silver Ring

I want to be a silversmith when I grow up.

The paper-coated silver strips

No. Seriously. I love blacksmithing (hence the blacksmithing class in my past), but it is hard to do mostly because it requires space and materials. I did do some on the little forge I built during the class, but it was always kind of a pain. I think silversmithing solves that problem.

We took a silversmithing mini-course. When I saw it on the travel sites, of course I got excited. Anything creative does that to me. It seemed cool and was well-recommended on all the sites I saw, so I contacted the place and set up an appointment. (More complicated that one might think, but it all worked out in the end.)

Punching out the letters

We walked up to a beautiful archway at 9am. Inside the archway was a family compound. We went in. The smiling grandma in the first doorway pointed us further back. The two kids in school uniforms on the next porch pointed us further back. We went down a small slope and into an open-sided pavilion. A middle-aged woman put down her wash and ushered us over to chairs. She brought us water and a bunch of books of silver jewelery pictures. We sat and slipped through them while we waited for something else to happen.

It needs to be noted that during our brief stopover in Australia, Jason once again “misplaced” his ring. He left it at a friend’s house while he showered. So, Jason was shy a wedding ring and we were making silver jewelery. Does this seem like an excellent opportunity to anyone else? We decided on rings. Just to be cute, we went for matching ones.

Welding the rings shut

The teachers at the place were excellent. They sized the ring, then used calipers and the ring size to mark out a piece of paper in the correct shape. We drew out our design. They cut out the design and glued it to a strip of silver.

Once the strip was glued on, we had to etch the design into the metal. We used a handful of tiny punches to cut the lines. The punches were straight and curved and came in a variety of widths, curvature and lengths. It was like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, except instead of pieces I had to match the line to the right shape and size of punch. It took us quite awhile.

When the etching was done, we flipped the strips over and punched “TEGABIS” into the backs. I messed up the “E” in mine. When the teachers saw it, they took it away, soldered new silver over and gave it back for me to fix. Did I mention they were good teachers?

Grinding, sanding and polishing to a smooth finish

The teachers took and pounded the strips into rings by hitting the metal around a round stick with the back of the hammer. We each had to try the ring on a few times, and cut out tiny strips of metal, to get the right fit. When we were satisfied, they welded the ring shut.

After the ring was a ring, I thought we were done. Nope. First, the teacher painted them with an oxidizing agent, then he left them in front of a hairdryer. When the oxidizing agent had properly taken affect, we started buffing them. Three rounds of buffing made them shiny and smooth, then we repeated that on the inside.

Rings!

At the end of the morning, we had two new rings and I have a new hobby. (Well, once I get home I will have a new hobby.) We joked that now we have wedding rings. It took us 5 years and a unique path, but isn’t that just a reflection of us?

1-14 Cockfighting and Warungs

The men, lining up with their cocks.

Our transition into “travel mode” was fairly easy. We started in Bali, one of the travel destinations of the world where they are as used to tourists as I am to cockroaches. (That comparison speaks to the last two years of my life as much as anything else.) A lot of people spoke “tourist English.” That’s enough to hawk wares, order food and point to destinations. It makes being a tourist a lot easier.

So, what I’m saying is that we’d been taking it easy. We weren’t throwing ourselves in the deep end and trying to travel on local buses first thing. I did want to start easing into things more though, so I was determined to get out a bit more.

Opportunity number one occurred while we were waiting for the herons. We were waiting on the roof of someone’s house/shop. Below us, men started to amble up with chickens. They were sitting the road, laughing and chatting and petting these roosters. I have a very low opinion of chickens, so I thought they were a bit crazy to be petting them. Then they started riling them up, stroking their shoulders against the feathers and pointing them at other roosters. Once two roosters got going, the men would let them posture and start to fight while keeping a firm grip on the rooster’s tail. When the rooster got too aggressive, they would each pull their fowl back by the tail feathers and settle it down. This was meant to train the roosters on how to fight without damaging them.

Hold on tight to your tail feathers!

One of the other tourists we were waiting with decided the roosters were more interesting than the herons and went down to egg on the men. He didn’t quite get that they were training them and kept offering to place bets on the fight. His additions made watching them all the more entertaining. As the evening wore on, they did let two cocks fight for a brief moment.

More than the cockfight, it was interesting to see the process. As the day was winding down, the men started to gather in front of the shop. They fetched their roosters from wherever it was they spent the day and then started to congregate. They joked and gossiped like old friends. The cockfighting was really just a side gig, because what they were really doing was unwinding from the day. That became more and more apparent to me as the other tourist tried to get them to engage in the fight part. He didn’t get that it wasn’t about the fighting, it was about the socializing.

Once we got back, we decided to go find food. We’d been playing it pretty safe, eating in restaurants that had English translations on the menu or at the hotel. I wanted to venture out into the unknown. We went to a warungor local food stall. The one we ended up in was pretty local, but still had minimal English translations on the menu. (It is Bali, afterall.)

A street warung in Jember (a few days after this post.)

With very few problems, we managed to order food and drinks. Then we sat and waited. The place was dimly light and a bit smoky from the cooking, incense and cigarettes. We alternated between watching a gecko climb out from under the calendar pinned to the wall and the soap opera playing on the tiny TV in the corner.

The food was decent. Jason thinks Indonesian food is delicious since it mostly consists of fried noodles or rice. I think it is delicious because it has tempeh and tofu. We both win.

Going out was not record shattering. I did not have some epiphany about life. But it felt good to push the bubble and step away from the touristy things. Besides, it is better food at a better price.

1-8 Retroactive: Fest Napuan

 Retroactive = All things Vanuatu that I haven’t had time to write due to finishing the book.

Arno, rocking out on stage.  (He’s a tutor at the youth center, too.)

Fest Napuan is an annual music festival in Vanuatu. It is a Big Deal for people in Vila or involved in the music scene in Vanuatu. The organizing committee selects 3-5 international bands and pays their way to Vanuatu and there are competitions for Vanuatu bands to win slots in the performance schedule.

The first night is known as Fest Nalenga and is run by Wan SmolBag Youth Center. Needless to say, it was insane. Early on, they asked if I, and the photo class, would like to do the photography. I said yes, then made them promise that it would be me and photo class doing it, not having it co-opted by an outside organization. They agreed that the outside organization would have no claim on us, so I happily went ahead with organizing 4 nights of photography class.

She tried to get people to dance.  It was hilarious.

We arrived at Saralana Park around 5 on Thursday. We took lots of pretty pictures of the sunset, the stalls and other such things while waiting for the bands to show up. The bands showed up and we continued taking lots of pretty pictures. I got some pretty great ones of the hip hop dancers (though I was shooting on WSB’s camera, not mine), and we had a good time.

She rocked the dancing on stage.  It was great.

We had to beg a bit to get media passes for the next three nights, but we made it work. The organizers were, justifiably, unwilling to give just anyone a pass. So, my co-teacher asked very nicely if his pass could extend to cover his students. They agreed that as long as his students were well-behaved, it wouldn’t be an issue. We made sure they were well-behaved. I got to know the security guard on our little corner, so over the next few nights, he recognized me and the students. (He is now teaching our martial arts class, but that’s a different story.)

The youth learned a latin-style dance.

The music was excellent all week. It varied from string band to reggae to a group for Madagascar doing a local music/reggae fusion thing and a group from someplace in central Africa (I’ve forgotten where) that did a fantastic local music and drums/rock fusion. The headliners were Rise of the Morning Star, a music group made up of people from all over the South Pacific who are raising awareness of the Free West Papau movement, and Stan and the Earth Force, the top reggae band in the South Pacific. Though I enjoyed both those groups, the all-women’s ground was my favorite. The lead singer was not afraid to dance, to jump

out in the crowd and to use her music to tell people to respect women, end domestic violence and educate their daughters. They were pretty great.

Despite working a full week, I still went and ran my photo class (and practiced my own photography, while listening to great live music) from 5pm-10pm every night. Saturday we stayed even later. By Sunday, I was completely wiped out.

Stan and the Earth Force

Let me rant for a short time. I made it very clear to my students that there are a few rules of being a professional.

  1. Do not block the view of the audience. They are not here to see your bum, they are here to watch the performers.
  2. Do not use a flash. Figure out how to use the available light to make an interesting photo. The flash is distracting to the performers and often makes the photo look flat.
  3. Be respectful of the organizers and security personnel. If they tell you to move, move.

I consider these rules to be the absolute basics of being a professional. (Well, I guess more basic would be, “Be respectful of other performers, crew and, you know, everybody.”) I wish all the organizations had chosen to teach their students those basics. Or failing that, would have at least taught their students how to use their camera well enough to turn off the flash in low-light so that they had the option of shooting that way.

Ok, without spoiling the names of the organizations, I’m done ranting.

It was a fun week full of music. It was also an exhausting week full of teaching and working. You might ask what Jason was doing while I was busy teaching photography classes? He was drinking kava with our brothers. Sometimes, he’d even bring me a shell.

1-8 Birdies!

Birdie on a temple…

We walked into a tourist information shop looking to book a ride to the airport for the next day. There aren’t really any public tourist information booths in Ubud, so every place is trying to sell you tours, drivers and tickets. While we were there, I asked about trips to see the herons come home to roost. I had barely asked and the guy was calling his driver to come pick us up and take us there immediately. We decided to roll with it.

One local myth says that the people of Petulu were poor and had to walk very far to find work or to go to their gardens. They felt that they had angered the gods and that was why they were being punished with a hard life. They decided to hold a major feast and ceremony at their temple for three days. They hoped that it would please the gods and they would make it possible for the people to lead easier lives. On the final day of the ceremony, the herons came and roosted in the trees. In the morning, they left but at night they returned. They made their nests in the trees around the village and raised the chicks there. The people knew that the gods had seen their ceremony and agreed to make their lives easier because now they have many people who use the street, both for tourism and as a through-way which means they can make their living closer to home.

And you thought the pigeon poop was a problem.

A second legend says the birds are the spirits of the people killed in a battle that occurred the day they arrived. I didn’t get as much information on that legend. It seemed like the people in the village believed the first while the people outside the village believed the second.

Coming home to roost.

The birds were everywhere. There were no less than twenty nests in every tree on the street. While we were there, it was nesting season, so there were bunches of baby birds peaking over the edges of the nests or wrestling with their parents. For a baby animal, bird babies are not that cute. They are so ugly they are cute, but they are not in their own right, cute. I guess birds in general are not usually cute. They are usual majestic or graceful, but the hatchlings were neither of those yet.

Look close at the nest to find the baby.

At sunset, the birds who have been out hunting all day, come back. During the not-nesting seasons, they come back by the hundreds in great flocks. While we watched, there were several groups that came back about two hundred at a time. That was neat, but not the awe-inspiring mass we’d heard about. In fairness, I got to see birdies, so I think it balances out in the end.

1-8 Museums and Rice Paddies

The gates to the museum.  Impressive, no?

Our second day in Ubud, we decided to go look for culture and rice paddies. The Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) was supposed to be one of the best art museums in Bali, and it was in the same direction as some rice paddies I wanted to take pictures of. So, we went exploring.

The ARMA was pretty neat. As usual, I don’t have the artistic background to appreciate modern art. There were 2 pieces that stood out to me. One was a painting covered in religious symbols. Each symbol was in a little box and the boxes made rows. I think if I knew more about the symbols in question, it would have been a fascinating piece. As it was, I could recognize the Hindu and Buddhist origins but that was about all. The second artist had squeezed the paint out of the tube in long lines. She layered them on top of each other with spaces in between to make an amazing 3D effect in the rice fields, on the hat of the workers and the thatch of the houses. I thought that was pretty cool.

Me, trying to carve. 

More interesting was the “traditional” section. There were traditional style paintings from a huge range of time periods. The older ones were batik images showing scenes from Hindu epics while the newest one depicted the Tiger plane crash in April, 2013. It was interesting to see the different influences throughout history and how they chose to display them in the museum. The paintings from around WWII had a distinctly Japanese cast, everything from flowers and mountains to the way the human form was depicted. The more modern ones had more colors per image while the older ones had one main color and then one or two highlight colors. (I wonder if this comes from the history of batik, in which colors are layered over one another with the negative spaces created by wax.)

The path to the paddies

After we wandered around the galleries, we went out to the wood carving demonstration. The carver allowed us to try, but we were both being timid. I was afraid I would ruin it, which made him laugh. He didn’t seem to think I could, which looking at his other stuff, I’m not sure I could have. I think he would have just incorporated it back into the work and no one would ever know the difference.

We wandered out the back of the museum into a rice paddy. At first, the path was nice and neatly kept with stepping stones to walk on. Then, it turned into plain concrete, and finally into raised mud. I think we were further than most tourists go, but it was interesting. The first ones we were walking through were all plain mud. There were little nurseries in the corner with bright green rice seedlings while ducks roamed the mud. We met a nice old farmer working on blocking his seedlings from the ducks, but we couldn’t communicate much with him.

Duck, duck, grey duck (or brown duck)

After awhile, we wandered out the back of the rice paddies and into a little neighborhood. On a whim, we followed a sign that said “Kris display” (‘Kris’ are the Hindu swords.) The sign pointed into someone’s household complex. We walked in and stood there in confusion for awhile. An old lady found us and brought us to the kris display. There were a bunch of beautiful kris with stunningly rippled blades. She had a wide variety of ages of the blades. They were her husband’s but he died and She was trying to sell some to us, but we turned her down and left. I think she needs to sell them to a museum.

Down the alley

The contrast between the curated art museum and the back room of an old woman’s house didn’t even strike me until the evening. Somehow, it seemed to fit that both of those things would exist basically side-by-side in Ubud. There were a lot of contrasts like that in Ubud.

Rice paddies tucked in behind the main road

1-4 Puppet show, Dawn at Borobudur and Overnight Trains

What do these things have in common?

They are all my excuses for not writing a blog post or six today.  Sorry.  Here’s some pictures from the last few days instead.

Cockfighting on the streets of Ubud.

Jason working on his new wedding ring.  Maybe he’ll hold onto this one.
This altar was tucked into an alcove on a busy main street.  A small miracle must occur each time someone places an offering on this altar without getting hit by a car.

The roof was a bit low, I promise I’m not as grouchy as I look there.
Javanese shadow puppetry.  These puppets are beyond intricate, though much of the detail was lost in the photo.

Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist temple, just after dawn.

12-28 Sacred Monkey Forest!

Monkey on a wall! They did that a lot.

After a 2 hour taxi ride, we arrived in Ubud. The taxi took 2 hours due to traffic, it had nothing to do with the distance we traversed. I had happily forgotten traffic existed.

We wanted to go out and explore a bit in Ubud and we had most of the afternoon to do it in. We put our stuff in our room and asked directions to the Sacred Monkey Forest since everyone said it was near by.
As far as I can tell, the story with the Sacred Monkey Forest is that a very long time ago, a group of Hindus built a temple in a forest. The monkeys inhabiting the forest were either made sacred by the presence of the temple or the temple was put there because they were sacred monkeys. I’m not sure, but either way those monkeys have a great life.
Seriously, hundreds of statues.

The entry is a wide walkway with stone walls and terraces leading up into the forest. The entire sanctuary covers several acres in the heart of Ubud, but the part accessible to tourists is probably about a square mile. The paths were mostly paved with tightly fit stones and framed in knee-high walls. There were statues, cornices and other fancy stonework every ten feet and much of the wall itself was carved. Places like the inner temple had higher walls. The stone work throughout the complex was covered in green moss, that almost glowed when the sun hit it right. It was a pretty stunning effect on the guardian statues.

The highlight of the place is the monkeys. Technically, they are long-tailed macaques, but whatever. They were totally not afraid of humans, like they brought their still-nursing babies out among the humans kind of not afraid. They would scramble past us, jump across the path in front of us, walk right up and say hello, rummage people’s pockets for food, and sit and stare at you from the middle of the path.
This monkey wanted to check me for food.  (I had none)

I think my favorite monkey moment was trying to take a photo of a monkey, only to have another one walk up and start exploring my pants. I handed the camera to Jason and let it explore my hands and pockets until it got bored. SO CUTE!

Jason and I walked behind the inner temple, to an area that was a bit quieter. There was nothing spectacular to look at, so it wasn’t full of tourists, which made it spectacular in and of itself. (The inner temple was off limits to people who were not dressed appropriately and they did not provide appropriate clothing. Basically, it was off-limits to tourists.) We were standing in a small walkway between the temple wall and the forest watching the monkeys on the wall when a monkey fight broke out. A bunch of monkeys went jumping to and from the wall while monkey noises were coming from the forest. Jason and I froze and watched behind each other to make sure we were not going to get in the way of any teeth or claws. The monkeys leapt around for a bit and then settled back down. The whole time we were back there, the monkeys totally ignored us, even when I was within a foot of one. (It snuck up on me!)
I bribed it with a banana, but it kept showing its butt to the camera.

While observing other tourists (a different breed of monkey) Jason and I both had some strong reactions to their actions. One group of tourists had a handful of bananas. They were tossing the bananas back and forth over the monkey and teasing it. When it got pissed and swarmed someone for them, they were surprised and tried to tell it “no.” Then they were surprised when the monkey didn’t listen and grabbed the banana. This offended me rather a lot for several reasons. First off, this is not your space. This is a place, and these are monkeys, that are sacred to someone. By opening up the space to people who do not share their faith, they are being generous. We, as outsiders, need to be respectful of their faith. It isn’t important whether or not I share that faith, I still need to show respect to the people for whom this is a sacred place. Secondly, the monkeys are wild animals. They are going to follow their own rules and do their own thing, they aren’t going to listen to being told “no.” I feel like that was almost part of the sacred space. The monkeys do their thing outside of human control. Which brings me to the last realization. People like that expect that they can control everything. They think they should be able to ration out the bananas to the monkeys they like. We don’t get to control everything, sometimes the monkey takes the bananas.

The creek that fed the holy pool.

Speaking of monkeys and bananas. The women at the front gate were selling bananas to tourists with which to feed the monkeys. We each took a few bananas and held them up. The monkey ran up our clothes and stood on our shoulders to grab its banana and a few then sat their to eat their bananas. It was pretty cool.
We spent probably 3 hours exploring the sanctuary. Aside from the gorgeous main temple, there were hundreds of other statues and shrines scattered around everywhere. A larger shrine to a holy spring was down a bridge (carved like snakes/dragons). At the bottom, there was a small temple, and a pool. From behind the temple, we followed a narrow path along a creek to the shrine for the holy spring.



Basically, the Sacred Monkey Forest has all the things I love: old cultures, beautiful art and nature. I was a very happy camper.



The wall of the inner temple was a work of art in its own right.


In great reverence and respect, the monkey peed on the statue.


Monkey, pillar, monkey, pillar…
Jason also bribed this one with a banana.
Regal monkey is a roof ornament.







The littlest monkey was SO CUTE!
The shrine at the end of the creek.