Ubud is a much quieter city than Kuta and we enjoyed it a lot more. We splurged for the holidays and stayed in a wonderfully comfortable place called Bucu View for $40/night. We had a whole 2-storey villa with two walls completely made of windows which overlooked the gorgeous sprawling grounds, and a big pool which was excellent for cooling off. On Boxing Day we walked down to the Monkey Forest, a good-sized forested park full of free-ranging Balinese long-tailed macaques. As soon as we entered we could see dozens of monkeys on the path and in the trees and there were lots of young ones, the newborns were my very favorite. After watching other tourists feeding the monkeys bananas I couldn’t resist and bought a small bunch myself. As soon as they were in my hand I was surrounded by big male monkeys and I nervously handed the first couple directly to them. Soon I got braver and held bananas over my head; immediately I felt a heavy weight tug on the bottom of my dress as a monkey nimbly climbed me like a tree and was on top of my head in an instant. With my last bananas I found much smaller monkeys and enticed them to climb up on my head just as easily; I was utterly delighted and still smile just writing about it.
After the feeding frenzy we continued walking around the expansive grounds and found some poor deer in a cramped and bare bones enclosure which was depressing; one buck sported a very handsome and exotic set of antlers but we weren’t sure of his species. The park was very busy but on a secluded path we found a female monkey with a brand new baby. He was very curious but each time he tried to crawl away from her to examine something she would tug him back by his tail, which she held on to like a leash. We passed another little monkey sitting on a railing that was pursing his lips and making a kind of cooing sound and to my joyful surprise he responded to my imitation of him by climbing up on top of my head. He was friendly until he started trying to steal a bracelet off my wrist, but Sean distracted him with a loud noise long enough for me to escape before he got too frustrated. I could have watched the monkeys all day but not long after that it started pouring rain and we hurried back to a shelter to prevent our cameras from getting wet. Under the shelter there were groups of bats hanging from the high roof and the ground below them was covered in their excrement.
When the rain let up we walked into town for lunch and while in the restaurant the rain returned in force, until the streets were veritable rivers and we were obliged to order a couple of beers to wait it out. Later that night we went to a traditional kecak dance, which took place in an open pavilion. Dozens of shirtless men sat in a circle and chanted, shrugging their shoulders and shaking their arms in the air. Two pretty girls in elegant costumes tip-toed around them in a kind of slow dance, moving their fingers more than anything else. They were joined by a couple men in dramatic chief and monkey costumes. There must have been a sort of cultural story that was acted out but it was lost on us; still it was a very unique performance. For the finale they lit a pile of coconut husks on fire and a barefoot man would kick the smoldering pile all over the floor right to our feet, then they would sweep the glowing husks back into a pile and repeat the procedure several times until nearly all the embers had died. The man’s feet were black with soot and must have been in pain.
The following day we took off on a walk Sean had read about. We didn’t find the scenic views of rice terraces that were advertised in the midst of the urban sprawl but it was a pretty and enjoyable walk nonetheless. We found another supermarket and I stocked up on exotic fruits before we returned for a quick swim in our pool and heading off for massages. It was only $7 for an hour and even though I was a little nervous for my first massage it was a lot less awkward than I had anticipated. Feeling happy and relaxed we headed for supper in high spirits, but we didn’t get far before we saw a black lab puppy that we had admired the day before sprawled on the road, recently hit by a car and still breathing but unconscious. Needless to say it was incredibly awful and I was infuriated that whoever had carelessly hit him had left him to die like that. A crowd of tourists had started to gather around but we both regretted later that we hadn’t thought of a way to stop his suffering. Later at supper as we stuffed ourselves with sushi another downpour of rain began and we walked back in ankle-deep rushing water. I finally realized the purpose of the yellow lines on every sidewalk was to help guide your footing in such a situation.