Jalan Monkey Forest, (or Monkey Forest Road) is a long stretch of narrow road
that borders the central 'urban' area of Ubud
, a bustling town in the center of Bali, Indonesia
On one end of the jalan is the Ubud marketplace
, an intricate multi-leveled makeshift maze of bustling exchange and bartering
. Both tourists and locals flood the marketplace from morning til night; the tourists to acquire any of the amazing crafts Bali
is famous for at ridiculously low prices, the locals to make their weekly purchases of household amenities, cooking ingredients
On the other end of the jalan is the great Monkey Forest
itself, an amazing expanse of cavernous woods draped with thick vines and overgrown mystical-looking knotted trees, intermittently accented with the carved stone scuptures of deities
and offering rocks that can be found throughout Bali. Monkey Forest is truly an awe inspiring place; a meditator's peaceful recluse, a photographer
's wet dream
, a botanist
's field study
, a hiker
's challenge, an explorer's vast opportunity
, and the stomping grounds
of thousands of monkeys.
In between, Jalan Monkey Forest stretches for the equivalent of about 10 blocks
, spotted with inexpensive hotels, money changers, open-air restaurants and more shopping establishments you could imagine possible, each one about the size of a large American front porch
. Strewn all over the concrete up and down the jalan are pairs upon pairs of colorful flip flops
(it is customary and polite to remove one's shoes before entering the shops), and countless intricately crafted bamboo leaf shells with rice, flower petals and incense (the Balinese ritualistically create these 'offerings' each day and place them near anything
to bring good luck
Bright blue bakso
carts roll up and down the jalan. The bakso cart is a Balinese standard comparable to the hot dog stand
in New York City
, appearing everywhere and ready to feed the masses. The bakso served up by these vendors is a brothy soup with fish-meatballs and your choice of noodles
. There are also other vendors with their tiny grills set up alongside the road, selling bags of drink, beef sate' and portions of rice and vegetables wrapped up in brown paper. The Balinese don't eat with utensils, not even chopsticks. They use their right hand. On the curb up and down the jalan you can see locals sitting alone or in groups, picking inside their brown paper wrappings and drinking water or strawberry flavored drink out of a small hole in the corner of a plastic bag.
There are more wild dogs in Ubud then there are people. Its a specific breed of dog, called 'Bali dog' and they are everywhere
. People step warily around them on the sidewalks of the jalan, motorbikes swerve around them in the middle of the street, vans stop and honk. They fight, they bark, they have sex, they eat, they trample, they run all over the place. Other animals one might see alongside the jalan include small chickens, beautifully plumed pheasants
, geckos of varying size and the occasional monkey that has wandered from the forest.
There is a stream of water constantly running alongside Jalan Monkey Forest in a thin, low surrey. The running water serves as many things. It can be a trash chute
, a bathroom
, a bath
, a drink for the animals
. Its just a constant.
In addition to the four main Ubud streets that start perpendicular to Monkey Forest Road, there are seemingly countless small walkways that lead to a world of goings-on
behind the jalan. Some of them are access to vast ricefields, others are like alleyways where vendors peddle and makeshift storefronts are erected and then taken down each day. Others are pathways that lead to other, smaller roads wide enough only for pedestrians and motorbikes. Hotel Oka Wati
can only be reached by way of one of these tributary paths off of Jalan Monkey Forest, right across from where Jalan Dewisita
begins. If you ever find yourself in the area and need a place to stay, look for it.