Sunday, December 29, 2013

Monkeys, Munkees and Minkeys

Munkee Fun in Fab Bali

Yes, yes I know that's not how you spell "monkey" but hey this is my blog and I'll slaughter the language if I feel like it. Let me say that monkeys are really cute, fun and playful… until they're not. I saw both sides of that equation during several encounters with our furry little simian buddies the last few months, particularly here on Bali. I should mention that while there are several kinds of monkeys in this general part of the world, unless you go looking, the only kind you are likely to see are Long-Tailed Macaques. About the size of a medium dog maybe. The lesson learned early was "NO FEEDING THE MONKEYS BANANAS" offered for sale by thoughtful vendors nearby  trying to make a living. That cute little group of moms and their babies will disappear and you'll find yourself in the middle of a Horde (I kid you not) of bigger, greedier males and short a few bananas. Then they will be all over you (literally) and demanding more food. You of course will have none and then they will get even more insistent… I think you get the picture.

On the "not cute" side of the equation, we were walking through the Pura Pulaki or Monkey Temple in NW Bali near Permuteran and were warned of the very aggressive monkeys there. We did see a lot theivery and overall poor relations between some of the local religious pilgrims and our furry counterparts but nothing menacing or overly aggressive. However, when we were leaving, one of them did end up with an attack that escalated very quickly as I stepped between in to help some protection. Then it got very interesting and I got to see how big his canine teeth really were. He wold charge and I would charge back but only enough to stop him and back him up a little. Then he would circle and charge/attack again and again. I'd charge back, but not so far that he felt corned or without options other than actual teeth sinkage someplace tender. I was pretty sure that if we turned and ran, someone would end bitten just as surely so we did this back and forth dance towards the exit steps until finally he gave up and we could pull a famous SnaggleTooth "Exit Stage Left" maneuver.
The primates in the Monkey Forest in Ubud were waaaaaayyyyy more congenial I think due to regular feeding and care by professionals and paid staff. I really liked this place and have walked through it many times in the week or so I've been in Ubud. Always something fun or cute to see and lots of amused tourists and their kids - fascinated with the monkeys as I think we all were or still are.
Some of the wonderful Monkey Forest...

Buffet line...

Some of the bigger males can be pretty big and aggresive although not much so in the Monkey Forest. The Temple at Pura Pulaki however was another story 

Some of the things I saw that sort of stuck in my mind about monkey encounters in the Ubud Monkey Forest and elsewhere:

  • We saw a monkey steal someones water bottle and cart it off to a safe distance. It then unscrewed the cap and drank the water like a human being would do. When the water bottle was empty he tossed it away and sauntered off… like some people would do….
  • While I was sitting on some steps while a nice German couple took pics with my iPhone camera, they pointed out that a young adult monkey was quietly unzipping the dual zips on my daypack and starting to get in, all without me feeling anything and in just a few seconds. This is a sticky zipper and that little rascal was almost totally in there all stealth like. Ninja Thief Monkeys indeed!!
  • There was a commotion and we all watched a young adult monkey wrestling with a large centipede (maybe about 6" long so large but not giant and about half the size of the one on my mat during evening Satsang in the Thailand Ashram but that is another story). He was not having a lot of luck until a really big Alpha Male stepped in and like a pro took control of the situation. Through an effective technique of roll and point, he did not get stung, but beat the poor "pede" to a pulp while having a little fun and then finished with a yummy snack. Burp!

There were lots other episodes like watching monkeys tear into other climbers packs and take off with any snacks tucked inside faster than you could blink. Watching even the oldest and most decrepit monkeys at the Tonsai cliffs in Thailand run circles around some truly burly talented climbers just struggling to stay on the same hunk of rock. Stuff in the 5.13 plus category if you're a climber. Sort of puts things in perspective for me as to who the real climbers are out there (hint - not us).

Chapeau means "Hat"...
Huge and amazing Komodo Dragon sculpture just lurking there in the depths...

"Yeah so what do you want Mr Fancy Blue T-Shirt Guy Huh??? You lookin' at me? You Lookin' at ME…??"

Wrapper says Sweet Potato, but pretty sure there's a banana in there somewhere...
Yeah this sculpture is pretty much exactly what you think it is… 

Beautiful river canyon and sculptures down at the bottom of the Monkey Forest
Yeah is there anything cuter than a baby monkey??

So that is all I have right now on monkeys except that it still sometimes seems a little weird to be walking down the street here and passing dogs or cats and then have a monkey just run across the road in front of you or drop in from a tree branch. Pretty cool stuff. The kid in me sure likes it anyway. Til next time...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bali Petting Zoo

Roadside Attraction in Bali - The Petting Zoo

During the approximately 4 hour drive from Permuteran to Ubud in Bali, the driver came up with several unsolicited ideas for interesting stops and did not disappoint. The first was this funky roadside "Petting Zoo" stuffed between the ubiquitous and almost uniformly identical little "convenience stores" that line virtually every street, path and byway in most of SE Asia. They're tiny little micro businesses that seem to sell almost the same things in the same way: soft drinks, water, snacks, local fruits and propane canisters etc. A lot of them are little more than shallow recesses in the wall and at night they are either dark or lit by about a 25 watt bulb. Very hard to see what's in there and very different from the brightly lit shops and malls that westerners are familiar with.

But I digress. This about the Petting Zoo and not small business enterprise. This is not the petting zoo most people are probably familiar with featuring fuzzy little bunnies and other fluffy woodland cuteness  for safe and fun handling by pre-schoolers. Nope. These are Pythons, Giant Scorpions and Fruit Bats, Monitor Lizards, Civet Cats (sort of like a cross between a Lynx and a Mongoose with pretty big teeth) and brightly colored birds that only seem interested in biting someones fingers off.
The Scorpion was huge, but that is not my hand. The Keeper didn't offer this one and I didn't insist haha. With hindsight though,  I kind of wish I had. 
Giant Fruit Bat… at least I hoped so…

The Civet Cat was actually really fun and playful. Pretty soft fur and ticklish. He had plenty of energy and seemed very comfortable crawling around on you. This is source of the famed and very expensive Coffee Luwak in Bali.

The Python was cool and you could feel how powerful it was, but probably not a really big one as these creatures go.
I didn't include pictures of all the animals on display here and maybe I'll add them later, but these should give some idea of what they had here. It was a family run operation and they all seemed to treat the animals with care and respect. I don't think the Giant Bats weren't even tethered and could have flown away if they so desired. They didn't seem to mind being handled at all even though I saw them get pretty snippy with each other a few times. They had an interesting feel to their wings and feet too.

I really liked the Civet Cat. It had a really great energy and curiosity as it crawled around your shoulders and head. Like a house pet, which I'm guessing it might even have been. The Keeper/Owner didn't offer me to hold the super jumbo Scorpions and at the time I didn't object at all. Afterward though, I sort of felt like I missed something and maybe should have at least asked. It didn't seem agitated or in a hurry to sting anyone at any rate.

The next stop the driver made was at a Coffee Plantation and (Surprise!!) Retail Shop where we tasted many kinds of seriously tasty coffees, infusions and teas including the option for a paid cup of famous Luwak Coffee. This is supposedly the most expensive coffee in the world and is purchased less for its taste (which isn't bad) than for it's curative and health properties. These are wholly debatable of course and it's difficult to prove the coffee you're spending beaucoup bucks for is even the genuine article. I'll maybe post pics of that portion at a later date if enough people are interested.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas in the Tropics

Christmas Trees in Bali and Thailand - Seasons Greetings!!

I have to admit I am surprised by the sheer number and variety of Christmas Trees I have seen during my time in Bali in Thailand. They are all over the place and someone has obviously taken a great deal of care and time to decorate them. Given that Bali is predominantly Hindu and Thailand is Buddhist, a lot of highly visible and ostensibly Christian symbols seemed a little unexpected to me. The mind does wander into the conclusion that their appearance is strictly crass commercialism and I do see that, but I also think there is a lot of acceptance and respect here for other belief systems and cultures. It did at first seem strange to me to see XmasTrees parked next to Palm Trees and other gorgeous tropical plants, but I have become used to it now and it and no longer strikes me in the same slightly contradictory fashion.

I have been totally impressed by these creations so here is a small random sampling. Enjoy!!

Til next time - Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week One in Bali

A Few Pictures and Thoughts from My First Week in Bali

Sorry I have been offline for a while, but I spent a week in hospital in Thailand and then more than another week holed up in a hotel recuperating as an outpatient before I was fit to travel again. I will write a short summary of those events later, but meanwhile, I have moved to Bali until December 24th when I go to Sri Lanka. I have been in Bali nearly a week now and loving it. Scuba and Surfing here have been amazing fun and will definitely be doing more in the coming days at differing locations on the island.
Sunset from the hotel...

Bird of Paradise - gorgeous flowers here!
Learning to surf -  saw someone pull off a headstand on the board so thought I would try it too...

Learning to surf - in Kuta
Finally feeling well enough to exercise and practice yoga again. Mayurasana at the infinity pool..

Crow at the infinity pool...

Getting into Scorpion on my towel. Struggling with this one since being sick though...
One of the things I am happy about is regaining the ability to exercise and practice yoga again after being sick for so long. Still weak and I think it'll take a while to regain everything, but it feels wonderful to be active once more.
I am surprised but I have been experiencing real issues with Internet speed and connectivity here that has made communications and blog posts a little challenging. It might be the specific location or something else, but I am hoping I'll be able to post more stuff more often than I have of late. There are so many fun things to do here and lots to explore. I didn't have an underwater camera earlier so wasn't able to post pictures from the scuba diving, but finally found a place near Denpasar where I purchased one. It looks decent and once I get the hang of it, I am hoping to get some images from the next scuba sessions as well as snorkeling. The marine life and underwater geography here is gorgeous. Til next time...