Posted by: aitzko | December 2, 2009

A monkey tries to eat my glasses.

Well, yesterday evening was certainly interesting.  I asked at the hotel desk about a driver, and the girl got her friend to take me – a young Balinese guy.  I have no idea how to write his name, but honestly, it sounded closest to the Australian greeting, “G’day”, so that’s what we’ll call him.  G’day was awesome, really nice, but his English is really limited, and so is my Bahasa Indonesia (the only thing I can say is Terima kasih – thank you), so we attempted to make conversation.  He’s originally from a village about three hours from Kuta, and he said he doesn’t get to see his family that often – only when he goes home for a ceremony.  He’s got 3 brothers.

So he drove me to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, a temple on the southern coast of Bali.  It’s set really high up on these cliffs – the view is utterly gorgeous.  G’day had warned me about the monkeys, and I swear I was listening, but I just wanted to take a picture of the cliffs.  I had been wearing my glasses – my contact solution thingy had tipped over in the night, and therefore, when I tried to put my contacts in, my eyes were burning – not a great feeling.  so i was wearing my glasses, and G’day had warned me that the monkeys would steal them, so I was trying to be as careful as possible.

I apparently was nowhere near careful enough.

I went to take a picture, stopped paying attention to the damn monkeys for one second, and the stupid thing took my glasses!  He jumped on my back and snatched them right off my face.  I had no idea what happened.  That little @%$#^!  G’day tried to take them back, but the monkey bared his teeth and hissed.  Whoah.  A guy who worked at the temple eventually managed to get them back by giving the monkey peanuts or some treat it wanted.  I thanked him profusely, but this is when things get a little weird.

After I thanked him, there were a couple seconds where about twenty people were staring at us.  I didn’t really know what to do next, until this teensy Balinese lady literally yelled, “MONEY!”


So they wanted me to give the guy money for saving my glasses.  Honestly, if I worked at a temple and had to spend most of my day rescuing stupid tourists’ glasses from vicious monkeys, I’d expect a little payment for my services too.  So obviously,  because I am awkward, I fumbled for my bag and pulled out the first bill I came across – 10,000 Rp.  But the guy refused to take it.  He held up two fingers, and it took me a few entirely too long seconds of staring at him blankly to realize that he wanted 20,000 Rp.  Oooookay.  For a second I was irritated – there was a set price?  How much if it was my camera?  But whatever- people were looking at me sort of irritatedly themselves – so I just handed him the money and moved on.

The whole thing left me feeling kind of weird and awkward, but I guess it’s just one of those things.  It’s not like it was a lot of money – I just hated feeling so embarrassed and unsure of myself.

Anyway, the sunset was still beautiful.  There was a Kechak performance at sunset, so I bought a ticket to watch.  The Kechak is a dance – it tells the story of Rama and his consort, Sita, and it was super cool.  There’s a group of maybe twenty five men who are like the “chorus,” and the entire time they chant “kechak,” but it’s in this sort of alternating way, and it sounds kind of like someone shaking a maraca (sp?).  It was really entertaining to watch, and the costumes were gorgeous and elaborate.  All of this is going on as the sun is setting over the cliffs – I took so many pictures it’s obscene.  One awesome thing about the dance is how much is going on in the dancers’ faces – when Sita thinks Rama is dead, she really looks like she’s about to cry.

Toward the end is the fire-dance part – which would have been super cool if a giant gust of wind hadn’t blown all the hot cinders directly into the crowd.  Ooops.

During the dance, I sat down amidst a tour group of French tourists.  They were loud and boisterous and fun, and they were talking about the monkeys.  I told them a monkey had tried to eat my glasses, and they were delighted that I spoke French!  Hooray practicing!  They assumed I was Canadian, and acted totally floored when I told them I was American.  They were a fun group, all in their 50s and older, but joking with each other like a bunch of teenagers.  They were from a town southwest of Paris, and they said there were 18 of them in their tour group – they were going home today.  I chatted with them for a while, and one was excited to hear about my trip.  He told  me how important it was to do your traveling while you’re young.  “Sans enfants… on est libre,” he said pretty wistfully.  Haha, his kids must have been a handful.

Anyway, the French tour group was fantastic, and it was nice to make some “friends.”   When it was over, they wished me luck on my travels.

When I finally got back to my hotel in Kuta, I still was feeling a little weird from the Monkey Incident, so I went to The Balcony (the restaurant attached to my hotel, where I get free and delicious breakfast every day) and had a frozen margarita, which cleared things up right away. 🙂  I chatted with the bartender – I think he felt kind of bad that I was by myself, but he was really cool!  His name was Made (mah- day) and we chatted about life in Bali.

Interesting factoid – pretty much everyone in Bali has one of four names, depending upon their birth order.  Wayan for the firstborn, Made for the second, Nyoman for the third, and Ketut for the fourth.  Same name, boy or girl.  When you get to the fifth kid, you start over at Wayan.  Naturally, this can cause a lot of confusion, so nicknames are common.  Mostly parents give nicknames, but sometimes as you get older, your name will change to include something about your appearance or something that you’ve done.  For instance, Wayan Cafe might be the person who owns the cafe down the street.  There’s a lot more detailed information on this really interesting practice, but this is the brief-overview-by-Amanda.

One more interesting factoid before I pack up my stuff and head to Ubud – approximately 8 out of 10 people, when they hear that I am from the US, go, “Barack Obama?” 🙂  Most people here are pretty proud that he went to school in Indonesia.  Haha, Made from the Balcony asked me if I liked him, and said, “No Bush?”  I told him not to get me started. 🙂

Okay, I’m off to Ubud this afternoon! More later.  Missing everybody!!



  1. OMG so jealous of your travels already! It sounds like you’re having a great time and I’m going to be excitedly reading and vicariously traveling through your blog while I’m stuck in Brooklyn. 😦

    Miss you tons, and may the Addy Dress Live On!

    (this is court, by the bye.)

    • Miss you too! Glad you’re enjoying the blog so far – I feel so pretentious when I’m like “oh, I’m keeping a blog…” but I’m glad it’s helping you travel vicariously 🙂

      Long live the Addy Dress! Boba Fett!

  2. Hey Amanda! I read through your blog and it sounds like you’re having an interesting adventure! Sorry to hear about the monkey incident, but hopefully the rest of your trip will be more smooth sailing. Reading your blog has made me more interested in traveling again this winter. Perhaps I’ll write a blog too.

    Have a fun and safe trip!


  3. ah, i’ve heard all about the monkeys at ulu watu… apparently the people who “save” your glasses/camera/whatever have actually conditioned the animals to act this way… and use them to make money. it’s actually kind of sad. sorry you had that awkward experience! but it sounds like the trip up there was worth it. looking forward to reading more about your trip 🙂


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