I consider myself to be a relatively smart traveller. I have never been mugged before. I normally take all the right precautions. I always carry the equivalent of US$20 into my sock – just in case. I carry a ‘fake’ wallet to hand to thieves if they target me. And I am generally very aware of my surroundings and usually have a planned exit strategy if I feel the need to quickly back out of a situation.
But nothing could prepare me for the type of mugging I recently experienced in Ubud.
I felt pretty safe in Ubud. The local people were so lovely and there were tourists everywhere. But I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that some would take advantage, given the opportunity. If I was going to get ripped off in Ubud, I thought it would happen by means of purchasing ridiculously overpriced jewellery or clothing. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen at the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest!
But I can’t say I wasn’t warned! As we pulled up outside the Monkey Forest, our driver pointed to my earrings and in broken English said “no earrings, no necklace, no sunglasses – monkey like jewellery!”
I took off all my jewellery, but decided to take a risk with my hat, as I didn’t want to get sunburnt (not that sunburn was going to be a problem as the forest canopy blocked out 90% of the sun).
After we paid our entry fee, we saw some local men selling bananas for 20,000 rupee. Given that we saw them for sale at the markets that morning for 5,000 rupee we thought it was a bit of a rip off but were enticed by the opportunity to feed the monkeys.
…. Well, the cunningness of those little critters!
We got barely two steps inside the gates and about five of them had already sized me up, clearly eyeing off the bananas I was holding. I clutched the bunch tightly in my left arm, tore off a banana with my right hand and held it out to the first little monkey approaching me. (Would you be able to resist this little cutie?)
Instead of taking the banana I offered, the monkey used my outstretched arm like a tree branch, climbed up onto my shoulders and snatched the entire bunch right out of my left arm. Clearly one banana was not enough. Meanwhile, a second monkey jumped onto my shoulders and started fighting the first monkey for his share of the bananas.
The two monkeys were really going at it, screeching and biting each other. And suddenly it occurred to me that I could end up being bitten by one of these rabid animals.
Thankfully I didn’t get bitten… But one of them did try to steal my hat while attempting a monkey selfie.
Take this as a warning…. don’t buy the bananas if you visit the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest!