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  Hanging Out With the Monkey

Monkeys, considered descendants of General Hanuman in Hindu mythology, occupy a semi-divine status on Bali and are allowed to proliferate around some of Bali's most sacred temples. The best places to watch monkeys (and people) are the monkey forests of Ubud and Sangeh.

Feeding time brings the monkeys down out of the trees around 10.00 a.m. and 04.00 p.m. when they are fed potatoes. Talk to one of the feeders-some have been caring for monkeys for the past 15 years. They have given the monkeys names and know the quirks of most individuals in the troop.

Even though signs often say, "Don't Feed The Monkeys", vendors sell peanuts and bananas at the gates. Gate price for peanuts is about Rp l000. It's the same story for bananas.

The secret for enjoying the monkeys without getting hurt or robbed is to sit very quietly and let them come to you. Before you arrive, put away all extra food, zip purses shut, and lock down cameras. The monkeys will search you. Take off any jewelry and paraphernalia that you don't need-they'll gladly take possession of earrings, necklaces, watches, and even hearing aids. Then either hand the food to them or simply lay it in the palm of your hand.

Always look out for the dominant male. He should be given food first to avoid fighting. Don't feed the sub-adults or you may get bitten by their mother. Never show your teeth when smiling at the animals as it's regarded as an aggressive gesture.

If you take these precautions, you can spend long stretches with the monkeys. They'll perch on your lap, drape a warm furry arm on your shoulder while they munch, and watch everything. They don't care to be petted at all.

Unwary tourists can get scratched or bitten by treating these creatures as pets, which is easy to do because they appear friendly. They are wild animals with all the dignity, free will, and unpredictability that implies.

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