‘The Higher A Monkey Climbs……’

There are many proverbs and sayings associated with monkeys, but in my book the outright winner has to be the ancient Chinese proverb  ‘The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of its arse’ (or ass depending on which side of the Pond you live on) Just the very mention of the words ‘bottom’ ‘arse’ or ‘bum’ always makes me howl with laughter unless of course that is, I happen to catch sight of my own in the mirror – in which case it’s tears.

Monkey Forest, Ubud. Bali

It’s not just proverbs, wise sayings or interesting bottoms that can be attributed to our anthropoid cousins but culture as well. In Hindu culture particularly, the monkey is revered. Lord Hanuman, the monkey king is a central character in the epic tale The Ramayana. He helps Rama in the fight to get his wife Sita back from the wicked clutches of the demon king Ravana. There is mention of Hanuman also in the Mahabharata and other texts. Monkeys are worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, devotion and perseverance amongst other things.

I’ve been putting off going to the Monkey Forest in Ubud for months. Every time we have visitors I try to steer them as far away from the Monkey Forest as possible and make every conceivable excuse known to man for reasons not to visit. The main excuse I use and which seems to do the trick, is that of being bitten by a monkey and getting rabies. I fill our visitors heads with such tales of terror, that they are only too happy (and grateful) to go anywhere I suggest so long as it’s not to the Monkey Forest.

The truth is folks that I really don’t have a clue about monkeys and rabies, or diseases that you can catch of monkeys, and I’m probably talking out of my arse when I speak of such things, but I’m sure I’ve read about it somewhere and it’s now stuck in my head. I actually love monkeys, they are beautiful creatures and after our visit to Uluwatu with Theo a couple of weeks ago I realized that I was being pathetic putting a dampener on the Monkey Forest excursions. With a change of heart due to Theo’s keenness to see more monkeys, I softened and we paid a visit there last week.

What struck me most was that it wasn’t the monkeys that were dangerous or a problem, they were simply getting on with their day. It was the Homo sapiens that were the pain in the butt; I’ve never seen so many stupid and ignorant people in my life. From the minute that you enter the forest, there are signs warning people about what not to do with the monkeys and to hide any valuables etc. It’s recommended for example not to hide food in pockets, or take in water bottles as the monkeys will target those that do. There are vendors by the gates selling vastly over-priced bananas and you can feed the monkeys with these but it was horrible to see the baiting that was going on by some of the tourists who would dangle bananas in front of them, then snatch them away and then scream and squeal when the monkeys jumped up on them. This then caused the monkeys to start fighting with one another as jealousy ensued when one got a banana and the other did not. I can quite see that people deserve to be bitten if this is the way that they treat the monkeys. I wonder what Hanuman would have to say on this matter?

Pete Nevin Drawings. Monkey Forest, Ubud.

Irishman went off to do some drawing, and Theo and I wandered through the sacred forest and found our way to the temple, Pura Dalem Agung. We spent a happy hour observing the groups of monkeys and their fascinating behaviour, and the mothers and their babies.  Theo was smitten and now longs for us to have our own monkey at home. I have to admit that I do rather fancy the idea of aping Frieda Kahlo, painting in the studio at home with a Balinese Macaque on my shoulder.

Pura Dalem Agung Temple. Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud.

And lastly, whilst I’m on the subject of bottoms, here are some great souvenirs that you can buy not only in Ubud, but just about in any tourist spot anywhere in Bali. I still haven’t figured out what the significance of penis shaped bottle openers has to do with Balinese culture but if I had to pick one, I’d go with the purple …..ummm, or maybe the black?

14 thoughts on “‘The Higher A Monkey Climbs……’

  1. I agree. The utter stupidity of the tourists in Monkey Forest is irritating at best. At worst they are a danger to themselves and others. I wish the Forest attendants in the green shirts and sarongs would throw them out on their sorry arses! (I borrow the lingo from your side of the pond!)


    1. Me too. I almost wished that I was a monkey! they had better manners, didn’t pick their noses so much and were a lot more considerate to those around them. There’s a lot to be said for studying monkeys, that’s for sure 🙂


  2. Love the photos. I have very happy memories of the monkeys there, although from what I remember they used to wait until i had my camera ready and then immediately start having sex


    1. Oh yes! plenty of sex! but that was what was so fun. Theo and I counted how long it took Mr Monkey to ‘come’……30 seconds was the record. Poor Mrs Monkey, I don’t think her needs were taken into consideration at all!


  3. Love the photos Lotts.

    As an aside, if you return to Literati & Archangel you will find several more chapters have been added


    1. Thanks darlin’.
      I’m looking forward to reading more of Literati & Archangel. A very talented boy you have, please tell him. I’ll see if I’m clever enough to do a link and put it on my lottienevin.com fbk page and also will send out some tweets once that’s all done.


  4. I can see the link between monkeys and ourselves, but particularly in Pete’s drawings.
    The fourth picture is definitely the image i see reflected at OMG O’clock in the morning when i am getting up for work.


  5. Your ending to this post, surprised in a OMG-hee-flipping-larious way!! I did a double-take, thinking seriously?? Am I seeing what I’m seeing?? I’ll just say this, the shape of these souvenirs was a very interesting (and in such variety, too!) choice to make into bottle openers. Or is there a deeper meaning that I’m missing?

    I was looking forward to hearing (and seeing) more about the monkeys and you certainly did not disappoint! Oh, and I love all the bottom talk, Lottie! Haha! Your photos are so beautiful. The little families of monkeys grooming and eating and socializing are adorable. I really enjoyed your Irishman’s drawings, as well (my fav is the last one). So glad Theo’s visit gave you the push to go.

    The most rude and ignorant tourists seem to be made up primarily of homo sapiens, blast them all to Hades. In fact, that’s a good idea isn’t it? We’ll just ship them all off to Hades for a tour. Maybe it would teach them better manners, or at the very least maybe they’d learn how to read signs.Glad you didn’t give in to any biting-the-tourist urges, though. I hear the internet is even slower in prison, and I’d really miss you, Sister. xoxo


  6. Lovely, I don’t think there is a deeper meaning (well it depends what you use them for of course) I know that there is a fancy trick that the girls do in Thailand opening beer bottles, so not to be outdone, maybe this is the Balinese version?? (not nearly so entertaining of course)

    Very glad you happy with the Monkey pictures. I love the last drawing too, and the one with the crazy hairstyle. As for the rude and ignorant tourists, I think your idea of sending them off to Hades is a great idea, except living my life as I do, I suspect that when I spring my mortal coil I shall end up there myself and I really do not want to bump into them again.

    I’m meant to be packing up the apartment today……I’ve got so far and have now given up. I can’t believe how much crap we managed to bring over from London. Cake tins????? I’ve never baked a cake in my life so why oh why did I bring out 4 of them? Maybe whilst I was packing up the house in London, I had some romantic notion that I would spend my days in the tropics making victoria sponges and dundee cakes and entertaining swathes of ‘interesting’ types who I’d picked up during my soujourn here!
    I had better think again….I’m ditching those bloody cake tins right now. They do not have a return ticket back to England.

    Still not sure when the move is as we are dealing with Indonesian ‘elastic time’ but it’s sometime this week. Onwards and upwards dear sister xoxo


  7. OMG Lottie,

    You made me laugh at the end of that post. I wasn’t expecting it. People should read this post just for that reason alone…..and to answer your question about what would humans do if apes did that to us? All I have to say is watch Planet of the Apes….I think i kind of like the idea of placing a few humans in cages and throwing bananas at them (just a few though…overall I am pacifist)



  8. Like you I have an irrational and unfounded fear of monkeys, even if I find them irresistably cute.
    I’m the sort of person that if a council, organisation goes to the effort of putting up signage about a hazard or to be cautious I take it rather seriously! I’m still trying to work out why I was so determined to book our villa in Ubud next year directly behind the monkey forest? After reading your post I feel a little better and am determined to man up (or perhaps Monkey up) and deal with it. I have been to enough Asian destinations now to wholly agree with you about the irritating humans that goad and totally ignore warnings about monkey ettiquette, only to be shocked and horrified when they get hurt..
    I drill all four of our children with the “look but do not touch” motto when encountering monkeys.
    Love the chinese proverb btw………


    1. I’m loving your comments, thank you! They are a great displacement activity from the packing that I should be doing at this very moment….we are supposed to be moving out of our apartment today.

      Yes, I’m the same in that I love the monkeys but am a little terrified of them too. The Monkey Forest was fun though and I’d go back for sure. It’s quite safe if you don’t mess with them. There are quite a few keepers on hand to help and act as guides so it’s well run. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it so don’t worry and have a great holiday.

      Right – no more monkeying around for me, I really have to go off to finish the packing! Thanks again Claire, Lottie 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s