In Bali, many temples are dedicated to Hanuman, the Monkey God. As such, monkeys are considered sacred and are staple parts of the Balinese Culture. This is evident through the plays they perform, the statues they venerate, and the temples they’ve built. You see it when you enter the Monkey Forest – a place overrun with tourists, yet also deeply dear to the people of Bali. It was at the Monkey Forest that I made my first primate friend—at a safe distance of course—out of this blatant baboon.
After journeying safely through the Monkey Forest, I was certain that all future primate encounters would be uneventful. After all, I followed the rules: no food, no small objects in hand, no chasing, petting, or grabbing the devious creatures. Who were the monkeys to harass me?
What I didn’t factor in, however, was the delicious smell of my feet. There’s no need to deny it: my feet are downright delectable. Or at least that’s one mischievous monkey believed.
The location: Uluwatu Temple.
The Monkey: Expert Thief.
One of the monkeys overheard my guide’s fear of me being a monkey magnet. This particular monkey – let’s call him Floppy – decided her words made perfect sense to him. Besides, he had been looking for a new tasty flip-flop to steal.
Floppy tried to act casual as he sidled up beside me. I had no food . . . not even a five dollar banana . . . so I assumed he wouldn’t stay long. Suddenly his paw was tugging the back of my shoe. “That’s mine!” I said – yes, I speak Monkienese – Floppy pulled away for precisely three seconds.
Then he nibbled on my big toe.
For some strange reason, I preferred to keep my toe over my $10 flip-flop.
“No!” my guide cried out. She couldn’t understand why I would give up my shoe. I chased after Floppy, but he jumped off the path and into the wooded area – my flip-flop in hand. I repeated the importance of my toes as my guide grabbed a stick and crept into the forest in a futile attempt to retrieve my flip-flop. Floppy loved my shoe. He began nibbling on it. That’s when I realized my sweaty feet must taste pretty good too – as good, if not more, than five dollar bananas.
Just as my guide was running out of steam, one of the monkey handlers shows up with a handful of potato chips. Floppy took the chips . . . and kept my shoe.
Now I could see why the monkeys ran the temple.
If Floppy was keeping my flip-flop, then I was going to document the occasion. I pulled out my camera phone and snapped a few photos of him hiding out under a truck.
He held my flip-flop in his arms like a precious gift before nibbling on the toe once again.
Hope was lost. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be spending the rest of the day barefoot.
I prepared myself to walk away. And then, without notice, Floppy dropped my flip-flop and sauntered away. Not a moment to lose, I reached down and grabbed my salvia-covered, punctured flip-flop before he could second-guess his decision.
Floppy bounded back towards me, but I stood my ground – with two flip-flops on my feet again, I felt unstoppable. I stared into his eyes, as if warning him to try and take my shoe again. He took a tentative step closer. I shook my head. Finally, after one more long and portent second, Floppy turned away.
I was victorious!
As for the flip-flop?
I continue to wear it proudly, puncture marks and all. It’s a lovely monument to remind myself: never trust a cute face.
What is one of your most ridiculous travel stories?