Day 4: Ubud
Another day of scooter action around Ubud. First stop, Goa Gajah, which translates to 'Elephant Cave'. There are no elephants here. No one really knows how it got this name, but a tour guide told us that the inside of the cave looks like elephant skin. I guess, at a stretch, with a really good imagination, you could make that link. The cave itself was not at all note-worthy, but the small courtyard it was situated in was nice enough. We ventured off on a path through the forest surrounding the courtyard, which was by far the highlight of the site. Mossy boulders, twisting tree roots forming intricate patterns, a bubbling creek, mini waterfalls, a lily pond - we spent more time here than at the ancient monument we came to see.
Next on the Lonely Planet list was the Sacred Monkey Forest, otherwise known as the-place-where-there-are-a-billion-monkeys-running-around. It was set up as a sanctuary, aiming to conserve the animal and plant species within the forest. The monkeys had done well; there was no way they would be wiped out soon. In every direction we looked there were large troops of monkeys, either eating, grooming or fighting. Usually the fights were with other monkeys, but occasionally with people too. We saw one monkey steal a woman's water bottle. She fought hard to retrieve it. She lost.
It was fascinating watching the monkeys in a semi-natural environment (well, more natural than a zoo). We walked all over the peaceful forest, observing how the monkeys spent their time. One of the rangers lured a monkey into sitting on my head. I couldn't say I was impressed at first, especially when it started grooming my hair, but we got to know each other fairly quickly so that it was less awkward for both of us.
After a delicious tofu coconut curry (I could eat coconut curry every day) and wine for lunch, we decided to burn off the excess calories with a walk through the countryside. The Campuhan Ridge walk is a popular paved trek out of town, alongside hills, temples and rice fields. It was amazing how quickly the scenery changed from concrete Ubud to green fields blanketing the surrounding valleys. We made it to Karsa cafe, a common turnaround point for tourists on this hike. The setting was picture-perfect, sitting in bamboo huts over a small lake. It was a nice place to de-sweat before we made the return trip in the mid-afternoon heat.