Monkey Bites in Paradise: Or, the Rabid Monkeys of Ubud

“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown.” – Ella Maillart

Have you ever been thankful for an experience you would never wish to repeat? One of my favourite things about travel is how, regardless of where you go and how much you plan for it, the unpredictable always happens. And often times, it can be more than a little unpleasant.

These are the times when you kick yourself, wondering how on earth you managed to get yourself into such a situation. These are the unpredictable stories that have you immediately regretting the decisions that led you up to the moment, wishing you’d checked your itinerary one more time, or wishing you’d never talked to “so-and-so who recommended this place”, or eaten that questionable street food your gut was telling you to avoid. Such stories can be painful, shameful, or downright expensive. These are the stories that make you want to scream. They are the ones that really get you panicking. They are the stories where I start to believe that maybe the unknown is better left unknown.

But the truth of the matter is this: when it’s over, it almost always makes for a good story. For all the discomfort and stress, your experience is rich. You emerge enlightened; just a little bit the wiser.

My situation is this: I went to Indonesia for Christmas. I visited the monkey forest in Ubud. I bought some bananas. I took some in my hand, and put the rest in my bag. I sat down on the steps. The monkeys came. I fed them.

I ran out of bananas. The monkeys were crawling all over me. One of them looked at me and cocked his head. I told him I had no more bananas (though I had plenty left in my backpack). I shrugged, “sorry.”

He turned as if to walk away, and I started to get up. In two seconds he flung himself around and took a bite out of my left arm.

And then he was gone. Back into the jungle.

As he didn’t break the skin, I figured I was fine. I even laughed about it. But I didn’t wash the wound, and I’m sure I probably touched it and then put my fingers in my eyes or something similarly stupid. And then I read this, at 3am six days later:

Rabies: Still a common problem in most parts of SE Asia, this uniformly fatal disease is spread by the bite or lick of an infected animal, most commonly a dog or monkey. You should seek medical advice immediately after any animal bite and commence postexposure treatment.-Lonely Planet

This monkey has singlehandedly cost me upwards of $250 dollars.

But I emerged enlightened; just a little bit the wiser? How so? I learned an invaluable lesson.

Never, ever, lie to a monkey.

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