Bali: Lunching With Monkeys at a Roadside Cafe

Karangasem Side Trip Part 5

A roadside cafe in Karangasem in Eastern Bali serves mouth-watering Balinese dishes. Sometimes diners get more than they bargain for as monkeys prowl the premises in search of peanuts and discarded food.

Belong-Bug Bug Village is a ramshackle road-side eatery that is short on sanitation but long on flavor. Located in Karangassem in Eastern Bali, it also offers hungry road warriors more than what they are expecting – a chance to get up close and personal with monkeys.

Penny Williams, Directing Executive Chef at Bali Asli Restaurant and Cooking School in Eastern Bali, and I hopped into her van on our ways back to Seminyak, where we were going to attend a capoeira class at Capoeira Bali.

Since we hadn’t had lunch yet, we stopped at a ramshackle café on the side of the road in a place called Bug Bug Village.

Not sure what “bug bug” means in Indonesian (except that when you duplicate a noun in Indonesian, you pluralize it), but judging by the number of bugs buzzing about I couldn’t help but think that this was yet another one of the numerous cognates (such as “imigrasi” (immigration) and “taksi” (taxi) and “polisi” (police) that facilitates the learning of Indonesian for English speakers.

Following Penny’s lead (she told me to ignore the bugs, and I did), I ordered the Tipat Santok, which is steamed vegetables mixed with a freshly ground peanut sauce (I think there were chilies and freshly squeezed lime juice, as well), and rice, which is steamed in woven palm leaf baskets.

Served cold, the mouth-watering dish was washed down with Tehbotol, which is “the essential warung food accompaniment,” Penny says.

Is Tehbotol Bali’s answer to Coca-Cola? Not sure, but the beverage was love at first sip, and it DID go well with the 2 meals that I washed them down with.

On our way out of the cafe, I noticed a troop of monkeys, which were tentatively prowling about – crawling along counters, jumping between tables, dangling from beams.

I said, “LOOK!” as I reached for my camera, hoping that I was not going to frighten them away.

But the monkeys didn’t scamper off as I had feared they might. Happily, these monkeys did not prove to be the least bit camera shy! Or maybe they knew that when cameras appear, nuts usually follow.

Rhe woman that had prepared our yummy lunch smilingly handed me a small packet of peanuts (the bill had already been paid).

Would the monkeys be as aggressive as the ones I encountered at the Uluwatu Temple on my first trip to Bali several years before?

Those monkeys would angrily snatch proffered nuts from your hands and run off as if you had done something bad to them. They did not seem the least bit appreciative of the kindness of strangers.

When I handed the Alpha Male of the troop a peanut (in its shell), he proved the perfect gentlemonkey, reaching out and taking it politely, without so much as touching my hand. And he waited patiently for the next proffered nut.

Momma Monkey had obviously taught Macho Monkey manners … Or maybe Macho Monkey had learned from experience that the road to more peanuts was paved with polite behavior …

No such luck when I tossed a peanut to some of the other monkeys in the Peanut Gallery. They were obviously much further down the pecking order …

OMG!!! Mr Macho, Macho Monkey went totally ballistic when another monkey adroitly caught a poorly tossed nut, making it crystal clear who was King of Monkey Mountain …

Peanuts depleted, I posed with the woman that had prepared our yummy lunch. Then I decided to take one last shot … an up-close portrait of Macho Monkey.

He waited patiently as I got my camera ready, not moving as I focused, and then … just as I was about to shoot … he bared his teeth …

Not sure if he was posing for me or giving me a warning: No peanut, no selfie!!!

Or maybe the monkey was a camera ham. Maybe he knew that I wanted an amusing photo that I could show my friends.

Was this Alpha Monkey’s way of saying, “Thanks for the nuts, boss!”

Or maybe Alpha Monkey just wanted to show off his teeth.


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