Got to get that monkey off my back & no I’m not quoting Aerosmith

I’m switching it up on y’all. I always serve the main dish first and tip after, maybe it’s the waitress in me, but hey I’m below the equator so everything reversed right? 

TBV tip: 

1. When you make your budget add in extra funds for unexpected travel costs 

For some this cost could be crashing your motorbike in Vietnam and needing to get it repaired. For others, the emergency fund could be drained by not understanding the exchange rate and paying $150 dollars for a cab ride that should have been $11. Still others will have their deep pockets sewn shut due to getting bitten by a monkey and having to pay for a rabies vaccine. Take a wild guess which unlucky star I did not wish upon? 

I know y’all are probably chomping at the bit for a new That Blonde Vagabond post, well get ready because this story is (pea)nuts. Seriously this shit is banana (B-A-N-A-N-A-S)

The past few days I was in Ubud. A town nestled in the uplands on the island of Bali. Here you are a motorbike ride away from waterfalls, temples, mountains, and rice fields found in the surrounding rainforest. Perfect for getting in touch with nature… a little too perfect. 

The scene of the crime: The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The grounds are thick with trees, there are Hindu temples scattered about, and a multitude of monkeys meandering mischievously. For less than $4 you can walk along the stone footpaths and see the little guys up close. Plenty of guests will even buy bananas to feed the monkeys. I wasn’t too keen on this idea because my thought was, “what happens when I run out of bananas and they expect more?”

Everyone I talked to who had been to the forest told me it’s a fun experience that you only need to dedicate an hour there. No woes or words of warning except to be careful with your personal belongs. The monkeys have been known to steal phones and wallets out of people’s hands and run off. With bag firmly zipped shut and empty hands I entered the forest with no concerns. I went with another guy I met a few days prior. We lazily strolled around watching the monkeys chew on sweet potatoes and play with one another. At first it was a truly neat experience. Chatting, I asked if he got a rabies vaccine before leaving the US and like myself the answer was no. I even went on to say, “yeah my nurse said the vaccine is expensive so my advise to travelers is just stay away from the wild life.” Little did I know I was holding the iron that would seal my twist of fate. 

Normally the monkeys are supposed to be super chill and it’s not uncommon for them to interact with people. The signs leading into the forest tell you if a monkey does climb on you, remain calm (which I did) and not to scream (which I didn’t.) After ten minutes of walking around a monkey came up to me and tugged on the bottom of my Aladdin pants. Not wanting to moon the forest I simply grabbed the top of the waistband. Maybe this monkey thought I was challenging him to tug of war or he was mad I wouldn’t drop my pants on a first date. Either way this primate was not prime on being my mate because like a flash of lighting he ran up my leg and immediately bit me on the shoulder and head. The other piece of advice the sings give is not to look the monkeys in the eye because they find it threatening. I know they say hindsight is 20/20, but trust me I don’t have eyes in the back of my head to threaten this guy. Possibly this monkey was a bit old and senile and thought my golden hair was a bunch of bananas because after his unconventional hello, he perched on my head and showed no sign of making moves. 

So there I am: half crouched down, hands shielding face, petrified to move. I envisioned having to sport this monkey as a fetching hat until the day shoulder pads came back in style. Normally one to dance even with no music, this moment in time I had no moves. I wasn’t just up a creek without a paddle, I was up a creek without a damn canoe. The guy I was with offered his flip flop up as an alternative chew toy, after the monkey had a few bites he pretended to throw the shoes and luckily the monkey jumped off. (Told you a rather fetching hat) We then hightailed it out of the forest. 

I asked my savior if I needed to get a rabies shot to which his answer was pancakes hands. 

An example of pancake hands aka the universal TF if I know


The bite wasn’t bad, at first I didn’t even think it broke the skin but as we walked down the street I noticed my shoulder had begun to bleed. We popped into the pharmacy for some antiseptic wipes and the pharmacist said just keep it clean, put cream on it three times a day and I should be fine. As we continued to walk down the street we passed a doctors office and I figured I’d get a third a opinion… a fully licensed MD third opinion. The doctor said rabies is definitively quite present amongst dogs, cats, and monkeys on the island of Bali and while there’s no way to know if the monkey actually had rabies he strongly advised I get the vaccine. 

The doctor did poke around my head to check for any possible wounds, but because of my hair it’s a bit more up in the air if this bite also broke the surface. (Now that I write this down I’m realizing this probably looked pretty similar to a mama monkey picking bugs off her baby. Neat.)

The vaccine consists of four rounds of shots, which normally I am downnn for, but I prefer $2 tequila shots to $850,000 HDCV shots. 


Before anyone starts a “Help Rita Afford Life Saving Medication” GoFundMe page 850,000 Indonesian Rupees = 64 US dollars (Although if someone does want to start a GoFundMe I  certainly won’t stop you. The vaccine cost isn’t peanuts to me, but I’m not going bankrupt.)

A note to anyone such as myself , who has a life that often resembles a three ring circus, even if I’d gotten the vaccine before traveling I still would have had to get the vaccine after getting bitten. All the pre-bite vaccine does is buy you more time and instead of four rounds of shot I would have only had to get three. 

Like the flip side of a brand new penny, I’m looking on the bright side. To get down to brass tax I’m technically saving money because the cost of three rounds of shots and the pre-travel vaccine would certainly have been more than I’m paying now. Also I forever call dibs on “heads” in all future coin tosses I participate in, I think y’all can understand why. 

Before giving me the first two shots, the nurse had to clean and disinfect my wound. While the nurse rubbed down my shoulder I got to lay on a cushioned table that was uber comfortable in comparison to some the hostel beds I’ve slept on. I actually could have fallen asleep because I was quite tired. Fun side note that has a point I swear:

Y’all know the cute little rhyme, “sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite” that you say but don’t give much thought to? Well some places I’ve been in south east Asia bed bugs are a concerning real possibility. Bed bug bites itch like hell and once bed bugs infect a mattress or your clothes the only way to get rid of them is with extreme heat. I’ve been lucky enough to be spared, I’d knock on wood but that’s where they like to breed… a real Catch 22. Anyway, the first night i stayed in my hostel one of they guys I was hanging out with said he thought he had bed bugs. In order not to go mad with paranoia every time the double B-bombs are dropped I tell myself this personmight just have wicked mosquito bites. Well the next day I saw the hostel staff ironing some mattresses on the balcony. Instantly my mind jumped to the confirmation,  “well shit this place actually does have bed bugs.” The night before my monkey debacle, I minimized my mattress time and slept barely at all, so as I was laying on the doctor’s table I thought, “cool I can grab a cat nap on a bed that is 100% without doubt bed bug free.” 

After the nurse was done cleaning my wound the area on my shoulder was gleaming bronze. I’m quite proud of my January tan these days, but y’all this spot looked next level tan. I laughed to myself at the thought, “either she must have rubbed some iodine on my shoulder or in the well over five minutes she was cleaning my wound she buffed off a layer of dirt that’s formed on my skin.” The laughs quickly stopped because once I sat up and the doctor was administering my shots, what was painted on the wall across from me? I child’s growth chart with a whimsical giraffe and monkey. All I could think was “you cheeky bastard.” Don’t worry I’m fairly certain I’m not forever scarred by the site of monkeys, but I might wince a little the next time I hear Steven Tyler’s melodic screech, “gooooooot to get that monkey off my back.” I always said if I played baseball my walkout song would be “Glory Days” because The Boss is boss, but now I think I’d walkout to,”I’m a Believer” or any other song by The Monkees for that matter. 

The doctor told me I have to get shot number three get exactly one week from the day I was bitten and shot number four, exactly two weeks after that. For the first time in the three months I’ve been traveling I have something scheduled on my calendar that can’t be scratched off, or let life’s random interjections postpone. It’s funny because Alex, my big bro, the elder Serra, is currently visiting me. He arrived in Indonesia around midnight of the day I got bitten. The night before he posted on Facebook saying he was excited to travel in my style aka absolutely no plans and having absolutely no where to be at any certain time. Ha. 

But wait! It get’s funnier, I have to get my forth shot two days after my Indonesian Visa expires. Haha. 


The doctor said I should be able to get my last shot in Malaysia, let’s hope this is not a shoulda, coulda, woulda situation and it’s a sure, we can, and will situation, but ya know I’ll keep y’all posted

It came time to pay the bill which rang up to 2.4 million IDR. I knew the bill was going to be high because of the price of the shots, but my cat nap tuned out to be quite pricy. Not only did they tack on a consultation fee, but also a wound cleaning fee. This really rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to shout, “Seriously!? It’s not like I had a choice in the matter?” But instead of going ape shit  I kept my composure until I left the office. On my walk back I swear far less taxi drivers asked if I needed a ride, probably because they could see I was foaming mad. (Too much? Not sure if I’ve crossed the vine of tasteful pun and creating real concern if I actually have rabies.)

 

On my walk back from the doctor I heard a “Rita!” I looked across the street and saw Taran. (Ironically my iPad autocorrected Taran to Tarzan) I met this delightfully wonderful human the night before because he walked past me and said, “Hi what’s your name?” We chatted for about 20 minutes, became friends on Facebook, and he invited me to go to the beach the next day with him and his friends. I told him I wasn’t sure because I had plans to go to the Monkey Forest. Anywho, I responded to his Rita! With, “I just got bit by a blankety blank monkey!” He invited me once again to join the gang on their adventure, I threw what little caution I had left to the stale wind, and hopped on the back of his scooter. 

​​​

​The seven of us spent the day zipping past mountains swaddled in coats of palms and mystic lakes under idle clouds hanging so low they could have inspired “Smoke on the Water.” We found a swing fit fore a daredevils playground.

Look ma (Linda don’t look) I can do it with no hands


Because when you could possibly have a viral disease why not totter to and fro over the edge of a mountain? 

We made it to a beach blanketed with black sand, and finally our journey brought us to a floating temple where, not ones to be stiffs, we did the mannequin challenge. On the way home we found a road side stand where we feasted on sticky rice and beef & noodle soup. 

Y’all know me, even if my glass is cracked sand clouded it’s half full. If I had not gotten bitten by that monkey I would not have crossed paths with Taran and would have missed out on what turned out to be a fantastic day. Life is just about rolling with the ups and downs. Speaking of which, while we twisting down a tantalizing steep stretch of road that was a series of hairpin turns so tight it resembled my hair, Taran says, “oh shit I just lost my breaks.” 

Houston we have a problem

We managed to roll to a stop in the grass that lined the road that luckily was right next to house. It’s residents told us that the bike was just over heated which was why we lost our break power. They let us hang out for ten minutes while the bike cooled, once we got our power back we were off. The moments we were riding on an unresponsive rouge machine were scary hell, but them’s the breaks right? Sometimes your heart needs to palpitate at 100mph to remind you, you’re alive. Speaking of which the bite left a bruise on my shoulder that at the right angle resembles a heart… maybe it was just a love bite after all? 

So there you go, that’s the end of my crazy tail.

If you find yourself in Ubud and are thinking about visiting the monkey forest don’t nlet my experience stop you from going, but just know I would not 10/10 recommend nor 5/7 recommend. For me the Monkey Forrest was not a barrel of fun. Instead it was more like a can of root beer… pulled from a cooler sitting in the back of a moving car driving down a bumpy road. Super cool, full of promise, a real treat, but in an instant it goes awry and blows up in your face. 
But hey, “Life is like a box of {animals crackers} you never know what you are going to get.” Forrest Gump 

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