February 20, 2019

Okay so different people have different opinions on this, but I’d strongly recommend against going to any monkey forest in Bali. We went to the “less touristy” one as recommended to us by our host, and thank goodness our host was there to take care of us after everything. Here’s the story on what happened.

We showed up at the monkey forest to see all these monkeys walking around. One of the guides told me to kneel down and the monkey would climb on me, and told me “don’t touch the monkey, let the monkey touch you”.

So I knelt down in an awkward position. The monkey immediately hopped on me. As I was internally freaking out, Abe took a few pictures. The monkey starts climbing around me and shifts my weight a little bit, and so I move. All of a sudden the monkey grabs my arm, pulls it out, and bites my wrist and runs away! The guide guy immediately starts yelling “DON’T TOUCH MONKEY DON’T TRY TO HOLD MONKEY I TOLD YOU THAT MANY TIMES DO NOT TOUCH MONKEY” over and over again. Please stop yelling at me!!! Meanwhile we realize the monkey bite drew blood… Abe ran to the car to get some hand sanitizer.

The guide guy is trying to talk to me and tell me about the monkeys. No one is making a big deal about me getting bit by this monkey. My wrist is aching and bleeding and I’m just trying to hold it together waiting for Abe to come back. Our wonderful host Ayu is holding Stella and a stick to keep all the monkeys away from her.

While we are waiting there another monkey jumps on my back!!! I was standing straight up and the monkey just jumped on me. The guide told me to just bend down to the ground and I did and the monkey got off. Abe came back and poured hand sanitizer into my wound which burned. Our host Ayu has been talking to the guide on and off this whole time in Balinese, so we have no idea what they are saying.

We decide to leave, and Ayu calmly says, “ok so now we go to the clinic to get rabies shot.” And Abe and I are like yes please let’s go. The entire time I’m trying not to cry, feeling super dumb and embarrassed, trying to think if I really was trying to touch the monkey? I know I didn’t, and I wouldn’t ever try to touch a monkey, but the guy just kept yelling at me making me think it was 100% my fault. I think he was probably just trying to save himself and blame it on me.

We go to the clinic and the ladies at the local hospital were so so so nice. They cleaned it out well and gave me two rabies shots. We asked about the immunoglobulin shot (those are white blood cells already charged with anti-rabies, so it kills any rabies virus that is already in you). Unfortunately in Bali you have to have proof that you are infected with rabies and that the animal who bit you was also infected.. Meaning some tests that take forever to do. We were willing to just pay the price for the shot, but this local small hospital did not have the immunoglobulin.

We looked up a private clinic and went there for a consult. They cleaned the bite again and talked to us about what happened. The cost DOUBLED from what it was supposed to be when we called them earlier (12 million rupiah, now 24 million). We weren’t exactly sure what to do, the local hospital ladies contacted Bali’s ministry of health and the monkey forest we went to to ask about rabies, the chance that those monkeys had rabies was extremely low. Apparently the university uses them for research and vaccinates those monkeys (but really how are you supposed to know?).

Anyway, it was all very confusing and getting very expensive and we were overwhelmed. We went to get lunch at a bad pizza place around the corner. By the time we finished lunch we decided we should go back and just get the immunoglobulin. We talked to Abe’s dad about it, and just had this gut feeling, and it just isn’t worth the risk. The standard protocol by US standards is always always always the immunoglobulin. And luckily we knew that from all of our research on travel vaccinations we did beforehand (the post on that is here).

I went back and got the immunoglobulin, they do a certain amount based on your weight. They first put as much in at the site of the bite, so in my wrist. Once they can’t get any more there, they put the rest at a different location (had to be my backside because my other two rabies shots happened in both of my arms, and it was a decent amount of vaccine).

I recently went back and got my third rabies shot, and then I have one more on day 21. So glad this is almost completely over! The wound has completely healed by now, took about a week.

Just take my advice and don’t go to the monkey forest. And that is the story on how we dropped 25 million (rupiah; $2000 UDS) on day three in Bali. Totally has blown any type of monthly budget we had for Bali. It is the unexpected travel costs you need to watch out for, but at the end of the day, we had to do what we had to do.

Thanks for reading!