When we travel, the two things my wife and I can’t get enough of are “junk shops” and “monkey temples.”
“Junk shops” are the unaffectionate name we’ve given to those shops and stalls in the various markets around the world selling souvenirs. It’s usually the same things in every stall marked at the same price. For some reason, me more than her, I’m drawn to these shops and need to wander through them. Normally I don’t buy anything, but I just look at what’s for sale and what is the big tourist item.
The latter thing we cannot get enough of are “monkey temples.”
Perhaps it’s because they’re our ancestors, or perhaps they’re just adorable, but whenever we travel and find out there is a monkey temple nearby, we usually jump in a taxi and make our way to it. In Bali, Indonesia we had an amazing experience where various monkeys got into a fight and one was mortally wounded. The other monkeys laid him gently on the steps of the temple and quietly paid their respects.
Traffic in India is brutal. Absolutely brutal. We slowly made our way through town, fighting with (what seemed like) every other car on the planet. The only reason we were truly antsy is because we were in a race with the sun to reach the temple before it was too dark. We succeeded in our quest, and were not disappointed.
The Galta Monkey Temple, near Jaipur, India is located high in the hills outside of the city. It’s one of those places where the taxi drives higher and higher into the hills, then stops at a random place and tells you “I’ll wait here.” We exited the car and slowly made our way in the direction our driver was looking.
On approach, we paid a strange man the “park entry fee,” and then turned down his offer for snacks for the monkeys. Wherever we’ve gone, we’ve never fed the animals for a variety of reasons. Walking through a labyrinth of local huts and buildings, each person tried to convince us theirs was the location of the monkey temple. It’s a strange sales pitch considering we could see an ancient-looking temple several hundred yards in front of us on the path.
Upon arrival, our first monkey-friend was sitting on the steps to the temple’s entrance enjoying a banana. In the distance, we could hear locals pray in song, and the echoes of various monkeys resonated off of the walls of the small canyon.
As we slowly walked up the steps, my wife and I saw the side of the canyon slowly come alive with (easily) a hundred monkeys on the move. As we climbed the steps, the sun dipped below the sky and it was just a few locals chanting in the distance as a number of monkeys went about their business. It was as awesome as it was terrifying. As we reached the first plateau of the temple, we laughed as a baby monkey began to feverishly chase his tale. Round and round he spun until he’d get too dizzy and fall over. Slightly above him, a mother monkey sat on the ledge protecting her baby monkey. Being relatively docile animals in an environment full of tourists giving snacks, we were able to get fairly close.
I like the above picture a lot, because it is a somewhat strange photograph. The monkey is protecting her child, at the same time, the background gives a bit of mysteriousness. The architecture of the buildings in the distance are extremely old and lend an enchanting twist to the photograph.