One of the more unique festivals in Thailand is the annual Monkey Party in Lopburi, about 150 kms north of Bangkok. It was started some twenty years ago by a local businessman called Yongyuth Kitwatananuson. He put on a buffet lunch for the monkeys as a way to say thank you to the animals for all the tourist money that they had brought to the city. This soon became a tradition and is now firmly an event on the national festival calendar. I went there for the first time this year and there were literally thousands of people there. So many that I think they have started to outgrow the limited space they have at Pra Prang Sam Yot temple.
These days it is more of a spectacular event as the local administration have taken over the proceedings. There is now a parade through town, cultural shows and vendors selling food and souvenirs. You could go there as a day excursion from Bangkok as it only took us about two and a half hours to drive up there. However, we decided to go the day before and stay overnight as we wanted to visit some other attractions as well. Some hotels were full but we didn’t have much of a problem. The Monkey Party was due to start at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. The party is held every year on the last Sunday of November. We were there nearly an hour early and there were already many people milling around taking pictures of the monkeys. But really, you don’t need to go so early.
In the end, it started a bit late as we were waiting for the Governor to arrive and then for the parade. Around the temple they had set up stands for the “Chinese tables” and also large blocks of ice. These had fruit encased inside of them. Though in this picture you can see some sunflowers which is a symbol of this province. The parade arrived a little after 10 a.m. They brought with them the colourful table tops and dancing monkeys. The governor opened the proceedings by using a mallet to bash open one of the blocks of ice. He then tempted the monkeys down from the temple with a plate of smelly durian fruit. They seemed to like it. Fruit and desserts were then placed on the table tops around the temple. However, as there were so many tourists pushing and shoving to get a good viewpoint to take a picture, the monkeys didn’t come down at first.
I think next year they will have to rethink their planning. There was plenty of space around the back of the temple. They could have put more tables there. In the end, they had to move the tables closer to the ruins so that the tourists didn’t surround the tables. It was great fun but really too many people. I am not sure if the animal activists would agree with the food served at this monkey banquet. I would have to check, but I don’t think sweets are that good for the monkeys. But, they certainly had a good choice of food and picked and chose things that they liked. It was amazing to watch them even open a can of Coke. They are that clever. You really have to be careful when you visit this temple. If you are carrying a plastic bag, the chances are high that it will be snatched away from you by one of the monkeys.
You don’t need to go early for the festival. This year there were four rounds at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Most people went for the first round to see the opening ceremony and to watch the cultural shows. It is a good idea to combine a visit to the monkey party with a trip to the sunflower fields. I will tell you more about this in the next blog. Visit ThailandGuidebook.com for tourist information, maps and more festivals for Lopburi Province.
Related links: Monkeys Swimming in Thailand