Monkey Festival in Lopburi

One of the most popular festivals in the central region of Thailand is the Monkey Festival held annually in Lopburi. The city is about 150 kms north-east of Bangkok and is a convenient stopover on the northern railway line to Chiang Mai. The iconic Khmer ruin in this city is Prang Sam Yot, which was originally a Hindu shrine. However, it is its inhabitants that is of more interest to both local and foreign tourists. In and around the Khmer temple can be found literally hundreds of Crab-Eating Macaques.

Pictures of the 23rd Lopburi Monkey Festival 2011

These days the monkeys are the symbol of the province. Alighting from the train you will see a giant monkey on the platform. Then a short walk north of the station will bring you to Prang Sam Yot and Sarn Phra Karn. All around this area the monkeys are roaming the street almost as if they were teenage gangs. A naughty student at school is often called a “ling”, which is the Thai word for a monkey. That is exactly what they are. If you are not careful they will snatch a bag from your hand or rifle through your backpack.

I saw them jump onto the back of a pick-up truck as it slowed down to go around a corner. They were looking for anything that they could steal. At the next corner they would jump off and scamper up the side of buildings where they will search through the goodies that they had just stolen. If you are walking down these streets, don’t forget to look up as they are perched on window sills and hanging from telephone wires. Local people arms themselves with sticks and slingshots. Some houses also have electric fences around their windows.

The idea of the Monkey Festival, now in its 23rd year, started with a local man called Yongyuth Kitwatananusont. He is the owner of the Lopbui Inn which is where I stayed the night before going to the festival. In front of the hotel there is a large monkey which he has been using as a kind of symbol for many years. Business has been good for both him and other people working in the tourism sector. Recognizing the important role that the monkeys have played in this, he decided one year to lay on a buffet meal for them.

The first Lopburi monkey festival took place on Sunday 25th November 1989. There were 35 Chinese tables set up and covered with an abundance of food. These were placed at three different locations around the city. Phra Prang Sam Yot, City Shrine and Downtown areas populated by the monkeys. Guest of honour that first year was former prime minister M.R. Kukrit Pramoj. The monkeys were naturally stunned to have so much food offered to them in such a free manner. Normally they would have to work for it.

These days, the festival is held around the main Khmer temple. It starts at around 10 a.m. with musical performances and human monkey dances. After the speech by the Governor of Lopburi, the monkeys are then invited down to eat from the buffet tables. Normally when you explore this temple the monkeys are everywhere. But with literally hundreds of tourists standing around the tables, the monkeys were naturally shy. But, they came down eventually and people were able to get the pictures that they wanted.

The festival goes on all day with two more rounds in the afternoon at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. It was good this year to see more foreign tourists than normal. In particular there were quite a few backpackers. I asked some of them how they had heard about this event and they all said from the Internet. That just shows you how things have changed these days with websites being the prime source of news. It was also good to hear that people had come here after reading about the festival on some of my websites such as www.ThaiFestivalBlogs.com and www.ThaiTravelBlogs.com. If you missed the festival and you want to go to the party next year, then I can tell you that it will take place on Sunday 25th November 2012.

5 responses to “Monkey Festival in Lopburi

  1. I am thinking of doing a trip like this myself. Not sure if to rent a car or go by public transport. It would be useful if you can give us an idea of how much it cost you for this trip. Then I will know how much to budget. Thanks for the travel tips. Very useful.

  2. It cost me 800 Baht in petrol for this trip though I did go on a few diversions. If I had gone by train it would have been only 123 Baht for a first class ticket. The train is actually very convenient as it is right by the main temples. The hotel room was 900 Baht which is a bit more than I usually spend due to the festival. If you rent a car it is certainly going to cost you more but you get the freedom to go where you want and when you want. Most day trips I do around Bangkok cost me about 500 Baht in petrol. It is actually quite expensive being an independent travel blogger. If I was working for a magazine I would get paid expenses but I have to pay for these day trips out of my own pocket. But, I don’t mind as I like to travel and take pictures.

  3. Anyone who has ever visited that area with even a slight degree of common sense can see how utterly ridiculous it is for Lopburi to allow those monkey’s to over run the entire area.not to mention the fact that some of them carry a form of rabies far more severe than that found in dogs.mai na chua jing jing

  4. Some great shots here Richard. The festival sounds like a crack, though probably not suitable for my young kids!

    Thanks also for the info on costs etc – good blog!

  5. i was there for festival last yr2011 it was a brilient dayout my granson who is 5yrs really enjoyed the antics that the monkeys got up to and it was grat to see them not chained or caged but do be alert as they will take things like sunglasses cameras bags etc and well worth a visit