Lopburi Monkey Festival: The Monkey Buffet of Thailand
Lopburi is one of the first cities to have been built in Thailand. It houses some spectacular ruins and other beautiful sights like King Narai's Lopburi Palace and the Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat temple making it much of a hidden gem. It more often than not goes unnoticed when travellers are building their itineraries, especially since it is not among the usual cities that tourists come to Thailand to visit. However, all that changes once every year during the famous Lopburi Monkey Festival.
What is Lopburi Monkey Festival?
The Lopburi Monkey Festival, sometimes referred to as the Monkey Banquet, is a festival that has been taking place since the 1980s after the idea of a local businessman. His idea was to set up a buffet of fresh fruit and other food for the monkeys (as Lopburi is home to an extensive monkey population) as an expression of the town residents' gratitude since they brought in a lot of tourist revenue for the area. Over the years, the event has grown considerably in size, and thousands of tourists from around the globe arrive at Lopburi to share the unique experience. Each year, over four thousand kilos of food is served up for the monkeys to feast upon. No different from a human buffet, the food is laid out on long tables and is prepared lovingly by teams of local chefs working together. The monkeys get to enjoy delicious fruit salads, fruit carvings, sticky rice and even some traditional Thai desserts that are prepared from egg yolks. Just like any other event in Thailand, food plays a pivotal role in the Lopburi Monkey Festival, and an array of vendors and food stalls serve up delectable Thai dishes for the humans to enjoy as well.
Lopburi Monkey Festival Date 2019
23rd November 2019 - 24th November 2019 (Saturday - Sunday)
Lopburi Monkey Festival Venue 2019
San Phra Kan & Phra Prang Sam Yot Temples
A Brief History of Monkeys in Lopburi
The monkeys are mostly long-tailed macaques and have been living in Lopburi since way back in the 11th century when the city was taken over by the Khmers. Many famous buildings were built in this period. When the Khmer Empire fell in the 17th century, King Narai of Ayutthaya rejuvenated and modernised the city, but the Khmer ruins remain and are where the monkey banquet is held each year. The monkeys live around the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple and the shrine of San Phra Karn, both Khmer ruins. However, they can be seen all around Lopburi and don't shy away from human interaction - don't be surprised if a monkey snatches your food right from your hand! The monkeys are quite mischievous and often cause damage to the city, chewing cables for instance. No matter what they get up to, they are always tolerated as they are said to be descendants of the Monkey King, Hanuman. In the Thai version of The Ramayana (a famous Indian epic), Lopburi was created by Hanuman himself with the help of his friend, the protagonist of the Ramayana, Lord Rama. The monkeys are said to bring good fortune and prosperity.
Local Cuisine to Try During the Lopburi Monkey Festival
Khai Khem Din So Phong (Marl Salted Egg): This is famous around Thailand and is a method of preserving eggs. The raw eggs are coated in a mixture of marl, water, salt and sugar. Once the coating dries, the egg is preserved and can be incorporated in a large variety of dishes, be it boiled or fried. Many even enjoy eating the Khai Khem Din So Phong as is.
Coconut Jelly: Coconut Jelly is a favourite souvenir of the province made by fermenting coconut juice with acetic acid, similar to how vinegar is made. During fermentation, white fungi float to the top and assemble into a group of mushroom-like jelly. This jelly is usually served with ice and eaten as a dessert. It is often combined with various syrups to add different, exciting flavours.
How to Reach Lopburi
You can get to Lopburi either by bus or by train. The provincial capital of Lopburi is located in central Thailand and is a hundred and fifty-five kilometres to the north of Bangkok. Getting there by car will take you about three hours. Most travellers prefer taking the railway as the journey provides for plenty of breathtaking scenery on the way. It takes around two hours from the Hua Lamphong Railway Station, also known as the Bangkok Train Station and the trains depart every hour. If you wish to get to Lopburi by bus, get to the northern Bangkok bus terminal, Mochit 2. The easiest way to get to Mochit 2 is via the BTS Skytrain - get down at the Mochit station and then hail a motorbike taxi.
Other Attractions in Lopburi
If you plan your trip accordingly, you will be able to watch the Lopburi Symphony performing in town on the day before. King Narai's Palace, officially called Phra Narai Ratchaniwet, hosts the annual Chom Wang, Fang Dontri (Live Band Performance), featuring some exceptionally talented Thai artists, including the National Symphony Orchestra. The festivities start just before sundown and carry on till midnight
You can visit the vast sunflower fields where sunflowers are grown in the hundreds of thousands to create an ocean of yellow that appears to go on forever. Many farms provide tours of their farms by tractor or sometimes by an elephant. You can also purchase a large variety of products made using the sunflowers.
The Khao Phra Ngam Diamond is quite famous in Thailand and can be found at Lopburi. Although it is not a pure diamond, it is made with polished, coloured quartz crystal and looks just as majestic.
If you wish to have a taste of the local livelihood, you can visit the Brass Metal Casting factories at Mu2 and interact with the villagers.
Things to Keep in Mind
The Lopburi Monkey Festival begins at around 9:00 AM with an opening ceremony after which the tables are laid out for the monkeys.
Four separate banquets take place at 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM.
The monkeys can get aggressive when feeding and tend to snatch any food and drinks you might be carrying. Also, be careful of your valuables as the monkeys can steal anything from your wallet to your glasses.
The easiest way to get around is to walk, but you can avail city buses as well, at the cost of THB 4 per person. Most of the ruins are scattered around the old town train station.
The Lopburi Monkey Festival is an incredibly unique experience that you need to see for yourself to believe. Lots of fun and great vibes make it a must visit if you're in Thailand at the right time.