Bananas, berries, mangoes, and wild monkeys. Get ready to be part of a wild buffet breakfast with the long-tail macaques that live in the Lopburi area of Thailand. Every year on the last Sunday in November the locals pay homage to the macaques by placing tables full of fruits, rice, and traditional desserts for them to feast on amid the setting of the 13th century Phra Prang Sam Yod temple.
Lopburi, known as Monkey City, is located 154 km north-east of Bangkok. Visitors can take a scenic two-hour train ride from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station every morning. You can also take a coach, which takes about 3-hours from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal
The festival takes place in the ancient 13th century ruins of the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple which means the three holy prangs. It is featured in the provincial seal and flag of Lopburi. Although it is no longer in pristine condition, there were once mythical creatures carved into the towers. Nowadays, it is overrun with monkeys. Look for the monkey statues at the crossroad before the temple.
Historically, the macaques are considered sacred animals according to the Hindu religion. The revered Monkey King, Hanuman, is a prominent figure in Hindu mythology known for his bravery and loyalty. But the festival, known as the Monkey Festival, began back in the late 80’s by businessman Yongyuth Kitwattananusont. He decided to have a fresh fruit buffet as a way of thanks to the thousands of wild monkeys that roam the area and whose presence brings tourists to the area. The festival has grown leaps and bounds to attracting thousands of visitors and macques, of which there are an estimated two thousand.
The Monkey Festival begins with a vibrant opening ceremony that weaves through the streets. Performers include dancers, musicians, and people dressed in monkey costumes. The event’s highlight is of course, the offering of food to the monkeys. Once the hosts remove sheets from the banquet tables, the macaques get very excited, jumping across tables, chattering, and climbing all over the nearly two tons of food.
When they arrive, be aware it’s not just a few that trickle down from the surroundings; it’s hundreds, even thousands! Suddenly, monkeys are everywhere. Be prepared they are ready to climb on visitors, and if they see something they like, they may take it away with them. While most are friendly, be careful, as monkey bites have been known to happen, and you may feel monkey claws when they are climbing on you.
If you would rather witness the spectacle from afar, there are food vendors for humans. While the monkeys are eating, you can eat away from it all – from a distance and try the tasty Thai delicacies. A favourite is a coconut jelly dessert, which is a sweet and refreshing, no-bake dessert cut into squares. It may have a fragrant taste of pandan leaves.
The tourist board is involved in offering cultural displays and workshops about Thai customs to encourage cultural exchange. And there are also musical performances on hand featuring the ethnic culture of the region.
Zip up your backpack, put your sunglasses away, and keep food and drink out of sight. Now, get ready to watch the acrobats and antics of the wild macaques at Lopburi’s Monkey Festival.