Monkeys are fun, right? Well, not really. You see, in Lopburi the monkeys have turned into little monsters. They’ve taken over large parts of the old town and don’t take orders from anyone. Be warned: they’re always hungry!
Man vs. monkey in Lopburi
Roaming monkeys terrorize the old and run-down streets of old town Lopburi. They dominate the city during the day using electricity cables as vines, jumping from the top of one umbrella to the next, all the while trying to snatch whatever they can from inattentive passers-by.
You can hear them tapping your hotel room window in the early morning and by noon they’ll have occupied their places in the shade, sheltering themselves from the heat of the sun. In the evening, they’ll stalk you when you’re not looking and at night, on the city’s old town rooftops, they reign supreme.
All this happens under the noses of rather puzzled locals who are quite stumped about the whole situation as well. Do the advantages that tourism brings outweigh the annoyances?
Monkey temple: Prang Sam Yot
Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi is where most of the monkeys are and is the old town’s main tourist attraction. Tourist can – under supervision of local guides – feed the monkeys.
For the monkeys here, the tourists are merely walking menu cards from which they order their breakfast, lunch and dinner every day; tourists are completely overwhelmed by the monkeys. The extent to which the tourists are engulfed depends on how hungry the monkeys are.
To keep the monkeys happy, a courtyard was built just outside the temple. Kilos of fruit and vegetables are dumped there every day under the approving eyes of hundreds of monkeys. If they’re not hungry, they’re less likely to want to snatch your bag, cap or motorbike away from you.
At times Mariska thought Lopburi was one of the worst places on earth and she sought the safety of an elderly temple employee, who regularly would keep the monkeys in check by using his bamboo stick.
I, on the other hand, went out with my camera looking for some nice snapshots. Looking through the lens of my camera, I was completely absorbed, wanting to record the whole spectacle as best as possible. However, it wasn’t long until I felt a baby monkey dangling off my calf.
In the minutes that followed, I wasn’t able to shake the monkeys. Although I laughed out loud through the whole thing, I didn’t feel entirely at ease as they can cary rabies. I hurried back to Mariska through the other side of the temple, which took a couple of minutes.
On my way back, I managed to see a couple of monkeys having sex and drinking a bottle of Yakult. I guess we’re not that different after all.
Lopburi: more than just monkeys
Luckily, the surrounding area has a lot more to offer than the monkeys in the old part of Lopburi. The new part of the city is really modern and along the highway, on either side, are many large shopping malls. About 25 kilometers away from Lopburi is the Ang Sap Lek Reservoir, where you can rent a straw hut by the water for 40 baht and order local food.
It’s also a meeting place for young Thai people, where they can grab a bite to eat, go for a drink and go swimming in the water. When the sun goes down, the huge rocks around the lake light up beautifully and bats appear.
So, there is more than enough fun to be had in and around Lopburi!
Getting to Lopburi
Lopburi is easy to reach from Bangkok. Trains to Lopburi leave every day from Hua Lamphong train station. They’ll take anywhere between two and four hours, depending on which train you take.
One great hotel we can recommend to anyone is The Little Lopburi Village Hotel in the old town, run by a kind family. It’s small-scale and clean, with authentic Thai houses.