Lopburi is a historic city, one of the oldest cities in Thailand, and just 3 hours away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. It’s divided into two areas, New Town and Old Town. While there’s not so much to see in New Town itself, let’s say that Old Town is rather … interesting. Most of the domestic and international visitors don’t come to Lopburi to see the old temple complex, but to do some macaque spotting. That’s right, the Old Town of Lopburi is full of them, and they aren’t the kind and cute monkeys that you’re used to see in the zoo.
Lopburi is usually used as a short stopover between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. If you’re a backpacker, you won’t see much of New Town unless you’re arriving by bus in Lopburi’s bus station. New Town has more expensive hotels while Old Town provides budget-friendly accommodations. If you’re not planning to spend the night in Lopburi, even then you’ll spend all your time in Old Town.
All the trains arrive in Old Town, and all the ancient ruins are just a short walk from each other. But to be fair, it isn’t because of the temples why people are tempted to visit Lopburi. It’s because of the hundreds of monkeys that run around (read terrorize) the streets.
BEWARE OF THE MONKEYS!
That’s right! These little furry animals are running and jumping around the desolated streets of Lopburi, hanging in the power cables and spying on you from the high buildings. And believe us, the situation is crazy. When they aren’t fighting each other for a spot in the shade, they are looking for innocent people to steal something from. Most of the time they just want food. But beware if you wear sunglasses or slippers because they just take what they can.
When we arrived in Lopburi, we walked out of the train station and already saw a group of monkeys pulling on a bag from a local who just came out of the 7-Eleven. They scratched it open to take all the food out of it and were gone again in seconds. The local woman tried to save what she could but had to go back to buy most of it again.
We saw hundreds of them running over the train tracks, jumping from roof to roof and sitting in the back of pick-up trucks. For a second, we thought we were in the movie Jumanji.
At Phra Prang Sam Yot, the well-known Khmer-style temple of Lopburi, we even saw some monkeys jumping on the back of people and pulling off their slippers. The San Phra Kan Shrine was even equipped with ropes and ladders for the monkeys, like in a real zoo!
The locals don’t do anything about them and just try to live together with the animals. This because they bring more tourists to this little town and the people believe that the monkeys bring good luck and prosperity. They even organize a yearly festival to honor the Lopburi monkeys. During the Monkey Festival, the furry rascals are offered tables full of fresh food and drinks. Next Monkey Festival Banquet will be held on November 25, 2017.
Luckily the mischievous monkeys are not everywhere, but just in abovementioned areas. So don’t worry, you can find peace in Lopburi too!
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN LOPBURI
Besides macaque spotting and visiting (old) temples, there are several other things to do in and around Lopburi. The province is known for its large sunflower fields, which are best seen between November and January. In this area, it’s also possible to go rock climbing, hike to the top of the peacock temple or explore a bat cave!