Lopburi, the ancient capital of the province that bears its name, is located about 150 km (94 mi) northeast of Bangkok. Known as Lavo in the 6th century, it was part of the Dvaravati Kingdom but was conquered by the Khmers early in the 11th century. Today, the oldest architecture that can be seen is all Khmer. However, these ancient ruins are no longer the town’s main claim to fame – that reserved for the couple of thousand macaque monkeys that inhabit them.
The two main macaque hang-outs are in around San Phra Kan and the larger and more extensive Prang Sam Yot, a Khmer distance from the railway station. At first sight, the monkeys are charming – sweet little babies clinging to their mothers, adults bounding about, or communicating together. However, with no fear of humans at all, thanks to being fed by the locals, they can be quite alarming and even threatening.
Talented thieves, they’ll leap onto your back or shoulders as you try to take a photograph, or rip your purse from your hands as you try to buy peanuts to give them – keep your distance.
The macaques bring so many tourists that local businesses now put on an animal Monkey Banquet as a thank you, ad this is, without doubt, a most unusual and entertaining sight. A vast array of food is beautifully prepared and arranged in front of the temple. Tables groan beneath the weight of jellies, ice cream and fruit, Mangos, papayas, rambutans, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, longans, and even expensive durian fruit, are offered.
The Macaques, whose table manners are appalling, wander amongst this largesse, stuffing food into their mouths, squabbing, chicking fruit at one another and generally causing mayhem.
When to visit
November – check the exact date in advance
Lopburi, central Thailand
Khmer ruins and an extravagant food fest for Macaques
You should know
During the 17th century, King Narai briefly moved his capital from Ayuthaya to Lopburi, building a summer palace here. Today, most tourists are Thais coming on a day trip from Bangkok to enjoy not only the macaques and the ruins but also the vast fields of sunflowers all around.