Attending important monkey business

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In Thailand, there are officially three seasons – rainy, cool and hot.  A few days ago, the rainy season was officially declared over when the Royal Thai Crown Price changed the attire of the Emerald Buddah to his cool season garb. The last three months have been particularly wet, so I took this ceremonial changing of the seasons as my cue to start exploring Thailand a bit more.

My inspiration for this weekend has come from quite an unlikely source – the enigmatic world explorer Karl Pilkington. His report from Thailand’s monkey city of Lopburi was enough for me to hit google and figure out how to get there. Imagine my delight when I learned that the annual Lopburi Monkey Festival was an imminent, and this included an extravagant party for these beloved and sacred city residents. So off I headed to Lopburi, which is only 150km north east of Bangkok. I took a minibus from Victory Monument as it was quicker and more convenient for me, but Lopburi can also be reached by train from Hualamphong station.  Fares for both are around 120 bhat one way.

I arrived the day before and as soon as I stepped out of the minibus, a monkey was virtually at my feet eating off the remains of a corn kernel. Then I literally just turned the corner and this is what I saw, all within a few minutes…

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The monkeys even get in to the local fire station…

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The majority of the city’s 3000 long tailed macaque monkeys live in and around the remains of the Khmer Pra Prang Sam Yot temple, which is a 2 minute walk form the train station and 30 seconds across the road from the minibus drop off point…

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I am not that well read on Khmer temples, but you can see that the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple is very similar in architecture to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the ancient seat of the Khmer empire over 1000 years ago.  The Khmer empire was Hindu and, of course my Indian friends will know this, monkeys are very sacred in Hinduism. Although 90% of Thailand is now Buddhist, the monkeys of Lopburi are very respected and loved residents – and every year the very generous locals throw a party for them.

Preparations for the party started the day before and continued until shortly before the festival officially opened.  This guy had his work cut out keeping the cheeky little fellows away from this banana laden foliage – although his catapult was never used – the threat was enough!

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The monkeys really didn’t care about getting in the way of party preparations….

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Soon however, all the preparations were complete…

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The festival was officially opened with some traditional dancing that explained the story of the monkeys…

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A few speeches from local dignitaries followed, then the festival cavalcade adorned with party treats did a tour around the temple…

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Then it was PARTY-TIME!

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Of course I took hundreds of pictures, so here are the best of them…

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Yes, that is a giant hot tub there and the monkeys didn’t go near it. Nice idea though. New food was brought out through the day at two hourly intervals.  After an hour or so, I picked up some corn and grapes which was gratefully taken by some.  Many however were all sugared up and relaxing…

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For me this was a very fun day out, very unique and certainly usual!  Also this year was the 25th festival, which was started by a local hotelier, the owner of the Lopburi Inn.  Although it might seem a bit kitchy to some, I thought this was a great way to promote the city, its most famous ruins and to celebrate its inhabitants.  It was a great family day out for many Thais and their children, as you’d imagine, were delighted with what they saw and experienced…

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The monkeys do jump on people – I had several attempt to climb my backpack and one grabbed my handbag – it would have been a comical sight to anyone watching as I swung my bag around with a monkey on the end.  They just want food!

Although the monkey festival only happens once a year on the last Sunday in November, the monkeys are there all year round and the temples are definitely worth looking at. The Lopburi Monkey Festival was a hit for me, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do any of the clearing up…

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2 thoughts on “Attending important monkey business

  1. Pingback: An Introvert’s Guide to Better Presentations | SoshiTech

  2. Pingback: Hungry birds – snapshot travel moments | The Coconut Times

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