Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival
The Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival is an annual occasion which always take place on the last Sunday of November. Coming so soon after the Surin Elephant Roundup, it makes November quite a month for animal aficionados in Thailand!
The 2017 edition of the festival is scheduled to take place on Sunday November 26th.
Even for Thailand, the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival is a pretty unusual event. Lopburi has a special connection to monkeys (we’ll go into more detail later), and this is best displayed with the annual banquet.
And what a banquet it is. Vast tables are covered in red tablecloths, which are absolutely stacked with food. Candies and cakes, fruits and vegetables, sticky rice and nuts are all provided for the monkey guests. After being initially hesitant, hundreds of macaque monkeys descend (there are said to be as many as 3,000 in the area), and put away the mountains of food surprisingly quickly.
Like many of their cousins in Thailand, these monkeys are pretty cheeky. Hold on to your valuables, and don’t even try to eat any of your own food; it’ll be pinched within seconds.
The city of Lopburi has a significant monkey population, but rather than fight this fact the locals have chosen to embrace it; some other Thais even refer to it as ‘Monkey Town’.
In the Ramayana, the Indian epic, the heroic monkey Hanuman played a key part (Hinduism was popular in certain areas of Thailand in the middle ages, if you’re wondering why this is relevant!). He rescued a lord’s wife from an evil demon, and some even say he helped to form Lopburi. For these reasons, alongside the luck they’re believed to bring, monkeys are still venerated in Lopburi to this day.
The Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival itself was started in 1989. It was the brainwave of an enterprising local businessman, who saw an opportunity to use the simians in the area in a way which boosted tourism. Needless to say, his plan worked!
The city of Lopburi is home to some fine Khmer temple ruins (the same style in which Angkor Wat was created), which provide homes to many of the monkeys. The specific hub of the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival events is the Phra Prang Sam Yot Temple, which is centrally located.
Lopburi is only around 150km north of Bangkok, making it extremely easy to reach, even as a simple day trip. Many buses and trains leave from the capital each day, or you can catch a quick bus ride from other major cities in the area, such as Ayutthaya.