Celebrated on the last weekend of November, this traditional festival will make you go bananas.
by Dave Stamboulis
The provincial capital of Lopburi is a pretty nondescript place. Some small side streets, an old set of temple ruins from the Ayutthaya period, and a rail station are about it as far as the small town goes. Except for the monkeys, that is.
Arriving in Lopburi, one notices a humongous statue outside the train station of a giant macaque, with no explanation as to why it is there. It turns out that for years, the locals of Lopburi have been feeding the abundant resident macaque population, and over time the monkeys have taken over the town. Monkeys can be found everywhere throughout the city. In the temples, on rooftops, even scurrying across the train tracks in time to greet incoming arrivals. The fame of the Lopburi monkeys has spread, and they have now become a tourist attraction themselves. It is thus only fitting that once a year, the city pays homage to their simians for drawing in visitors and providing good luck.
The Lopburi Monkey Banquet falls on the last weekend of each November, and it is an entire day devoted to sating the monkeys and throwing a lavish party in their honor. Being so close to Bangkok, the festival has now become a major event. In 2013, no expense was spared to thrill the visitors, as the banquet food was delivered to the temple via skydivers, who parachuted down into the temple grounds with their payloads of food!
Over 2,000 kilograms of bananas, eggs, cucumbers, and various fruits are provided by the locals, who believe that the monkeys bring the city good luck and prosperity. The city mayor boasted how much the provincial government had spent in providing kilos of durian for the banquet, which must cost a pretty penny as more than 2,000 monkeys reside in Lopburi.
The festival starts off with traditional Thai dancing and a parade, and then the food is put out around the Prang Sam Yot Temple. While the monkeys start off shy when it comes to crowds, eventually a few brave macaques make their way down to sample the goods and report that all is safe, and then the fun begins. Soon there are thousands of monkeys descending, and various city VIPs led by the mayor are bringing out plates of watermelon and durian while being swarmed by an army of primates!
Monkeys ride on peoples’ shoulders, drink cans of Coke, and generally make a complete nuisance of themselves. The temple gets trashed with fruit peels and the grounds are littered with monkey droppings. Yet it is all in good fun. By the afternoon Lopburi is back to normal, monkey and man alike are sound asleep, and the city looks forward to another year of prosperity and fêting their prized primates.