The Lopburi Monkey Festival (also known as the Lopburi Monkey Banquet) involves treating the macaques in the city to a lavish feast as an expression of gratitude toward the primates.
The Lopburi Monkey Banquet is one of the biggest and strangest festivals in Thailand, and it usually takes place on the last Sunday of November.
City of Monkeys
The ancient city of Lopburi lies about 150 kilometers north of Bangkok. Originally known as Lavo and home to incredible ruins of historical temples, Lopburi is now known for hosting thousands of monkeys that coexist with the locals—more or less.
Nicknamed Mueang Ling or “City of Monkeys,” Lopburi natives have grown accustomed to coexisting with the monkeys living in the Khmer-styled temple, Phra Prang Sam Yot, and the Khmer-styled shrine, Sarn Phra Kan. In fact, the macaques have become one of the main attractions that drive revenue into the city.
Descendants of Hanuman
Anyone who has set foot in Lopburi knows of the monkeys’ mischief, be it chewing cable lines, snatching food, or even engaging in fights. Nevertheless, locals tend to tolerate their actions, believing that these primates are sacred.
According to the national epic Ramakien — a version of India’s Ramayana — monkeys in Lopburi are the direct descendants of Hanuman, god-king of the apes. The divine deity is known for playing a crucial role in Phra Ram’s (also known as Lord Rama) plan to rescue his wife, Nang Sida.
As a token of appreciation, Phra Ram awarded Hanuman with the town of Lavo, now Lopburi. As time passed, his troops of monkey descendants filled the town, becoming the abundance of monkeys seen today. Mischief aside, the monkeys have been showered with respect and seen as a sign of goodwill.
The festival was first started in 1989, and it’s usually held at Phra Prang Sam Yot temple. Activities kick off in the morning at the ruins with an opening ceremony, dances, and musical performances.
At first, the monkeys can be overwhelmed by the large number of spectators, but they soon overcome their trepidation to enjoy a buffet of sticky rice, fruits, vegetables, salads, and drinks. These banquets are sometimes spread out into separate times during the day. This year, visitors can expect four rounds of banquets which are 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.
Like any other event in Thailand, food plays a pivotal role, and it’s not all about the monkeys. Food stalls are available for visitors as well, so while the monkeys enjoy their feast, visitors can check out several food stalls with a wide range of local Thai delicacies.
Once the monkeys have satiated their appetites and gotten used to the cheering crowd, they can get very boisterous and create quite a ruckus. Visitors are advised to watch out for these petulant macaques, as they can cause quite a stir when they start mischievously latching onto your belongings.
There is no denying the somewhat strange nature of this festival. Still, it’s one that celebrates the diversity of Thai culture and the historical significance of monkeys in Lopburi. If incredible ancient temple ruins, a lavish display of feasting monkeys, and authentic Thai food, music, and culture interest you, then you should add the Lopburi Monkey Banquet to your itinerary.
For more information about the festival, visit Lopburi’s official website.