Anyone for ice cream?
The festival began in 1989 when hotel owner Yongyuth Kitwattananusont organised an enormous meal for the monkeys in recognition of Lopburi’s history – Thai legend has it that Rama gifted Lopburi to the Monkey King, Hanuman, and that the town’s monkeys descend directly from Hanuman – and to thank the monkeys for the money they bring in through tourism. The banquet has grown into one of the town’s most celebrated festivals, drawing travellers from around the world to witness the incredible sight of thousands of monkeys tucking into everything from fruit and nuts to ice cream and even a local egg-based pudding called thong yod.
Our furry friends can’t believe their eyes as this decadent feast is laid out for them, and take time off from pick-pocketing unwary strangers to gobble up as much as their bellies can handle – with the occasional break for a quick food fight, of course – and with over 4000kg of goodies on offer, no monkey leaves hungry. To make things a little more interesting, organisers often leave the food in blocks of ice to make the macaques work for their dinner – it rarely takes long, and soon all that’s left is a handful of banana skins and a few puddles!
Kids in fancy-dress bring a new meaning to the phrase ‘monkeying around’
Aside from the monkeys themselves, this fabulous carnival celebrates our simian brothers and sisters in style – the children of Lopburi dress up in monkey suits (although we’re not sure whether they’re allowed to get into the role by stealing from visitors!), while the entire town is decked out in bright and beautiful colours, with traditional Thai food and music adding to the day’s excitement, making for a truly remarkable day which you won’t experience anywhere else in the world.
Be careful – they’re known for going ape
As they are constantly around people, the monkeys are pretty fearless (not to mention troublesome, as shown by the regular power outages caused by naughty monkeys chewing through power lines) and tourists are advised not to get too close – the 20-baht (around 40 pence) entrance fee includes a stick for defending yourself from monkey attacks, but it’s best to view the day’s festivities from a safe distance. This is, after all, the macaques’ day – probably best not to be whacking them with bits of wood.
As the sun sets, it’s the return of the macaque
This unforgettable ceremony starts at 10am (this year it begins on November 28th) and quickly gets into gear as the baffled monkeys get used to the on-lookers and tuck into the feast – at their most relaxed, you might even find them playing together with the food or mimicking humans downing soft drinks straight from the can – and winds down in the evening, as the animals drag their bloated stomachs back up into the trees to sleep off the day’s fun.
A feast of fun
So there you have it – the Monkey Buffet Festival of Lopburi! A bizarrely charming and charmingly bizarre dedication to Lopburi’s thriving monkey community, as humans and primates come together in perfect (well…sort of!) harmony to celebrate the area’s rich history – if you’re travelling to Thailand and want to experience something a little different from the endless cycle of jungle treks and beach parties, this incredible carnival is not to be missed.