Inhabited since the Dvaravati period, Lopburi houses ruins which span a remarkable 12 centuries. However, it is the population of wild monkeys (a type of macaque) which inhabit the town that earns Lopburi its fame.
I’m not sure how often the buses leave Ayuthaya for Lopburi, as i was sat on an almost empty bus for over half an hour before the driver turned up, but the journey takes approximately 2 hours and costs 40 THB.
Lopburi has quite an intimate feel to it, it’s a reasonably compact town and very easy to find your way around. I arrived at the Nett Hotel (160 THB per night) and was a little disappointed considering this is supposed to be the best accommodation option in town. The rooms are clean and spacious but seriously worn and tatty, and the whole place could do with a bit of a re-vamp. The fan in the first room i was shown looked like it was dangerously close to detaching itself from the ceiling!
I managed to explore Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat (which, during Lopburi’s hey day, was the town’s largest monastry) without seeing a single monkey. However, as soon as i got closer to the railway line and San Phra Kan (Kala Shrine), all of a sudden it was like i’d walked into another world. There were monkeys stopping the traffic in the street, climbing the lamp posts, and hanging off the telephone lines! There were monkeys everywhere, and there were hundreds of them! This was a town gone crazy!
I walked into the grounds of the shrine, seriously worried i wasn’t going to be able to escape a monkey attack. However, this group of monkeys didn’t seem that bothered by people, as long as you didn’t get too close or try to feed them. It was quite amusing and endearing to watch them pushing each other into this huge pool of water, playing inquisitively with a garden hose and chasing each other through the trees.
Prang Sam Yot (monkey temple)
This is a Hindu turned Buddhist temple. Originally the 3 towers symbolised the Hindu triumurti of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, but now 2 of them contain Lopburi style Buddha images
This place was crawling with monkeys. I couldn’t actually walk the circumference of the grounds due to not being able to make a clear pathway through the monkeys. After witnessing an Australian girl fight off a monkey crawling up her back and pulling at her hair, and a Thai girl cry out in dismay as her sunglasses were swiped from her face, i decided it was wise to keep my distance! You need 360 degree vision in this place!
I ate at the White House Garden restaurant this evening, as it was round the corner from the Nett Hotel. Piak, the owner, began talking to me about the volunteer project he forms part of : helping out at a heroin detox centre for monks up at one of the nearby monastries. He showed me some photos and a book of comments from visitors who had taken the tour up there and to the hospital where HIV victims are treated. Had i had time, it would have been nice to have been able to take the tour myself. Obviously not nice in the aesthetic sense but in the sense that it would have given me experience of the real Thailand, real issues affecting the country now, as opposed to the kind of things we see on postcards.
Notes : If you plan a visit to Chao Phraya Wichayen or Phra Narai Ratchaniwet (King Narai’s Palace), they both close at 4pm. Unfortunately, as i’d spent about 2 hours photographing monkeys, i didn’t realise this fact until it was too late!
Photo is of monkeys cuddling at Prang Sam Yot.