When Karl Pilkington visited Thailand’s “monkey town”, despite having his food stolen and dreams shattered, I knew that I had to go there.
Lopburi is a city with a long, rich history dating back 1000 years or more. However, a lot of this history has been overshadowed by the fact that the city is now infested with crab-eating macaques (monkeys!). I can’t exactly tell you why, although I promise I’ll update if I find out. To keep the monkeys from turning savage, the town officials feed them at set points throughout the day. You might be offered monkey feed for 10 baht, but any trace of food on you means they will probably grab your bag or start rifling through your pockets! You also shouldn’t touch them, because – well, they’re wild monkeys. They also like to steal food and attack people. Despite that, if you want to watch monkeys prance around ancient monuments, this is the place for you.
I have a bit of a monkey obsession. I went to the Monkey Forest Park in Staffordshire once and I couldn’t tear myself away. I took hundreds of photos. The same thing happened in Lopburi, but I’ll keep it to a select few.
Getting to Lopburi from Bangkok is pretty easy. Trains go there pretty regularly, I believe you can get a train from Hualamphong that takes 3.5 hours. We figured it would be easier to take the metro to Bang Sue (the other end of the line) and catch a train from there, which may have saved us a little time. There’s also a special express train which takes just 2 hours and cost 374 baht (just around £7). The train ride was pretty comfortable and included a meal. You can also get to Lopburi with a minibus from Victory Monument or a bus from Mo Chit, but we wanted to try the train.
We didn’t spend loads of time there, but this guide to Live Less Ordinary includes a few restaurants and places to stay, if you want to have a look!
When you get out of Lopburi at the train station, it’s a simple turn right and a 5-10 minute walk until you’ll start to see monkeys. There are a few temple ruins dotted around near the station, too. You’ll also find one of Thailand’s highly misleading maps…
This map shows a walk to the temple/schools from the train station (grey, dotted line is the train track) as quite far, when the reality was 5-10 minutes. You might think the road of the same length on the map that then goes to the right, towards where the circle starts, would take the same amount of time to walk to. But you’d be wrong. More on that in a minute… let’s look at monkeys!
There isn’t too much to say. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are suddenly monkeys walking about like they own the town…
And they do. The sign that explains the feeding times will show you who’s boss.
“To prevent monkeys attack people the officer will feed monkeys 3 designated areas…” You might also be offered monkey food for 10 baht, but is you have ANY food on you, the little sh*ts will probably attack you and steal it. So, try not to have food on you!
Just after this warning sign, to the right, is a shrine – Phra Kahn/Kal Shrine – where a lot of monkeys hang out. They have a lake and ropes to play on, so you can watch them for hours (if you’re weird like me).
Across the road from here is Phra Prang Sam Yod, ancient temple ruins swarmed with monkeys. At first, they may appear to be hiding against the walls – they’re nearly the same colour. On closer inspection, you’ll start to see more and more monkeys.
Lopburi has plenty of history, too, if you want to visit temples and ruins. Unfortunately I didn’t really do much of that and we’ll have to all be happy to accept that I was an uncultured snob on this (as with many) occasions. Can I interest you in another monkey picture?
Of course, this is cute for a while, but tourists have been known to have their bags stolen by monkeys. A nearby tour guide pointed at my glasses and gestured for me to be careful, as the monkeys may steal them. We were not touched by the monkeys at all, but plenty of people have been.
It’s also hard to imagine living with the constant thought that a monkey might jump on you or rob your shop. After a while, you start to notice that the monkeys do not consign themselves to the temples, but they crawl over power lines and can be found hanging out in gangs on blocks of flats. Several shops cage themselves in to avoid thieving monkeys, and you start to realise that this is a city where people really live at the mercy of the macaques. I wonder how long I’d have to be there before I stopped finding them so fascinating.
Instead of going back to Bangkok on the train, we tried to walk to the bus station. This is where that map comes in. The walk to the East, which should have been 5-10 if the tourist maps were to scale in any way, turned out to be a 30 minute walk at least. It was really hot and sweaty. When we finally reached the bus station and asked about Bangkok, we were led quite far away to the minivans. They charged us 100 baht each to get back to Victory Monument, which seemed to take forever.