Lopburi Monkey Town (Thailand)
Menacing locals, stealing from slow-moving vehicles, humping roadside, the monkeys of Lopburi Monkey Temple are wild and mischievous, and are far from contained within temple grounds. And it’s almost like a scene from Gremlins at times where the monkeys rule the streets of the Lopburi Old Town. So it’s best not to expect a cuddly tourist attraction contained within the grounds of Lopburi Monkey Temple.
Human vs. Monkey
There is a somewhat symbiotic relationship between locals and monkeys in Lopburi, although I fail to see any benefits for the locals, other than the small amount of tourism at Lopburi Monkey Temple. As the homes and areas surrounding the monkey zone are caged in with monkeys climbing and clambering between power lines and rooftops. But it’s hard not to be charmed by the scenes when a kid stops his bike to pull on one of monkey’s tails.
Monkey Temple (Prang Sam Yot)
Despite Lopburi’s significance as an ancient Siam capital, the town would likely fall into obscurity were it not for the monkeys. And by far the most notable historic attraction is the ancient Khmer temple (c13th century), aka Lopburi Monkey Temple, where the monkeys preside. For entrance, it costs 50 Baht or so, and this also gives entrance to Lopburi’s other significant monuments such as Kraison Siharat Palace and Wichayan Residence (European architecture). And free “Lopburi Historic Town” brochures are found at any hotel/guesthouse.
Don’t Stand Still
If you have animal phobias then Lopburi Monkey Temple is maybe not the place to be. Because these mischievous macaques have no boundaries, and if you get close to them, they will likely try to rob you. Meaning loose clothing, bags, accessories etc, are not a great idea to bring with. And if they see something, they like they will likely try to take it. Which goes the same for my own camera bag, which one grabbed hold of, until I swung it around my head until he was dizzy and fell off. So don’t be afraid to get rough with them, otherwise, they’ll just keep coming back. And do not just stand scared still or they will just climb over you with their tiny, creepy, hairy hands.
Inside Monkey Temple
Inside the temple is at least monkey free, but this does not mean animal free, and from the moment I stepped through the temple gates, it was obvious that I was not alone. And it was hard to know whether the shrill squeaks came from the bats on the ceilings or the rats on the ground. Either way, they are definitely both nearby, and again, Lopburi is not a great place for anyone with animal phobias. Otherwise there are some beautiful Buddha statues inside the temple, albeit without their heads.
The Old Town
Just a short walk from Lopburi Monkey Temple you will find the centre of Lopburi’s old town. And as with any town in Thailand, there are plenty of local markets, small shophouse restaurants, and lots of street food to keep you happy. It is also easy to navigate and get around, although, for further travel, there are always motorbike taxis, songtaews, or maybe grab a lift on a samlor (3 wheeled bicycle).
Lopburi is far from tourist focused and, as I stayed in the “New City”, I was forced to do something that I’ve never done before. Go in search of the backpackers. And after a hunt through the streets of Lopburi’s Old Town, I finally came across a few popular Western haunts concentrated within a couple of streets near the Lopburi train station. And it is a nice enough area to relax and watch the monkeys play cat and mouse with the local dogs, as the sneaky macaques would grab their tails, before scampering up to the wires before taking a bite in the ass.
I did find a bit of nightlife again near the Lopburi train station with bars on a sleepy street adjacent to Wat Phra Sri Mahathat. Which lured me in with tiny markups and sounds of Thai pop rock music. At the time (18:00PM) it was relatively empty, but after a couple of hefty glasses of Blend 285 whiskey, the place was packed out with seating covering the street. A barbecue was then set up on the street and spicy Thai salads were shared to the tables. I’m not sure if it was free (I think it was someone’s birthday) but I can’t remember paying for it. I then found myself partying to the wee hours with random Muay Thai fighters from the nearby army bases.
Where to Stay?
To avoid tourist and backpacker trails, I opted for the New City area (4km from old town) where not many farang (foreigners) venture and there’s cheap and modern accommodation. I then used Sontaews and motorbikes to travel to and from the Old City. From the New City it is 8 baht by red Songtaew or 40baht on the back of the motorbike.
Full list of hotels here.
Bangkok to Lopburi
Lopburi by Train: Eleven trains daily stop at Lopburi on the Bangkok – Chiang Mai line between 07.00am and 22:00pm. The journey time is between 2 – 3 hours and it is also worth doing on a stopover between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Lopburi by Minibus: Vans leave Bangkok’s Mor Chit Station at regular intervals starting 07.00AM onwards. Costs around 110baht and the journey time is 2-3hours.
Lopburi by Bus: Buses leave Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) every 20 mins (or so) starting at 06:00AM and the journey takes 3 hours.
Lopburi to Bangkok
Lopburi Train Station: Trains leave Lopburi Train Station to Bangkok (and Chiang Mai) throughout the day and sto at everywhere in between.
Lopburi Minibus Terminal: Buses leave Lopburi’s minibus terminal to Bangkok at regular intervals starting 07.00am. Cost around 110baht and journey time is 2-3 hours.
Lopburi Bus Station: Routes to Bangkok and many locations in central Thailand are found regularly throughout the day.