Monkeys feast for a day in Lopburi
IT is a feast fit for a monkey king. On November 27 the central Thai town of Lopburi put on a five-star banquet for its hundreds of macaque inhabitants, sparking a mass simian food fight. Lopburi has been laying on an annual feast – part merit-making tradition and part unabashed tourist attraction – for its monkeys since the late 1980s.
This year’s feast featured a smorgasbord of fruit that was quickly demolished by the hungry guests who squawked and tussled as they gulped down their feast, much to the delight of a horde of distantly related human onlookers armed with cameras.
While Thailand is an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation, it has long assimilated Hindu traditions and lore from its pre-Buddhist era.
As a result monkeys are afforded a special place in Thai hearts thanks to the heroic Hindu monkey god Hanuman, who helped Rama rescue his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of an evil demon king.
But the inhabitants of Lopburi take their love for monkeys to a whole new level. Townspeople give their fellow primates a place in the local society, and the monkeys enjoy free reign around the town. Though habitually destructive and regular thieves, they are believed to bring good fortune and luck – though the most obvious fortune is baht, which comes in heaps for the annual food fight.
The festival takes place on the ruins of Phra Prang Sam Yot, an 800-year-old Khmer-era Hindu temple and one of the town’s most striking landmarks. Beginning at 10am amongst the overgrown Khmer ruins that the monkey live in, festivities include human monkey dances, musical performances and a speech by the governor.
“It’s pretty awesome to see so many wild monkeys just roaming around the streets,” said Amanda, a tourist from the United States.
“They were eating over there and lots of food to choose from and they were attacking each other and running around and jumping on people,” she told AFP.
The regular feeding has left Lopburi’s monkey population notoriously unafraid of humans.
“The monkeys are crazy,” said Fang Xi, a 36-year-old sales manager from China.
“One of the monkeys wants to steal my hair clip and doesn’t want to get off my shoulder. Two other girls were afraid and ran away.” –
A macaque dives into the annual “monkey buffet” in Lopburi province, north of Bangkok on November 27. Monkeys pig out, Thanksgiving-style.
President of Lopburi Inn resort Yongyuth Kitwatananusont offers fruits and vegetables to the monkeys of the hour. The gang takes a break from eating on a mural in Lopburi.
Monkeys in Lopburi enjoy a venerated existence, and live alongside the local population more-or-less peacefully.