Festivals are common in the entire region of south-east Asia. While there are different festivals with different names and histories, only one of them is perhaps as adventurous and as “delicious” as the Monkey Buffet festival in Lopburi of Thailand.
What is Monkey Buffet Festival:
If you walk into a town named Lobpuri in central Thailand and see monkeys sitting on towers of vegetables and fruits, it’s not surprising, because it is a part of the festival named the Monkey Buffet Festival.
The monkey Buffet Festival is an annual festival celebrated at an ancient town named Lopburi in Thailand. In the town of Lopburi in Thailand, there is an ancient temple- the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, which is in ruins at present. In this temple, about hundreds of monkeys live; known as the neighbors of the people of that town. Ordinarily, the monkeys snoop around the town to get food and often, they disturb the peace of the locals. However, on the last Sunday of November every year, the locals arrange a feast for their mischievous neighbors.
The Monkey Buffet Festival is a vegetarian feast for the monkeys. Locals make this feast special with their dances. They give the monkeys as much as they can eat, and sometimes even more. This festival encourages not only enjoyment but also festivity, but it also inspires kindness and compassion for fellow humans and other animals.
Some Key Facts about the Monkey Buffet Festival:
- It takes place in the town of Lopburi of Thailand.
- It occurs every year on the last Sunday of November.
- It is a festival where the towns-people arrange a feast for the native monkeys.
- It can get messy, because monkeys are mischievous creatures.
- The feast arranged for the monkeys is vegetarian.
- The people can have food from the shopkeepers and vendors who sell their goods during the festival.
- It is a festival that encourages respect and love for the species different from us.
There are sticky rice, food desserts and a special Thai dessert made of egg-yolk named Thong Yod for the monkeys. The Monkey Buffet Festival is not only fun, it also has some significance. At First, it shows us we humans can be kind towards other creatures. Second, it brings together people of different cultures and religions together to have food, fun and share a day of compassion in the ancient city of Lopburi. Finally, it also brings ancient history and mythology into our minds.
What is the History of Monkey Buffet Festival:
The origin of this beautiful, adventurous, yet chaotic festival is in the pages of the ancient history of Thailand and India. In the Ramayana, it mentions that a devil named Ravan kidnapped Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. Lord Hanuman, the great deity who resembles a monkey, helped Lord Rama and fought along with him to save Sita. In the Thai version of Ramayana, Lord Rama built the town Lopburi with the help of Lord Hanuman. It is said that the thousands of monkeys living around the town are the descendants of the great Lord Hanuman.
Therefore, people treat these monkeys with fairness and respect in the town. This festival started when a hotelier named YongyuthKitwattananusont coined in the festival’s idea in 1989. However, people celebrate this festival as an expression of remembrance of the great Lord Hanuman and respect for his descendants who have helped to draw tourists into the town for years.
When is the Monkey Buffet Festival Celebrated:
On the last Sunday of November, every year people celebrate The Monkey Buffet Festival with tremendous enthusiasm.
Schedule of the Monkey Buffet Festival:
The Monkey Buffet Festival starts a just before the sunrise and continues for an entire day, and ends well after mid-night. The festival kicks start with dances from performers wearing monkey costumes. The dancers, along with the music and food, attract the monkeys and it does not take much time for the monkeys to come in hordes to the feast. On the table, the chefs uncover the foods who had toiled for the prior week to prepare a monkey-worthy vegetarian feast for the primates. The feast set four times on that special day- at 10 a.m., 12 a.m., 14 p.m., and 16 p.m.
Other things to do during the Festival:
There are other things to do during the festival. One can visit the ancient temple, home of those monkeys who will be busy eating and jumping on food on the day of the festival.
A person can take interesting pictures and befriend the primates while doing so. There are also exotic foods in the food-stalls for the humans. It makes the festival even more attractive with its carnival-like atmosphere.
Aside from the festival itself, the town of Lopburi itself is very attractive for any tourist. It is an ancient place with ruins of very important architecture and buildings built during the reign of the Khmer empire who ruled this town, known as Lavapura, during the 11th century.
Essential tips for you to enjoy the Festival:
- The monkeys are unruly, so you must tie your hair tightly (so they cannot pull at your hair) and wear dresses without trails.
- The monkeys are also experts at snatching things out of your hands, so keep your handbags close!
- It is advisable to take your food from the vendors or the food-stalls, rather than the piles of
food arranged for the monkeys.
- If untamed animals are not your cup of tea, you probably should think twice before coming to this festival.
- Be sure to take pictures, because this festival is a combination of color, festivity, wilderness, adventure and compassion.
- The monkeys often get in food-fights! So you better be careful.
- If you intend to stay overnight (to enjoy the festival, well up to the end of it), make
sure to book a room at a hotel in the city in advance.
Safety Concerns During the Festival:
- It is hard to tame the monkeys, so you should be careful of them.
- The monkeys are not afraid of humans and appreciate food and attention.
- Make sure that your hotels are “monkey-proof” i.e. they have bars and wires which do not
let monkeys get inside the hotel rooms.
- Bring your own medicine or first-aid kit.
The monkeys can be a nuisance, but it is sure worth the experience one can have there.
Apart from knowing about a culture which interweaves both Hinduism and Buddhism, the festival is fun! It is exciting and no-one really knows what is going to happen next in a festival like this.
While one has to be careful while enjoying himself/ herself in this place, but it is not dangerous on any accounts. So get ready to attend the festival.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Monkey Buffet Festival:
Q. Is this festival tourist-friendly?
Answer: Yes, this festival is very tourist-friendly.
Q. Is it safe to travel to Lopburi?
Answer: Anyone, even a female, can travel safely through this city.
Q. Can I travel from Bangkok to this festival?
Answer: Yes, you can travel to this city by Bus or by Train easily. You can take a decent seat in Bangkok-Chiang Mai trains which leave Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station every morning. Meanwhile, rapid trains travel from Bangkok to the city five times a day and it only takes two hours and a half to reach Lopburi from Bangkok. You can also take a bus (both AC and Non AC available) from Mo Chit 2 bus terminal and it will take you about three hours to go to Lopburi from Bangkok.