This weekend my friends and I decided to make the journey to Lopburi, Thailand, for their annual Monkey Festival. Lopburi, known pretty much only for their monkey inhabitants, is about a 3 hour drive north of Bangkok.
We left Saturday morning around 8AM and between transferring buses and song taos etc, we didn’t arrive until almost 2PM. But the weather was crummy and rainy so we weren’t missing much. We got lunch, met up with a bunch of friends in the program who were visiting that weekend as well, made it to Old Town to see where these monkeys really were and what they were all about.Well they were pretty much all over, but in clusters. According to this random guy we met from LA, there are 6 monkey clans, or gangs as he called them, each in different parts of the city. And they apparently all hang out in their respective areas and are pretty territorial. Sounded like a Jets vs. Sharks scenario.
The monkeys are macaques and they are pretty ugly and lose their novelty very quickly. They are used to being fed by humans and getting what they want so they will snatch things from you if you get close enough. My friend was minding her own business, not even really engaging with them and one grabbed a bag of chips out of her hand – no joke. This was after she had gotten biten by one at the Monkey Festival (it didn’t break skin thank god) – it was not her day.
Anyway, Saturday night was filled with meeting up with friends we hadn’t seen in weeks, eating dinner, going to a local bar and having an all around great time. Such a great time that we didn’t realize the Song Taos stopped running at the ungodly hour of 8PM. It was sometime after midnight and we realized we had no idea how to get home or explain where the heck we were staying – it was about 10KM away. My friend Helen decided to ask the owner of the bar if he knew a way we could get home. Of course he did! His friend would drive us in the back of his pick up truck. And charge us 50 baht a head (roughly a little less than $2 but really expensive for Thai travel standards. I can get a bus to Bangkok from my town for like 70 baht.) We didn’t really have another option so off we went in the bed of a pick up truck and by some monkey god miracle, made it home safe and sound.
Sunday morning was the actual Monkey Festival. Legend has it 20 something years ago, the owner of the Lopburi Inn decided to throw a party for the local monkeys to thank them for bringing in all of the tourism the town sees. So he bought a lot of fruit, set it up in front of one of the main sights in town, an old Khmer style temple Prang Sam Yot, where a lot of monkeys live and they had themselves a party.
Since then they do this every year, on the last Sunday in November. There are 3 feedings during the day, 10AM, Noon and 2PM. We opted for the early one since we wanted to go visit some sunflower fields the area was known for later in the day. We had breakfast, got there around 10AM, listened to announcements in Thai, saw some sort of parade go through the grounds, with a marching band and people dressed as different countries of ASEAN and monkeys, (the latter was kind of creepy) then they had a group of kids do Gangnam style dance dressed as hip hop Monkeys and then they were ready to go.
By ready to go I mean they pulled a tarp off of the food and a strange pit of monkey stuffed animals and let the monkeys have at it. It was very strange.
So in about 15 minutes the novelty wore off and we were interested in seeing some sunflowers. Every person we asked tried to charge us 100 baht a person, to drive 20 minutes. Which was the same price I paid to get from BKK to Lopburi in 3 hours. Insanity. Well guess who pulls up out of nowhere to offer us a ride? Our pick up truck buddy from the night before. He says he’ll cut us a deal and charge us 80 baht. For all 8 of us to sit on the bed of his pick up truck. Insanity. This guy definetely doesn’t have a job. His bumping sound system and neon yellow rims were paid for by the farang with no ride anywhere in Lopburi. Quite the hustler.
Either way, it was worth it. The sunflower fields were gorgeous and I love me some sunflowers. We took some really nice pictures, got lunch and began our 5 hour journey back home.
It’s amazing how quickly somewhere completely foreign can feel like home after a long 48 hours of traveling. I have never been so excited to see Punna Mansion and that smelly, smelly, sewage canal.
Next weekend we will be celebrating my birthday in Bangkok! And we get paid! Yippee! Going forward we are kicking it into overtime travel-wise and getting ready to keep it moving every weekend. It’s pretty tiring but I can’t believe over a month has already passed and it’s almost December! I know it’s going to fly by so I better get cracking. The country is the size of Texas and getting places takes twice as long due to the language barrier so I have a lot of ground to cover.