Although this blog is mainly about festivals and traditions taking place in Spain, this time I want to tell you about a festival I bumped into when travelling across Thailand, from where I have just arrived: The Lopburi Monkey Festival.
I had read that Lopburi, popularly known as the city of the monkeys, is one of the oldest cities in Thailand and contains some interesting Khmer temples as well as the remains of a palace. But to tell the truth, what really made me visit it was the more than 3000 macaque monkeys who live in the area. On top of that, once in Thailand, I was told that a festival in honour to the monkeys was going to take place in Lopburi on the last Sunday in November (when I would still be there).
Wow! I was going to take part in a monkey festival. What I did not know yet was that I was going to feel like the queen of the Monkey Kingdom, hehehe.
So, I took advantage of my luck and I went to visit Lopburi on the set day.
I got the Lopburi bus station at about eleven. First of all, I wanted to visit the khmer ruins around where these singular inhabitants live. In spite of the fact that I did not know how to get there, it was very easy. I took a pick-up truck which I was told was going to the center, and, after five minutes, long-tailed walking macaque monkeys appeared on the sidewalk, free, all over. Therefore I decided to leave at that point and go to the direction where they were. Indeed, the ‘monkey’ temple was on the other side of the road. By the way, what surprised me was the amount of mobile table decorated with colourful pieces of fruit. It looked as if these local primates were having a delicious banquet.
Origin of the Monkey Festival
The Lopburi Monkey Festival was originated as a tribute to the monkeys to promote tourism in the city, since tourists who visit the city are more attracted by these singular inhabitants than by the khmer temples.
The first buffet meal was offered in 1989, apparently with 35 tables totally full of food.
Buddhist Thai tradition considers monkeys as a hero, due to the fact that, according to Hinduism, there is a special monkey, the Hanuman monkey, which is considered the most powerful and intelligent amongst the Gods. He led an army of monkeys to fight the King Ravana demon. It is thought Hanuman will never die and he brings prosperity and good luck. As a result, feeding the monkeys brings good luck.
How it is celebrated
The festival starts in the morning with musical performances and human monkey dances. Monkey statues are placed close to the temple with trays of fruit and water.
This year, owing to the death of their King Bhumibol Adulyadej, it took a special event inside the temple place, but dances and music were banned.
There were a lot of colourful trays with fruit and sweets prepared just for tourists to give the monkeys, but I did not see many of them interested in such a quirky thought. Indeed, as far as I saw, I was the first one who tried it. It was a nice experience because, contrary to my expectations, they were quite shy, broadly speaking, and it took some minutes to have a lot of them around me. I was sitting with them, on the stairs of the temple, and I could give them pieces of fruit delicately. There were just a few bold monkeys which jumped and tried to steal the food. Every now and then, the small ones climbed over my head and my shoulders, and stayed there quietly. So far, I found them so cute.
Suddenly, one of these baby macaques, started pulling my plaits and eating my hair, while another monkey tried to get my hair clip; I couldn´t stand it. I stood up and started to move my head trying to put them away. As might be expected, they didn´t like it, which caused two bites on my arms and the subsequent five rabies vaccination highly recommended by everyone.
Nevertheless, I liked very much this day with the monkeys in this both bizarre and interesting city of Lopburi. I did not expect to enjoy being so close to several wild monkeys at once. In the end, I am left with the idea of a touching experience.