On our way north from Bangkok to Chiang Mai we stopped at Ayutthaya and then moved on to Lopburi. Similarly to Ayutthaya, Lopburi is one of Thailands’ ancient capitals and contains ruins, museums and markets which all make it well worth a visit. This being said, it is also known colloquially as “monkey city” and, naturally, this is the real reason that I made Rachel go there.
Taking the train north it is easy and cheap to get to Lopburi (or Lop Buri), I don’t remember exactly what we did pay for our tickets but we went third class and checking the Thai State Railway Website (link here) suggests approximately 13 Baht each for an Ordinary, Third Class fair (not a rapid train).
It’s a short enough journey so we didn’t mind the lack of air conditioning in third class and enjoyed the meanderings of the train through the Thai countryside, watching rice fields filled with storks ebb past the windows. Periodically , hawkers will get on and off the train offering a variety of foods and chilled drinks for sale, so don’t worry if you get on the train without packing your sandwiches.
When you arrive in Lopburi the station does not try to hide the fact that it is a simian city – ceramic monkeys litter the platforms and monkey stickers adorn the walls.
On exiting the station, directly opposite, there are amazing ruins and it was a short walk to Noom’s Guesthouse which is where we would stay for the next few days. At Noom’s we were given a map which helpfully circled the “monkey temples”. The city has a number of different ruins and though it is fairly common to see monkeys throughout the city, the majority of the monkeys are focused around two temples.
Noom’s is an OK guesthouse, cheap and clean enough for anyone but not air-conditioned. It’s our fault for not noticing this when checking online but it was definitely hot enough that we would have paid a bit extra to be able to sleep somewhere a bit cooler. That being said, the staff there are friendly, they operate tours out to see sunflower fields and swim in a lake and the location is great (right in the old town).
After dropping off our bags we went straight to the monkey temples. On our walk from the train to the hostel we hadn’t seen any monkeys, but you could tell we were getting close to the temples very quickly as you turned a corner and suddenly monkeys were sitting on the pavement, climbing up shop fronts and chewing the ariels of parked cars.
It is safe to say that the monkeys in Lopburi are urban monkeys are very used to the people of the town. Keep food and water in a safe place unless you aren’t particularly attached to it. Luckily we didn’t have any obvious food out but we did attract the interest of one monkey that started following us and then, for reasons only known to himself, rushed up behind us and slapped my arse with both hands. A not entirely unpleasant sensation but confusing nonetheless. Other than this, we didn’t have any issues with the mischievous locals but it did make Rachel a bit nervous.
We decided, having got a lay of the land, that we’d get some dinner, sleep and, the next day, Rachel would find somewhere air conditioned to sit and I’d go to the monkey temples.
This was good fun, there really are monkeys everywhere. I took care to make sure that I didn’t have anything in my pockets or out in the open which might get grabbed and taken away and walked around the temples reasonably undisturbed by the monkeys. It was great to watch them playing and climbing and I even spotted a large bowl which several were using as a bath.
The ruins of the temples themselves are interesting but not as impressive as Ayutthaya and, the sheer number of monkeys means that you can’t get quite as close to the ruins. The standout attraction for us in Lopburi was Somdet Phra Narai National Museum. Previously King Narai’s palace, the museum is housed within the buildings of the palace and circled by walled gardens which are shaded and peaceful and also contain ruins from some of the palaces earlier incarnations. Including, buildings which were formerly used as elephant stables.
There’s a number of different exhibitions in the museum which shed light on the ancient capital as well as Thailands’ history and the royal family. We loved looking around and especially enjoyed walking around the grounds of the palace enjoying the calm. The gardens are fantastic and free to enter. Admission to the museum itself is only 50 baht and well worth it.
Lopburi is an excellent idea if you have a couple of days to spare – it’s a small city, but definitely worth stopping by.