More Monkey Magic

22nd October, Lopburi, Thailand

Ian writes:

We intended to stay for a couple of nights in Lopburi, but the combination of a nice, cheap air-con room - which has given me an opportunity to catch up on some video editing backlog - and the ever-present monkeys to entertain us when we feel like it meant that we stayed for another day. Seriously, all we have to do here is open the window, rustle a bag of crisps and moments later a monkey or ten will appear at the cage, expecting a hand-out.

It's not difficult to see that there's a pecking order going on. The smallest monkeys will make a very quick grab for anything offered, nervously looking around to see if they've been seen and if they're going to get in trouble for it. If there's an adult monkey around, the youngsters risk being reprimanded, and either make a speedy exit or take their chances grabbing for more food. But if the bigger monkeys give them a clout, they soon scarper. The adults might look fatter and less fit, but they can take a swipe at those youngsters in a flash, and I saw several of the young chancers get a good clout on the head or have their tails bitten by the adult monkeys.

Small monkeys at our hotel window make a quick grab for a snack.

Watching monkeys from the hotel window is one thing, but for the full 'monkeys-jumping-on-your-head' treatment, we went over to San Phra Kan, the small shrine that sits next to the railway line in the old town. Just like yesterday, we wandered round the grounds, constantly on the look-out for the next animal to leap up our legs, onto our backs and so on; it's an even greater possibility here because there are overhead ladders that the monkeys use and narrow paths around the grounds that force you to 'run the gauntlet'. At one point I had one of the little blighters on my head, and tilting my head back did little to shift him - all it did was show me how good a grip these monkeys have, swinging as he was from my straining hairs.

The monkeys here seemed more playful, or should that be more mischievous, than those we'd mingled with yesterday. At the shrine, they have a bathing area, and they would chase each other around the rim of the pool, push each other in and entering the bath involved a good, old-fashioned 'bomb'. If there is an afterlife, I wanna come back as one of these monkeys! [This is your cue to make a joke along the lines of "Well, who'd notice the difference?"]

These animals get well fed: a monkey sits surrounded by courgettes and tomatoes.

Another monkey plays with a tap. Try as he might, he could never catch the water.

We took a look around the centre of the old town which is dotted with a few ruins. None of them are any where as impressive as the ruins found in places such as Sukhothai or Ayutthaya, though. We had a bit of a wander aroud the grounds of Phra Narai Ratchaniwet, King Narai's palace. King Narai died a looooong time ago, though, so the deco left a bit to be desired. I mean, you can't hang a chandalier if there's no roof to hang it from. Yep, this was another rubble site, one that reminded me a little of Tintern Abbey in the UK because of the arched windows revealing nothing but the bright sky behind.

In all honesty, I wouldn't recommend coming to Lopburi for the wats or the ruins. The real reason for coming here, and the reason we double-backed on ourselves (we'd passed straight through on the train from Phitsanulok to Ayutthaya a few weeks previously), is to see the monkeys. It can be done in a day-trip from Bangkok, but we stayed for a couple of days just to get out of the madness of Bangkok. Actually, I'm not sure what's more hassle - fending off the monkeys that jump on you or fending off the tuk-tuk drivers. It's a close call.