Lopburi Monkey Buffet

In Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, he links the possibility of humans as a descendant of earlier apes. Monkeys are intellectual beings. They can mimic the actions of humans and in Thailand, they are even capable of boosting its tourism. That is why an annual festival is held in Thailand especially for our primate friends.

Each year, Lopburi, Thailand celebrates the Monkey Buffet Festival. It is an event wherein residents offer a half tons of fruits, vegetables, and candies to the monkeys living around the ancient temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot. The tradition is done by the locals as a way of thanking the monkeys for drawing more visitors or tourists to the town.

The first Monkey Buffet Festival took place in 1989 and is continuously held annually in Lopburi City in the Lopburi Province about 100 miles north of Bangkok (also known as Lavo, Lavapura, and Luovo). The festival is celebrated on the last Sunday of November of each year in Thailand held near the Khmer temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot. The place is famously known for its long-tailed macaque monkeys that roam around the town freely that is why it is well known by the name “The city of monkeys”. The place has a local monkey population of 2,000 but now, there are more than 3,000 monkeys living side-by-side with humans within the area.

The origin of Lopburi’s monkeys goes way back to the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit story. In this ancient Sanskrit tale, a heroic monkey having human abilities rescues a bride-to-be against a ten-headed demon. This monkey is said to have established Lopburi which made the residents believe that their monkey neighbors today are direct descendants of his bloodline.

The monkeys dwelling in and around the village of Lopburi are regarded as gluttons, harassing visitors for their snacks and food. The villagers regarded the monkeys as nuisances, and in 1989 hotelier Yongyuth Kitwattananusont thought of an idea. He then came up with the concept of Monkey Buffet Festival which he first started. Now the festival is launch with the help of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Monkeys in Thailand have been a major source of tourism for the city. The Monkey Buffet Festival alone attracts more than 1,000 tourists each year. That is why the villagers tolerate them and every year, they lay out a buffet of food and beverages for the monkeys to feast on. This has become a tradition as well as another tourist attraction. Tourism in the area is most high in November than other months mainly because of the Monkey Festival.

Each year, the local chefs spend hours preparing an exclusively vegetarian menu for the monkeys. Annually, over 4,000 kilos of food is provided, as a feast for the long-tailed macaques consisting of sticky white rice, fruit salad, fruit carvings and Thong yod which is a traditional Thai dessert made from egg yolk. The food is laid out buffet style on tables with a variety of delicious choices even including a can of coke.

Aside from the Monkey Buffet, there are also a variety of activities during the festival celebrations. This includes charitable activities in temples like merit-making which is a significant Buddhist practice. Merit-making means doing good deeds and one common tradition is the merit-making by putting food in the bowl of the monks. During the festival, the monks receive offerings and the people believe that they will gain merit by giving. The event also offers contests as well as a number of musical performances that features the ethnic culture of the region.

Also present during the festival are a wide variety of stalls. These stalls sell local and regional Thai cuisine as well as the OTOP products. OTOP stands for One Tambon One Product. Wherein Tambon means sub-district. The project aims to support the unique locally made products of each Thai tambon or sub-district.

The Monkey Buffet Festival really is a unique festival which shows that humans and animals can co-exist. With this one day every year, humans and monkeys are both happily enjoying the fun-filled festivities.