People often ask a traveller “What’s the best place you have ever been to?” Although it is an impossible question to answer definitively, The Monkey Temple in Lopburi, Thailand, or the Prang Sam Yod to give it its specific name, was one of my standout moments.
Look ahead at what’s coming your way and skip ahead if you’re feeling lazy
Why visit Lopburi?
How to get there
The Prang Sam Yod temple
Don’t be this girl
Need to know; Monkey Temple safety tips
But I don’t like monkeys – FAQs
The tale of the monkey thief
The Lopburi Monkey Buffet Festival
So why visit Lopburi?
Well, simply put, monkeys.
If you love the furry little mischief makers then this is a place you simply must visit. It can be done easily in a day trip from Bangkok, or even better, as part of an overnight trip and combine with a visit to the majestic city of Ayutthaya, this is what I did.
The good news is, that even if you’re not a monkey fan, but your travelling partner is, then it is still a pretty safe place to visit as the monkeys normally leave you alone if you’re not in the small temple complex. We’ll get onto that a little later.
Getting to Lopburi and the Monkey Temple
As mentioned just a second ago, I decided to take the train to Lopburi for the day, starting in Ayutthaya. There is a regular, direct and cheap train service between Bangkok and Ayutthaya, and then again the following day to Lopburi.
If you are tight on time, there are many travel agents that offer day trips from Bangkok to Lopburi, normally combined with a visit to Ayutthaya, but it is also easy to get to via public transport.
Getting a train to Lopburi from Bangkok
You can catch a train from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong station, with morning departures at 7, 8:30 and 10:50am. The trip takes a little over 2 hours and you probably need no more than 3 hours in Lopburi, and even that would include time for lunch.
Check the Bangkok to Ayutthaya or Lopburi train timetable on Seat61, an amazing train travel resource. A third class fare to Lopburi from Bangkok is the cheapest option at just 50 Baht ($1.30). However, if you would like a little more comfort, a second class (complete with air-conditioning) is around 350 Baht ($9.09).
Taking the bus
There are also buses that run regularly from the Morchit, or Northern, bus terminal. These cost in the region of 100 baht ($2.50) and also take about 2 hours.
The added benefit of doing it under your own steam, as opposed to taking a tour, is that it will feel like more of an adventure and you’ll probably be able to miss the big groups, so the odds are the temple will be quiet.
Book a day tour
During my visit, I had the luxury of time meaning I could catch the train the day before meaning it was much easier to get to Lopburi from Ayutthaya. However, if you don’t have that (or just prefer simple life) you can book a day tour from Bankok to visit the Monkey Temple.
My visit to Lopburi
It was another yet another hot and humid day with the few wispy clouds in the sky offering little protection from the sun.
After a short and sweaty train ride from Ayutthaya, I arrived at Lopburi train station at about 11am.
I had been looking forward to this stop for a few weeks having heard about it while searching out the best places to see monkeys in Thailand.
As I left the station, a charming chap offer to take me to the temple in his pedal-powered tuk-tuk for just 10 baht.
Given that I didn’t know what direction to head in, it sounded like an excellent plan.
The driver (or is it rider when pedalling) was a relatively slender old man and with me in tow, he seemed to struggle with the slight incline.
I ended up feeling somewhat guilty and offered to take over, but he was insistent. After about 20 minutes we arrived at the temple, turns out wasn’t a long way and would have absolutely been faster to walk.
The Prang Sam Yod Temple
As a temple, the Prang Sam Yod is small and handsome, but nothing extraordinary compared to others in the region. But to be honest, I wasn’t there for the classic Khmer architecture, I wanted monkeys, lots of them.
The temple is in the centre of grassy field enclosed in by a small metal fence. While it can easily be seen from the outside, to get up close and personal to the vast majority of our little furry cousins, I had to pay to enter the temple site.
To enter the monkey temple costs just 50 baht (£1) payable at small hut manned by a guard and his stick. It is also possible to buy some food to feed the monkeys, but I would suggest caution with this, you’ll understand why in a bit.
Am I being watched?
As soon as I walked in, I could sense eyes on me from every angle. It is times like these that remind me why I had that rabies shot before I left the UK.
Having done a bit of research before going myself (such as you may be doing now) I made sure to hide every bit of food I owned and zip everything up in my bag meaning the monkeys weren’t overly interested in me.
It turned out to be a great research
Why you shouldn’t buy the food
Much to my amusement, the unfortunate lady arriving after me hadn’t read the same advice I did and she bought some food from the guard.
I can only guess she thought that the cute little monkeys would sit on the floor, look up at her with wide eyes, arms out, pleading with her to hand over a bit of food.
No way. These guys are smart.
No sooner had she entered the temple area that one launched itself onto her back, she screamed as another climbed her leg and a third drew near.
She started to go into full blown panic mode and jerked around trying to shake them off; it looked to me like she had just been tasered.
It wasn’t long before the other monkeys had noticed the commotion and joined in the hunt.
I felt bad for her, kind of like I should help . . . but it was way too much fun just watching, and besides, what could I really do?
As the 4th monkey landed on her the temple guard finally thought he should do something having previously taken the same attitude as me, enjoying.
He ran over waving his big stick scaring the macaques away, they must know that sticks hurt, however, it wasn’t before the monkeys got away with all the food, along with a bottle of water and a packet of biscuits.
Double check everything is zipped up
Seeing the attack had made me somewhat apprehensive, I made sure that my bag was properly zipped up and sauntered off thankful I made the correct choice about not buying food!
It wasn’t until I knelt down to take a photo of an exceptionally handsome monkey that they decided to investigate me.
While checking that my aperture was set I felt an unexpected jolt on my back which coincided with an abrupt squeak from my friend. I knew right away I had a monkey on my back.
Luckily in the aforementioned research, it suggested that to remove monkeys, simply rotate at speed and the monkeys will fly off you in all directions.
It worked; monkey on . . . spin . . . monkey off.
It seemed after this initial breach I was now thought of as fair game. I am not sure if the others saw and assumed I was carrying something worth having but all of a sudden I had three monkeys bundling on me.
After a while, I learnt to accept it and enjoy the experience, especially the one that sat on my back and groomed me hunting for ticks.
Now while this would probably disgust many people, I remember as a kid watching countless documentaries about monkeys and watching them groom each other, always thinking, “That looks so nice”. And it was. I felt a genuine closeness to them, almost as if I was one of their crew.
In total, I spent about an hour in the monkey temple before heading off to wander around the town. It was then when I witnessed one of the most amusing events in my trip.
Top tips for visiting the Monkey temple
- You see this one everywhere, but really, really, hide everything
- Not just food, I mean everything, including your phone & sunglasses
- And don’t wear dangly jewellery, especially earings, far too tempting
- Keep your camera close and strapped to you if possible, the monkey’s grip is stronger than you think
- Try not to make eye contact, these are wild monkeys and if you do it to the wrong one, it may think you’re a threat
- If a monkey lands on you, don’t panic, enjoy it
- DO NOT BUY THE FOOD
- If you get too many on you, don’t shake them off, they will grip tighter and possibly bite, spin on the spot as fast as you can
- Hide everything (I said that already right? Just checking you’re taking note)
So do the monkeys have rabies and other FAQs
Are the monkeys in Lopburi dangerous?
Well, they are semi-wild animals, so as with any animal encounter, there is always an element of risk.
Can I get bitten?
Of course. But if you are sensible, the risk is minimal. The chances are if a monkey bites you, it feels threatened or stressed, it’s never going to look at you and just think you’re food. So, as long as you follow the tips above, you should be fine.
Most bites happen when someone tries to take a camera or phone back from a monkey or shakes around vigorously trying to get one off their arm. If you keep everything zipped up and use the aforementioned spin technique, you should be fine.
So, I’m reading this too late, I have been bitten . . . do they have rabies?
Probably not. The risk is absolutely minimal, however, if you do get bitten, then you make that call. There is a hospital nearby that will give you a rabies jab if you do ge bitten, just ask the guard, and it is then up to you to get the following 4 necessary injections throughout the course of a month to finish the treatment.
Have you been bitten by a monkey? Read this: NHS Rabies Advice
If you have a rabies vaccination before you travel, you will still need to seek treatment, it is just a lot less painful. I would always recommend the vaccination, as there are many animals that can carry the disease in South East Asia.
Just recently the local officials have actually started to give the rabies vaccination to the monkeys in Lopburi. In the process, they have noted that they “have not found any serious communicable diseases among the monkeys” also that no rabies cases have been reported in Lop Buri. You can read the article about the initiative on the Thai PBS website.
Where is the best place to stay when visiting the temple?
To be brutally honest, there isn't much in Lopburi to keep you entertained for more than half a day. If you have time to include an overnight stop (or more) I'd recommend staying in the nearby city of Ayutthaya.
The small city has a great night market, many ancient temples to explore and in a little under an hour away from Lopburi by train.
Is there a dress code for the temple?
It’s not an active temple, so no. However, it is still a religious site so I’d recommend dressing with respect. Also, the more skin that is covered is less tasty flesh for the hungry rabid monkeys. But seriously, they aren’t hungry and rabid. Well, hungry possibly, especially at lunchtime.
I hate monkeys but my travelling partner really wants to go, will I be safe?
In my opinion, you will be fine The majority of the monkeys hang out at the temple, like teenagers in a shopping mall. As long as you stay outside the temple area, you will notice them, but they will more than likely leave you alone.
However, you should still heed the warning about keeping your stuff zipped up, as we are about to find out.
Can I buy food to feed the monkeys in Lopburi?
Yes, but don't, unless you really want to and if you do, stay close to the man with the stick.
Looking for more monkey action? Check out my tips for visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest
Stop . . . thief!
So back to my experience. As I made motions to leave and head back to the train station, I noticed a lady pulling up to the local bank on her moped with an interesting looking plastic bag on her handlebars.
Within moments, a curious little bugger had ripped the bag open and grabbed what was inside.
The immense disappointment was clear on both sides as the poor lady had just lost her brand new mobile phone and the monkey; as much as he tried, couldn’t eat it.
Sensing the imminent danger from the bank security the monkey scarpered with his bounty, edible or not, straight to the top of a post.
The bank team were extremely helpful in trying to get the phone back. The tactic they used was tossing a small packet of rice at the monkey in the hope that he would catch the rice and drop the phone.
After a couple of throws, they were right in one sense; the monkey caught the rice, however, clever little monkey turned out to be ambidextrous and now he had a phone and a bag of rice.
The guards, seeming disappointed, had to play their trump card . . . a fine ripe mango.
Mango Vs. Rice Vs. Phone
The first mango toss got the monkeys attention but was off target. The following attempt was a big success; you could see the monkey making a calculation in his brain, rice vs. mango . . . versus calling his mum.
It was no contest, as he seized the mango out of mid-air he dropped the phone and the guard was able to catch it, aside from a couple of teeth marks; good as new and everyone was happy.
Between the lady losing a bag of food and the monkey stealing a phone it was rather an eventful trip and with that number of monkeys around I’m sure there will always be some shenanigans going on.
Time to go home
Having witnessed something that seemed straight out of a Carry on Movie (if you are not familiar with what I mean by that, check them out, 60s and 70s British humour at its finest . . . possibly) I was ready to head back to Ayutthaya.
It was a nice walk through Lopburi that took me back to the station, it passed by a couple more temples, with fewer monkeys. Check out this DIY day trip for more information.
Lopburi Monkey Temple Buffet Festival
I can’t finish this piece without mentioning the Monkey Buffet Festival. While I wasn’t there for it, I would love to return to witness this occasion.
Once a year the residents of the town put on a celebration in honour of the monkeys and give them loads of food to say thank you for keeping their town prosperous.
The main reason I want to go is to watch them set it up and just see how they get it all that food into the temple without the monkeys ripping it away from them. I guess with very big sticks!
Watch the video:
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