The purpose of my trip to Thailand was to volunteer myself for two weeks in a Gibbon and Primate Sanctuary. I also wanted to learn about the Thai culture and people. I did this by spending a week devoted to cultural activities including a lot of sightseeing of temples. I based in Sing Buri for this week. Sing Buri’s literal translation is “lion city.”
Located approximately 2 hours drive from Bangkok Sing Buri is one of the central provinces of Thailand. It is considered the land of heroes and courageous people due to important battles dating back to 1765. While the Thai people were defeated just north at Ayutthaya the Warriors never the less are highly venerated. The reclining Buddha is a feature of Sing Buri, as is its famous fish Mae La. Sing Buri is on the flat river plain of the Chao Phraya River.
Lopburi is about 150 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, and it was this town of 26, 500 people that I visited from my base Sing Buri. It too is a flat town surrounded by alluvial plains and on the Lopburi River.
Lopburi is probably best known for its hundreds of crab-eating macaques that live in the centre of the bustling town. They are fed by local people and do not tend to wander far from Prang Sam Yot and the Khmer shrine, Sarn Phra Karn. There is a monkey festival in November.
These delightful little bundles are totally unafraid of humans. They will attack people which is one of the reasons that keepers feed them on a regular basis in the three designated areas. As I did not see an attack, I can well imagine that if you have what they want, they will get it, whether that be food or another booty.
I was warned to take off all jewellery and to be extra careful with my camera. I chose to take my little point and shoot which I thought would be easier to manage. Within minutes of entering their area in Prang Sam Yot, monkeys were all over me. I seemed to attract a lot of very curious little ones. The monkeys were not at all afraid of humans, and I was very quickly relieved of my glasses without which I could not see.
We had a guide explaining facts, so I was lucky my glasses soon were retrieved. I wondered though for those people who did not take advantage of the guides did they get their belongings back because these monkeys are very agile and run like the wind especially if they have “contraband”. They are curious, and I found them to be very gentle. The older ones tend to sit back, and it is the younger ones that do all the investigating.
When I arrived at the Gibbon Sanctuary a few days later, our host told us that she had once parked near “the monkey temple” and a gentleman asked if she would like her car watched. She declined, “she was only popping into the bank”. By the time she arrived back at her car the monkeys had totaled it. Monkeys had torn off the mirrors, aerials, and anything else that took their fancy. They were even working as a team to pull the bumper bar off. So if you are in Lopburi, be prepared for great fun should you visit the monkey temple. Their antics are a sight to behold but be prepared to encounter mayhem if you do not take the advice of the locals.
Sadly though I did see them drinking energy drinks, soft drinks and other not so healthy things for us, let alone them. Of course, all taken from visitors who did not heed the warnings. So if you do ever get the chance to travel to Thailand, consider a visit to Lopburi and it’s macaques BUT forget the snacks. You will not win against them, and they do not need that type of food if we wish to have them healthy.