Lopburi – home of monkeys. That’s their thing, you look up Lopburi on the Internet and it says “Hey, go see the monkeys, it’s a whole thing, they have them everywhere.”
I’m not disappointed – seeing a temple full of monkeys was cool, but I’m just saying, if you’re going to push it that hard you need a restaurant with monkey waiters – and maybe a monkey band. Hehehe, monkey all dressed up in a shirt and tie.
We get off the train excited after Khao Yai and make our way to the hostel – it’s simple but OK, looks kinda cute but there are holes in the mosquito net. You know, meh. We dump our gears and make our way to the Monkey Temple, or Phra Prang Sam Yod, passing a few monkeys hanging out on some building scaffold on the way.
The temple itself is old and dirty in stark contrast to the beautiful golden shrines we have seen so far, but it adds to the charm – oh and you can’t go in it, it belongs to the bats and monkeys.
On the way in there is the usual guys selling food, but this time it’s for the monkeys – I wouldn’t bother though, I tried giving a monkey some of my drink and it tried to steal the whole bottle. I gave some water to a second one and it chased me around the temple until I gave the bottle up. I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if you brought actual food. Jo tried to give a monkey her used lollipop stick to lick, he handed it off to his mate (dave) and stood there eyeballing her for more.
Don’t get me wrong – It’s still worth the visit, the monkeys are really cute (especially the little babies clinging on to their mums and the ones who stare out of little crevices in the temple) and they will swam all over you if you crouch down to the ground with their tiny hands clinging on to you, I had one swinging from the dangly bracelet on my wrist for ages having a great time.
But you just have to be prepared as the little bastards are more capitalist than the tuk tuk drivers of Chiang Mai – you see a bunch of them acting all cute and you stop to play with them one is trying to get into your backpack to steal your things – which then (apparently, as we both had very secure backpacks – and yes, a secure backpack is a thing :p ) they trade back to people for bananas.
Jo made a tactical error and crouched down while trying to take a video of me feeding a monkey when one of them was straight up her purse, on to her head and trying to steal her sunglasses. OK two tactical errors, crouching for any amount of time near a monkey, and not having sunglasses safely packed away. She starts trying to get it off, and I’m trying to wrestle my water bottle away from a monkey so I can go help her.
Now, In the Khao Yai National Park we had been told that the best way to get a monkey to go away is to pull a face at it. I can tell you now sir, that is a falsehood. No, when a monkey is standing on your fiancees head trying to steal her sunglasses and she is yelling for you to get it off, pulling a face at it will do one thing, and that is to piss it right off.
Teeth bared it grabs two bunches of Jo’s hair and starts to bounce on top of her head before finally swinging Tarzan like onto the ground and running away. I guess we got the result we were looking for, but with some pulled hair on the way.
We found out later, from a German couple who had been watching the whole thing, that the best way to get a monkey off of you is to swing round until it gets dizzy and falls off. We had a bit of a laugh watching him repeatedly demonstrate this.
Right, let’s get to the important bit here. The Peacock Temple.
We had actually met the German couple before in Khao Yai and decided to split the taxi fare to the out-of-town Peacock temple which I’d seen nonchalantly advertised in our hostel. It wasn’t in the Lonely Planet they were using so I guess is pretty unknown, but was well worth the visit, claiming the hallowed title of “best temple we’ve seen in Thailand”.
We asked one of the cashiers in a 7-eleven the best way to get to the temple as it was quite a way outside of town and a Tuk Tuk would have been horrifically expense. He runs out of the shop and a moment later comes back with ‘a guy’ who will take us there. We hop in the back of his pickup truck and he drives us the half an hour to the temple. Note: If your pickup-truck driver is not a drag racer, it may take you a little longer. No word of a lie, big drag racing sticker on his back window and enthusiastic nod when I ask if the truck is what he races.
The temple grounds surrounding the hill are incredible on their own, with beautiful pink buildings and at least 30 peacocks wandering around, looking very pretty – we were fortunate enough to see the mating dance they do with their tails raised.
Then we climbed up 400 steps (which are hard work!) and look down over the lush countryside and Lopburi city.
We spend the next hour taking pictures of the incredible view and generally chilling out, it’s a really fantastic place and we could easily sit there for the entire day. There is a giant Buddha looking out over the vista, and towering above anyone up in the temple. The sounds of the Thai countryside wafting up on the breeze are the only sounds to be heard, and aside from one other family, a dog and a peacock there is not a single tourist to be seen.
Jo and I are cuddling on a bench in a little veranda enjoying the beautiful view when a loud scream pierces the quiet. We are immediately up and looking for the person hanging from the edge of the temple about to fall to their grizzly deaths. The family have already left, and our Germans friends are both standing up on the main part of the temple looking ok. We race up to see what’s happened.
So remember the dog and the peacock I mentioned was up there too with us? The dog spent most of it’s time asleep, relaxing under one of the smaller Buddha statues.
The peacock was evil.
It had crept up behind Svenia while she was looking out over the edge and bitten her and scratched its claws down her legs, completely unprovoked (and Svenia was lovely, entirely not the kind of person to start a fight with a Peacock.) She’s ok, with only minor scratches, but pretty shaken up. Fortunately we are in the most serene place in the world so she quickly calms down and we avoid the dammed bird – which starts aggressively walking towards anyone who gets within 10 foot of it.
We spend some more time up at the temple, then finally make our way back down to the bottom. That sounds a bit more relaxed than it was, the damned peacock has taken up position right next to our shoes so there is some drama and we make a grab for them and run for our lives down the first few flights of stairs.
Then it’s a nice drag-race home in our truck and we say goodbye to our friends, as they are not spending the night and are catching a train.
The rest of Lopburi
We explore the rest of Lopburi, and I have to say, even through it has by far the best temple we have seen, the rest of the place is a bit of a dump. I mean, Thailand is a bit rough around the edges for sure, but this is the first place we’ve felt a bit uncomfortable walking down the street (Jo did, I’m 6ft3 and stupid.)
Jo did manage to blag us back into the Monkey Temple that evening after it had closed and a grounds keeper was kind enough to grab his trusty slingshot (wish we had one of them before!) and show us around the temple as the monkeys got ready for sleep.
The next day we got up early and checked out the National Museum, which had some fantastic stories about the area, Thai artwork and a special area celebrating King Rama IV. He had 82 sons and daughters did you know? Oh, and of course, this being Thailand, it was set in a beautiful garden full of old ruins and picturesque trees.
After spending a couple of hours three, we trekked over to the train station and plopped ourselves down to await our train to Phitsanulok, but that is next posts’ story.