Our friends invited us to visit Lopburi with them for the annual long tail macaque monkey banquet. The townspeople believe that monkeys (technically crab-eating macaques) bring fortune and good luck and so, during the last weekend of November, lay out a feast of fruits and sweets. Lopburi is about 90 miles (150 kilometers) from Bangkok and accessible by train. We initially thought that we would hit the city of Ayutthaya on the way back from Lopburi but the Rail schedule proved much trickier then we thought.
We met our friends at 7:30AM at the Asok BTS station on Saturday then took the metro to Hua Lamphong station which conveniently connects to the Bangkok Railway Station. We arrived at 8AM, just in time for the Thailand National Anthem to start. When this happens, it is customary to stop what you’re doing and stand at attention. This is true for Thai and foreigner alike.
We learned that the 8:30AM Rail to Lopburi was sold out and the next Rail would be an hour longer then the first (three hours instead of two). We decided to try again the the next day and bought tickets for the 8:30AM Rail on Sunday.
After a bit of dejavu, we met our friends on Sunday for the 8:30AM Rail to Lopburi. Two hours later we had arrived. It wasn’t long before we saw our first monkeys. They were crossing the street, hanging around businesses, and, simply, going around town as if they owned the place.
The monkeys are attracted to shiny things so I knew to leave any jewelry at home. Kyle brought a case to pack away his glasses and, despite the sun, neither of us wore hats. The monkeys know how to unzip bags so don’t bring anything valuable!
We were disappointed to learn that the festival wasn’t happening and even more disappointed to never find out why. Nevertheless, there were grounds people at Sarn Phra Karn, our first stop, who continued to bring food—bananas, colored drinks, peanuts, and more. It was hilarious to see people feed the monkeys by hand piece-by-piece only for the monkey to grab their entire bag of food instead. The same would happen with water bottles although the monkey’s loved boxed juices and bottled sodas even more.
There were some people who encouraged the monkeys to climb all over them. Eventually even those people changed their minds when the monkeys got too aggressive. One woman who had earrings on had her ears tugged. When she wouldn’t let it, the monkey grabbed her arm and showed it’s teeth. Surprisingly, I only heard one person that day who got a bite that broke their skin.
We walked over to Phra Prang Sam Yot (50 Baht/$1.50 per person) and there were even more monkeys to feed and take pictures of. Interestingly, they are not allowed inside so it was a cool break from the heat and the surprise attack of a monkey jumping on your head. There isn’t much to look at inside but look up and you may see some bats.
For lunch we wanted to find some shade but there weren’t many restaurants to choose from. We found a small place with some westerners eating outside and asked to see their menu. They had very neatly handwritten menus in English, a lot of options, and street food prices. The owners of this restaurant are a well oiled machine. One person chops all of the ingredients, another cooks, one person did a grocery run on her bike, and the fourth takes orders and does the checks.
The food is delicious but the portions are small. However, with the prices as low as they are (about 35-60 Baht/$0.90-$1.80 per dish), each couple ordered three plates each and it was enough food to fill up without breaking the bank. Since there is only one person doing all the cooking, the two tables that came after us did have to wait a bit but they didn’t seem to mind. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it’s kitty corner to the 7-11 next to the Rail station.
While we waited for our train to arrive, we headed over to Wat Phra si Mahathat Temple (50 Baht/$1.50 per person). The grounds for this temple is huge. At every entry way or turn we took we were presented with something more to look at. We mostly had the place to ourselves which allowed us quiet reflection to take everything in. The four of us picked a shady area in the grass and agreed how nice it was to get out of the city for the day.
The original plan was to visit Ayutthaya, an ancient city about 50 miles/80 kilometers from Bangkok on our way home. We purchased third class tickets for 2:39PM to Ayutthaya and got in around 4PM. As we were deciding which tickets to purchase back to Bangkok it occurred to us to look up the closing times of the Ayutthaya Wat’s (temples) that we wanted to visit. We learned they close dat 5PM which wasn’t enough time to explore so we took the 4:30PM slow train to Bangkok.
A little over an hour into our trip, Kyle and I were getting a bit antsy with how long it was taking to get back to Hua Lamphong. Kyle got on Google Maps and figured out that getting off at the Bang Sue Rail station would save us at least 20 minutes because it was connected to the MRT. We were so glad we did when we were speeding back to Bangkok in a clean train with strong air conditioning.
Although we didn’t get to experience the Lopburi banquet, it was a great experience. Hopefully these tips save you time and money on your day trip. For extra fun, bring your own snacks to give to the monkey’s—just don’t be surprised if they steal your stash quicker then you intended!
Take the MRT to Hua Lamphong station. Exit to ground level and enter the main Bangkok Railway Station. There are ticket counters labelled for tourists, but you can purchase a ticket from any of the lines. Just tell them you’d like to go to Lopburi. You can also start your journey by taking the MRT to Bang Sue. It will eliminate a lot of slow moving train time within Bangkok, but your train options will be limited. Would be worth checking the schedules before picking your train station.
The train stops in Lopburi a 5 – 10 minute walk from the temple and shrine that the monkeys hang out at. There will be a lot of taxis, motorbikes, and tuk tuks for rent at the station, but there’s really no need. Just exit the station and take a right.
There is no first class. It doesn’t exist.
Second class provides reserved seating, air conditioning, a free snack, a non alcoholic beverage, and access to a bathroom. Sounds pretty good, right? The window curtains and tray tables are dirty. Between the four of us, we killed about five small cockroaches.
Third class seating is first come, first served and we all found ourselves standing at some point on our trip but ultimately got seats for majority of the ride. Most, if not all, of the windows are pulled open which has some risk of an insect blowing in or other outside element (we passed some smoke but it was over quickly). Local vendors walk through the cars selling cold beverages, packaged snacks, and even pre-made meals.
A second class ticket can cost 30x as much as a third class ticket. Second class tickets for our journey usually were in the 300-400 Baht range ($9-$12) while a third class ticket was between 15-30 Baht ($0.45-$0.90).
Not all Rails schedules are alike. Pay attention to how long your ride will be. The 8:30AM Rail to Lopburi was two hours while the 9:25AM Rail was three. On the way home we were on the longer schedule and it was a bit tortuous after a long, hot day. Kyle ended up using Google Maps to find a faster route (see below) and we jumped off the Rail as fast as we could.