Anybody up for an all-you-can-eat Monkey Buffet? Relax PETA! This is not about serving monkeys, but serving monkeys. Confused? So were we! Monkeys, otherwise the quintessential annoying food-stealing, phone-snatching, chattering pests, are in for a real treat every year, on the day of the Monkey Buffet festival, in Thailand where the locals pamper them silly with food to their simian hearts’ content. So go on over to Thailand to witness this one-of-a-kind kooky festival featuring a five-star buffet spread for monkeys laid out by the locals. Quite a party that!
Lopburi, the capital city of the Lopburi Province in Thailand
It is celebrated every year on the last Sunday of November.
What is it and why is it celebrated?
It’s all supposed to have started with a local hotelier called Yongyuth Kitwatananuson, who one day, recognising what a fantastic tourist attraction the monkeys were, decided to lay out a buffet for them. It was his way of boosting business and thanking the monkeys for all the tourists they brought in. The first Lopburi monkey festival took place on Sunday 25th November 1989. Now, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand backing the concept, this festival, which makes for a rather colourful and fascinating spectacle, has become a major tourist magnet. Moreover, according to Thai beliefs, donating food to monkeys is a way of accruing good karma.
So what exactly happens?
It’s just like it sounds – Monkey buffet – a buffet that caters to monkeys! The monkeys are treated with reverence and respect and are even given invitations that are attached to cashew nuts to attend the feast held every year at the ancient Khmer temple, Prang Sam Yot. Chefs spend hours preparing the exclusively vegetarian menu of tropical fruit salad, sticky rice and a traditional Thai desert called Thong yod that the furry creatures will devour in no time. There is also a whole slew of tables laden with an abundance of food (over 2,000 kilograms) like fruits, vegetables, boiled eggs, cans of soda, juices, cakes, candies, ice creams, etc. for the monkeys. The goodies are also sometimes arranged in festive, colourful and elegant pyramids or are simply laid out on mats by the temple, much to the delight of the monkeys. The festival also includes performances and activities that celebrate all things monkey, like dances wearing monkey costumes and masks. The entire city is decorated with monkey sculptures. Remember that the monkeys here are extremely used to human interaction and have no scruples exploiting the weaknesses of naive tourists. So beware: much monkey business here!
For the trivia enthusiasts, it is said that Lopburi’s monkey population survives in part due to the Buddhist discouragement of killing animals. Historians have also traced the origins of these Lopburi’s monkeys back to Hanuman, the heroic monkey with human abilities in the Ramayana. He is said to have founded Lopburi, leading the residents to believe that their monkey cohabitants are direct descendants of his bloodline.
For those of you on a quest to experience the quirkiest festivals in the world, this one is right up there with the best of them. Certainly something you wouldn’t want to miss!