Hey hey, there's some monkeys! Thai festival honours fuzzy residents

As a reward for attracting tourists, Thailand's Lopburi province held its annual feast for thousands of macaques, with fresh fruit, food fights, and a whole lot of monkey business.

Annual event is held to show gratitude to monkeys for bringing in tourism

Monkeys devour plates of food at Thailand festival

2 months ago
Duration 0:44
Plates of fruits, desserts and vegetables were laid out in Lopburi, Thailand, for thousands of monkeys as a token of appreciation for attracting foreign tourists to the city.

A meal fit for monkeys was served on Sunday at the annual Monkey Feast Festival in central Thailand.

Amid the morning traffic, rows of monkey statues holding trays were lined up outside the compound of the Ancient Three Pagodas, while volunteers prepared food across the road for real monkeys — the symbol of Lopburi province, around 150 kilometres north of Bangkok.

Throngs of macaque monkeys ran around, at times fighting with each other, while the crowds of visitors and locals grew.

As the carefully prepared feast was brought toward the temple, the creatures began to pounce and were soon devouring the largely vegetarian spread.

Monkeys eat fruit as they cling onto Monkey Festival organizer Yongyuth Kitwatananusont in Thailand's Lopburi province on Sunday. The festival has resumed after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters)

While the entertainment value of the festival is high, organizers are quick to point out that it is not just monkey business.

"This monkey feast festival is a successful event that helps promote Lopburi's tourism among international tourists every year," said Yongyuth Kitwatanusont, the festival's founder.

"Previously, there were around 300 monkeys in Lopburi before increasing to nearly 4,000 nowadays. But Lopburi is known as a monkey city, which means monkeys and people can live in harmony."

Mind your personal belongings

Such harmony could be seen in the lack of shyness exhibited by the monkeys, which climbed on to visitors, vehicles and lampposts. At times the curious animals looked beyond the abundant feast and took an interest in other items.

The monkey festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi, held as a way to show gratitude to the monkeys for attracting tourists to the region. (Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul/The Associated Press)

"There was a monkey on my back as I was trying to take a selfie. He grabbed the sunglasses right off my face and ran off on to the top of a lamppost and was trying to eat them for a while," said Ayisha Bhatt, an English teacher from California working in Thailand.

The delighted onlookers were largely undeterred by the risk of petty theft, although some exercised caution.

"We have to take care with them, better leave them to it. Not too near is better," said Carlos Rodway, a tourist from Cadiz, Spain, having previously been treated as a climbing frame by one audacious monkey.

During the festival, residents and tourists gather to provide a banquet to the thousands of long-tailed macaques that live in Lopburi. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

The festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi, the provincial capital, and held as a way to show gratitude to the monkeys for bringing in tourism.

This year's theme is "monkeys feeding monkeys," an antidote to previous years where monkey participation had decreased due to high numbers of tourists, which intimidated the animals.