Visit Lopburi Old Town, Thailand
A Former Thai Capital Filled with Monkeys and temples
Lopburi is a large province in Central Thailand. The provincial capital – also called Lopburi – is one of Thailand’s oldest cities.
Prehistoric artifacts have been discovered in the area; it was a major settlement during the Dvaravati era (between the 6th and 11th centuries), and it was also an important town during the Khmer period. It came under Thai rule in the late 13th century and served briefly as a Siamese capital.
Today, Lopburi has two distinct areas: the Old Town and New Town. Most places of interest to tourists can be found in the atmospheric Old Town. There are fascinating ancient ruins to explore, and the town is overrun with mischievous crab-eating macaques!
Many people start their trip at Prang Sam Yod, an ancient Khmer-period temple that is also known as the Monkey Temple. Although small, the ruins are interesting, with three prangs and a large stone Buddha statue. It’s also easy to see the Khmer influence in the architecture. What really makes the temple stand out though is the large number of monkeys that scamper freely throughout the grounds. There are heaps of cool photo opportunities!
I’ve visited this temple several times and, I’ll admit, the boisterous monkeys scare me. Luckily, you can step inside the small ruins (be sure to close the gate behind you!) to watch the creatures from a place of safety. There’s little inside, save for some old statues (largely in ruin) and bats hanging from the ceiling, but you can spend ages watching the monkeys frolicking and clambering up the bars. It’s almost like a reverse zoo!
Monkeys rule the surrounding streets too, swinging from electricity wires, running across rooftops, and antagonizing shop owners.
The nearby Phra Khan Shrine offers more monkey madness, with many macaques marauding through the grounds. The ancient shrine dates back to the Khmer era, and you can climb the steps to peek inside and see where Buddhists pray and leave offerings. The small ruins of Wat Nakhon Kosa, just across the road, are worth a quick peek.
If you want to wander through peaceful ancient ruins without the fear of monkeys jumping out at you, Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahatat is ideal. The site contains the biggest stupa in Lopburi. Opposite the train station, it’s just a short walk from the monkey-filled sites.
You can learn more about the town’s royal past at Phra Narai Ratchaniwet, a former palace that is today open as a museum. The royal residence of King Narai, the palace has a blend of Thai and European architectural styles. There are several interesting buildings throughout the grounds, and the main building houses various exhibits – including religious memorabilia, antiques, and royal items.
Prang Khaek is one of the oldest buildings in town and is built in a Khmer Hindu style, showing the nation’s pre-Buddhist past. Other interesting landmarks in the Old Town include the Portuguese-built Jesuit church of Wat Sao Paulo, the City Pillar Shrine, the remains of the old city walls, Wat Mani Chonlakhan, and Wat Sao Thong Thong (believed to have once been a Christian or Islamic place of worship), with its small amulet market.
A day in Lopburi’s Old Town is sure to be exciting and fun!
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Lopburi has a train station on the Northern Line, which runs between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Because Thailand’s railway services are usually slow, you can expect the journey to take a minimum of two hours, sometimes more depending on the service you catch. Fares are cheap, especially if you travel in third class. The train station is situated right in the heart of the Old Town, and you can easily walk to nearby accommodations and places of interest.
Regular buses and minivans also connect Lopburi with Bangkok’s Morchit Bus/Van Station and other provinces such as Singburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Saraburi, and Nakhon Sawan. Buses and vans tend to be quicker than trains. The bus station is a short distance (around three kilometers) from the Old Town, plus there are plenty of tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis if you don’t fancy walking in the heat.
If you want to get out and explore other areas (such as Ang Sub Lek), you have several options: a few guesthouses and hotels arrange short tours or private transportation, you can charter a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi, or you can rent a scooter.
Do – Activities & Attractions
As well as exploring the ruins of Lopburi’s Old Town and watching the mischievous macaques, there are several other interesting attractions just a short distance from the town center.
Spend a couple of hours relaxing alongside the waters of Ang Sub Lek, a scenic reservoir surrounded by jagged mountains with a small greenery-clad island in the middle of the shimmering waters. A number of restaurants sit on stilts around the edge, and you’ll find activities like ATV riding, rock climbing, karaoke, and kayaking close to hand. There’s a lakeside restaurant (Paeng Ram) with a small patch of sandy beach, inflatable toys, and water slides.
Visit Wat Khao Wongkhot – a cave temple in the mountains near Ang Sub Lek – to watch thousands of bats disgorge from a crevice at dusk. If you visit in the daytime, you can see an array of religious statues and images within the temple, and the views from the carpark across the lake are impressive.
Elsewhere in Lopburi province, Chai Badan District has the pretty Wang Kan Lueang Waterfall, and Phatthana Nikhom District has the scenic Pasak Jolasit Dam. Particularly interesting temples around the province include Wat Khao Samo Khon and the Peacock Temple.
If you visit Lopburi at the end of November, it’s well worth seeing the frenetic annual Monkey Feast; the cool season is also when vibrant yellow hues stretch as far as the eye can see in the nearby sunflower fields.
Stay – Accommodation
Noom Guesthouse – In the heart of the Old Town, Noom Guesthouse is a cheap and cheerful backpacker magnet. There are single, double, twin, triple, and quadruple rooms, along with mixed dorms. Some rooms have shared bathrooms, and others are ensuite. There are also charming individual ensuite bungalows in the lush garden. The onsite restaurant serves an assortment of Thai and international fare. The friendly staff members have tons of useful tips and information, and you can easily book tours onsite. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property and laundry services are also on offer.
Windsor Resort – An attractive mid-range option in Lopburi town center, Windsor Resort has various modern and clean rooms with private bathrooms. Rooms sleep two adults but can accommodate two small children as well. All rooms have a fridge and breakfast is included in the prices. Extra perks include an on-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi and parking, laundry services, and a pleasant garden. The windmill-style lobby is a charming feature.
Lopburi Residence Hotel – One of Lopburi’s fancier hotels, Lopburi Residence Hotel has a large outdoor swimming pool and an onsite restaurant. A buffet breakfast is available each morning for an additional fee. The hotel offers laundry services and luggage storage. Reception is staffed around the clock, and the hotel has a lift. There are double, twin, and triple rooms. All rooms come with a private bathroom, balcony, free Wi-Fi, TV, and fridge. There’s ample on-site free parking too.
Eat – Restaurants
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Lopburi town center. You’ll find a handful of spots that sell basic Western comfort foods, but most eateries sell typical Thai fare. Khao Tom Hor is a popular restaurant with a wide choice of tasty dishes; the menu is available in English. Items include spicy soups and salads, seafood, stir-fried pork, omelet, stir-fried chicken, fried rice, Thai curries, and spicy morning glory. There are both indoor and outdoor seating areas, and the restaurant stays open until late at night.
Luan Noodle Shop (near the bus station) dishes up steaming bowls of noodle soup, Ma Tini has a more romantic ambiance, and Saeng Sawang is perfect for lovers of seafood. In the evenings, many food stalls set up along the road near the train station offering a wealth of ready-to-eat goodies. There are lots of charming wooden eateries on stilts around the edges of Ang Sub Lek lake.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
You can visit Lopburi throughout the year; a good combination of indoor and outdoor attractions makes it relatively easy to escape the heat or downpours. The cool season (between October and January) is often considered the best time to visit Central Thailand in general, though this is also when you’ll come across the biggest tourist crowds.
Major attractions in Lopburi Old Town are generally open between 9 am and 5 pm, though do check individual timings. Note that the museum/former palace of Phra Narai Ratchaniwet is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you want to see the bats at Wat Khao Wongkhot you should be sure to arrive in plenty of time before dusk.
Lopburi’s vibrant sunflower fields are generally in full bloom between November and February, and the annual monkey festival takes place on the last Sunday of each November.
Safety – Possible risks
Although you are likely to see many people letting the macaques climb all over them, you are warned not to get too close to the creatures. Although used to humans (and, perhaps a little too comfortable around people), they are still wild animals and can be unpredictable. If you are bitten or scratched, you should seek medical attention as you will likely need rabies shots.
Keep food and drinks well out of sight; the monkeys are known for grabbing things off people, and they are certainly not gentle! Be especially wary of letting children get too close to them. Secure all items to prevent monkeys from running away with your sunglasses, phones, cameras, and other items. Pro tip: If you’re passing through Lopburi just for a day (for example, en route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai), you can safely store luggage at the train station for a small fee.
You should also be wary of street dogs when walking around after dark.
Keep windows closed in accommodation in the Old Town, particularly those close to Prang Sam Yot; monkeys have been known to ransack rooms and steal belongings!
Pay attention to your footing when exploring old ruins as the ground can be uneven and bricks can be loose. It’s easy to miscalculate and trip over.
If you rent a scooter to explore Lopburi, always wear a helmet and make sure you have a valid license and comprehensive insurance.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Wandering around Lopburi’s monkey-mad Old Town costs nothing, and some of the ruins are free to look around. There are small charges for some sites. For example, at the time of writing, there is an admission charge of 50 THB for Prang Sam Yot and the ruined temple of Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat, and an entry fee of 150 THB for the former royal palace/museum of Phra Narai Ratchaniwet. You can enjoy Ang Sub Lek for free, although for the best experience, you’ll probably want to sit in one of the restaurants alongside the water; drinks and meals are inexpensive.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
If you really want to feed the monkeys, you’ll find vendors selling suitable treats like fresh fruit and vegetables. Don’t be tempted to feed them convenience-store snacks or other human food as it can make them sick.
Dress modestly (with shoulders and knees covered) when visiting working temples and behave respectfully.
Reality Check – Be Aware
Lopburi is a large province, but the Old Town is fairly small. While this makes it easy to explore, it does mean that you can hit most of the highlights in just one day. Unless you are planning on exploring more of the province, there’s no need to spend several days in the town.
Although not as touristy as other places in Central Thailand – such as Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Kanchanaburi, and Hua Hin – Lopburi does see a fair amount of travelers. It also has a sizeable expat community. Don’t go expecting to be the only foreigner in town!
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