On the last Sunday of November, among the ruins of the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi, Thailand, a bountiful banquet awaits the guests of honor, none of whom are human. This feast is held in celebration of Lopburi’s thousands of macaques, thought to bring good luck to the area and its people.
The Monkey Buffet Festival kicks off with an opening ceremony that includes performances by dancers in monkey costumes. When the monkeys arrive, hosts remove sheets from the banquet tables, revealing decorative spreads of vibrantly hued fruits and vegetables. The macaques jump across tables and climb towering pyramids of watermelon, durian, lettuce, pineapple, and more, indulging in the nearly two tons of offerings.
Respect for monkeys traces back at least 2,000 years to the epic tale of Rama, a divine prince, and his struggle to rescue his wife, Sita, from the clutches of a demon lord. According to the tale, the monkey king Hanuman and his army helped rescue Sita. Since that time, monkeys have been appreciated as a sign of good luck and prosperity. Lopburi’s annual buffet is one way people mark their appreciation.
While tourists and townspeople may want to rub monkey elbows directly at the table, vendors and food stalls provide sustenance for human attendees.
Where to Try It
Phra Prang Sam YotMueang Lop Buri District, Mueang Lop Buri District, Tambon Tha Hin, Thailand
The temple was built by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII in the 13th century. Originally a Buddhist temple, it was converted to a temple to Shiva after the king's death, then changed back to its Buddhist origins in the 17th century.