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Huge Buffet where the Guests are Monkeys

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

To bring good luck to the people of Thailand, there is tradition to celebrate the buffet Festival for the Monkeys. Each year more than 4,000 kilos of sustenance is given to the monkeys to eat. 

The sustenance is laid out on tables, in a genuine smorgasbord style, with the nearby culinary experts spending numerous hours affectionately setting up the vegan nourishment, including heavenly decisions of arranged organic product servings of mixed greens, natural product carvings, sticky white rice and even customary Thai treats produced using egg yolk. 

The Monkey Festival draws in 1,000's of sightseers every year, significantly more than the assessed 3,000 wild monkeys however this mix of man and gorilla makes for a humorous day. The nearby draftsman of this celebration Khon Kitwattananusont tries every year to exceed the earlier year's merriments and has in the past opened the celebration by parachuting into the grounds dressed as a monkey. 

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. 

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. 

One of only a handful few nearly non otherworldly and a standout amongst the latest yearly occasions to be added to the social logbook of the Kingdom of Thailand is that of the thrilling and to some degree peculiar 'Monkey Buffet Festival' the main celebration just occurred in 1989. It is held close to the Khmer sanctuary of Phra Prang Sam Yot close to the railroad station in the Old Town of Lopburi, relevantly nicknamed "the city of monkeys".

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. It’s all supposed to have started with a local hotelier called Yongyuth Kitwatananuson, who one day, recognizing 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. 

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