Thai monkey festival returns as tourists finally return

(CNN) – Thousands of monkeys in Lopburi in central Thailand, seen by tourists and locals, partyed with two tons of fruit and vegetables after the city’s monkey festival resumed after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
Hundreds of macaque monkeys, also known as long-tailed monkeys, were seen climbing on humans and stacks of fruit and gnawing bananas and pineapples.

The festival, which cost over 100,000 baht ($ 3,000), is an annual tradition for locals to thank the monkeys for having done their part in attracting tourists to Lopburi, sometimes known as the “Monkey Province”.

“Today’s special is durian, which is expensive. Lopburi monkeys like expensive things,” said Yongyuth Kitwatananusont, who has previously organized over 30 monkey festivals.

Macaws eat food left on a table outside the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi Province north of Bangkok on November 28, 2021.

Macaws eat food left on a table outside the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi Province north of Bangkok on November 28, 2021.

Jack Taylor / AFP / Getty Images

The theme for this year’s festival was wheelchair monkeys, and Yongyuth planned to donate 100 wheelchairs to needy people.

Tourists have gradually returned to Thailand after the government launched a quarantine-free travel scheme for vaccinated tourists in November, and the festival proved to be a popular attraction.

Thailand experienced more than 100,000 inbound travelers in November, as high as the number of arrivals in the first ten months combined.

“I’m really happy to see this and now I’m considering going to the next festival,” said Moroccan tourist Ayoub Boukhari.

“It’s quite unexpected, and the monkeys are pretty silly.”

Macaques gather outside the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi Province north of Bangkok on November 28, 2021.

Macaques gather outside the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi Province north of Bangkok on November 28, 2021.

Jack Taylor / AFP / Getty Images

Macaques climb over a man as he serves them a Thai desert outside the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi Province north of Bangkok on November 28, 2021.

Macaques climb over a man as he serves them a Thai desert outside the Phra Prang Sam Yod Temple during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi Province north of Bangkok on November 28, 2021.

Jack Taylor / AFP / Getty Images

Some tourists were seen playing with the monkeys with their cameras. The resumption of the tradition also delighted the locals.

“This is the first time in two years that monkeys are going to eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables,” said Thanida Phudjeeb. “I love them.”

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