Thai town lays out five-star banquet for monkeys

A monkey eats fruits served in a van during the Monkey Buffet Festival at the Phra Prang Sam Yod temple in Lopburi, Thailand on Nov 27, 2016.
A monkey eats fruits served in a van during the Monkey Buffet Festival at the Phra Prang Sam Yod temple in Lopburi, Thailand on Nov 27, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

LOPBURI, Thailand (AFP) - It is a feast fit for a monkey king. On Sunday (Nov 27) the central Thai town of Lopburi put on a five-star banquet for its hundreds of macaque inhabitants, sparking a mass simian food fight.

Lopburi has been laying on an annual feast - part merit-making tradition and part unabashed tourist attraction - for its monkeys since the late 1980s.

This year's feast featured a smorgasbord of fruit that was quickly demolished by the hungry guests who squawked and tussled as they gulped down their feast, much to the delight of a horde of distantly related human onlookers armed with cameras.

While Thailand is an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation, it has long assimilated Hindu traditions and lore from its pre-Buddhist era.

As a result monkeys are afforded a special place in Thai hearts thanks to the heroic Hindu monkey god Hanuman, who helped Rama rescue his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of an evil demon king.

But the inhabitants of Lopburi take their love for monkeys to a whole new level.

The festival takes place on the ruins of Phra Prang Sam Yot, an 800-year-old Khmer-era Hindu temple and one of the town's most striking landmarks.

"It's pretty awesome to see so many wild monkeys just roaming around the streets," said Amanda, a tourist from the United States.

"They were eating over there and lots of food to choose from and they were attacking each other and running around and jumping on people," she told AFP.

The regular feeding has left Lopburi's monkey population notoriously unafraid of humans.

"The monkeys are crazy," said Fang Xi, a 36-year-old sales manager from China.

"One of the monkeys wants to steal my hair clip and doesn't want to get off my shoulder. Two other girls were afraid and ran away."