Too Much Monkey Business: Lopburi
We travelled by 3rd class train to the monkey town of Lopburi, a leisurely 2 hour ride through a rather flat and rural landscape. Plenty of people on board, both standing and sitting in various ‘zombie’ stages, from fast asleep to endlessly noodling on their mobile phones.
Between looking out of the window or taking photos I got lost in my mystery novel; Mons Kallentoft’s Midwinter Sacrafice.
Arrival at Lopburi Station was uneventful but the huge kitsch monkey statues there were cute in a way.
Right across from the railway station are the ruins of 800 years old Khmer temple complex Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, which we started exploring.
Although all the Buddha statues having disappeared we happily wandered around taking pics, the later built ‘viharns’ (assembly halls) offering a nice contrast with the Khmer ‘prang’ style structures.
Despite Lopburi’s reputation this area was monkey free.
As the heat was massive we departed the ruins and started looking a place to rent bicycles. Instead we ended up in a unusually named coffee shop splurging out on waffels with ice-cream and assorted berries…
The owner pointed us in the direction of Coffee Boom where we finally could rent bicycles. Once there the staff was not that interested in explaining how the OFO system worked, but we got the main idea; to unlock the bikes we had to scan their QR codes after which we received the opening codes.
1 gear bikes with internet access of which 2 out of 4 had damaged saddles and of which the other 2’s saddles only could be adjusted a few centimeters up, totally unsuitable for a tall farang like me, but no choice really, so off we went.
Cycling on an uncomfortable bike isn’t much fun and a dog attack didn’t help. We mucked about a bit and were not that impressed with what we saw until we decided to head for the main historical attraction: Phra Prang Sam Yod, a 3 prang complex dating from the same area when Lopburi was just another part of the mighty Khmer Empire. And here the monkeys were everywhere…
The buildings along the streets around it, including a decrepit looking Golden Land Hotel, were not attractive at all, in fact they looked more like the whole area was ready to go down the drain…
We parked (and locked, didn’t trust those monkeys!) our bikes in front of the temple, paid the entrance fee and first walked around the impressive structure.
The number of monkeys was impressive too but in a more negative way as I don’t trust them at all.
Getting inside the complex wasn’t that difficult (after shooing some monkeys away) but inside was all gloomy and smelly, a quick look upward confirmed loads of bats!
Somehow it all seemed a bit less then the much more pleasant looking Phra Si Rattana Mahathat. To make it worse we couldn’t unlock our bicycles, scanning the code had us download the app, but following the instructions (register for a free ride) didn’t help at all, we never received any acknowledgment… In the end we had to get the staff from Cafe Boom to come to us in order to unlock the bikes.
After wasting considerable time in the heat to be able to continue biking Lopburi had kind of lost any attraction to us therefore we cycled back to Cafe Boom and talked a bit with another staff about our negative experiences. He told us that there was no need to have locked the bikes as they are all GPS tagged. Sure, but it would have been nice telling us this when we rented the bikes!
We took a minivan back to Bangkok, but I’m hoping to give Lopburi another chance in future on my own bike!