Historical cities don’t come more awe-inspiring than Thailand’s once capital Ayutthaya, or the first city of the former Lan Na Kingdom, Chiang Mai. But perched between the two popular tourist hotspots lies another town that, albeit being lesser-known, offers its very own range of cultural sites: Lopburi.
If you’re taking the train from Ayutthaya or Bangkok to Chiang Mai in either direction, Lopburi will make for a delightful stop along the way, offering ancient Khmer ruins, rural charm and even a local festival held each February to discover. Ready for a day spent off-the-beaten-track? Here’s how to do Lopburi in 24h!
Visit Phra Prang Sam Yot, a.k.a. the monkey temple
Conveniently, Lopburi’s most famous visitor attraction is a mere five-minute walk from where you hop off the train – though we’d recommend dropping your bags at the hotel, first. Phra Prang Sam Yot is a 13th-century temple built in the Khmer style, with three lotus-shaped ‘prangs’ majestically rising from the main structure.
Other than its beauty, what’s perhaps most remarkable about this sacred site are the innumerable macaques that have made it their home: with an estimated 2,000 monkeys living in and around the ruins, Lopburi’s city centre is alive with countless primates waiting to be fed fruits and vegetables by the locals. Though it’s not recommended to join the daily feeding sessions, just watching the spectacle unfold in front of the impressive temple is a unique experience!
Explore King Narai’s Palace
Known locally as Phra Narai Ratchaniwet, this 17th-century palace was built by King Narai of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, who sought to create an outpost ideal for relaxation and welcome ceremonies for foreign visitors. Accordingly, the structure still exudes a great deal of old-world grandeur and many consider it Lopburi’s most beautiful sight.
In 1924, the palace grounds were transformed and opened to the public, and the Somdet Phra Narai Museum was established. It’s home to an astounding number of prehistoric artefacts, depicting everything from ancient Buddha images to the bedroom of King Mongkul, who had the entire complex restored to its former glory in 1856. Don’t forget to bring your camera for this one!
Disvoer Lopburi’s old town night market
Getting hungry from all that exploring? We got you: Make your way to Lopburi’s lively night market anytime between 5 and 9pm for an authentic taste of Thailand paired with rural scenery! Traders set up their colourful stalls each evening in the streets outside the train station in the old town.
Here, you’ll find anything from flavoursome green curries on fragrant jasmine rice to som tam, a spicy Thai salad made from green papayas. For a truly local experience, don’t just order a single, large meal, but snack your way through a variety of stalls, not forgetting about fresh fruit shakes and coconut ice cream, either! Though whatever you end up munching on, it’ll come at exceptional value at this market that’s remained largely off the tourist radar!
Spend a morning wandering around Lopburi’s secondary sites
What, you have to be back on the train in a few hours? That still gives you plenty of time to simply walk around town and enjoy: Lopburi has a number of secondary attractions that are worth going on a stroll for!
For example, why not visit the Kala Shrine, which houses a fabulous image of the Hindu God Vishnu, or Prang Khaek, the oldest surviving Khmer structure in all of town? Though for those who need a break from arts and culture, even a leisurely walk around Lopburi’s charmingly chaotic streets teeming with macaques makes for a memorable few hours… Plus, you’re likely to have most places almost entirely to yourself!
Header image by Deeprom [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]