Our stay in Lopburi was a very last minute plan as our Airbnb just out of Ayutthaya was cancelled (due to damage caused by recent flooding) four days before we were due to head there. So after some last minute accommodation searches we found a good little spot just out of the centre of Lopburi…. and we were pleasantly surprised during our stay in “monkey city.”
With still having the rental car we weren’t too concerned about the cancellation as we had the freedom to travel to anywhere. So after some looking around an extended area around Ayutthaya, we found a little overwater bungalow in Lopburi. Further research into this area revealed the city had many Khmer ruins and was a large sunflower producing area with blooms occurring between November and January, so we thought we’d have plenty to do to fill a few days.
During research about the sunflower fields around the Lopburi (and Saraburi) areas I saw some information about the Jim Thompson Farm and it just so happened that it was currently open for it’s month-long annual farm tour. Now where the farm was located was going to be a bit of a detour between our house in rural Ta Noen to Lopburi, so I managed to persuade Logan (who generally likes to travel as directly as possible on travel days) to stop for a visit of the farm.
Jim Thompson Farm
We arrived just before 11am on a Tuesday and were immediately in awe of the huge parking area, amazing entrance and the number of people around. Each year the farm tour has a theme and this year’s was ‘the power of water’. We paid the weekday entrance fees (weekend ticket prices were slightly more), 180 THB/$7.20 NZD per adult, 130 THB/$5.20 NZD per child however Braxton received free entry, found a map (unfortunately the information was only in Thai) and headed to the queue to wait for the next bus; which wasn’t long as there were plenty of buses driving the route. We had a guide on board the bus but she only spoke in Thai so we missed some information as we drove through the first few fields of flowers and were immediately amazed at the brilliant colours.
The bus stopped after a short trip and we disembarked to explore the first few areas; the giant pumpkin patch, more stunning flower fields, an example of an Isaan village, silk worms and numerous sculptures. It was very hot and we could definitely feel the difference after spending two weeks in the northeast where the humidity was a lot lower. We stopped for some lunch and were pleasantly surprised at the good level of quality and not overinflated prices as you can sometimes come across at these type of attractions. After lunch we walked along the lake edge and through the silk weaving village to a bus stop to head back towards the main entrance area.We commented numerous times about how well organised and staffed the farm was and that the facilities were very clean and tidy. It was a bit of a shame that there wasn’t much information in English but we were glad to have made the diversion to visit.
It wasn’t too long after entering the outskirts of Lopburi city that we started to notice numerous statues and references to monkeys and once we hit the centre we got our first glimpses of why it is referred to as “monkey city”. The monkeys were definitely more prominent around a couple of the city’s ruins and we learnt from one ruin’s guard that there are around 2,000 monkeys made up of four distinct groups that do not inter-mingle as it turns into monkey warfare. We also saw many shop and stall owners that had a stick in hand or close-by to keep the monkeys from raiding their goods.
We took a few different trips to some of the ruin grounds around the centre of Lopburi, both during the day and at night as a couple are nicely lit and it makes them seem even more eerie. The evening visit to the Prang Sam Yot ruins, which is home to a large group of around 500 monkeys, was a little tricky as the monkeys are quite active just before they bed down for the night; some are quite mischievous and often try to climb your legs or jump onto your back. However, this is one of the major ruins and it is stunning to view it from all angles.
Our first viewing of the ruins of Wat Phrasri Rattana Mahathat was in the evening which was amazing enough, but on our return visit during the day we were left speechless. These ruins cover about 3 acres and as we ventured further and further around the grounds we came across more and more incredible relics. Trying to image how outstanding these structures once would have been was just too difficult but the visit to this site was definitely a huge highlight.
There is also a shrine in the middle of a roundabout (Sarn Phra Karn) that has numerous monkeys calling it home and they are often on the road making traffic slow or veer around them, we even saw a few jump from the fence onto the back of a ute for a little road trip. Logan quickly became skilled in some monkey defence driving techniques, like driving in Thailand isn’t hard enough without monkeys darting all over the road!!
Luckily having the rental car gave us the opportunity to get out for a few hours and explore a little further to visit some of the sunflower fields. Usually in bloom for about 10 days between November and January, the farms try to plant in rotation so there are always a few fields in full bloom.
We couldn’t find any specific addresses to head to, you just drive in a general direction and hope to come across fields in bloom. We saw a few small areas and then headed back towards the limestone mountains, Khao Chin Lae. This proved to be a good decision as we started to see some coloured flags along the roadside that led us to a nice little area where a couple of women had a stand and were collecting a small fee to enter the area (30 THB/$1.20 NZD for our family) and we found some pretty large and impressive flowers. The boys could relate because “there are sunflowers in Minecraft” – of course. Braxton gave me some schooling on why sunflowers’ leaves are so big and why there were such large cracks in the ground, he had some valid points and facts that even I could recall from science class all those years ago.Back in the car with an icy cold, fresh coconut (25 THB/$1 NZD) and ice blocks for the boys (18 THB/$0.72 NZD) we slowly cruised around some narrow roads through more fields where the flowers had already had their prime days in the sun and were starting to droop. We headed back towards the city and come across two more sprawling fields on both sides of the road, these flowers were probably a couple of days past their best but just seeing the vastness of flowers that looked as though they went on forever was an impressive sight.
As is usual at most places we stay, we like to experience the local markets; particularly night ones for a selection of dinner offerings and Lopburi was no exception. The nightly market stands set up predominantly on one side of Na Sanprakarn Road, which backs onto the railway lines. The trains are quite busy at that time of night and provide some extra atmosphere. It’s a good set up because you have more room to walk up and down the stalls without the normal hustle & bustle of narrow aisles. The road is also quite wide so it’s easy for scooters (& sometimes cars) to pull up at a stand, place their order and receive their tasty delights without having to leave their seat – drive thru Thailand style.On Wednesday nights the market extends down Praya Kumjud Road to create a ‘T’ shape and the merchandise stalls appear as well as more delicious looking food options. The aisles down the extension are narrow (like a lot of market places) so it can get a bit much for the boys when it’s very crowded, but they generally handle this pretty well now.Overall, we had a great few days in Lopburi, Logan and I managed a couple of massages (1 hr for 180-200 THB/$7.20-8 NZD) and I found a mini pedicure for just a few NZD dollars (60 THB). Although it did show that needing to find last minute accomodation and having the rental car did push us slightly over our daily budget.
Average Daily Spend – $175.31 NZD ($2.81 over budget per day)