In pictures: The monkeys and ruins of Lopburi

SLEEPY Lopburi, Thailand, is one of the oldest cities in the country. Ruins from wats, or temples, more than a thousand years old stand proudly in the small city, a testament to the Lopburi of long ago. These days, however, the primary reason to visit Lopburi is to observe the packs of long-tailed macaques that roam the streets freely and pick the pockets of unsuspecting tourists.

While wandering the town, small monkeys will jump on your back, yank at your clothes, and open your bag to see if you have any food they might nab. Stand outside a convenience store, one of their favorite haunts, and watch them steal into the shop while the owner isn’t looking and emerge with a packet of food that they carry off to eat in an alley. Droves of the macaques will run out into the street, seemingly heedless of traffic, while onlookers smile in amusement or tsk in annoyance at the primates’ audacity. If you want to see the monkeys at their mischievous best (or worst), head to the Lopburi Monkey Festival held every year on the last weekend of November.

Seeing their brazen behavior and the ways they interact with one another – at turns fighting, feeding or fornicating – is reason enough to spend an afternoon in Lopburi. But the beautiful ruins are also something to behold. While not as impressive as those in Ayutthaya or Sukhothai, the grounds of the ancient structures here are haunting, nonetheless, and elegant despite all their years of standing against the elements.

Monkey Family

A small family of macaques pauses in front of Prang Sam Yot, the Monkey Temple.

Monkeys near ruins

A trio of monkeys at home on the streets of Lopburi.

Ruins of Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat

Ruins of Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat

Broken feet

Broken statue at Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat.

Thief monkey

The monkeys in Lopburi freely take food and goods from convenience stores and tourists who fail to keep their bags closed.

Monkey feeders

These women sit outside the Monkey Temple and sell tourists bags of food to entice the monkeys, and also swat them away when they get too close to the goods.

Three monkeys

Three monkeys hanging out at the Monkey Temple

Little monkey

Monkeys like this little one are adorable but aggressive and quick to jump on visitors.

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Casey Hynes is a writer, editor and photographer living in Beijing, China. A 2008 graduate of Columbia Journalism School in New York City, she has been published in Roll Call, The Wall Street Journal and numerous publications in China. You can see samples of her work and photography at caseyhynes.com