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January 28, 2016

Lopburi: A Guide to Thailand’s Best Kept Secret

Post by Eat, Sweat, Travel

 

Lopburi thailand sunflower fields sunflower

Sitting in the back of a Songthaew (Thailand’s shared pick-up truck taxi’s with benches in the back) in Chiang Mai a month ago, we met a friendly Malaysian woman who had just arrived in Chiang Mai from Lopburi. Over the course of our ride together, she shared a handful of gorgeous pictures of Lopburi’s sunflowers and monkeys and we knew we had to find a way to add Lopburi to our Itinerary. Naturally, we did a little research about the place but couldn’t really find many detailed guides. Having spent the past week in this scenic town, we believe that Lopburi has no shortage of sights and unique experiences to keep any explorer occupied for a few days! We’ve created this guide, based on our experiences, as a resource to help you maximize your time in Lopburi!

The Basics

How to Get to Lopburi

Lopburi Thailand Google Map
Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Lopburi is a 3-hour train ride away from Bangkok on the way to Chiang Mai. You can purchase your ticket the day of at the Hua Lumphong Train Station, where the trains to Lopburi leave roughly every 2 hours. A second-class seat in a fan train costs a mere 94 Baht per person, and will drop you off in the centre of the Old Town in Lopburi. This is close to many of the historic ruins, restaurants and accommodations. You can also take the bus to Lopburi (although I’m no expert on this).

How to Get Around in Lopburi

Renting a motorbike is the easiest way to see the sunflower fields, the New Town, the peacock temple and the Sub Lek Reservoir. This should cost around 300 Baht per day at the Noom Guesthouse in the Old Town. We couldn’t find anywhere else to rent bikes for cheaper, so let us know if you have!

You can also hop on a Songthaew from anywhere along Narai Maharach Rd, which is the main highway that runs through the city and costs less that 10 Baht per ride.

Taxis are another, less common option. But will cost you quite a bit more!

Where to Stay

At the risk of boring everyone half to death here, with a page long list of pros and cons of every hotel, I’ll just reference two very different options. However, there are many comfortable choices in Lopburi that will leave you more than satisfied.

Noom Guesthouse is a good budget option in the Old Town, as it is walking distance from the train station, has a restaurant with vegetarian food (among other options), motorbike rental, climbing gear and a pleasant vibe. We found the staff here to be super accommodating and nice.

Privacy Residence Lopburi is where we stayed during our trip and we loved it. The rooms are affordable and very nice. This is one of many good options located in the New Town.

What to do

Old Town

Lopburi Monkey Temple Macaques Thailand

Phra Prang Sam Yot: Visit the infamous ‘monkey temple’ in the centre of the Old Town, which was erected by the Khmer in a similar style to Angkor Wat. Here you’ll meet its mischievous inhabitants. The entrance fee is 50 Baht for foreigners.

Phra Narai Ratchanivet: Built in 1677 by European engineers for King Narai to host foreign envoys, it was later restored and then finally converted into a museum in 1924. The entrance fee is 30 Baht for Thais and 150 Baht for foreigners.

Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat: This is beautiful, well-maintained, monkey-free temple, which dates back to the 13th century. The entrance fee is 10 Baht for Thais and 50 Baht for foreigners.

New Town

Lopburi speranza gym workout thailand

Sweat: We discovered a great gym close to our hotel in the New Town. I have to say, this is the best gym we’ve been to in Southeast Asia based on value, cleanliness, hospitality and the state of the equipment. Plus they’ve got a nice outdoor pool, a café, a rooftop patio and free wi-fi throughout the property. The cost to drop in is 80 Baht for 4 hours. The gym isn’t registered on google maps yet, so click here for directions!

East of New Town

Lopburi Thailand sunflower fields

Sunflower Fields: Marvel at the beauty of the thousands of sunflowers that line the highway on your drive to the Peacock Temple and Sub Lek Reservoir.

Rock Climbing: Rent some gear at Noom Guesthouse and explore the local sport-climbing trails in the areas surrounding the peacock temple.

Peacock Temple: Drive about 20 minutes from town to this quiet sanctuary to get close and personal with dozens of beautiful peacocks, who have made this Buddhist temple their Lopburi thailand peacock templehome. Walk 500 steps up the hill to the sitting Buddha and enjoy the view of the jagged hills, Sub Lek Reservoir and the temple bellow.

Click here for directions!

Sub Lek Reservoir: After your morning with the peacocks, take a drive to the Sub Lek Reservoir and enjoy a couple of drinks or some lunch with the locals at one of the platforms along the water. They do get pretty busy, however, so weekdays are better if you want to get a spot. Or, consider planning your visit for earlier in the day.

Click here for directions!

Where to Eat

Street Food Vendors: There are several different street markets that you will drive past along the main road. One of the biggest ones is located next to the Tesco in the New Town. Here, you can get some cheap local eats and explore the stalls. Vegans and Vegetarians proceed with caution. As you may know fish sauce is used in many of the traditional Thai dishes, so you’ll have to be a bit pickier with your choice of meal.

Namaste Indian Restaurant: Located in the number 1 spot on Trip Advisor for Lopburi, this is a great option for anyone who loves Indian food. Namaste was closed while we were in Lopburi as the owner was away, so we didn’t get a chance to eat here. However, we typically eat at Indian restaurants in most of the places we go, as we love it and they make it extremely easy for vegetarians to leave with a smile and a full belly.

Noom Guesthouse: We enjoyed our meals at Noom, as the prices were reasonable and they’ve got a big menu. They even have a page dedicated to vegetarians!

Some Advice for Lopburi…

Crab Eating Macaques

Lopburi is controlled by a gang of degenerate monkeys who reside on the buildings of the old town. They are known to poop on unsuspecting pedestrians, steel bags or food items from people, and can go through your pockets and take your belongings. Many of these monkeys are territorial and mean. We didn’t have a problem with any of these monkeys, but its best to keep your wits about you, store all your stuff in zippered pockets and don’t engage with them if possible.

Lopburi Monkey Temple Macaques

These macaques are not to be confused with their rivals, the temple monkeys, whose turf is the Prang Sam Yot temple. Allegedly, these monkeys undergo annual rounds of rabies vaccinations to make the temple a safer attraction for tourists. They do not engage with the street monkeys, due to the threat of mass fatalities that typically characterizes their gang wars.

The Prang Sam Yot grounds-keeper is a lovely Thai man who will escort anyone stricken with paralyzing fear around the property with a bamboo stick, and encourage you to allow the monkeys to check you out, but will intervene by scaring them off with his stick, should they get too curious or if you’ve had enough. Although these monkeys are not mean spirited and overly aggressive like their neighbours, you should be made aware of the risks involved in interacting with wild monkeys.

Lopburi Monkey Temple Macaques Thailand

Unfortunately for us, one of their toenails scratched Alex above his left eye and drew blood. Although the groundskeeper assured us that this was no big deal, we weren’t really willing to gamble with Alex’s life. We went to the hospital next to the Tesco in the New Town and got Alex his first Rabies vaccination in a series of 5 over the course of the next month. We paid 1400 Baht for the hospital fees, equipment, antibiotics, and the first vaccination.

I want to clarify that we’re not writing about this to deter you from visiting the temple, as even though Alex got unlucky, we were still exhilarated by the experience, as we were given the rare opportunity to interact with these intelligent and human-like creatures, at a beautiful and historically significant temple in Lopburi. We write this instead to be honest about our full experience and inform you that accidents happen, and the risks of visiting the monkey temple are just as great or greater than the risks associated with various other travel experiences, so just keep that in mind!

Local Culture

Lopburi Thailand Sunflower Fields selfieWe drove from our hotel out to the peacock temple, stopping at various sunflower fields along the way to take photos. While there’s nothing wrong with this, just be careful in the fields not to damage the flowers, as they are the lively-hood for these people. Furthermore, if the farmer is around, say hello with a smile and make your intentions known.

Finally, like everywhere else in SEA, take off your shoes at the temples! Even though I am not Buddhist, I always treat the Buddhist temples and monuments with the same honour and respect that a local would. I do this because I am a guest in this country and I want to show the locals that I value and respect their culture. When tourists visit Canada, I expect the same level of respect for our Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls, and Vancouver’s seawall- national treasures that I hold dear. I expect tourists to treat these beautiful settings with respect.

In Conclusion…

Lopburi is a great city to visit if you’re looking for an authentic adventure, away from the hoards of tourists that have infiltrated most scenic destinations in Thailand. It can act as a pit stop on your journey by land from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, or a convenient retreat from the madness of Bangkok for a few days. It’s easy to get to, navigate around in and get lost in the beauty of the landscape and the diversity of its inhabitants. Lopburi is a town full of possibilities, that both inspired and challenged us, which could keep any traveller happy for several days. Has anyone else been to Lopburi? We’d love to hear about your experience! If you haven’t been, make a point to visit Lopburi on your next trip to Thailand- you wont regret it!