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In central Thailand’s provincial capital of Lopburi, about 150 kilometers north of Bangkok, the last Sunday in November is reserved for the Lopburi Monkey Banquet. The world’s wildest dinner party is held in honor of these long-tailed macaques, who have become integrated into local society despite their pick-pocketing tendencies and mercurial attitudes.
To understand the significance of this banquet, one must first appreciate the role monkeys play in Lopburi culture. These fellow primates are part of society, having free reign of the town and the ability to enter public buildings and traverse roads like any other citizen. They can be a nuisance, stealing from locals and tourists alike, and are generally mischievous and destructive. The townspeople have a firm belief that they bring good luck and fortune, however, and thus are patient (at the very least the monkeys bring fortune in the form of tourist baht, the local currency).
The veneration of monkeys dates back to the monkey deity Hanuman and his monkey army, who saved Sita, the wife of Lord Ram, from the clutches of a demon. Since then, the Thai people have viewed monkeys as descendants of this heroic deity and continue to respect this petulant creature. Among those who worship these monkeys is Yongyuth Kitwatananusont, the owner of the Lopburi Inn. In front of his hotel is a large monkey statue, which he has been using as a symbol for many years. Business has been good for both him and other people working in the tourism sector, and after attributing his success to the monkeys, he decided one year to create a buffet for them. The first one took place in 1989, and it’s taken place annually ever since.