The city of Lopburi has made its way into the Thai history books on numerous occasions. The Khmer empire got their hands on it during the tenth century and held power in the region till the mid-thirteenth century, when the Thais clinched it. Many of the ancient ruins in and around Lopburi possess distinctly Khmer and Hindu characteristics, although over time many have been transformed into Buddhist monuments.
Lopburi made the news again in 1664 when King Narai made it the second capital after Ayutthaya. At that time the French were roaming around and this influence can be seen, however slight, in some of the buildings in the provincial capital.
Be warned: monkeys seem to have taken complete possession of some of the ruins, and they will want your bag, sunglasses, cap and lunch before allowing you a roam around. If you have a simian phobia, strike Lopburi off your list. The numbers do seem to have declined slightly in recent years, but enough still prance around to frighten unsuspecting tourists.
The town is split into old and new quarters. The old quarter sprawls out from the train station, while the new quarter lies a few kilometres to the east and is centred around a massive roundabout, near the bus station.
The main sights are all within walking distance of Lopburi train station. The one outlying site is Wat Phra Phutthabat which, while actually in Saraburi province, is usually visited from Lopburi. Few travellers stray further afield in Lopburi. You can actually cover the highlights within just a few hours.
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As a result of a bad experience involving India and monkeys, Lopburi isn't one of our favourite towns in Thailand. It is absolutely overrun with monkeys. OVERRUN with monkeys. So if you're a bit of a chicken when it comes to our furry cousins (or they tried to break into your room once too), we'd suggest viewing Lopburi from a passing train.
For those not bothered by cavorting, thieving, cheeky, barebummed simians, Lopburi is worth a few hours to explore the ruins. Historically, Lopburi played quite an important role in then-Siam's foreign relations, but today of interest are only the ruins (and the monkeys).
If you're going to either Sukhothai or Ayutthaya you'll probably find either of those destinations better value, but if you do decide to swing by (he he), all Lopburi has to see can be covered between the morning and afternoon trains -- so arrive on a morning train from Bangkok and get the afternoon (night) train onwards to Chiang Mai. The station staff will let you store your bags there if you ask nicely.
And before you ask: We've no idea why Lopburi is overrun with monkeys.
Text and/or map last updated on 11th August, 2009.