Lopburi is very laid back, and its convenient location less than 3 hours (~180 km) from Bangkok makes it a good place to escape the stress and pollution of the capital.
Lopburi, formerly known as Lavapuri or Lavo is one of the oldest cities in Thailand. Thus the remains of almost all periods of Thai history can be found. According to the "Chronicle of the North", it was founded in 468 AD by colonists from India, who named the place after Lava, a son of Rama and Sita in the Indian Ramayana epic. Around the 7th and 8th centuries, it was one of the main centres of the Buddhist Dvaravati network. After the 10th century, the city belonged to the sphere of influence of Angkor. There is some debate whether it was a mere province of the Khmer Empire, or a semi-autonomous polity ruled by a Viceroy.
In the 13th century, it came under Thai influence. Lopburi was one of the roots from which Ayutthaya emerged in 1350. Lopburi remained the second capital of the Siamese kingdom. Typically, a younger brother or the eldest son of the king resided in Lopburi, ruling as a "second king" and heir presumptive. The city's importance waned when Phitsanulok became the "second capital" in the 15th century.
In the 17th century, however, King Narai moved his favourite residence from Ayutthaya to Lopburi, spending eight months a year here. A French traveller of that time wrote that Lopburi was "for the kingdom of Siam what Versailles is for France". Narai was open to Western influences, inviting French missionaries and making the Greek adventurer Constantine Phaulkon one of his leading ministers. Lopburi was abandoned after the overthrow of King Narai by anti-Western forces in 1688. Parts of the ancient city were restored in 1856 by King Mongkut (Rama IV) who made Lopburi his summer residence in 1864.
There are two central areas in Lopburi: New Town and Old Town. Most of the important sites, plus the train station, are in the Old Town; buses arrive and depart from the New Town.
Lopburi is famous for the hundreds of crab-eating macaques that overrun the Old Town, especially in the area around Phra Prang Sam Yot and Phra Kaan Shrine, and there's even a monkey temple/amusement park where you can buy snacks to feed to them.
Keep an eye out for monkeys hanging from trees and wires and sitting on roofs and ledges, and be aware that they have some unpleasant bad habits including defecating on unsuspecting pedestrians from their overhead perches, jumping on people to snatch food and stealing bags that they suspect may contain something edible.
At night nothing much is going on in the Old Town, thus the street dogs consider everybody running around after midnight very suspicious. While most of them will just look at you, some might bark, run behind you and jump at you. While common at night, it is very rare during the day.
From Ayutthaya, local buses run every 20 mins, take around 2 hours and cost 35 baht.
There is a minibus service from Mo Chit to Lopburi.
From Sukhothai take a bus to Phitsanulok and then to Nakhon Sawan first.
From Bangkok, air conditioned minivans leave from the main Mo Chit (northern) bus station, take about 2 hours and cost 110 baht. There are several van services in the area, so if the timing for one service does not work, try another. The last minivan departs around 18:00.
- 1 Train station.
Trains from/to Ayutthaya take about one hour and cost 13 baht for third class.
- From Bangkok, take Hwy 1 (Phahonyothin Rd) passing Phra Phutthabat District, Saraburi, onto Lopburi. The total distance is 153 km.
- From Bangkok, take Hwy 32 which separates from Hwy 1, passing Ayutthaya. There are three routes as follows:
- Enter Bang Pahan District, passing Nakhon Luang District into Rte 3196. Then, pass Ban Phraek District onto Lopburi.
- Enter at the Ang Thong Interchange to Tha Ruea District and turn left onto Rte 3196, passing Ban Phraek District onto Lopburi.
- Pass Ang Thong, Singburi, and take Rte 311 (Singburi–Lopburi), passing Tha Wung District onto Lopburi.
The blue local bus (8 baht) circles constantly between the bus station about 2 km from the town centre, passing Phra Kahn Shrine, going south on Sorasak Rd, and ending up in front of the TAT office on Phraya Kamuad Rd.
- 1 Phra Prang Sam Yot. A Khmer-style temple known for its three linked towers. Entrance fee, foreigners 50 baht and Thais 10 baht.
- 2 San Phra Kan (Phra Kahn Shrine) (Narai Maharat Rd). The site of a small shrine, the remains of a Khmer prang, a few stalls and lots of monkeys. The stalls sell offerings to be dedicated at the shrine, and food and drink. The monkeys eat the food, drink, offerings and anything else going. Good for a few photos. There are signs warning of purse-grabbing by the monkeys, but they appear docile if not provoked. 50 baht.
- 3 Wat Phra Sri Rattanamahathat. Built in the 13th Century, this is one of the town's most important monasteries; visitors can view a bas relief illustrating the Buddha's life on the central prang. No monkeys. Admission, foreigners 50 baht, Thais 10 baht.
Sites from Ayutthaya eraEdit
- 4 Phra Narai Ratchaniwet (King Narai's Palace) (Entrance on Sorasak Rd on the east wall). W-Su, 8:30-16:00, closed M-Tu and holidays. Built in 1677 by French, Italian, and Portuguese engineers, the palace was used by King Narai to host receptions for foreign envoys. Restored in 1856 by King Mongkut, it was converted into a museum in 1924. The palace grounds consists of the remains of various buildings in an enclosed park, with the central palace serving as the Somdet Phra Narai Museum, which houses prehistoric exhibits, along with Buddha images of Dvaravati, Lopburi and Khmer styles; and King Mongkut's bedroom. Foreigners 150 baht, Thais 30 baht.
- 5 Ban Vichayen (Narai Maharat Rd). Daily, 08:30-16:00. The remains of Constantine Phaulkon's residence, built in the reign of King Narai the Great. Only the outer walls of the three main buildings remain, in a small grassy area. 30 baht.
- 6 Wat Sao Thong Thong (On Rue De France). A viharn in the compound of a working wat, also has a small amulet market in the grounds. Previously used as a Christian chapel and a mosque, it has now been restored and features a large Buddha figure, with several smaller Lopburi-era Buddhas in wall niches. Free.
- 1 Rock Climbing (จีนแล) (Near Suwannahong Temple (Jiin Lay 2), Baan Nong Kham). At Jiin Lay Mountain.
If you are going to be in Lopburi long-term, you will need the services of the two department stores. There is a Big C mall in town, with a KFC, along with a Tesco Lotus in the Monkey Mall further down. The latter has a very large outdoor market in the evenings.
The street vendors in the Old Town are very nice and have all kinds of tasty things. In the evenings, a lot of street food stalls are set up on a road in front of railway station.
- 1 Bualuang, 46/1 Moo 3, Tasala (In the New Town, about 6 km from old city), ☏ . Cash only.
- 2 Louis Steakhouse (On Phahon Yothin east of the large roundabout around 1/2 km from Big C under the pedestrian overpass). A great restaurant owned by a Belgian. A great change if you are looking for something a little different from Thai food.
- New World Steak House (Just west of Sakal, the large town centre with the fountains, just to your left before you cross a bridge, at the lights (look for a rather large hotel next to it)). Good English cuisine. Run by Barry and Noi, an Englishman and his Thai wife. The prices are higher than typical Thai food, but the steaks are huge, the Shepherd's pie is excellent, and sometimes has tacos.
- 3 White House (Just behind (north of) the Tourism office (TAT)). Romantic Western architecture with a beautiful yard and second floor, offers good food. Crab meat fried rice and red curry is very good. The owner, Mr Piak, speaks English and will tell you everything you need to know, even if you don't dine there.
You might find the nightlife in Lopburi fairly quiet for a town of its size but there are a selection of places to catch a drink in the evening. Old Town has a few curbside bars, which are excellent for those who are still new to Thailand, as there are usually some foreigners about. There is also a small club (look for the large "Ben More" sign) next to a local park near the train station in the Old Town, but it is a little pricier than average.
The centre of town has a variety of places, from hole in the wall local dives, to "The Bank", a disco that is frequented by Lopburi's young crowd, but is not recommended for foreigners unless you know your way around well. Uptown has few drinking establishments on the main road, but there are a variety of karaoke bars and such down the back roads. Some of these out-of-the-way places are OK for a drink and some offer short-term female company but this not recommended for the newcomers.
- Butterfly Bar, Phayakamjad Rd (Across street from Narai Palace). 12:00-. Nice little street side bar with beer, whisky and food. Gung and Steve are great hosts and the bar stays open until there is no one remaining. There are usually a few Westerners hanging around. 50 baht.
Hotels in the Old Town offer generally similar medium scale standards for 140-500 baht. The monkeys run around freely, but usually stay in just one small area. Depending on your preference you can choose a place with lots of monkeys running (and hanging) around, or opt for somewhere with low or no monkey presence.
Places with lots of monkeysEdit
- Lopburi City Hotel. Probably the best of the hotels within the monkey area, and enclosed in a big "cage" that keeps the monkeys out, so you can open the windows. All rooms are air-con. 300+ baht.
- Muang Tong Hotel. The least likable hotel in the monkey area. It's not enclosed in a "cage", so opening the windows isn't a good idea. However, it does have the best view of the monkey area and the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple. Rooms have Thai-style bathrooms with squat toilets.
- 1 Sri Indra Hotel. Enclosed in a big "cage" that keeps the monkeys out, so you can open the windows. The rooms are neat and clean, but don't expect more. 200+ baht.
Places with few monkeysEdit
- 2 Lopburi Asia Hotel (Close to King Narai Palace.). Rooms are low to medium standard. 200+ baht.
- 3 Nett Hotel. Good location, with a small food market in front, and no monkeys running around. Rooms range from medium standard to a decent standard. 180+ baht.
- 4 Noom Guesthouse, 15-17 Phayakamjad Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Has fan rooms, also offers motorcycle rentals and rock climbing, and is close to an Internet café. Serves English breakfast, 08:00-11:30.
- Suphon Phong Hotel (Very close to the train station and to Wat Phra Sri Ratanamahatat). Has only two good points: location and price. 140 baht.
- 5 Lopburi Inn, 28/9 Narai Maharat Rd. Holds a dinner party each November for the monkeys. The hotel has a shuttle and may be willing to pick you up from the train station.
- 6 Lopburi Inn Resort. The only hotel in town with a swimming pool.
- 7 O2 Hotel, 120 Moo 4 (On Chaloem Phrakiat Rd, off Hwy 1.), ☏ . Clean and spacious rooms. Seventy-five superior rooms and four deluxe rooms. Each room has a private balcony. It is about eight kilometres to Somdet Phra Narai National Museum and Phra Prang Sam Yot Khmer sanctuary. Room price includes a (modest) breakfast for two. Free Wi-Fi. Superior room, 799 baht; Deluxe, 1499 baht.
- 7 Wat Phra Phutthabat, Tambon Phra Phutthabat, Amphoe Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi (17 km southeast of Lopburi on Route 1 to Saraburi. Take any Saraburi bus (Bus 104) which leaves the main bus station every 20 min and takes 30 min to get to the side road 1 km from the wat). 21 baht.