A province in the central region of Thailand, Lop Buri Province is located approximately 154 kilometers north of Bangkok. Covering an area of 6,199 square kilometers, the province is situated on the western end of the Khorat Plateau. It borders Chaiyaphum and Nakhon Ratchasima Provinces on the east, Phetchabun and Nakhon Sawan Provinces on the north, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya and Saraburi Provinces on the South. Lop Buri Province is one of several provinces in central Thailand where many significant historical artifacts and prehistoric settlements have been discovered.
Formerly known as Lawo, Lop Buri had for centuries been ruled by several Kingdoms. The remains of Lop Buri, dating over 1,200 years attests to the strategic significance of Lop Buri to many rulers. These relics, ranging from the Bronze Age to the Ratanakosin period, have made Lop Buri a blend of east and west and ancient and modern, revealing the citys turbulent and alluring history and a glimpse of Thailands extraordinary past.
Lop Buri was first developed into a major town during the Dvaravati Kingdom . Most historians believed the first settlers of the town were the Lawa which is the reason for naming the town Lawo. In 10th century, the town came under absolute sovereignty of the Khmers who made it one of their oldest provincial capitals. The Khmer Mahayana Buddhism style was a major influence on the towns architecture and was later commonly referred to as Lop Buri Style. Remains of KhmerHindu architectural motifs found in the city include the Shivas Shrine (Prang Khaek), San Phra Kan, Phra Prang Sam Yot, and Wat Phra Si Mahathat.
It was in the late 13th century when the Thais, who migrated from the North, fought against the Khmers and declared their independence. Since then, Lop Buri has been ruled by Thai Kings.
Lop Buri first became known when King U-Tong, who established the Ayutthaya Kingdom, sent his son, Ramesuan the Crown Prince, to govern the city. The Prince commanded the building of moats, city walls and battlement towers.
Lop Buri reached its height in 1664 when King Narai the Great of Ayutthaya named Lop Buri the Kingdoms second capital, which came after a threat of invasion from Hollanders. King Narai the Great rebuilt Lop Buri with the help of French architects and ruled the Kingdom from there, instead of Ayutthaya., Thus the citys architecture mostly reflected a mixture of Thai and Western styles, which can be seen today in the remains of the Royal Palace, the Royal Reception House etc.
Lop Buri gradually faded from the political scene with the death of King Narai the Great. It, however, made a comeback approximately 200 years later when King Rama IV of the Ratanakosin Era decided to restore the city. He also commanded the restoration of the old Palace and named it Phra Narai Ratchaniwet (Narai Ratchaniwet Palace) in honor of King Narai the Great.
After Thailands democratic revolution, Marshall Poh Pibulsongkram rebuilt a military camp near the citys railroad, therefore, dividing the city into the old (ancient) and new zone.
Today, Lop Buri is administratively divided into 11 Amphoes (Districts) including Muang, Ban Mi, Chai Badan, Khok Charoen, Khok Samrong, Phatthana Nikhom, Tha Luang, Tha Wung, Sa Bot, Lam Sonthi and Nong Muang.
Apart from historical attractions, Lop Buri provides opportunities for nature lovers to visit its famous Sap langka Wildlife Sanctuary in the north.
Another special landmark of Lop Buri is monkeys. To tourists, the city is known as the land of monkeys. To the people of Lop Buri, the monkeys are descendants of Hanuman who, according to the Ramayana, built Lop Buri as his kingdom. The food offerings in San Phra Kan drew the monkeys from nearby forests. These mischievous monkeys have taken over several attractions such as San Phra Kan and Phra Prang Sam Yot. A big feast for the monkeys on the last Sunday of November is held annually at Phra Prang Sam Yot and is one of the most attractive and most talked about tourist events in Thailand.
Distances from Amphoe Muang to Other Districts:
Tha Wung 15 kms.
Ban Mi 32 kms.
Khok Samrong 35 kms.
Phatthana Nikhom 51 kms.
Nong Muang 54 kms.
Sa Bot 65 kms.
Khok Charoen 77 kms.
Tha Luang 83 kms.
Chai Badan 97 kms.
Lam Sonthi 120 kms.
The town of Lopburi, 154km north of Bangkok, has been inhabited since at least the Dvaravati period (6th to 11th centuries AD), when it was called Lavo. Nearly all traces of Lavo culture were erased by Khmer and Thai inhabitants following the 10th century, but the Lopburi National Museum has many Dvaravati artefacts. Ruins and statuary in Lopburi span a remarkable 12 centuries.
The Angkor empire was extended to inÂ¬clude Lavo in the 10th century, when the Prang Khaek (Shiva Shrine), San Phra Kan (Kala Shrine) and Prang Sam Yot (Three Spired Shrine) were built, as well as the impressive tower at
Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat.
Power over Lopburi was wrested from the Khmers in the 13th century as the Sukhothai kingdom to the north grew stronger, but the Khmer cultural influence remained to some extent throughout the Ayuthaya period. King Narai fortified Lopburi in the mid-17th century to serve as a second capital when the kingdom of Ayuthaya was threatened by a Dutch naval blockade. His palace in Lopburi was built in 1665 and he died there in 1688. For the visitor Lopburi is of interest for its fine juxtaposition of ancient brick ruins and not-so-ancient shophouses, hotels and restaurants. It’s one of the few cities in Thailand that actually feels as old as it is. The town also boasts a resident troop of monkeys that keeps things lively.
Orientation & Information
The new town of Lopburi dates to around 1940. It is some distance east of the old fortified town and is centred on two large roundabouts. There is really nothing of interest in the new section, so try to stay at a hotel in the old town if you’re interested in the palace and temple ruins. All the historical sites in Lopburi can he visited on foot in a day or two.
There’s a TAT office ( 0 3642 2768-9; Th Phraya Kam/at) opposite the White House Garden Restaurant. The staff distribute the usual brochures and can be helpful with advice about your visit.
The Communications Authority of Thailand Thailand (CAT; Th Phra Narai Maharat; open 8am-6pm daily) office is located next to the post office, towards the new city. CAT has a Home Country Direct phone.
Phra Narai Ratchaniwet
King Narai’s palace (open 7.30am-5.30pm daily), is probably the best place to begin a tour of Lopburi. After King Narai’s death in 1688 the palace was used only by King Phetracha (King Narai’s successor) for his coronation ceremony and was then abandoned until King Mongkut ordered restoraÂ¬tion in the mid-19th century.
It took 12 years to build the palace (1665-77) and French architects contributed to the design. Khmer influence was still strong in central Thailand at that time so it’s not surprising that the palace exhibits an unusual blend of Khmer and European styles.
The main gate into the palace, Pratu Phayakkha. is off Th Sorasak, opposite the Asia Lophuri Hotel. The grounds are well kept, planted with trees and shrubbery, and serve as a kind of town park for local children and young lovers.
Immediately on the left as you enter are the remains of the king’s elephant stables, ss ith the palace reservoir in the foreground. In the quadrangle to the left is the royal reception hill and the Phra Chao Hao, which probably served as a u’iIidun for a valued Buddha image. Passing through more stables, you come to the southwest quadrangle with the Suttha Sawan pavilion in the centre. The northwest quadrangle contains many ruins, including what were once an audience hall. various sdalaa (open-sided covered meeting halls or resting places) and residential quarters for the king’s harem.
The Lopburi National Museum (admission 308; open 8.30am-noon & 1pm-4pm Wed-Sun) is located here in three separate
buildings. Two of these house an excellent collection of Lopburi-period sculpture and an assortment of Khmer, Dvaravati, U Thong and Avuthaya art. The third building features traditional farm implements and dioramas of farm life. A Guide to Ancient Monuments in Lopburi by MC Subhadradis Diskul, Thailand’s leading art historian, may be available from the counter on the 2nd floor of the museum.
In mid-February the Phra Narai Ratchaniwet is the focus of the three-day King Narai Festival, which includes the exhibition and sale of locally woven textiles, and lcikhon ling (traditional drama performed by monkeys).
Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat
Directly across from the train station, this large 12th-century Khmer wat (admission 308) has been restored by the Fine Arts
More than any other place in Thailand, Lopburi is a city besieged by monkeys. The city’s original troop of monkeys (actually a type of macaque) inhabits the San Phra Kan (Kala Shrine) during the day and then crosses the street in the evening to roost in the halls of Prang Sam Yot. At some time in the past, the band split into two factions. The splinter troop, lead by a half-blind dominant male, gave up the sanctity of the shrine for the temptations of the city. These renegades can be seen making nuisances of themselves by swinging from shop fronts and smearing excrement on the windÂ¬shields of parked cars. Many human residents of the old city have been forced to attach special
monkey foils to their television antennas, lest simian antics spoil TV reception. Some locals even
swear that the city-dwelling monkeys have been known to board trains for other provinces, returning to Lopburi once their wanderlust is spent.
Like Thailand’s legions of stray dogs, Lopburi’s monkey population survives in part due to Buddhist discouragement of killing animals. Moreover, many locals say that Lopburi’s monkeys are the ‘children’ of the Hindu god Kala and that to harm one would bring on misfortune. For the most part, however, the inhabitants of Lopburi seem to agree that the monkeys’ delinquent behaviour is outweighed by the tourist dollars that they bring in. In late November Lopburi holds a feast for the monkeys at Prang Sam Yet to thank them for their contribution to the prosperity of Lopburi. Buffet tables are meticulously laid out with peanuts, cabbage, watermelon, bananas, pumpkin, pineapple, boiled eggs and cucumbers; the latter two items are monkey favourites, causing plenty of spats. Thousands of Thais turn out to watch the spectacle. While monkeys frolicking on stone temples make for great photo opportunities, visitors to Lopburi should keep in mind that these are wild animals whose natural fear of humans has diminished over time. Monkeys have been known to attack humans, especially would-be photographers who use food to lure monkeys into the range of their camera lenses.
Department. During Lopburi’s heyday this was the town’s largest monastery, a fact clearly shown on a map drawn by French cartographers in 1687. A tall laterite tower still stands and features a few intact lintels and some ornate stucco. There is also a large wihdan added by King Narai. Several chedi (stupas) and smaller towers dot the grounds.
Wat Nakhon Kosa
This wat is just north of the train station, near San Phra Kan. It was built by the Khmers in the 12th century and may originally have been a Hindu shrine. U Thong and Lopburi images found at the temple and now in the Lopburi National Museum are thought to have been added later. There’s not much left of this wat, although the foliage growing on the brick ruins is an interesting sight. However, half-hearted attempts to restore it with modem materials and motifs detract from the overall effect. A recent excavation has uncovered a larger base below the monument.
Situated on a triangular slice of land bordered by Th Wichayen to the north, Prang Khaek was recently restored by the Fine Arts Department and features towers with Khmer-style brickwork. The structure is thought to have originally been a temple to the Hindu god Shiva and dates back to the 11th century.
Wat Indra & Wat Racha
Wat Indra (Th Ratchadamnoen) is near the corner of Th Na Phra Kan. Practically nothing is known of its history and it’s now merely a brick foundation. Wat Racha, off Th Phraya Kamjat, is another pile of bricks with little-known history.
Wat San Paolo
A partial brick and stucco tower off Th Ramdecho east of the train station is all that’s left of a Jesuit church founded by the Portuguese during King Narai’s reign. A contingent of 12 French priests came to run the church in 1687. An octagonal, tli , storey, celestial observatory was ,ii.erected here, though it is unclear tnnl whose direction it was built.
Wat Sao Thong Thong
This wat is northwest of the palace centre, behind the central market. The building* here are in pretty poor shape. The it iI,aan and large seated Buddha are from thr Ayuthaya period; King Narai restored iii’ wihdan (changing its windows to an incon gruous but intriguing Gothic style) so It could be used as a Christian chapel. Niche. along the inside walls contain Lopburi-stylr Buddhas with naga (serpent) protectors.
Chao Phraya Wichayen
King Narai built this Thai-European palac ‘ (admission 30B) as a residence for forci},n ambassadors, of whom the Greek Constau tine Phaulkon was the most famous, Phaulkon became one of King Narai’s advisers and was eventually a royal mini, ter. In 1688, as Narai lay dying, Phaulk iii was assassinated by Luang Sorasak, wli wanted power for himself. The palace i across the street and northeast of Wat Sa, Thong Thong.
San Phra Kan
To the north of Wat Nakhon Kosa, near the train tracks, is the unimpressive San Phra Kan (Kala Shrine; open 5am-7pm daily), which contains a crude gold-leaf-laden image of Kala, the Hindu god of time an) death. A virtual sea of monkeys surround, the shrine, falling out of the tamarind tree’, and scurrying along the steps leading to the sanctuary. They are getting fat on hand-out,. and can be nasty with visitors. A reader wrote to say he was bitten by a monkey anal had to receive rabies injections.
Prang Sam Yot
Opposite the San Phra Kan, near the Muan), Thong Hotel, this shrine (admission 308; open 8am-6pm daily) represents classic Khmer-Lopburi style and is another Hinduturned-Buddhist temple. Originally, the three towers symbolised the Hindu Trimurti of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Now two of them contain ruined Lopburi-style Buddha images. Some Khmer lintels can still be made out, and some appear unfinished. A rather uninteresting U Thong-Ayuthaya imitation Buddha image sits in the brick
sanctuary in front of the linked towers. At the back, facing the Muang Thong Hotel, are a couple of crudely restored images, probably once Lopburi style. The grounds allotted to Prang Sam Yot are rather small and are virtually surrounded by modern buildings. The best view of the monument would probably be from one of the upper floors of the Muang Thong. The monument is lit tip at night.
Places to Stay
Old Lopburi It’s possible to visit Lopburi as a day trip en route to the north, but if you want to stay overnight there are a number of hotels in the older part of the city you can try. Asia Lopburi Hotel (a /fax 0 3661 8893; cnr Th Sorasak & Th Phraya Kamiat; singles/ doubles with fan 200/2408, rooms with air-con 300B, with TV 350B), overlooking Phra Narai Ratchaniwet, is clean, comfortable and was recently renovated. It has two Chinese restaurants. Ask for a room off the street if traffic noise is bothersome.
Nett Hotel ( 0 3641 1738; 17/1-2 Th Ratchadamnoen; singles/doubles with fan 160/ 2808, with air-con 300/4008) is on a lane between Th Ratchadamnoen and Th Phraya Kamjat, parallel to Th Sorasak. Clean and quiet rooms have bathrooms but are not as good value as at the Asia Lopburi Hotel.
Muang Thong Hotel ( 0 3641 1036; 1/1-11 Th Prang Sam Yot; single/double rooms 140/3008) across from Prang Sam Yot, has noisy and not-so-clean rooms with fan and bathroom. Double rooms are actually one large and one small bed. If only this place would get a makeover that took advantage of its excellent view of the temple!
Taipei Hotel ( 0 3641 1524; 24/6-7 Th Surasongkhratn; singles with fan 140-2008, doubles with fan 170-2608 singles/doubles with air-con 290/3508), north of the palace area, is better than Muang Thong. Clean rooms come with private bathroom whilethe more expensive fan rooms and all air-con rooms have TV.
Rama Plaza Hotel (0 3641 1663; rooms with fan 2008, with air-con 2508), further north on Th Surasongkhram, offers medium-price rooms with bathroom. It’s taken a dive since we last visited â€” some rooms are betÂ¬ter than others so have a look first.
Indra Hotel (a 0 3641 1261; Th Na Phra Kan; singles & doubles with fan 140-2008, with air-con from 2508), across from Wat Nakhon Kosa, has clean, spacious rooms with bathroom. The more expensive fan rooms have TV. Lopburi City Hotel (a 0 3641 1245; doubles with air-con 2508), next door to the Indra, is a modern building with small air-con rooms, all with TV and fridge.
New Lopburi If you get stuck in the new part of town for some reason, you can choose from Piman Hotel (a 0 3641 2507; Soi Ekathot, Th Phra Horathibodi), Holiday Hotel ($ 0 3641 1343; Soi Suriyothai 2, Th Phra Narai Maharat), or Lopburi Inn (a 0 3641 2300, fax 0 3641 1917; 28/8 Th Phra Narai Maharat; rooms 500-12008). The first two are mostly middle-class, short-time places with rates around 350B to 400B a night. The Lopburi Inn features very nice rooms with all the amenities and includes breakfast.
Ban Vimolrat (Lopburi Youth Hostel;Â 0 3661 3731; 5/19 Mu 3, Th Naresuan; doubles with fan/air-con 150/3508), a IOB motorcycle taxi ride south along Th Naresuan (Rte 3016) from new Lopburi’s western traffic circle, is a relatively new hostel with shared bathroom. Large furnished double rooms come with a TV, fridge, desk and a small balcony. There’s also one four-bed room with fan for 320B. Lopburi train staÂ¬tion, Phra Narai Ratchaniwet and Prang Sam Yot ruins will cost 60B in a tbk-tdk from the youth hostel.
Lopburi Inn Resort ( 0 3642 0777; 144 Ta,nbon Tha Sala; singles/doubles 800/9008, suites 12008) is at the top end and rooms come with all the modern amenities – including a fitness centre and swimming pool. Breakfast is included with the price of the room.
Places to Eat
Several Chinese restaurants operate along Th Na Phra Kan, parallel to the railway, especially near the Indra Hotel. The food is good but a bit overpriced.
Restaurants on the side streets of Th Ratchadamnoen and Th Phraya Kamjat can be better value. Chinese-Thai restaurant (Th Sorasak; dishes 20-408), next to the Asia Lopburi Hotel and across from the main gate to Phra Narai Ratchaniwet, is a good stand-by.
There are also plenty of cheap curry vendors down the alleys and along the smaller streets in old Lopburi.
White House Garden Restaurant (Th Phraya Kam/at; dishes 40-1008), a couple of blocks east of the Asia Lopburi Hotel, is one of the more pleasant spots for a Thai meal in the old city.
The central market, off Th Ratchadamnoen and Th Surasongkhram (just north of the palace), is a great place to pick up kai th&wt or kid yang (fried or roast chicken) with sticky rice, haw m6k (fish and coconut curry steamed in banana leaves), kluav khaek (Indian-style fried bananas), a wide selection of fruit, satay, khdo kriap (crispy rice cakes), thkwt man plaa (fried fish cakes) and other delights.
Sala Mangsawirat (Vegetarian Pavilion; dishes 15-308; open 9am-2pm daily), in the heart of the market, is an inexpensive but in this case not very appetising – Thai vegie food place; like most Thai vegetarian restaurants, it’s only open short hours.
In the evenings a night market sets up alone Th Na Phra Kan.
Getting There & Away
Bus From Ayuthaya buses leave for Lopburi every 10 minutes or, if you’re coming from Bangkok, about every 20 minutes (from 5.30am to 8.30pm) from the Northern and Northeastern bus terminal (62B ordiÂ¬nary, 85B for air-con, three hours); it’s about half that price from Ayuthaya.
Lopburi can also be reached from the west via Kanchanaburi or Suphanburi. If you’re coming from Kanchanaburi, take a local, orange bus (no air-con) to Suphanburi (2’/2 hours): there’s great scenery all the way. In Suphanburi, get off the bus in the town’s main street, Th Malaimaen, signed in English, at the
intersection that has an English sign pointing to Sri Prachan. From here you can catch a direct bus to Lopburi (40B, three hours).
If you happen to miss the direct bus, you can also hopscotch to Lopburi by catching a bus first to Singburi or Ana Thong, across the river from Lopburi. The scenery is even better between Suphanburi and Singburi (21/2 hours) you’ll pass many old, tradÂ¬itional Thai wooden houses (late Ayuthaya style), countless cool rice paddies and small wat of all descriptions. Finally, at the Singburi bus station, catch one of the frequent buses to Lopburi (45 minutes). The Singburi bus makes a stop in front of Prang Sam Yot in old Lopburi if you get off here, you won’t have to backtrack from the new city. An alternative to the Suphanburi to Singburi route is to take a bus to Ang Thong and then a share taxi or bus to Lopburi. This is a little faster but not quite as scenic.
From the northeast, Lopburi can be reached via Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima) aboard air-con buses for 85B. Train Ordinary trains depart from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station, heading north at lam and 8.40am. and take only 20 to 30 minutes longer to reach Lopburi than the rapid or express. These ordinary trains are 3rd class only. Rapid trains leave Bangkok at 6.20am and 2.55pm, 7pm, 8.10pm and 10pm (2’h hours). Only one express train (No 9) stops in Lopburi, leaving Bangkok at 8.30am (2nd-class seats only). Fares are 64B in 2nd class and 28B in 3rd class, not including surcharges for rapid or express trains. There are also regular trains from Ayuthaya to Lophuri (13B in 3rd class, one hour).
Sowngthaew run along Th Wichayen and Th Phra Narai Maharat between the old and new towns for 5B per passenger; there is also a system of city buses (5B). S5amlaw will go anywhere in the old town for 30B.