12: Mokey see, monkey do. The monkey feast!

Still reeling from the Loy Krathong festival on Friday night, Sunday brought a whole new festival, and it couldn’t have been more different from the last. Actually, come to think of it, it was different and probably more surreal than anything I have ever seen before in my life! I talk of course about the (almost) world famous LopBuri monkey festival.

IntroductionOn the 28th of November, the people of LopBuri perennially honour and even worship the most famous denizens of their town, the monkeys. They are waited on hand and foot, given a three course meal (which doesn’t include any monkey nuts but does include many bananas) and basically given the freedom of the city! Along with the traditional (and hilarious) feeding of the monkeys, there was a school parade featuring marching brass bands straight through the city. Once the parade reached its destination, a 5 hour show took place during the onslaught of the mid-day sun. My school, Jindaratana were of course present, and I was not allowed to simply be an interested yet bemused observer. Oh no, instead I was given a traditional Eastern Thai outfit and told to introduce Jindaratana’ show! While petrified I would slip on a banana skin and fall like a cartoon King Kong, I heard the announcer shout “farang, farang!” (foreigners, foreigners!) and presumed that was my cue to begin.

Monkey DancersThe show went down a storm. The students, aged between eight and twelve, didn’t hold anything back in their ostentatious dance routine, the papier-mâché monkey heads didn’t slow them down an inch! Every show I watched was different from the last, there was a vast array of costumes, hats and monkey masks, each one more comical and more outlandish than the last. I think my personal favourite was the show featuring one brave Thai school teacher who dressed head-to-foot in a furry monkey costume and spent a whole ten minutes pretending that fake paper dumbbells were really heavy! Silly slapstick; but very funny.

The festival was a bizarre and wonderful spectacle. It seemed to achieve its aim of raising public awareness as to the plight of the LopBuri monkey, especially the cost and practicality of keeping them fed and giving them the territory they need to survive. The day was also a resounding success for the school as they raised their profile being the highest placed primary school and third place overall in amongst some tough competition! The festival was featured in most of the national press in Thailand, and apparently got some coverage on CNN. LopBuri, Jindaratana, and the two strange looking ‘farang’ English teachers found their fifteen minutes of fame, the other eleven hours and forty five minutes of the day were reserved for the small hairy primates, the real stars of the show.

Dan

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