Thursday, March 3, 2011

Isaan Odyssey, Part 5: Monkey Business At Phra Prang Sam Yot

Panorama of Phra Prang Sam Yot, bathed in the morning light

[This is Part 5 of a series. If you found this via a search or just happened upon it some other way you can find parts 1 through 4 by scrolling down the Labels in the right-hand column and clicking on "Isaan Oddysey".]

Phra Prang Sam Yot (above) is located in what's referred to as the "Old Town" part of Lopburi. The ruins sit by themselves on flat, un-landscaped ground, surrounded by commercial buildings and completely overrun by macaque monkeys. The working wat used by the locals is across the intersection, behind where I'm standing to take the photo below.

The monkeys reign supreme throughout this entire area. There was a sign in the courtyard of the wat that read "Beware of monkeys snatching your purse", but they're not that picky; they'll go for anything they think may contain something edible or looks like something they might be able to entertain themselves with in some way.

As humans aren't all that far removed from these little creatures it was interesting to see them sipping with straws from bottles of water they'd snatched away from someone, or nurturing their babies as the mother's doing to the left.

I saw sunglasses snatched from a visitor who'd put them up on top of his head and then not stayed aware of monkeys near him. Even when they were just sitting they were scanning the area for potential victims and items.

People fed them in the courtyard outside the wat. Bags of leftover greens were being picked through when I was there, and people were buying peanuts to toss on the ground - sort of a "create your own photo opportunity" thing. There were so many on the ground already that I didn't bother adding to them.

We had a self-appointed "guide" as we looked around the ruins across the street. I don't remember the kid's name, but he began walking with us and pointing things out, doing a minor amount of narration in Thai. Pot translated some for me, but I was wandering and taking pictures on my own some of the time. As part of the entertainment the boy would taunt the monkeys with a stick he was carrying as a pointer. He doesn't get bit in the clip below but he came pretty close shortly after I'd stopped recording. Either he was playing hookey from school that day or he wasn't in school - I didn't find out. You can read more about that in a post here about sponsoring students who's families can afford to send them to school.

At the site the monkeys were the only moving creatures, other than the three of us. Juveniles clambered around, pulling themselves up the sides of the ruins (as in the clip below) and practiced social skill between themselves, the older ones often picking on the smaller ones, again rather like humans do...

They were everywhere. Across the street they clambered over cars, shops and buildings; using the always questionable Thai cables and wiring as they moved from place to place. Monkeys being as curious as they are I kept expecting to hear a loud BANG and smell charred simian coming from a smoking black heap on the sidewalk, but evidently they've learned not to "monkey" with the dangerous points - although the one below looked as though he either was considering it or had seen enough of this particular existence.

[Next up in Part 6: Making Merit at Phra Prang Sam Yot -and more monkeys]

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