Lopburi is very laid back, and its convenient location less than 3 hours from Bangkok makes it a good place to escape the stress and pollution of the capital.
Lopburi is one of the oldest cities in Thailand, a former capital and the second capital after Ayutthaya was established in 1350. It was abandoned after King Narai passed away in 1688, but parts were restored in 1856 by King Mongkut (King Rama IV) and in 1664 it was made the summer capital.
Lopburi has been an important part of the Khmer Empire, later a part of Ayutthaya kingdom, and Ayutthaya's second capital under the reign of King Narai, the great, who used to spend eight months of a year in Lopburi. Later on King Mongkut of the Bangkokian Chakri Dynasty used to reside here. Thus the remains of almost all periods of Thai history can be found here.
There are two downtown 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 pooping 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.
From Bangkok, aircon buses leave every 20 mins, take either 2.5 hours and cost 117 baht, or take 3 hours and cost 96 baht. Take the air-conditioned bus from the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) which departs everyday from 5.00 a.m. – 8.30 p.m. every half an hour. It costs 80 baht a person
From Kanchanaburi it's necessary to take a local bus to Suphanburi taking 2 hours and costing 40 baht, then another from there to Lopburi taking 3 hours and costing 52 baht.
From Nakhon Sawan or Phitsanulok. From Sukhothai take a bus to Phitsanulok and then to Nakhon Sawan First.
From Bangkok, air-con vans leave from Victory Monument, take about 2 hours and cost 110 baht.
Trains from/to Bangkok's main Hualamphong station take about 3 hours. Take the Northern Line from Hua Lamphong Railway Station everyday, many rounds per day.
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) passing Phra Phutthabat District, Saraburi, onto Lop Buri. The total distance is 153 kilometres.
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 32 which separates from Highway No. 1, passing Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. There are three routes as follows:
Enter Bang Pahan District, passing Nakhon Luang District into Highway No. 3196. Then, pass Ban Phraek District onto Lop Buri.
Enter at the Ang Thong Interchange to Tha Ruea District and turn left into Highway No. 3196, passing Ban Phraek District onto Lop Buri.
Pass Ang Thong, Sing Buri, and take Highway No. 311 (Sing Buri – Lop Buri), passing Tha Wung District onto Lop Buri.
The blue local bus (8 baht) circles constantly between the bus station about 2km from the town centre, passing Phra Kahn Shrine, going south on Thanon Sorasak, and ending up in front of the TAT office on Phraya Kamuad Road.
Ban Vichayen, Narai Maharat Road. 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. Daily 08:30-16:00. 30 baht.
Phra Kahn Shrine, Narai Maharat Road. 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. No charge.
Phra Narai Ratchanivet or King Narai's Palace, entrance on Thanon Sorasak on east wall. Built in 17th century under King Narai command with the aid of French, Italian and Portuguese engineers, the palace was used for receiving foreign officials and royalty. Restored in 1856 by King Mongkut and converted to a museum in 1924. It consists of the remains of various buildings in an enclosed park, and the central palace which holds prehistoric exhibits, buddha images of Dvaravati, Lopburi and Khmer styles, and King Mongkut's bedroom in its entirety. Open Wed-Sun 8:30-16:00, closed Mon-Tue and national holidays. Entrance fee foreigners 150 bath and thais 30 baht.
Phra Prang Sam Yot - Khmer-style temple with monkeys. Entrance fee - foreigners 50 baht, Thais 10 baht.
Wat Phra Phutthabat, 17km south-east of Lopburi. Take any Saraburi bus (#104) which leave the main bus station every 20 mins, take 30 mins to get to the side road 1km from the wat, and cost 21 baht.
Wat Phra Sri Rattanamahathat - one of the most important temples; no monkeys. Entrance fee foreigners 50 baht, Thais 10 baht.
Wat Sao Thong Thong, Rue De France. A viharn belonging to a working wat, which also has a small amulet market in the grounds. Previously used as a Christian chapel and a Mosque temple, it has now been restored and features a large Buddha figure, with several smaller Lopuri-era Buddhas in wall niches. No charge.
Rockclimbing - at Cheen Lair (จีนแล) Mountain, near Suwannahong Temple (Cheen Lair 2), Baan Nong Kham
If you are going to be in Lop Buri 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.
Noom Guest House, 15-17 Phayakamjad Road, serves English breakfast 08:00-11:30.
The street vendors in the Old Town are very nice and have all kinds of tasty things - don't be afraid to stop and check them out.
KFC and Mister Donut can also be found in the Old Town.
White Houseis located just behind (north of) the Tourism office (TAT). Romantic western architecture with a beautiful yard and second floor, offers nice food. Crab meat fried rice and red curry is very good. The owner, Mr Piak, speaks English and would tell you everything you need to know, even if you don't dine there.
Bua Luang - in the New Town, about 6km from old city. 46/1 Moo 3, Tasala A. Muang. Tel 036-614-227/8/9/30 Cash only.
Louis Steakhouse - on Phahon Yothin east from the large traffic circle 1/2 km or so from Big C under the pedestrian over pass, is a great restaurant owned by a fellow from Belgium. A great change if you are looking for something a little different from normal Thai food.
New World Steak House - great if you like good English cuisine. Run by Barry and Noi, an Englishman and his Thai wife. This spot is just west of Sakal (the huge center of town with the fountains) just to your left before you cross a bridge, at the lights (look for a rather large hotel next to it). The prices are higher than typical Thai food, but the steaks are huge, the Shepherd's pie is awesome, and you can even get a taco or two, if he has shells on hand.
At evenings a lot of street food stalls are set up on a road in front of railway station.
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 center 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 (not recommended unless you know your way around well; foreigners are rare in the Bank). 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 decent for a drink and some offer female company (also not recommended for the newcomers).
Butterfly Bar, Phayakamjad Road ((across street from Narai Palace)). 12 noon. Nice little street side bar with beer, whiskey and food. Right across the street from the Narai Palace (east gate). Gung and Steve are great hosts and the bar stays open until there is no one remaining. Side note, for farangs, there are usually a few 'westerners' hanging around. Enjoy. 50 bt.
Hotels in the Old Town offer generally similar medium scale standards for low 140-500 baht range prices. 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 monkeys:
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. Prices from 300 baht.
Muang Tong Hotel - this is 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.
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. Prices from 200 baht.
Places with few monkeys:
Lopburi Asia Hotel - very close to the King Narai Palace. Rooms are low to medium standard. Prices from 200 baht.
Nett Hotel - good location, with a small food market in front, and no monkeys running around. Rooms range from medium standard to very likable medium standard (after recent tiling). Prices from 180 baht.
Noom Guest House, 15-17 Phayakamjad Road, Thahin Maung firstname.lastname@example.org - has fan rooms, also offers motorcycle rental and rock climbing, and is extremely close to an Internet café.
Rama Plaza Hotel
Suphon Phong Hotel - has only two good points: its location (very close to the train station and to Wat Phra Sri Ratanamahatat) and the price - from 140 baht.
Thai Pe Hotel
Lopburi Inn, 28/9 Narai Maharat Road - holds an annual November dinner party each year for the monkeys. The hotel has a shuttle and may be willing to pick you up from the train station.