Tourists return and so does the Thai monkey festival in Thailand
- The feast, which cost more than 100,000 baht ($3,000), is an annual tradition
- The festival's theme this year was wheelchair monkeys
- In November, Thailand welcomed more than 100,000 visitors
Thousands of monkeys feasted on two tonnes of fruits and vegetables in Lopburi, central Thailand, watched by tourists and locals, after the town's Monkey festival resumed following a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
Large number of macaques, also known as long-tailed monkeys, were spotted munching on bananas and pineapples while climbing on people and fruit stacks.
The feast, which cost more than 100,000 baht ($3,000), is an annual tradition for locals to thank the monkeys for helping to attract tourists to Lopburi, also known as "Monkey Province".
"Today's special is durian, which is expensive. Lopburi monkeys like expensive things," Yongyuth Kitwatananusont, who has previously organised over 30 monkey festivals, told Reuters.
The festival's theme this year was wheelchair monkeys, and Yongyuth intended to donate 100 wheelchairs to the less fortunate.
After the government launched a quarantine-free travel scheme for vaccinated tourists in November, tourists have been gradually returning to Thailand, and the festival has proven to be a popular draw.
In November, Thailand welcomed more than 100,000 visitors, surpassing the total number of visitors in the first ten months of the year.
"I'm really happy to get to see this and now I'm thinking about going to the next festival," said Moroccan tourist Ayoub Boukhari.
"It's quite unexpected and the monkeys are quite silly."
With their cameras, some tourists were seen playing with the monkeys. Locals were also pleased to see the tradition resume.
"It's the first time in two years that monkeys get to eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables," said Thanida Phudjeeb. "I'm happy for them."
Thailand was one of the first Asian countries to reopen to foreign visitors, and the country is slowly recovering, with new hotels offering longer stays for individual travellers.
Thailand received 106,117 foreign tourists in the first ten months of 2021, down from 6.7 million in 2020. Thailand received about 40 million visitors per year prior to the pandemic.