Surin, land of elephants in Northeastern Thailand

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Surin home of the Elephant Festival

Surin is a town in Southern Isaan, Thailand. Surin is the capital of Surin province. Its population is small, approximately 40,000, but bear in mind that the province itself is densely populated. It is about 450 kilometers east from Bangkok and 50 kilometers from the Cambodian border.

The land of big elephants, prestigious silk, beautiful rosary, many Khmer ruins, sweet radish, fragrant rice, and rich culture.

Surin is a large province in the Mun River Basin of Thailand’s Northeastern Isan region. Although the exact history of the town itself is not well known, the people of the region have always been highly regarded for a particular skill: capturing and taming elephants. The Suay or Kuay (meaning simply “people”) migrated to the area perhaps thousands of years ago and established a reputation for their elephant handling prowess that is still celebrated to this day. Since 1960, around the time that elephants were being replaced by machines for most of their laboring jobs, the Surin Elephant Round-Up has been an annual event known both locally and internationally. During this celebration of both the elephants and the training skills of the Surin people, the gigantic pachyderms impress everyone with their cleverness and charm, an event that is the embodiment of the unique character of the province.
In addition to elephants, Surin features many ruins from the era when the Khmer of Angkor controlled the region, and Surin is also known for producing beautiful silk and growing Thailand’s famous jasmine rice.

Surin is land of elephants, famous silk and rich Khmer culture

For most of the year Surin province is a sleepy agricultural province, quietly growing jasmine rice and weaving beautiful silk. Come November however, the spotlight shines on Surin province as Thais and foreign visitors congregate in the province to witness one of Thailand’s most iconic celebrations: the Surin Elephant Round-Up. As much a celebration of the mighty elephants as the local people who are so skilled in training them, the Elephant Round up features hundreds of elephants showcasing their skills, including a man vs elephant tug-of-war and full fledged battle re-enactments.
Those visiting other times of the year or just before, after the big event will enjoy the bucolic environment that surrounds a number of charming handicraft villages and a handful of Khmer ruins, abandoned for half a millennia following the fall of the Khmer Empire at Angkor.

Phanom Sawai Forest Park

Phanom Sawai Forest Park is 14 kilometres away on the way to Amphoe Prasat and 6 kilometres on a road on the right. The park comprises 3 peaks and a large Buddha image in the meditation posture. The view from the top is quite spectacular.

Key Tips

  • Hotels are generally full during the elephant round up so book ahead!
  • Visitors can interact with the elephants at the end of the day’s performances.

Getting to Surin

By Car

From Bangkok, head north via highway 1 (Pahonyothin Road) and get into highway 2 (Mittraphap Road) at Saraburi. Use highway 24 (Chok Chai – Det Udom) via Amphoe Nang Rong, Prasat, then turn left into highway 214 to Surin. This route is 457 kilometres long. Or from Nakhon Ratchasima, motorist can use highway 226, en route Amphoe Chakkrarat , Huai Thalaeng, Lam Plai Mat, Buri Ram to Surin. This route is 434 kilometres.

By Bus

Scheduled buses leave Northeastern Bus terminal (Mochit 2) on Kamphaeng Phet II Road in Bangkok every day. For more information, call 0-2936-2852-66 www.transport.co.th. Transport Co, Surin Branch tel. 0-4451-1756. Kitchakan Ratchasima Tour Co, tel. 0-4451-2161, Nakhon Chai Air Co., tel. 0-4451-5151.

Map of Surin

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