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.
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.
Surin is easily reached via private car, public bus, or train. Once there, it may be easier to get around with your own car, but there are standard forms of local transport available for visitors: i.e. songtaew, motorbike taxi, tuk tuk, and if you are lucky: elephant!
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Getting to and from Surin
- By Train:
Regular trains depart from Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Railway Station for Surin every day. Call 1690, 0 2223 7010-20or visit www.railway.co.th for more information.
- By Car:
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) to Saraburi and then Highway No. 2 (Mittraphap Road) to Nakhon Ratchasima; finally, use Highway No.226 to Surin via Buri Ram, a total distance of 457 kilometers.
- By Bus:
Buses depart from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) to Surin every day. Contact Transport Co.Ltd at Tel: 0 2936 2852-66 or visit www.transport.co.th for more information
Getting Around Surin
Surin is a very convenient city for travelers to explore: most sights and lodging are within a few blocks of the bus and train stations. If you don’t want to walk, Samlor (three wheeled, pedal powered cabs) charge 20B to 30B for a trip around the city center.
It is also possible for visitors to rent cars and motorbikes while in Surin. Be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). You may wish to request a copy of an insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Thailand can be quite confusing.
For around 150 to 300 baht per day you can hire your own motorbike, which will typically require you to leave your passport as a deposit. Be sure to inspect bikes prior to rental and drive with extreme caution as rental motorbikes are not normally insured and accidents are frequent. Helmets are required by Thai law.