Surin is the capital of Surin province. Its population is small, approximately 40,000, but the province itself is densely populated. It is about 450 km east of Bangkok and 50 km from the Cambodian border. A quiet town, its one claim to fame is its annual Elephant Roundup, which takes place in November (book a room in advance). Surin is well known, locally and internationally, for its elephants. Surin's people have a long relationship with elephants and they have become the province's icon. Throw in plenty of Khmer ruins, beautiful silk, and aromatic jasmine rice and they all make Surin an interesting destination.
Surin's story can be dated back thousands of years when the Suay or Kuay ethnic group migrated along the Mekong River to settle around Dongrek mountain range. Kuay ethnic people, found in Thailand and Laos, excel in catching and training elephants. Some 2,000 years ago, during the Khmer era, the town of Surin was established. After the fall of Khmer Empire, the town was neglected until 1763, when Luang Surin Pakdi (Chiang Poom), headman of Muang Tee Village, led his people to settle at Ban Khu Prakai, which became the town of Surin.
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
Trains regularly leave Bangkok's Hualamphong and Bang Sue stations for Surin. For more information, call 1690, 0-2220-4334, 0-2220-4444. Surin Railway Station tel. 0-4451-1295, 0-4451-5393 or visit [www.railway.co.th].
Surin is a small town, most journeys in the central area can be accomplished on foot. However, there are also sam-lors (rickshaws/'saam-law') and tuk-tuks. The larger hotels also have a car available for hire. Keep in mind that no one considers overcharging a foreigner to be a serious crime. A sam-lor ride around the central region of the town is 40 baht, a tuk-tuk maybe 50/60 baht for foreigners. If in doubt ask your hotel for advice. When 'getting off the bus' always be extra careful not to be taken for a ride while being taken for a ride.
Surin is not the most picturesque spot on the Earth, but it does have a few, small attractions.
The Elephant Roundup is a three day long event where elephants roam the streets of Surin and perform in various activities: soccer, beauty contests, battle re-enactments, etc.
Khmer era temples
These stretch from the border westwards to Buriram Province. There are few organised tours (tourism is not overly big in Isaan). You can always find an (expensive) rental car, with driver, at your hotel, or it is possible to visit the major temples by using the local public transport system (this is very cheap). Ask you hotel or guest house for instructions. (Most signs at the bus and train station are in Thai, however, the staff are very helpful.)
There is nothing truly distinctive to be found in Surin, however some prices are lower than in Bangkok.
Surin has a fantastic night market. Be sure to try the Isaan sausage and Laos-style flattened chicken (gai yang), but be careful with the som-tam (papaya salad)!
In addition to the night market Surin is liberally endowed with small restaurants, and the usual street vendors. Also the major hotels have reasonably priced menus.
Surin is not overly well endowed with watering holes but there are a few places where one's palate, and appetite can be quenched.
Most places are located near the Thong Tarin Hotel. Adjacent to the TT are two streets lined with small bars, small restaurants, small karaoke bars, and small go-go bars. The larger hotels also have bars and restaurants. There are also several small restaurants managed or owned by ex-pats scattered around town. The largest is the 'Farang Connection', followed by the 'Oasis' and N & N's German restaurant, all near the bus station.
There are three main 'good' hotels in Surin:
In addition to these hotels there is a range of accommodation around the town, and just outside.
Always ask for a discount (700-800 baht/night) in the non-elephant roundup season!