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 for its elephants. Surin's people have a long relationship with elephants and they have become the provincial 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 Hwy 1 (Pahonyothin Rd) and merge onto Hwy 2 (Mittraphap Rd) at Saraburi. Use Hwy 24 (Chok Chai-Det Udom) via Nang Rong, Prasat, then turn left onto Hwy 214 to Surin. This route is 457 km long. From Nakhon Ratchasima, motorists can use Hwy 226, en route via Chakkrarat, Huai Thalaeng, Lam Plai Mat, and Buri Ram to Surin. This route is 434 km long.
A bus from Si Saket will cost 92 baht.
Bus and train terminals are within easy walking distance, about 300 m apart.
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 .
Surin is a small town. Most journeys in the central area can be accomplished on foot. However, there are also samlors (rickshaws/'saam-law') and tuk-tuks. The larger hotels also have cars available for hire. Keep in mind that no one considers overcharging a foreigner to be a serious crime. A samlor 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 reenactments, etc.
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, but the staff are very helpful).
Surin has a fantastic night market. Be sure to try the Isaan sausage and Lao-style flattened chicken (gai yang).
In addition to the night market, Surin is liberally endowed with small restaurants, and 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 hotel are two streets lined with small bars, small restaurants, karaoke bars, and go-go bars. The larger hotels also have bars and restaurants. There are also several restaurants managed or owned by expats scattered around town. The largest is the 'Farang Connection', followed by the 'Oasis' and N & N's German restaurant, all near the bus station.
Three of the better hotels in Surin:
Always ask for a discount (700-800 baht/night) in the non-elephant roundup season!
Can get a train there for B41, in a second class carriage with a guaranteed seat. Third class is free, but is totally crowded. The train is not aircon, but there are ceiling fans and open windows,so it is not really uncomfortable.
Can get there by bus or train.