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.
Bangkok's northern bus terminal (Mo Chit 2) on Kamphaeng Phet II Rd has daily service to Surin. For more information, call +66 29 362 852-66 . Transport Co, Surin Branch Tel. +66 44 511 756. Kitchakan Ratchasima Tour Co, tel. +66 44 512 161, Nakhon Chai Air Co., Tel. +66 4451-5151.
Minibuses (60 baht) connect the town with Chong Chom, which hosts a border crossing with O'Smach in Cambodia.
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.
Surin National Museum - has exhibits relating to the geography, history and ethnic groups of Surin. The museum is located about four km south of the city along Rt 214. There is nothing to see along the road, and given the speed of cars and the lack of a sidewalk, walking is not recommended. The pink songthaew from the city will take you to the museum for 10 baht, or use a tuk-tuk/samlor.
Statue of the founder of Surin
Wats - Surin has several.
Elephant training village - at Tha Tum, about 60 km away.
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).
Prasat Ta Meuan - a complex of three structures built in the 12th–13th centuries around the time of the Cambodian king Jayavarman VII. The largest building is Prasat Ta Meuan Thom. It is surrounded by an outer wall, and contains a large central, rectangular building on a north-south axis. To the south is Prasat Ta Meuan Toht, a smaller structure, with an outer wall. The last and smallest of three is Prasat Ta Meuan, a small building with no wall, approx 15m x 5m in size. All of these buildings show signs of disrepair and looting. A return journey by taxi to the complex will cost you 2000 baht (April 2007). There are occasional excursion buses, when there is sufficient interest. Check with your hotel or travel agent. There is no on-site English language assistance, nor much information about the complex. There may still be unexploded land mines from the days of the Khmer Rouge. Stay on the paths and do not wander into the surrounding jungle. Entry is free.
Prasat Sikhoraphum - a set of temple ruins in a quiet surroundings, can be reached by bus or train (30 km, 1 hour plus)
Prasat Hin Phluang - a collection of several minor ruins near the Cambodian border; private transport (watch out for landmines!)
Prasat Phumpon - a small and jumbled collection of ruins (60 km)
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:
Petchaskem Hotel (500 m from the bus station) is an older hotel.
Surin Majestic (next to the bus station) is the newest and best looking hotel in Surin.
Thong Tarin Hotel, 60 Sinrat Rd (about 500 m from the bus station), ☎ +66 44 514 281. Clean and tidy, and with the attached, Rose Bath House, where men can find female companionship. It is a 10-floor hotel, quite well-appointed and with good facilities including a swimming pool. Rooms are good and clean, with hot water in the shower, and tea and coffee making facilities.1,000 baht double, including a buffet breakfast.
Always ask for a discount (700-800 baht/night) in the non-elephant roundup season!
There are options for those looking for luxury accommodation as well mostly in the form of private villa rentals.
Private Luxury Villa, Kathu, . checkin: 2:00 pm; checkout: 12:00 noon. This luxury villa comes with 3 spacious bedrooms, large dining and lounge areas, a sun deck, balconies overlooking the ocean and a well equipped kitchen. Facilities include Air conditioning, TV,Cooker, Microwave, Fridge, Freezer, Washing machine and secure parking. Ideal for family vacations or an office get-together.
Buriram — Can get a train there for 41 baht, in a second-class carriage with a guaranteed seat. Third class is free, but crowded. The train is not air conditioned, but there are ceiling fans and open windows,so it is not really uncomfortable.
Cambodia — Is accessible at the Chong Chom/O'Smach border crossing. The drive into Cambodia becomes very scenic as the road descends the Dangrek Mountains. At the border, between the two countries' immigration offices, are a couple of casino hotels. Visas are issued at this border, make sure you only pay US$20 for a Cambodian tourist visa. Touts will try to convince you to pay more. On the Cambodian side, O'Smach town, a collection of attap huts and dirt streets, is less than 1 km down the hill from the immigration offices. It hosts at least three (bricks and mortar) guesthouses for anyone arriving late and not being able to make onward transport. It also has a market with cafes and a branch of Acleda Bank (no ATM). Paramount Angkor Transport runs buses to Samraong and beyond from O'Smach town, look for the attap hut with bus advertisements on the highway at the turning to the town. On the Thai side, minibuses run from Chong Chom to Surin (60 baht).