Introductions to Surin

Surin City was formerly known as Mueang Thi Village, but was renamed in honor of the provincial governor, Luang Surin Phakdi, appointed by H.M. King Rama I. The city was renamed in 1786, and is the provincial capital. The arrival of the railroad in 1922 ended the relative isolation of Surin from the rest of the country, and opened up this wonderful province for exploration.

The weather in Surin is relatively typical of the region, with peak temperatures nearing 40 degrees C in April to May, and a rainy season beginning in May and peaking in September. The best times to visit are from October until March.

Surin has many attractions, but the most excitement centers around elephants. Surin is home to the Surin Elephant Village, where the mahouts live closely with their charges, almost like family. This goes hand-in-hand with the biggest event of the year in Surin, the Surin Elephant Round Up.

The Round Up is held in the 3rd week of November annually, but if you’re interested, book tickets early for the festival and for accommodation, as tickets for both get steadily more expensive and hard to find as the date approaches. During the festival, you will see elephants in parades, playing football, tug-of-war, and reenacting famous battles from years past. The festival is based on the long-standing reputation of the Surin elephant trainers, including the founder of the city, a legendary master of war elephants.

On the border with Cambodia, you will also find the Chong Chom checkpoint border market. The open air market hosts a wide variety of souvenir-worthy items, as well as daily essentials for the locals.

If Khmer ruins are on your to-do list, be sure to see Phanom Rung, the largest example of Khmer architecture in Thailand. The site is built on top of a dormant volcano, and the elevation provides excellent views of the surrounding countryside. The temple, dedicated to Shiva, was built in the 12th century, but the site itself was considered sacred ground long before that. The carvings on display at Phanom Rung are exemplary.

Restaurants are easy to find in Surin. For Euro-centric fare, stop in at Farang Connection. The menu offers a wide selection of imported and domestic beers. Breakfasts are a specialty and run the gamut from light (eggs, toast, and coffee) to the extravagant (the enormous “Man Sized” English breakfast – good luck finishing it all!). Oasis is a Norwegian owned eatery with an extensive pizza menu to complement their Norwegian and Thai main dishes. For local cuisine, try Sumrab Tornkruang or Larn Chang.

Nightlife can be a little easier to find in Surin, as compared to some of the other cities in Isaan. The restaurants mentioned above, Farang Connection and Oasis, are a great place to start, or to stay for that matter. Heading out from these establishments, check out the variety of local clubs and karaoke bars. Tawan Daeng comes highly recommended, with an excellent local band. Saren Pub is the current spot for the younger, upwardly mobile local set. Enjoy!

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