Surin and around

Nestled in the heart of Thailand's Isaan region, Suron in a typical northeastern town, a reasonably comfortable place to absorb the easy-going pace of Isaan life. There’s a handful of good, mid-range hotels in the centre and, as a bonus, there are some fantastic Khmer ruins in the vicinity. In fact, Surin has a stronger Khmer influence than any other town in Isaan, as attested by the lak muang (city pillar), which is purely Khmer in design. Many visitors pass through the city on their way to the village of Ban Tha Sawang, 10km away, where Thailand’s most exclusive silk is produced.

Hidden gem in Northeast Thailand

As you wander through Surin, you'll discover a mosaic of ancient temples, each telling tales of a bygone era, and lush countryside that stretches far beyond the city's edges. The local cuisine, with its bold flavours and traditional recipes, promises an authentic culinary journey. 

Beyond the crafts and flavours, Surin's landscapes offer serene escapes, from tranquil rice fields to hidden waterfalls, ensuring every moment is filled with discovery. This city invites you to delve into experiences that go beyond the conventional, into the heart of Thailand's enduring traditions and untouched natural wonders.

Finally, Surin is also known for the Surin Elephant Round-up. An annual event that celebrates the deep cultural significance of elephants in Surin. Typically held in November, this  festival showcases the strength, skill, and intelligence of these majestic animals through a series of performances and competitions. Surin is still actively promoting this event, but we strongly advise every traveller to not participate in any animal activities.

Things to do in Surin

Wander through silk weaving villages, taste bold Isaan cuisine, and uncover ancient temples. Dive into local markets brimming with crafts and fresh produce. Surin invites you on a journey through lush landscapes and rich traditions, promising an authentic Thai adventure.

#1 Visit exclusive silk production

Some of Thailand’s most exclusive silk is produced in the village of Ban Tha Sawang which is just a short songthaew ride from the town centre. The best months to visit are between November and June, when the women aren’t required to work all day in the fields.

The Tha Sawang fabric is gold-brocade silk whose ancient designs are so intricate that it takes four weavers working simultaneously on a single loom a whole day to produce just 6cm. And while a standard everyday mut mee sarong might use five heddles (vertical frames of threads that determine the pattern) in its design. The Ban Tha Sawang Weaving Centre (daily 8.30am–5pm) houses around twenty looms, and you are welcome to observe the weavers at close quarters. 

#2 Visit Prasat Ta Muean

Atmospheric Prasat Ta Muean, comprising three laterite ruins, is so remote and hemmed in by dense vegetation that you can’t help but feel like an intrepid explorer when you finally reach the site.

The first of the three sites is a simple, laterite sanctuary snuggled in a shady glade, while the second consists of a gopura, mondop and prang, also of laterite, surrounded by a wall and with an adjacent pond. The last and biggest site, a few hundred metres further south and known as Prasat Ta Muean Thom, is much larger, consisting of prang (three in all) and several other structures, some of laterite and others of sandstone, though few carvings remain. Unusually, like Phimai, the temple is oriented to the south rather than to the east, and the steep stairway which leads directly to Cambodia is heavily guarded by Thai military. In fact, you need to exchange your passports for visitors’ passes on entering the site and reclaim them on leaving. 

#3 Book a Surin village tours

One of the best reasons for coming to Surin, is to take one of the excellent local tours organized from Pirom & Aree’s House. Pirom is a highly informed former social worker whose trips give tourists an unusual chance to catch glimpses of rural northeastern life as it’s really lived. His village tours feature visits to local silk-weavers and basket-makers, as well as to Ban Ta Klang elephant trainers’ village, and it’s also possible to do overnight village trips, including one that takes in Khao Phra Viharn (when open), Khong Chiam and Pha Taem.

#4 Visit the night bazaar

Aside from a reasonable range of local restaurants, Surin boasts a good-sized night bazaar, which occupies the eastern end of Thanon Krungsrinai and offers a tasty selection of local food (including roasted crickets and barbecued locusts in season), as well as stalls selling fashions and toys. Surin also has a surprisingly wild nightlife for a provincial town, with a clutch of seedy bars and discos around the neon-lit ‘Strip’ east of the centre at the northern end of Thanon Sirirath and along Soi Kola, just north of the Thong Tharin Hotel.

How to get to Surin

Getting to Surin is straightforward and easy. There are plenty of options.

By train 

The train station is on the northern edge of town. You can take the train from destinations like:

  • Ayutthaya (10 daily; 5hr–7hr 30min); 
  • Bangkok (10 daily; 6hr 30min–9hr 30min); 
  • Buriram (10 daily; 40–50min); 
  • Khorat (10 daily; 1hr 50min–3hr 10min); 
  • Pak Chong (10 daily; 3hr 10min–5hr); 
  • Si Saket (8 daily; 1hr 15min–1hr 50min); 
  • Ubon Ratchathani (7 daily; 2hr 15min–3hr 20min

By bus and minibus 

The bus terminal is off Thanon Jitbumrung. Minibuses run from here to the Cambodian border. Other destinations:

  • Bangkok (at least hourly; 7hr); 
  • Ban Ta Klang (hourly; 2hr); 
  • Buriram (hourly; 35–55min); 
  • Chiang Mai (6 daily; 12hr); 
  • Khorat (every 30min; 4–5hr); 
  • Khon Kaen (20 daily; 4hr–5hr 30min); 
  • Pattaya (12 daily; 8–10hr); 
  • Roi Et (hourly; 2–3hr); 
  • Si Saket (every 30min; 2–3hr).

Crossing the Cambodian border via Chong Chom

Air-conditioned minivans (roughly every 30min; 2hr) run via Prasat to the Chong Chom–O’Smach border checkpoint, 70km south of Surin, from where you can get taxis to Anlong Veng and then on to Siem Reap, which is 150km from the border crossing. 

There have been reports of people on visa runs being asked for more money by officials on the Cambodian side, especially if they try to return to Thailand on the same day.

Arriving from Cambodia, songthaews and motorbike taxis ferry travellers from the border checkpoint to the minibus stop for Prasat and Surin.

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Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 05.06.2024

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