Surin elephant festival

It's a big one

Photo of , , Surin

What we say: 4 stars

The people of Surin province have been famous for centuries thanks to their adeptness at capturing and training elephants. Since 1960, they have celebrated their special relationship with elephants every year in November, when elephants and mahouts conver

Although the festival officially lasts for 10 days, the main events are held during the first weekend at See Na Rong provincial stadium in the south of town. For two days, you can watch elephants run races, play football and perform all sorts of tricks. The weekend culminates with an elaborate 'battle' where you can get a feel for what warfare was like when elephants were used rather than tanks. Of course, neither man or beast actually gets speared during the 'battle', but it is quite the thrilling rendition that involves not only elephants but also hundreds of foot 'soldiers'.

Tickets range from 40 baht for standing room up to 500 baht for VIP seats, which includes English explanations of what's happening. You can buy tickets at the stadium or ask your hotel for help arranging them in advance.

While the elephants mainly come once a year from Baan Ta Klang and other small villages where they're well cared for, many elephant ‘handlers' traipse their elephants around the streets of Surin, trying to make money from tourists who pay to feed the animals sugar cane for 20 baht. It's best to decline their offer; the 'handlers' can be pushy and it's not good for the elephants to be hanging around the streets after elephant bed time.

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