Known for its historic Khmer legacy and a top-notch football club, Buriram province lies at the crossroads between Thailand’s Northeast and Southeast regions. The provincial capital isn’t the most thrilling place in the kingdom, but travellers headed to the exceptional Phanom Rung and related Khmer ruins might pass through.
Along with nearby Surin and Si Saket provinces, Buriram is part of the lower Isaan region that abuts the Cambodia border and is home to a substantial number of Khmer-Thais who speak a Northern Khmer dialect. Throw in the usual Lao/Isaan-Thais and Chinese-Thais, and anyone studying the standard Central Thai language will be thrown off by listening to the locals in Buriram.
As with the nearby cities of Nakhon Ratchasima and Surin, Khmers settled in what’s now Buriram town during the Angkor period and the old city moat has survived, but no ancient walls or temples remain in the town itself. During the 19th century, Buriram was geographically and administratively closer to the Thai province of Nakhon Ratchasima than the Lao outpost of Ubon Ratchathani. Since then it has grown into a provincial capital with 30,000 residents who are generally laid-back — at least until the local football squad takes the field.
Reflecting the province’s mixed heritage, a leafy patch of Buriram’s old town features a large Chinese shrine situated across the street from the Thai-style Wat Klang and next to the large City Pillar shrine, which was built to mimic a Khmer-style prang. While most of Buriram town consists of dull concrete shophouses, the City Pillar area stretches beyond the moat and makes for a mildly pleasant stroll past clusters of old wooden houses.
Today Buriram is remarkable for being the only town in Thailand where the local football team is more popular than Manchester United or Liverpool. The locals are football mad; everywhere you go you’ll see posters, flags and T-shirts sporting Buriram United’s navy-blue logo. Employing some of the best Thai footballers along with several international players, the club wins Thai premier league championships practically every year and is supposedly one of the top 10 clubs in Asia. Check out Buriram United’s website to see if any matches are on during your visit.
Located atop an extinct volcano 65 kilometres south of Buriram town, Phanom Rung is Thailand’s best-preserved set of Khmer ruins and the province’s main draw for most travellers. Though it and the related Muang Tam ruins can be fairly easily hit as a day trip from Buriram town, many travellers base themselves closer to the sites in Nang Rong. The ruins are also frequently hit from Surin, a more traveller-oriented city that’s 80 kilometres from Phanom Rung.
The provincial capital is thin on things to do, but you could hit a museum dubbed the Lower Northeastern Cultural Centre in the northeastern corner of Buriram Rajabhat University to see some ancient artefacts from the area. If you have more time, take a trip south of town to climb a steep stairway up to a large Buddha image at Khao Kradong forest park. Buriram town also punches above its weight on the bar front, with several easy-to-find nightclubs and some friendly expat-owned bars and restaurants.
Buriram town is located towards the north of the same-named province, which mostly consists of flat rice paddy stretching south to the Dandrek mountains which form the border with Cambodia. Located to the southeast of town and reflecting Buriram’s passion for its football club, the New I-Mobile Stadium, nicknamed “Thunder Castle”, seats more than 30,000 and is the third largest in Thailand.
The old town area around the City Pillar shrine on Jira Road (also spelt Chira) is located to the north and east of the ancient moat, which is rimmed by the atmospheric Rom Buri Park to the west. A roofed night bazaar is located just south of the park on Jira Soi 2. Much of the accommodation is clustered near the train station on or near Rom Buri Road, running north to south down to Jira Road.
The police station is located on Jira Road, just east of Rom Buri Park. Buriram Hospital can be found just west of the train station, on the north side of the tracks, along Nahsathani Road. There’s also the Ekkachon Buriram Hospital on Highway 2074, a 15-minute walk northeast of the train station.
Bank branches and ATMs are found along Romburi Road and elsewhere in town. A handful of internet shops do business around town, including Joji Internet Cafe just east of the train station on Thani Road, which runs along the south side of the tracks.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 8th October, 2016.