Photo: Surin is all about elephants.

Introduction

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When famous French archaeologist and explorer Etienne Aymonier visited Surin town at the end of the 19th century, he found a collection of bamboo huts on a sandy knoll surrounded by orchards and gardens. He also found the layout of what had clearly been an important Angkor period settlement, with two large enclosure palisades and a wide moat surrounding a square citadel with four entrance gates.


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Indeed the local name for Surin at that time was Banteay Srok — “Citadel of the Region” or “Regional Fortress” in Khmer — and a rather melodramatic local saying was, “If Surin shall fall then so shall Khorat!” If not a major urban site, as the lack of temple ruins would seem to indicate, Surin was at least once an important Angkor military base.

Lets go with an elephant theme. Photo taken in or around Surin, Thailand by David Luekens.

Lets go with an elephant theme. Photo: David Luekens

With the decline of the Khmer empire, some cities such as Angkor Thom, Banteay Chmar and Beng Melea were completely abandoned, while the more robust regional centres such as Phimai, Lopburi and Khorat continued to prosper under Thai control. Surin seems to have fallen between the two, just clinging on to avoid the “lost city” category but reverting to an unimportant little village.

Virtually none of the old Khmer city remains in modern Surin, which re-emerged in the 20th century as a medium size capital city of the same-named province and home of the famous elephant festival held annually in November. The area’s ancient roots are still evident in the people who live in Surin, many of them ethnically Khmer or Suay (a mix of Mon and Khmer). Expect to hear almost as much Khmer spoken as Thai in ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Surin.
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