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Surin Elephant Festival

Updated on July 13, 2011

The Surin Elephant Festival

The Surin Elephant Festival is an annual event in the Kingdom of Thailand. The origins are lost in time but probably originated from a couple of mahouts bragging as to who had the better elephant and so they competed. Such an activity in the Surin area in Isaan province of Northern Thailand, where elephants are commonly used in forests and agriculture would naturally have provoked the interest of others.

This small and originally private competition grew until it was eventually recognised as a National event and has been held every year since 1962.

In 2010 the Surin Elephant Festival is scheduled to take place on 20-21 November.

State Flag of Thailand 1916

From Small to Big

Today the Surin Elephant Festival is composed of a series of events. One of these is the Surin Elephant Roundup and some people know the festival by this name.

There is much more however. Now there is elephant football, tug-of-war, capture and training demonstrations, dancing, racing, elephant painting. In fact there is everything to show the skills of these remarkable and wonderous creatures. Rarely does one get the opportunity to see as many as 200-300 elephants together in one place.

Today the Surin Elephant Festival is extremely important to the people of the Surin area as it attracts tourists from all over the world. In fact over 80% of the tickets sold are to people from outside Thailand. It remains however very popular with Thai people both young and old who have a historic love and respect for the elephant.

Elephants were formally a beast of war and played an important part in the protection of Thailand in ancient times. The elephant, until fairly recently was represented on the flag of Thailand. There is an interesting museum dedicated to the Royal Thailand Elephants in Bangkok.

Surin Elephant Festival 2009

Getting There

The best way to get to Surin is to approach a tour operator in Bangkok. They can arrange your getting there by plane, coach or train as well as obtaining tickets for the festival and arranging hotel accommodation.

It is possible to go it alone and it makes it more of an adventure. Use 'Lonely Planet' or the 'Rough Guide' to help you.

Elephant Eyes



Submit a Comment
  • Russell-D profile image


    8 years ago from Southern Ca.

    You're right, Peter. We did elephants in Nepal and Thailand, got names mixed. David

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    Not familiar with a Chitwan in Thailand, only Nepal. There may well be a place of that name in Thailand. I know a Thai girl with similar sounding name. I forgot to mention there is a banquet at the Surin Festival. I know you would like that.

  • Russell-D profile image


    8 years ago from Southern Ca.

    Peter is Surin anywhere near where we were in Chitwan? David

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello - I am pleased that you enjoyed it. Thank you.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you, Peter, for your wonderful hub and video.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    MythiliK - Yes I have visted Kerala but not during the Pooram festival. A colleague of mine did though and showed me many photos. A very impressive event.

  • MythiliK profile image


    8 years ago from India --> Switzerland

    Peter, nice and beautiful. In India too there is a state called Kerala where lots of Elephants are gathered during a festival called Pooram. Thanks for the good share.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    franciaonline - Lots of elephant places around Chiangmai but the Surin event is the biggest. Thanks for reading.

  • franciaonline profile image


    8 years ago from Philippines

    Hi Peter,

    I didn't know that there's such a thing as an elephant festival in Thailand. I've been to Chiangmai and saw elephants there but

    I haven't heard about this amazing festival.Many good things in Thailand, indeed! Thanks for this hub, Peter.


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