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Guide to Thailand's Annual Surin Elephant Round-Up Festival

Updated on April 20, 2015
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As an engineer, Mazlan had the opportunity to travel and work abroad. He has traveled to over 30 countries.

More than 300 elephants take part in Surin Elephant Round Up Festival
More than 300 elephants take part in Surin Elephant Round Up Festival | Source

The Adorable Elephant

Most of us will remember the great wrinkly beasts standing on their heads at circuses and in zoos doing their antics to attract the crowds. Some elephants are born performers and we just can't resist these lovable animals.

Visit Thailand's Annual Surin Elephant Round Up Festival

If you want to see the elephants at their most appealing, then you should visit Thailand's Annual Surin Elephant Round Up Festival . It is held every year in November at Srinarong open-air stadium in Surin. Please check, Thailand Tourism Authority website, for the actual date, as the date varies every year, but is usually held in the third week of November.

Elephant for Entertainment

Originally held in 1960, this annual festival has attracted visitors not just from the local district but also from the rest of Thailand and from overseas.

The people of Surin were known to excel in capturing and training elephants in Cambodia, However when civil war broke up in Cambodia and with preference over heavy machineries against the use of elephants, these mahouts or elephant handlers had to turn to other activities such as entertainment, in order to earn a living.

Leading the procession during Surin Elephant Round Up
Leading the procession during Surin Elephant Round Up | Source

Elephant Show and Elephant Soccer Game

In this 4 hour spectacle, you will see demonstrations of how wild elephants are captured and trained for work. There are amazing displays of strength and skill, as well as humorous highlights such as an elephant soccer game, an elephant tug of war and even an elephant talent show. In the gripping climax, the whole troop, gloriously bedecked in full war regalia, will re-enact a mass mediaeval battle.

More than 300 elephants will take part in this twelve-day Thailand's Annual Surin Elephant Round Up Festival.

Elephant Breakfast Show

The festival will start on Friday morning with the Elephant Breakfast where more than 300 elephants will march from the railway station area and move through Surin city towards the elephant roundabout at Prasat road.

These elephants will be carrying dignitaries, mahouts and tourists who will then dismount on arrival. These mahouts will be dressed in authentic battle outfits from the Thai - Laos -Khmer battles.

The Elephant Breakfast will start as soon as all the elephants arrived. The banquet consisted of many varieties of fruits and other favorite elephant foods, which will quickly be devoured by these large numbers of elephants.

War Re-enactment is part of the festival activities, during Surin Elephant Round Up
War Re-enactment is part of the festival activities, during Surin Elephant Round Up | Source

Re-Enactment of Past Century Battles

The next morning, these elephants and their mahouts will assemble at Srinarong open-air stadium where they will perform the main show. The highlight of this show is the re-enactment of the past century battles of Thailand-Laos-Kymer. If you missed this show, not to worry as it will be repeated the next day on Sunday morning.

The best way to see the festival is on Thailand Tourism Authority package tour. Check the website for more detail.

Battle Reenactment during Surin Annual Elephant Round-up
Battle Reenactment during Surin Annual Elephant Round-up | Source

Significance of Elephant to the Thai people

Elephant has played a significant role in Thailand's history and culture. It has been revered for centuries and now stands as a living symbol of Thailand. It was used in battles as well as a beast of burden for the logging industries. It also has a special religious significance to the Hindu and Buddhist faiths.

To celebrate the importance and significance of Thai elephants to its citizens, the government organized the Surin Elephant Round Up festival on an annual basis, since 1960.

Elephant Soccer at Surin Elephant Round Up
Elephant Soccer at Surin Elephant Round Up | Source

Information on Surin for Thailand's Annual Surin Elephant Round Up festival.

Surin is a quiet province and does not receive that many tourists as compared to other parts of Thailand. However, in November, it is the busiest. Surin has long been linked with elephants and is often called 'Province of Elephants'. This event helped promote the province's tourism and boost its economy.

Many of Surin's folks are known for their ability to capture and rounding up wild elephants. They are also well known for their skills in training and taming these wild elephants.

Elephants in Thailand

Based on records kept by Thai Elephant Conservation Center, there were 100,000 domesticated elephants in 1850. This number has now dropped to a drastic 2,700 and 95% are privately owned.

Thailand's elephant are easy to train

Unlike the African elephants, Thai elephants are easily tamed and domesticated within weeks.

As such, you will see many of Surin's elephants and their mahouts in Bangkok and other major tourist towns in Thailand, to earn a living, for most part of the year. But come November, they will all go back to their native Surin, for Thailand's Annual Surin Elephant Round Up festival.

The mahouts, caring for its elephants, during Surin Elephant Round Up
The mahouts, caring for its elephants, during Surin Elephant Round Up | Source

Where is Surin in Thailand?

Surin Province is in the Mun River Basin, in the lower northeast part of Thailand. From Bangkok, Thailand's capital city, it is about 284miles (457km) by car and 260miles (420km) by train.

Surin is now known both locally and internationally for its annual elephant round up festival. You will also find in Surin the Khmer Ruins, the famous jasmine rice and of course Thai silk, which make Surin an interesting place to visit.

Map of Thailand : Location of Surin

A markersurin thailand -
Surin, Thailand
get directions


Getting to Surin from Bangkok

By Bus : The daily buses from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal will take about 6 hours to arrive in Surin

By Train : Take the train from Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lam Phong) that departs daily. This is a 260 mile (420 km) journey

By Car : If you intend to drive, it is best to have with you a GPS navigation system such as Garmin. It will be easier to navigate through the massive traffic that is famous in Bangkok. If you don't have one, then follow this direction : Take Highway 1 (Phahonyothin Road) and at Saraburi, turn right to Highway 2 (Mitraphap Road). Then go in the direction of Highway 24 (Chok Chai-Det Udom route) via the Amphoe Nang Rong and Amphoe Prasa. Then turn left to highway 214 which will lead you to Surin Province. Total distance about 284 miles (457 km)

Getting to Bangkok, Thailand capital city

Most major airlines will fly from major cities in USA, Europe, Britain, Australia and from most parts of the world, to Bangkok, either on a direct flight or with a one stop over. Check travel web site such as Hotwire for the best travel deal.

Get Travel books to Thailand for your trip to see the elephants

Festival Hubs and Link

My other hubs on festivals which might interest you are the Thaipusam Celebration in Malaysia, a Hindu religious festival that can be considered as the most spectacular of all the Hindu festival. Other Hindu festivals are Pongal Celebration in Malaysia, a Hindu Thanksgiving festival and Diwali Celebration in Malaysia, a Hindu celebration, akin to the Christians celebrating Christmas. How the Chinese in Malaysia celebrates Chinese New Year can be read at Chinese New Year Celebration in Malaysia.

Thailand 's Annual Surin Elephant Round Up 2011

© 2012 Mazlan

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    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Graham, good to hear from you again. Thanks for the visit and comments.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi greatstuff. A really entertaining and interesting hub. Great photographs and videos. I don't think I'll ever make it there, so thanks for posting.


    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi George. Thanks for the compliment.

    • profile image

      GeorgeWT 5 years ago

      I was there last November for the show, its was fun and I really enjoyed it. Like your article as it has nice photos and relevant & useful info.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 6 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi prasetio30, thanks for dropping by. This festival is one of the greatest elephant show ever and any visitor to Thailand should try to make a point of visiting Surin in November

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This was great festival. I had never know about this festival before. I love all the pictures above. Thanks for writing and share with us. Rated up!