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Surin Elephant Festival - Thailand's One-Of-A-Kind Cultural Affair

Surin is typically termed as the ‘land of elephants’ in Thailand, and this majorly influences the annual event - Surin Elephant Festival. The elephant parades, their buffet breakfasts, skill demonstrations, cultural shows, ancient elephant warfare techniques, and much more, are truly a sight to behold. It’s that time of the year when a bunch of travellers from all over the globe book their tickets for Surin to experience the best of their local cultures surrounding this particular round-up. It’s a festival of fun and frolic among the locals, which has now majorly become a part of tourist fancy. 

Date & Venue of the Elephant Festival in Thailand

15th November 2019 – 17th November 2019 beginning at 9:00 AM.
The Surin Elephant Festival is held at the Si Narong Stadium, which has been named as the world’s largest domestic elephant village, by Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Surin Elephant Festival - Ticket Price

There are two entrances for the event. The one beside the Airport is the VIP entrance and the ticket prices are around 400 and 500 baht per person. The seating area for the VIPs is in the shade. There’s a cheaper entrance ticket too and it costs 100 baht per person. The entry is through the southwest corner of the Si Narong Stadium. The seating area for these is directly under the sun.

Events at the Elephant Festival

Surin Elephant Festival, Tug of War
Tug of War at Surin Elephant Festival (Source)

The festival starts on Friday morning at 9 o’clock with a marching procession of around 300 elephants through Surin City. The elephants are given ‘buffet breakfast’ consisting of different fruits and vegetables. The various programmes that are lined up go on till the late afternoon. On Saturday, the elephants along with their mahouts assemble at the Elephant Stadium just after the daybreak.  This is the day of displaying the physical skills of the tamed elephants in front of the tourists and dignitaries. The tugs of war take place between the elephants and almost 100 soldiers. This is one of the major attractions of this festival. The finale show takes place on Sunday and it features the enactment of the battle between the Siamese and the Burmese forces. The Siam forces are dressed in red and the forces from Burma are dressed in blue. The battles end with the victory of the Siamese. There’s a mini half-marathon as well which is known as “Mueang Chang”. The festival ends with a cultural show.

History of Surin Elephant Festival 

Elephant round up, thailand
Elephant Round-Up (Source)

The Surin Elephant Festival is held every year in Surin, Northern Thailand, and it’s a cultural celebration having its roots back to the times when the Roman Empire was failing. The only difference is, there was a huge populace of around 300,000 elephants out of which 100,000 were believed to be tamed at that time. However, today, there are only as few as 3500-4000 of them left. The festival started in the 1960s when the mahouts (elephant handlers) were looking for employment opportunities in the tourism industry after the civil war in Cambodia. Several shows are showcasing the physical abilities of these lofty animals on the second day of the event. Usually, this festival takes place in the third week of November during the weekends. The Kuy, natives of Surin, are known to be the traditional specialists of caging these giants and training them for work. So, when the Ayutthaya Kingdom got the power, the taming processes got converted into public entertainment, and all the wild elephants were substituted with the tamed ones. Today, it’s a two-day event which includes several entertaining shows which displays the physical abilities and skills of these animals. There are soccer games, tugs of war, picture painting, hula hoops whirling and a lot more other options to have a look at. 

Things to Know before Attending the Elephant Festival in Thailand

  • For experiencing the festival in its real essence and grandeur, try to reach Surin a day before the event to experience the magnificent parade of the elephants.
  • It’s essentially fun during the late-evenings and night as well with different options of food, music and fairgrounds. 
  • Most importantly, the festival is getting famous amongst travellers around the globe. Hence, book your stay in a hotel at the earliest to avoid sleeping on the streets, literally!

Are You Ready to be a Part of this Magnificence?

These days, the mahouts along with their elephants, travel up to 100 km and reach Surin to be a part of the festival. The ritualistic essence of the event is almost lost today and it has essentially become a tourist festival. This is once in a lifetime experience and you would not like to miss it if you are planning for a trip to Thailand at the end of this year. However, make sure that you do your bookings well in advance in order to experience this festival in the best way possible.


This post was published by Anuradha Chakraborty