If you've got some extra time, then the charming town of Surin situated on the broad plains of the Khorat Plateau in eastern Thailand, is a wonderful alternative to the often overcrowded package tours on offer.
Try something different when next on vacation in this beautiful part of the world. Hire a car and drive yourself to a place where few other tourists ever venture and discover the real Thailand.
The road from Bangkok to Surin is 460 kilometres (290 miles) and may seem never-ending at times, but remember that the journey there can represent more than half the fun as the eventual arrival. Wouldn't you just love to travel by road and marvel at all the exciting discoveries you'll uncover along the way?
Among the normal everyday rural life, this particular region is steeped in ancient Khmer colonisations and silk weaving establishments. Spend a little time to get to know the unique customs, ideologies, and inspirations of the rural people and you'll unleash a new meaning to unrivalled travel in eastern Thailand.
If you have insufficient time, but you would still love to venture out to these far eastern plateaus, then why not consider flying as Surin has its very own airport. Once there, a whole lot of new and exciting opportunities will open up for you.
Elephant Round-Up is an annual elephant extravaganza held during the month of November and this is certainly the best time to be here. These magnificent creatures are rounded up to demonstrate their special skills. You will get to see elephants dancing, elephants painting and elephants playing soccer and other various games.
I've even seen elephants playing in an orchestra. I kid you not. Though you may not see the orchestra here, you are very welcome to join in some of the events. The highlight of the round-up event is an exciting mock battle in which elephants and Thai's alike dress up in old fashioned war regalia.
Thasawang Thai Silk Village is located 10 kilometres (6 miles) north of Surin along route 214. The silk produced here as well as the many other villages in the vicinity, have a unique Cambodian influence as the Cambodian border is only a short distance away to the south. The exceptionally high-quality silk threads used here are of a highly delicate, soft and lustrous quality.
Workers in the area often work to no time restraint and usually spend most of the time producing silk only after the rice planting season is over. This is a good place to experience silk production in its entirety as well as the opportunity to purchase some fine examples of silk products from a huge range of shops and stalls around the village.
The profound advantages to eastern Thailand are that it is teeming with ancient Khmer Temple ruins for you to explore at leisure. The only downside is that some of these temples are not always easily found and may require exceptional navigational skills to locate. Of course, the rewards outweigh the frustrations of finding them, but once this has been archived you should be pleasantly surprised.
Should you have ventured this far, it would likely be of more interest to you to explore a very different side of Thailand than most of the seasonal tourists who flock to the beaches and lively nightlife spots. You won't find any of that here, so take your time and enjoy the ride as you journey further into Khmer territory.
Prasat Ban Pluang is a small site consisting of a singular 12th century Khmer monument which had recently been restored. Some intricately detailed craftsmanship can be seen on the stone lintels, pediments and decorative columns which were beautifully carved with elaborate reliefs.
Above the entrance, the lintel depicts the God Indra on his mount, the Airavata Elephant. To get to Prasat Ban Pluang, simply drive south on route 214 to the town of Prasat. Just four kilometres further south and you'll find this special Hindu Sanctuary.
Si Khoraphum Khmer Sanctuary is a beautiful spot located 34 kilometres (20 miles) from Surin and very near to the town of Sikhoraphum along route 226 in the direction of Si Saket. The grounds are open daily from 7:30 am until 6:00 pm with an admission fee of just 30 Baht.
Prasat Sikhoraphum in the sanctuary is a marvellous 12th century Angkor Wat style Hindu Temple that was later converted into a Buddhist Temple during the 16th century. This temple comprises of five pagodas with the principal structure measuring 32 meters in height. Some beautiful and interesting ornate engravings are etched into the columns and doorways.
Prasat Hih Chom Phra is a small stone structure with a large Buddha image enshrined in front of it, but more importantly, it is bathed in natural beauty. The site is located 28 kilometres (17 miles) north of Surin on route 214.
Prasat Muang Thi is a modified brick and concrete Khmer temple complex originally comprising of five pagodas of which only three remain today with the main pagoda representing Mount Meru, home of the higher Gods. The remaining pagodas standing on either side of the principal pagoda represent the subordinate mountains in which the lower Gods dwell.
This site is home to Wat Chom Suthawat, a modern temple located off route 226 on your way to the town of Sikhoraphum.
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