The Surin elephant round-up is an annual event which usually takes place over the third weekend in November. The elephant round-up has grown in popularity since it first began in the 1950s and nowadays thousands attend the event in Surin in north-east Thailand. For centuries, the Surin region has had an affinity with elephants. In olden times men from the area, particularly the Suay tribe, were highly skilled at capturing wild elephants and the animals were used for logging and heavy lifting work including constructing temples. The elephants were also trained to be used in battle and the mahouts (elephant handlers) from Surin were amongst the best in Siam.
The tradition of mahout and elephant is celebrated in the elephant round-up which gives man and beast a chance to show off their skills. The day before the main event (Friday) the elephant breakfast takes place. A procession of up to 300 elephants makes its way through the streets of Surin accompanied by dancers and musicians in traditional costume. Some of the elephants and mahouts are dressed as they would have been during the times of the old Siamese kingdom. At the end of the parade, a fruit banquet is laid out on tables for the elephants. In the evening there is usually a concert and a light and sound show. The next morning (Saturday) the main event takes place at the Srinarong Stadium in Surin. Approximately 40,000 spectators attend the stadium event to witness the skills and dexterity of the elephants and their mahouts. Games of football and tug-of-war entertain the crowds before a battle re-enactment takes place with elephants and mahouts in battle dress from previous centuries. The event is repeated again the following day (Sunday). Due to the popularity of the round-up, accommodation in Surin for the elephant round-up weekend often gets booked up months in advance so keep that in mind if you are thinking of attending.