Located about 410 km from Bangkok, Buriram is one of the smallest provinces in Thailand but it has ancient roots dating way back to the ancient Khmer period. It is situated in the lower part of the northeastern region, the border of Oddar Meanchaeay in Cambodia lies to the southeast of the city.
There are no beaches here and the nightlife is not as it is in Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya. But literally named “the city of happiness” there is more to Buriram than what meets the eye. Fifteen years ago, Buriram appeared as a speck on the map when the city announced an ambitious path to establish itself as Thailand’s ‘City of Sports’. Considered a far dream for a city of roughly 200,000 people, the dream is now a reality with the establishment of the local football team, Buriram United.
In response to Buriram’s title, Newin Chidchob, developer of the Buriram’s CIC F1 racetrack said in 2013: “”Buriram doesn’t have the sea like Pattaya, doesn’t have mountains like Chiang Mai, so we will make Buriram the city of sports.”
Buriram’s history can be seen in the ancient ruins and sandstone sanctuaries scattered throughout the province, the largest of which stands on an extinct volcano in the Phanom Rung Historical Park. The Khmer Emperor ruled over Buriram until the late 19th century when it was formally recognized as a province of Thailand. The population is mostly Khmer and they speak either Issan or northern Khmer in everyday life. Buriram is also the home of Chang Beer. But Buriram gives a sleepier vibe—it pulses gently to a different rhythm in comparison to the rest of the Thailand.
Buriram is well known for their football club Buriram United, the toast of the Thai Premier League, of which the locals are very proud. They play at i-Mobile Stadium which is also known as Thunder Castle because of the loud singing & chanting. The 150-acre site has a capacity of 32,600 people with parking for 500 cars and 1,000 motorcycles. Much of the city’s tourist attractions are focused on the sport. The stadium also hosts the annual Songkran festival. Tens and thousands of people descend to the open ground in April for a massive party with live music, DJ’s, foam parties and lots and lots of water.
Just behind the football stadium lies the Buriram United International Circuit. It has exploded onto the motorsports scene, propelling Thailand onto the international stage for the first time. Now also known as Chang International Circuit thanks to a sponsorship deal with the brewery, the circuit has been created to the highest FIA and FIM standards. On 22 March 2015, the first ever Thailand round of the World Superbike Championship was held at the circuit. The World Supersport race was won by Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot, much to the delight of the Thai spectators. In September 2017, Dorna Sports confirmed that the MotoGP would take place at the Buriram International Circuit called the PTT Thailand Grand Prix, with a three year commitment which started in 2018 and will run to 2020.
Outside of sports there is plenty to do and see in Buriram. The Phanom Rung National Park is found an hour’s drive from the city centre and is no doubt the main draw to the province. The ruins of Phamonrung Historical Park make up part of a 225-kilometre roadway built by the Angkor Empire, known as the Khmer Highway, which leads from neighboring Cambodia and includes the famous temples of Angkor Wat. The ancient site also hosts an annual festival to celebrate the morning sunrise when it aligns with the doorways of the old temple sanctuary. To mark the occasion, there are parades, performances and shows of traditional dress and culture to celebrate the Hindu god Shiva and the rich cultures which once presided over these ancient Khmer ruins. Phanom Rung is found on top of a now extinct volcano next to the Thai-Cambodia border.
Prasat Muang Tam would be the second most significant Khmer site in Buriram Province, and is found not so far from Phanom Rung, meaning both should be visited on the same itinerary. And tickets for either can be sold separately or as a joint ticket for the two sites. Again, like Phanomrung, Prasat Muang Tam is dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord Shiva. Prasat Muang Tam is found on flatter, lower lands of this otherwise hilly region, where man-made reservoirs known as “Ba Rai” were used to supply nearby villages with water. As these regions are very arid at times, outside of rainy season, it is said that it was drought which inevitably led to the end of ancient Khmer civilisations. For this reason these ancient Khmer temples are focused on collecting water and fertilizing lands.
Play La Ploen Flora Park is the first and only flower park in the northeast. There are scaled-down versions of famous landmarks from around the world like the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tower Bridge etc. but the main attraction here is the beautiful Flora section dedicated to a huge assortment of plant life. Nestled in the compound of the 380-rai Play La Ploen Flora Park is The Naturalist by Play La Ploen, a four-star boutique resort suitable for families, solo travellers and couples. Guests can enjoy various activities at the adjacent flora park, an adventure camp, and farms. The hotel also provides cooking and ice cream making classes upon request.
Before the excitement of sports and stadiums, the main tourist attraction in Buriram City was Khao Kradong Forest Park, found on top of a now extinct volcano around 10km from the city centre. The location is also near enough to the stadiums, and it maybe best to share a taxi between both these attractions in Buriram, starting with Khao Kradong, before jumping out at the stadium area. Because Khao Kradong Forest Park could easily be covered in under an hour, as most people are only interested in the big Buddha Statue ‘Phra Suphatbophit’ which sits on top of the mountain. If you would like to make the most of your visit, there is the surrounding national park with walks and a nature trail. Fun fact, the site is named ‘Kradong’ after the Khmer (Cambodian) word for turtle shell, due to the shape of the mountain.
A favorite attraction in the Pak Chong Area is the Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave. The cave is located about 6 kilometers outside the Khao Yai National Park. Here you will see millions of Bats leaving their cave to go and feed. The cave is located high up on the hillside but it is visible from the bottom, it is easily recognizable due to the railings in front of the entrance. At dusk, between 6 and 6.30 pm the bats start leaving the cave, slowly building in numbers they stream out over the treetops and give the impression of a giant ribbon swaying through the sky. There are several resorts and restaurants in the area, and you can arrange full day or half day tours.
Another interesting place to visit when in Buriram is the Silk Weaving Village of Amphoe Na Pho. Supported by the Royal Folk Arts and Craft Centre under the patronage of HM Queen Sikrit, Visitors here can watch the fascinating process of how the silk is made and try their hand at spinning the silk threads. Chillingly, you can also try eating the larvae, (reported to taste like boiled potatoes).
Buriram has a tropical savannah climate. Winters (from December to February) are particularly dry. Temperatures remain warm even during the monsoon season. With that in mind, the best time to come to Buriram is from December to the end of March. The weather is generally pleasant then, with the occasional heavy shower but maybe avoid coming here in May and September since it’s the rainiest months of the year. By air, Nok Air and Air Asia fly daily to Buriram from Don Mueng Airport in Bangkok however it is recommended that you check the schedule first. On land, there are buses leaving Bangkok’s Chatuchak and Mo Chit Bus Terminal every day, both ordinary and air-conditioned. Nakomchai Air’s bus company is also a preferred bus service used to travel to Buriram. The journey takes roughly 7 hours and all buses stop at the city bus terminal on the outskirts of Buriram city, from where you can take a tuk-tuk to take you to your hotel. If you prefer taking the train, you can choose from rapid, express and ordinary trains from Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani; Bangkok-Surin; and Nakhon Ratchasima-Ubon Ratchathani. Motorbikes and tuk-tuks are popularly used to get around Buriram but be prepared to bargain beforehand while taking the meter taxis. It is recommended to rent a car during your trip as it is more convenient to explore the top tourist attractions in Buriram, given the more notable Buriram attractions are found in the wider province
After big investment in establishing Buriram as Thailand’s “City of Sports”, this otherwise unknown town has been put on the globe as a new, vibrant and dynamic city, or at least in parts. Besides sports, Buriram is a city rich with culture and heritage, an ideal city to bring your camera and capture the amazing varied sights.