From ancient ruins to high-octane events, the "City of Happiness" has plenty of rewards for those willing to explore off the beaten track
Despite its enticingly cheerful moniker, Buriram Province "The City of Happiness" is still one of Thailand's best kept secrets, with a wealth of hidden gems to discover. However, the secret is about to get out. Next month around 400 million people worldwide will be tuning in to Buriram’s Chang International Circuit to watch the thrilling performance of motorcycle racers in the MotoGP championship.
Opened in 2014, this world-class racing track is Thailand's first FIA Grade 1 and FIM Grade A circuit, and has already attracted international attention hosting events such as the World Superbike Championships and the Japanese Super GT, with whispers that it will also be hosting Formula One in the near future...
When this premium 50,000-spectator grandstand hosts the Moto GP in October – Buriram will be firmly on the international map.
Then again, football fans have long had another reason to visit, with Chang Arena being the best, internationally-acclaimed stadium in the country and offering plenty of premier league action.
But while crowds flock to these modernday amphitheatres to worship their sporting heroes – a calmer kind of exaltation can be found in the ancient ruins of Buriram's temples and archaeological sites.
A treasure trove of relics dating back to the Khmer civilization (and beyond) are scattered throughout the region. A must-see is the awe-inspiring Phanom Rung Temple Complex, perched on the top of an extinct volcano. Constructed in Angkor-style, from the 10th to 13th century, the stunning Hindu site offers the same wow-factor as its Cambodian counterpart, but without the tourist hordes. For an extraspecial experience, try to catch the “solar spectacle” (the next one will take place from 5-7 October), when the alignment of the Earth means sunlight shines through all fifteen doorways to dramatic effect.
For the traveller that thrives on getting under the skin of a destination and soaking up its unique identity, then your first stop will be the Northeastern Cultural Centre, which offers a comprehensive introduction to the local area’s history, traditions and highlights. After that, head out to the northern tip of Buriram province to visit Amphoe Na Pho – the silk weaving village that has been sponsored as a Royal Project. You’ll learn everything there is to know about the fascinating silk worm, admire the signature range of specialised tie-dye silks with geometric patters, turn your hand to silk weaving yourself, and even have a nibble on silk worm larvae – should you feel so inclined…
However, don’t eat too many as you’ll want to save yourself for the more appetising local delights. Everywhere in Thailand is a foodie paradise, and in Buriram the highlights of local Isaan cuisine are no different. You’ll find these (and more) at the local Night Bazaar on Romburi Road. Finish off your evening with a stop at “The Square” - a popular nightlife area for foreigners and locals alike.
CLOCKWISE THIS PAGE FROM TOP:Chang Arena; Thai silks and silk weaving at Amphoe Na Pho village; Prasat Muang Tam temple
LEFT PAGE FORM TOP: Chang International Circuit; and Phanom Rung temple complex