The primary purpose and the specific timing our trip to Surin Roundup in the southern part of Isaan was to attend the annual Surin Elephant Roundup.
We traveled from Bangkok via mini-van driven by Harikon Sinlurnam firstname.lastname@example.org who goes by the name of Eak or Ed. We’ve used Eak on several previous trips including a longer more extended trip to Isaan in 2010. We were greatly aided in our choice of restaurants and specific food orders by Eak’s friend Eng who traveled with us and who has a great enthusiasm for showing the culture of Thailand in general and for food in particular. I don’t recall seeing any English menus at any of the restaurants mentioned below but with Eng’s help, every dish we ordered was a winner.
It’s a long drive between Bangkok and Surin so we stopped for lunch going and coming. On the way there we ate at Rim Sra near Nakhon Ratchasima. Unless you can read Thai, that link won’t help you much but the highlight of the meal was a really good whole crispy fried fish.
After witnessing the world’s largest breakfast buffet set for 250 elephants on Friday morning, we were touring some weaving villages north of the city and stopped for lunch at a large restaurant overlooking what Eak called Lake Banna. I’m not 100% sure of the name of the restaurant but it’s the only really large place on the lake and would be hard to miss. The highlight of the meal and IMHO the best thing we ate all weekend was Kaeng Som (แกงส้ม) (AKA Gaeng Som) sour seafood soup.
We enjoyed a couple dinners on the street on the “Walking Street” one night and the Weekend Bazaar the next. A huge variety with everything we ate (including papaya salad, grilled chicken, grilled duck, duck noodle soup, pad Thai among man others) was very cheap and very good.
On our last night in Surin City we had a wonderful dinner at Mae Pim Pla Poe Restaurant. Our favorite dish was a Miang Kana with a whole grilled fish that Eng told us was tilapia. The menu offered 6 different papaya salads and we ordered one that had different selections to add to the salad including hard boiled egg. We also tried an interesting variation on Pad Thai that Eng told us was unique to Korat. I’m sure there is more to it than this but the biggest difference we noticed was in the dark color of the noodles and the saltier taste, which we surmised was due to a dose of soy sauce.
On the drive home we stopped at a little open-air roadside restaurant that specializes in duck. I had a very good duck noodle soup that had chunks of on-the-bone meat, liver, slivers of heart and some other bits along with a blood cake. We shared a nice vegetable stir fry, sticky rice and Isaan sausages cooked on a charcoal grill. A really wonderful meal.
Not that it matters much but Eak and Eng pointed out the couple sitting at the table next to us as a famous Bangkok TV actor couple (and their 2 pampered dogs).