In March 2015 Thailand became the latest Asian country to play host to WorldSBK™ at the new state-of-the-art Chang International Circuit. The venue was opened in 2014 earning FIM Grade A and FIA Grade 1 classifications, with the owners striving to attract the biggest names in two and four-wheel motorsports.
The historic first WorldSBK™ visit to Thailand in 2015 was totally dominated by Jonathan Rea as he took pole position, a double win and both fastest laps, leading every lap of both races. Since then Thailand has become a permanent fixture on the calendar and is a popular destination amongst riders and fans.
Full name: Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand
Capital City: Bangkok
Time zone: GMT +7
Currency: Thai baht (symbol: ฿, code: THB)
Electric plug type: A, B, C, O
Important telephone numbers:
Most people who visit this beautiful and enchanting South East Asian country with its fantastic food, tropical climate, distinctive local culture, stunning countryside, plentiful nature and amazing beaches, leave Thailand wishing they could stay longer – and in some cases forever!
Indeed Thailand has become a magnet for tourists from around the world, many of whom flock to the country’s famously frenetic capital city of Bangkok - known locally as Krung Thep. Meanwhile the former capital of Siam, Ayutthaya, is a historical city recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Chiang Mai is referred to as the de facto capital of Northern Thailand and acknowledged as the focal point of ‘Lanna’ culture, the way of life in the north of the country.
The Buriram area is one of the Northeastern provinces of Thailand, whilst the town of Buriram has approximately 30,000 inhabitants and sits 400km (five hours drive) to the northeast of Bangkok.
Visitors can expect to enjoy a warm welcome from the enthusiastic and friendly locals, with good food easy to find and an ever-increasing passion for motorcycle racing clearly evident.
If you want to stay close to the circuit you will be in or around the town of Buriram itself and whilst there is a decent amount of accommodation available be sure to book well in advance of the race weekend as hotels do get fully booked with the organisers, teams and fans rolling into town. Booking online and in advance will usually get you a much cheaper price.
Regarding the type of accommodation available in Thailand in general and Buriram itself there are a number of options. Guesthouses are the cheapest option, but expect to pay 500 baht ($15 USD) per night for a private room with internet access, daily room service and so on. You may find that you have shared access to the bathroom facilities.
Local Thai hotels are priced around 200 baht-800 baht ($6 - $23 USD) per night with the higher end of this scale meaning you get air conditioning and a TV in your room, whilst a hotel stay means your bathroom facilities will be private. ‘Tourist’ hotels generally cost around 1000 baht ($29 USD) per night and often offer a swimming pool for guests, whilst ‘business’ or ‘luxury’ hotels cost from 4000 baht ($116) per night and are indistinguishable from top quality hotels elsewhere in the world.
Once you arrive in the town of Buriram explore the shops and restaurants and sample the night life of Sro Ground (Walking Street), from the south end of Romburi Street to the Romburi–Phi-thak intersection, which is closed off to vehicles in the evening.
Enjoy the racing at the circuit and maybe even take in a game of football at the plush 32,000 capacity New I-Mobile Stadium, home to Buriram United Football Club. The club have been national Thai champions on several occasions in recent years and their home games sometimes coincide with WorldSBK™ rounds.
Elsewhere, 40km south of Buriram is Prasat Phanom Rung, a Khmer temple situated on top of an inactive volcano. The site is home to an extensive collection of Khmer sculptures, glorifying the Hindu god Shiva and also three rare Naga bridges, the only examples of their style in Thailand.
Buriram province in the Isan region (Northeast Thailand) is a primarily rural area and much of the local economy outside the town of Buriram itself is still agricultural. It has been one of the areas least visited by tourists in Thailand which gives it a traditional charm, though the province is welcoming more visitors and the opening of the Chang International Circuit means more people are finding their way to this mainly rustic area.
Buriram Airport is the only airport in Buriram Province and is served by Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport, but the town of Buriram can also be reached by car from Bangkok in a few hours.
In Buriram it is easy to get about in with tuk-tuks (small local taxis), or on rental motorbikes or cars, though Thai roads can be hectic to say the least so ride or drive with caution and cover longer distances during daytime to be safer. Car rental companies can often provide drivers to help you get about and for some visitors this is a useful option.
Thai food is delicious with a huge variety of rice and noodle based dishes, soups, curries and salads on offer. In Buriram the local Isan cuisine is distinctly different from central Thai food and examples of the best-known dishes are Som tam (spicy salad made with papayas) and Gai yaang (roast chicken).
When it comes to water, stick to bottled water rather than drinking the tap water. You can also easily find large bags of ice, which are cheap to buy and safe to consume.
The Chang International Circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, who also designed tracks such as the Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia), Circuit of the Americas (USA) and MotorLand Aragon (Spain).
At the first ever Thai round of WorldSBK™ in March 2015 the WorldSSP™ category race was won by Thai rider Rathapark Wilairot, much to the delight of the home fans.