Source: Vientiane Times
This year’s 15th Elephant Festival will be a scaled down affair and will take place over the course of just one day, as a result of the restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Deputy Governor of Xayaboury province, which hosts the popular annual event, Mr Phetphixay Sounvilay, told Vientiane Times the festival will take place on February 13 and the number of participants will be limited.
Provincial authorities will not invite people from nearby provinces or countries to attend the festival but are planning for just 200-300 participants from Xayaboury province. There will also not be the traditional market fair, Mr Phetphixay said.
The festival will feature 16-18 domesticated elephants from Xayaboury district and the programme will include an almsgiving, an elephant procession, and a buffet for the elephants.
People attending the festival must comply with government guidelines to keep Covid-19 in check and will be required to have their temperature taken, wear a face mask and wash their hands with soap or sanitiser before entering the festival grounds. They must also stand or sit at least one metre apart, Mr Phetphixay said.
Usually the festival is a big event and attracts many visitors both from Laos and other countries. There are numerous interesting activities, including a large market fair which sells handicrafts and local produce, while various ethnic groups stage artistic performances.
In some years visitors can bathe the elephants in the river and also ride them through the streets of Xayaboury district.
Xayaboury is located in northern Laos and is about 300 km from Vientiane. It has 70 officially-designated nature-based places of interest, 19 cultural sites, and seven places with historical associations. The province has eight hotels, 177 guesthouse and resorts, as well as 90 restaurants and 22 entrainment venues, according to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The province is readily accessible from within Laos and neighbouring countries and contains a National Protected Area which is rich in natural biodiversity. Xayaboury is home to more elephants than any other province in Laos.