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Elephant Festival Highlights Xayaboury’s Hidden Lifestyle

The annual elephant festival which took place over last weekend was successfully concluded leaving a lasting impression of the training the elephants had received and the skill of their mahouts.

The culture and lifestyle of the province was also prominently featured at the festival.The 9th annual elephant festival was held from February 13 to 15 at the stadium in Xayaboury district, Xayaboury province. It was officially opened on February 14 by Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and attended by other high ranking officials from Vientiane, other provinces and officials from neighbouring provinces of Thailand as well as thousands of spectators from Laos and other countries.

This year 66 elephants were used for the festival, in recognition of this year being the 60th anniversary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary party’s establishment.

The provincial governor officially announced the festival open while Prime Minister Thongsing hit the drum 9 times and cut the ribbon to open the event.

The festival began with a performance of students, accompanied by a parade of the 11 districts in the province, with each district showing off its individual lifestyle with colourful dresses, local music, dance and products from the district.

The real highlight of the festival was the parade of the 66 elephants decked out in colourful refinery and behaving impeccably under the careful control of their handlers to the appreciation of everyone attending.

Prime Minister Thongsing and local officials recieve flowers, being given by an elephant during the official opening ceremony of the festival in Xayabouly province.

After the parade, an elephant baci ceremony and feeding of the elephants took place. This was followed by various performances by the elephants, such as dancing to a Khane (local musical instrument), playing with wheels, offering flowers to guests, playing football and other skills which show the close relationship between the elephants and their mahouts. Each show was rewarded with cheers from the audience, especially when the elephant demonstrating its skill was a baby.

Last but not least was a parachute display by the army parachute team which added a lot to the excitement. The team was made up of both men and women regulars.

Visitors to the festival could also enjoy elephant rides and watching them being bathed.

One of the most popular places was where the model houses of the Tong Luang ethnic group and their people had been erected. These houses are made of mambo wood, coconut and banana leaves. The visitors were curious to know about their lifestyle in the jungle, whilst the children of this community gave talented singing perfromances.

At night there were also various activities such as an elephant beauty contest, trade fair of local products, a fun fair and concert featuring well known Lao and Thai singers. There was also a traditional theatre and a number of other activities to entertain the visitors.

The Elephant Festival is organised to raise awareness of the need for action to protect the Asian elephant as part of the vital cultural and natural heritage of Laos and other countries in the region. It is also to help promote Lao culture and lifestyle as well as the tourism industry in Laos.

The first elephant festival was held in 2007 in Hongsa district, then Paklai district and finally Xayaboury district and since 2012 it has been decided it will continue to be held in Xayaboury district.

Source: Vientiane Times