February 19, 2013

Elephant Festival Draws Jumbo Crowd

Over 200,000 visitors and local people yesterday flocked to the opening of the seventh Elephant Festival held in Xayaboury district, Xayaboury province.

The festival is one of the biggest events of the year in Xayaboury, and has become an annual tourist attraction. It aims to raise awareness of the need to take action to protect these magnificent animals as part of the natural heritage of Laos.

Sixty-four elephants take part in a spectacular parade at the opening of the Elephant Festival in Xayaboury province yesterday.

The organising committee also hopes the popularity of the festival will do much to attract tourism to the province, benefiting local businesses such as travel services, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses.

Speaking at the opening of the festival Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad said “This annual elephant festival is helping to preserve the vital and traditional culture and heritage of Xayaboury province, which has strong links to the elephant. The festival also portrays the great achievements of Xayaboury in the past and the government recognises that, despite this development, the province is able to preserve its stability whilst making progress in socio-economic terms.

The three-day festival features a grand procession of 64 elephants and a parade by seven ethnic groups representing the diversity of culture and heritage in Xayaboury.

Other things to watch out for are the parachute display, a big baci ceremony, elephant buffet, concerts by Lao and Thai artists, screening of a documentary film about elephants, music and dance performances, a stage performance designed to raise awareness about elephants, and a market fair.

“We wanted to have 64 elephants in the parade to mark the 64th anniversary of Lao People's Army Day last month. We've spent more than 1 billion kip to make the festival bigger this year and organise more activities,” said the Deputy Governor of Xayaboury province and President of the Elephant Festival Committee, Mr Bounyang Chandarasan.

Before the official opening there was a beauty contest featuring the most attractive young women representing each district in the province.

Mr Bounyang said they had spent more money on the festival this year because they saw its potential and wanted to make it more special. The provincial authorities have decided to hold the event in Xayaboury district every year from now on after experiencing difficulties in previous years when it was staged in Hongsa and Paklai districts.

The festival owes its beginnings to the conservation group ElefantAsia, which organised the inaugural event in Hongsa district in 2007. Now the festival attracts many visitors, not just from nearby districts but also from the rest o f the country and from overseas.

This year is also the first time that the festival has not been solely organised by ElefantAsia, who have handed it over to the local authorities.

Xayaboury province has always been famous for this magnificent animal and, with 377 domestic elephants living in the province, is home to most of the country's pachyderm populatio n.

Xayaboury is the site of two large-scale electricity generating projects that are currently under construction - a coal-fired plant in Hongsa district and a hydropower plant on the Mekong River in Xayaboury distri ct.

General infrastructure is also undergoing development and three bridges are being built across the Mekong River. One in Paklai district will provide a direct road link to Vientiane, the other in Ngeun district crosses the river to Oudomxay province, and the third in Xayaboury connects to Luang Prabang province.

By Phoonsab Thevongsa, Vientiane Times
(Latest Update February 19, 2013)
Article Source:  Vientiane Times Newspaper

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