Nothing as unforgettable as the clever elephants of Laos

|     Visith Teppalath     |


XAYABOURY, Laos (Vientiane Times/ANN) – Visitors to or residents of the country shouldn’t miss the opportunity to meet and greet the highly-intelligent pachyderms of the northern province of Xayaboury at the annual Elephant Festival.

If you like these gentle giants, you should make a beeline for the festival that will feature 69 of the smart and friendly creatures.

These elephants know how to greet people, ask for food and other treats and how to show respect or thank someone who has given them gifts.

The elephants have been trained very well by their mahouts over a long period and aren’t dangerous to people like their cousins that live in the wild.

So, don’t hesitate to meet them because you will be amazed by their actions and smart behaviour.

Two elephants carrying a sign. – ANN

However, visitors should be respectful to the elephants and treat them nicely and politely because this will ensure they will remain unafraid and be gentle to humans in return.

This writer had a chance to participate in a ‘meet and greet’ with the elephants a few weeks ago as part of a project organised by the Tourism Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to promote the tourist attractions of Xayaboury, and found them to be very smart and friendly.

Our delegation spent more than an hour with the pachyderms at the provincial elephant garden, where mahouts and trainers practiced training their giant wards. All the elephants were smart and diligent, especially the cute calves that performed many tricks, including hoisting the national flag and performing the Lamvong Lao dance.

The elephants understood every command from their mahouts and could effectively communicate with humans. Members of the delegation enjoyed feeding the elephants sugar cane, bananas and other goodies sold by local vendors.

Every member of the delegation enjoyed spending time with the elephants and taking photos with them. Some presented a few notes to the animals while others excitedly tried to take a ride on their favourite elephant’s back.

The elephants were very happy while greeting the visitors and accepting food from them. These elephants are very special and different from those in other places as they greet people by raising their trunks to their head.

They also shake hands if asked to do so. Some show respect and gratitude to people by kneeling or bowing down, and some of them make a sound to indicate their happiness.

This article can’t capture all of the unique qualities of the elephants but readers ought experience it for themselves as this year’s Elephant Festival will be even bigger and more colourful than the last.

There will be more animals and activities at the festival, which will run from February 16 to 22.

The festival will be held at the central stadium in Xayaboury, which is next to the elephant garden on the banks of the Namhoung river.

Seven calves are among the 69 elephants participating in the festival.

The elephants will be on standby to welcome all the visitors, and they will perform everyday to entertain the public.

The celebration and rituals started yesterday, but the official opening ceremony will be held this morning.

Various elephant performances are part of the festival, and all of them promise to be interesting, and visitors shouldn’t miss this special chance because it isn’t easy to get so close to these animals usually.

During their performances, the elephants will hoist the national flag up a pole, parade with the signs and flags of the festival and Visit Laos Year, perform the Lamvong Lao dance with human performers, present flowers and gifts to people, paint, perform with gongs and drums, play Khaen and football, sit, stand on two feet, and join a running competition.

There will also be other activities such as elephant rides around the town and to the tourist attractions of Xayaboury district, elephant caravans, a street fair, a products exhibition, cultural performances, alms-giving, elephant feeding sessions, the beautiful elephant contest and an elephant training demonstration.

Xayaboury is in the northwest of Laos and about 459 kilometres from the capital.

Visitors can get there by taking a bus from the northern station in Vientiane or by taking a van from the station in Sikhay village of Sikhottabong district.