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Published on November 29, 2017

Stephane Neau/Creative Commons

The Asian elephant has long played a significant role in many Asian cultures. But as much as it is culturally revered, it is also endangered. Laos, which was known as “The Land of Million Elephants” for centuries, was home to many herds due to its vast grazing pastures and forests in ancient times. Times have changed, the elephant population in Laos has drastically dwindled to about 700 left in the wild and for the few more hundred domesticated, concern for their well-being and the future of mahouts or elephant keepers.

To address these concerns, the Boun Xang or the Elephant Festival was organised specifically in Sayabouly Province to celebrate the cultural ties of the elephant with the Lao communities while raising awareness for the urgent need to protect the endangered pachyderm. Even if it only began in 2006, Boun Xang has become a big event in Laos. To be a part of it, make your way to the mountainous province of Sayaboury, which has long been known for elephants and the excellent capabilities of its local mahouts, in the month of February (from 17 to 19).

During the three-day festival, you’ll be in awe of the hundred elephants from different villages and towns parading in the streets, draped in colourful fabrics from the various ethnic groups in Laos. You’ll also get a peek into a traditional elephant Baci ceremony and the work of mahouts who devote their entire lives to tending elephants. Finally, get into the carnival vibe and wander around the festival’s night market, watch the dance performances and outdoor film screenings, and go for an elephant ride!

Stephane Neau/Creative Commons

Stephane Neau/Creative Commons

Similar Festivals

For a similar elephant-focused festival, visit the Elephant Race Festival in Vietnam. For other festivals in the month of February, visit the Philippines’ Panagbenga and Laos’ Boun Vat Phou Champasak.