Laos is almost Thailand so a little briefing of whats going on - next year.
Next Febuary 15th & 16th 2009, Sayaboury province (traditional elephant territory) will welcome international guests to the third Festival of Elephants. The 3-day gala event celebrates the sacred elephant and the ancient Lao culture. In 2008 Seventy-four local working elephants, resplendent with gaily decorated howdahs, painted toenails and garlanded with tiaras of wild flowers and their elegantly uniformed mahout, and 50,000 people showed up last time, immersing themselves in the riches and diversity of the Lao ethnic culture. The festival atmosphere is terrific!
Here is a description from 2008 Festival: “Parading 74 elephants through the hectically unpredictable traffic and surrounded by thousands of exuberant Asians who habitually dart, clutching small children, between the lumbering and unbelievably phlegmatic beasts column like legs, has to be experienced to be believed. The Lao have little time or aptitude for organization and display a frighteningly cavalier disregard for personal safety. Elephants and humans mingle freely, un-phased by the pounding racket emitted by huge stereos, pumping out Thai pop music and cranked up to the max. I am here to tell that it is quite an unnerving experience, almost surreal in fact, to find myself surrounded by these slowly and patiently perambulating leviathans. Yet I feel safer strolling amid several hundred tonnes of promenading pachyderms than I do crossing a Lao street. Lao drivers do so as an act of faith and heart stopping disregard for self preservation.”