Elephant Festival

Trip Start Nov 30, 2009
Trip End Nov 06, 2010

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Where I stayed
Home-stay with a Lao family

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Xiagnabouli,
Friday, February 19, 2010

To get to the Elephant festival, we first had to take a slow boat (8 hours) from the pier in Luang Prabang. We had been planning on arriving 45 mins early to get good seats, so we went out to get breakfast first giving ourselves plenty of time to get to the pier. We ordered one breakfast set to share, but ended up getting two! It was so much food and we did not have time or stomach capacity to finish it. We bagged up the leftovers and ran to the pier.
Buying tickets also took way longer than we had planned, the locals kept cutting in line, so finally Ryan used his backpack to push them out of the way so we could buy our tickets.
By the time we actually got on the boat all the good seat were gone. Our friend Ben, had been there 45 minutes and he managed to get the last good seat. So we never would've gotten them anyways. We had to sit on a wooden bench for about 7-8 hours (maybe more). 
The boat ride was very scenic but also freezing cold. Our backpacks were stowed underneath the deck, so we couldn't get to them or any of our warm clothes. We had to spend the entire day freezing cold on the boat. We were hoping that the sun would come out but it never did. Everyone on the boats was curled up together trying to get some warmth. When we finally got off the boat, several tuk-tuks were waiting to take us in to town. We got moved into three different tuk-tuks before finally leaving. Yet again our driver was crazy. He was speeding like a madman down narrow and pothole filled dirt roads. We were being thrown around like rag-dolls in the back of the truck. At one point, he caught up to one of the other tuk-tuks that had left way ahead of us and tried to pass him on one of the hairpin turns, and he made it!
Ffinally made it to the elephant festival and checked in with the organizers, as we had pre-arranged a home-stay with a Lao family. We went to drop off our bags and meet our family. It was quite awkward since they didn't know a word of English and our Lao is almost as bad. We tried to communicate by hand gesture as best as we could (They understood the motion for eating and showering, and that's all you really need). 
The Elephant festival is help in a different village each yeah, and this year it was help in a little village called Hongsa. The village is very tiny, only a few dirt roads and a lot of dust. To start the festival they had a huge parade with people from different villages and ethnic groups, all in their traditional clothing. Next came all of the elephants and their mahouts. Then a long speech in Lao, so we have no idea what it as about.

 There was a schedule with the times of the different performances (such as logging, bathing, and riding) by the elephants throughout the day, but it was not followed closely. Most events we tried to watch were either nowhere to be found, or over by the time we got there. The elephants were great to see, but perhaps the best part of the festival were the performances by the Lao people on the main stage. One of the performances was by group of mimes, went on forever, then was finished off with 10 minute impression of forest bird calls. The calls were very realistic and the theatrics that went along with each call were hilarious. Next we had a magic show. This was no regular magic show, it was like the magician had been trained by GOB from Arrested Development. His dancing and cheesy hand movements were identical, the only thing missing from the performance was "The Final Countdown" by "Europe" blaring on the speakers. Next we watched performances by famous Lao pop singers. The teenage girls were screaming and going crazy for the performers, who knew how to work the crowd into a frenzy. To top the evening off there was a big fireworks display.

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