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Elefantasia Festival in Sayaboury

Elefantasia Festival in Sayaboury

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The little bike is broken, pshsiiitttt, puncture on the back tyre, on my way to the bankside for the night bath of Laotian families.In the back ground, the huge red sun is going down behind the bamboos. My tin of coca gave me trouble too, the loop gave up without the lovely pshiitttt, and i had to open it with a piece of wood….
The cycle repair man was on holiday during the festival, that was bad enough for me, but i managed, i came back from Faiy’s family restaurant on foot, after they had insisted for hours on end to take me back on a motorcycle ! Walking 2 kms in the night, on the tiny tarmac road to the village, is a kind of privileged happy moments.
My walk was fairly short, meeting people waving and saying “Sabaidiiiii” wide openned mouth, showing white enamel teeth reflecting in the poor neon lighting, a really friendly attitude in this half light.
Thanks to Faiy, i have somewhere to sleep, here. She was in that bus, leaving from Vientiane, a 14 hours journey, the bus was full up before departure, and i managed to get a marvellous pink plastic stool, i was stuck in the main alley, all the way. This, after explaining that i was the photographer for the festival. “Where do you come from, where are you going ?? the usual lot of questions… “Me, i have restaurant family for the festival, i work with family, i born in Sayaboury”. Some hours later, i asked her to phone the Elefantasia team, to talk to them, and ask where to be dropped. She was a big help and i kept her phone number…
Vincent, actor from “Uz et Coutumes” company, was actually following the bus, and took me to my Elefantasia “office”.
Just in time to meet his friend Dalila, actor/actress, and the other people from the company.
We ate some sticky rice, and i collapsed in a tent which had probably seen the last tornado and surely had a trip on its own in the red earth.

Next day, being always the next, therefore another day, apart from the fact i was red, lodgings were not yet organized. The guesthouses were full up, “homestay” available, too far from the festival, the information desk did not give informations … what else ? I called Faiy, and asked her where to sleep ? The only condition is knowing some Laotien to be able to communicate. And indeed, Faiy’s family invited me in a big, modest house. There was a very nice skinny grand’ma, and a grand’pa, both most energetics. “You can stay all time you want”, said Faiy, and “look Stephane, to go to festival”, a beautiful little girl’s bike ….Next day, i happened to know this house was a “homestay”, what a coincidence !

Far too busy with the restaurant, i have hardly seen Faiy, during my stay, just a few minutes !

Sayabouri is no extraordinary place, the festival is really a kind of enormous asiatic fair, noisy, crowded, where the elephants are more on exhibition than in real nature. The real show is the people.Seb and Gilles who started this event, a few years ago, also handed it to the townhalls, who spend far too much money and make no profit.For the next festivals, the 2 guys think they will concentrate on the welfare of animals to “teach” the people, about vets’ work.

Laos, country of 1 million elephants, only has, really, about 400 just now. Thailande is much better off with over 3000 wild animals and Vietnam is the last country with just about 40 animals.Very few foreigners at the festival, the place is too far out, Laotiens and Thais come a lot.

The company “Uz et Coutumes” has created a show for the children, mainly to teach them the breeding and life of the elephants, funny, stunning and also touching moments, with actors happy to be there, with the 2 creators who happen to be long life friends. The first show, in the school will stay a unique moment in all memories, and this was the time to take loads of photos with the children.

The other team has Patrick Auzier, Maître Vulcain (master in fireworks) at Uzeste’s festival, and also Nicole and Guillaume artists in fireworks performances. I saw all the work done on the spot, preparation with bamboos, tubes, bombs, cable, really stunning and thrilling. This very long pyrotechnic show got the 2 companies aside,for a parade, in the main street of the festival, and then got to this magnificent set in fire/fireworks show, a masterpiece.

The last day, a ceremony with the monks took place in the elephants’ camp, in the middle of the forest, nearby a beautifull artificial lake, a pretty charming place ! The traditional ceremony “Baci” is to call back the saouls for the prosperity of elephants, vets’ work, reproduction, blessing of the place, well, for a lot of positive things to happen. After the “Baci”, it’s Lao beer time… a lot of it, and the “laolao” national “rotting guts” stuff…. one must say that, they do drink a lot in this country.
End of the day, last show with the cornacs, and this is it.

I am, now in Louang Prabang, the most visited place in Laos and tomorrow, back in Thailand in Chiang Mai….

And now the photos of “Uz et Coutumes” company, more to come, all in order….

Thanks to Martine for the translation 🙂

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Elefantasia Festival in Sayaboury

par Stéphane Bidouze time to read: 6 min