When coming to the Central Highlands, you should not miss the bustling Elephant Racing Festival in Don Village
The Central Highlands has always been an ideal destination for those who are passionate about exploring new things. Not only does this place have majestic mountains and forests, together with many unique dishes, but it is also the only place to hold the Elephant Racing Festival in Vietnam.
The time when the Elephant Racing Festival in the Central Highlands takes place
For the people of the Central Highlands, elephants are animals associated with their daily life as a close friend - all activities of the people here, such as working, playing and festivals, are related to this animal. Therefore, the Central Highlands people often organise Elephant Racing Festivals to raise social awareness about protecting elephants and to honour the martial spirit and the locals’ talent of elephant taming.
The Elephant Racing Festival. Photo: xechung
The Elephant Racing Festival is usually held in Buon Don district, Dak Lak province once every two years. The most suitable time for this festival is in the spring (around March) when the weather is dry and sunny, which is convenient for the organization of festivals as well as the travel of tourists. Besides the Elephant Racing, at this time the people of Don Village also organize many other festivals such as the New Rice Ceremony (Le Cung Lua Moi) and the Gong Festival to pray for a new year with a bountiful harvest and good health for every member of the family.
How the Elephant Racing Festival is organised
During an Elephant Racing Festival, the main activities include:
- Water Offering Ceremony.
- The ceremony to pray for the health of elephants.
- Fairs and cultural activities of ethnic groups in Buon Don district, Dak Lak province.
- Elephant Running Competition.
- Elephant Football Competition.
- Elephant Swimming competition.
The Water Offering Ceremony.. Photo: buonho.edu
In the early morning on the day of the Elephant Racing Festival, the elders and villagers will come to a wharf to carry out a ceremony to thank the Water God for bringing luck in the previous year and pray for good weather in the new year. After that, each person will put some water in a dried gourd and bring it home for luck. Next, everyone gathers in the village's stilt communal house to sing, dance, drink Can wine and eat meat to mark the beginning of the festival.
The ceremony to pray for the health of elephants. Photo: laodong
Before the festival officially begins, people will perform a ceremony to pray for the health of elephants to show their love for this animal. The offerings usually include a pig, a gourd of water taken at the wharf and three jars of Can wine. After the ceremony, everyone will dance happily and beat the gongs to start the festival. The Elephant Racing Festival is often held on open, flat and large fields to suit all activities.
The Elephant Racing Festival is often held on open, flat and large fields to suit all activities. Photo: present.vn
To ensure the order, before the main day of the festival, the owners of the elephants must register for the participation categories such as elephant running, swimming and football. Each activity of the festival will have about 20-30 elephants participating, which are divided into groups of 5-10 elephants to compete in one turn. On the elephant's back, there will be two mahouts to control it. For the Elephant Racing Festival, after the signal from the horn, all of the elephants will rush to their utmost towards the finish line, creating a thunderous sound. At this time, the mahout sitting in front holds the stick to control the elephant to run in the right direction by tapping its ear, while the person sitting behind whips the elephant's behind with a wooden hammer to make them run towards the finish line faster. At the end of the competition, the elephants will be given a bunch of bananas/sugar canes as a reward for their efforts. The champion elephant will be given priority to enjoy more “delicacies” and be awarded a laurel.
The bustling atmosphere of the Elephant Racing Festival. Photo: Vietnam Tourism.
On each elephant's back are two mahouts who control it to run faster and in the right direction. Photo: khampha.vn
The elephants are trying to their utmost. Photo: laodong
The festival atmosphere is bustling with the enthusiastic cheers of the audience, the thunderous sounds of elephant footsteps and the jubilant sound of gongs. Meanwhile, the colourful costumes of many ethnic groups who come to the festival create a brilliant picture. The Elephant Racing Festival not only shows the enthusiasm and strength of the elephants, but it is also the opportunity for mahouts to show off their skills. In addition, there is also the Elephant Wading Competition on the Serepok River which draws a lot of attention during the festival.
The Elephant Wading Competition on the Serepok River is the most difficult and remarkable part of the festival. Photo: dantocmiennui.vn
The festival also features an Elephant Football Competition. Photo: thanhnien.vn
When participating in the Elephant Racing Festival in Don Village, in addition to being immersed in the unique festive atmosphere of the Central Highlands, you can enjoy the typical dishes of this land such as Lam rice (rice cooked in bamboo tubes), stir-fried grilled bamboo shoots with beef offals, Can wine and fish salad.
When participating in the Elephant Racing Festival, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy Can wine - a specialty of the Central Highlands. Photo: vietnamtravellog
The Elephant Racing Festival is a unique cultural feature of the Central Highlands. When joining in with this festival, not only can you immerse yourself in the bustling festive atmosphere, but you also have the opportunity to learn about the local customs and habits, enjoy special cuisine and see a series of colourful costumes on display by the locals.