Stampede in the Highlands!
On the morning of the elephant races in Buon Don village, Krong Na commune, Buon Don district of Dak Lak province you can feel the excitement on the streets of Buon Ma Thuot.
The city is just 36km away but a convoy of vehicles sets off in the early morning to get the punters to Buon Don on time for the first race.
Buon Don district has always been famous for its wild elephant hunters and trainers from the M’Nong hill tribe. The event is one of the biggest festivals in the Central Highlands and is now famous throughout the land.
The festival is customarily held annually in March but this year the races were held in conjunction with the Culture and Tourism Week Buon Ma Thuot – Dak Lak 2009 held last month.
Long house in Tay Nguyen, the whole family after married with live in one house, they continue to be built from longer
The elephant races start in the forests near the Serepok River. The elephants trundle down a mile long racetrack that is wide enough to accommodate 10 elephants racing side by side.
On the big day, 20 elephants from different villages are gathered. Locals will support elephants that come from their village. The elephants are recognisable by their colourful individual costumes.
The elephant trainers line their elephants up at the starting line. A buffalo horn is sounded again, signaling the start of the race, and the elephants all rush forward amidst frenzied cries from spectators and the banging of gongs.
Each elephant is often ridden by two jockeys; one steers the elephant, while the other manages the animal’s speed. Elephants can move at a surprisingly fast clip (up to 40kmph). After the race the elephants will swim across the Serepok River to cool off. The lucky winner is rewarded with sugar cane and bananas as a snack!
Elephants of Center Highlanders
There are other events such as tug-o-war and a polo match. The festival is also a chance to honour and worship elephants as the animal is an important spiritual symbol for Central Highlanders.
While attending the races, we also visit an Ede Long house and discover more about the culture and lifestyle of Central Highland tribes. We’re invited to try delicious specialties and drink ruou can (sweet rice liquor drunk from a large gourd through bamboo straws).
When night comes, the music and dancing begins. Sitting around a campfire people play bronze gongs and bamboo instruments. After a day of elephant racing and a night of dancing, we will sleep deeply in our stilt house beds.
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