Take the time to explore Xayaboury province in the northwest of Laos. The elephant land is one of the most remote and difficult provinces to reach, where adventurous spirits will be rewarded with a unique cultural and authentic nature experience. Xayaboury is a destination in the making.
What to experience?
If Xayaboury (or Sayabury) is the best place to experience elephant rides amidst the rugged mountainous landscapes, Muang Xayaboury, the main town, also offers a cultural insight of provincial Laos with its impressive temples of Wat Ban Thin, Wat Ban Phapoun and Wat Ban Natonoy.
The Nam Phoun National Protected Area (1150 km²) is home to elephants, gibbons, Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear and… Elephant rides are available in Hong Sa town (check Elephant Adventure). The province holds an annual elephant festival in February.
At Ban Nathang the CBT-Trekking Tour to the “1000 caves” starts after a 1,5 h drive over mountain ridges with spectacular views over forested hillsides and the valley. A 2-hour trek takes you to Ban Keo to explore the 1000 beautiful caves, then you return by boat on the Nam Pouy River towards the Mekong. In Ban Pakpouy, embark on a different boat to cruise upstream to the Medicinal Plant Preserve and Spa Centre in Houay Namsay. There you can learn about the different plants and their medicinal uses, and traditional treatments. Traditional steam bath and massage are available. Treat yourself after your excursion.
In Ngeun you can visit the “Xayaboury Organic Cotton” cooperative where traditional techniques of natural dyeing and weaving are preserved. The products range from traditional Sinh (Lao skirt) to napkins, table runners, bags, pillows and fabrics including brand new designs by an Australian designer. The Xayaboury Cotton Shop and weaving centre sell them, but to observe the 8-step cotton processing, and the spiritual process of indigo dyeing, contact the manager of the centre.
How does it help?
You’ll have many reasons to travel here. Elephant adventures was the first organisation to work in the province, developing tourism services to help the locals. Your elephant rides will help in maintaining the elephant population, which is seriously decreasing in Laos. The reconversion of mahouts and their elephants to the tourism sector improves their condition of life, as strenuous logging work affects their health and reproduction rate. In addition, it is an incentive to preserve their natural habitat and the environment. Training on environmental protection (slash and burn, logging, waste management, wildlife trafficking) increases the awareness of the villagers towards more environmentally conscious behaviour.
Several International Organisations are currently working in the province to develop community based tourism services. The objectives are to establish sustainable tourism as a substantial source of income for the poor population of the province by enhancing their skills and improving the cooperation of all stakeholders (Lao National Tourism Administration, private sector, and international organisations) to ensure significant income is generated while negative impacts of tourism are mitigated.
Buying a trek from the local CBT supports the different service providers: guides, homestays, food, etc. Purchasing the superb organic cotton handicrafts contributes to the perpetuation of local culture and traditional techniques, while reinforcing the relevance of organic agriculture.
The Xayaboury Cotton Group and Weaving Centre Mrs. Nuansy Ratanasithy
Mobile 020-5877042 and tel. 074-213092/e-mail: email@example.com
The Shop of organic cotton products is in Muang Ngeun