Visitors to Myanmar looking for something very out of the ordinary should attend the Dancing Elephant Festival held in Kyaukse, near Mandalay. However these marvelous performances are not the work of actual elephants, but teams of 2 men each in huge elephant costumes – made from bamboo and paper – who dance together in rhythm to the accompaniment of dobat and drums.
These elephant dancers circle 3 times at the foot of the hill to pay homage to the Shwe Tha Lyaung Pagoda. The festival is held at the end of Buddhist Lent, which coincides with the full moon of the 7th lunar month (usually October), and the colourful elephant costumes can take months to make – decorated in glitter, gold foil, satin, ribbons, and glass gems.
The festival lasts all day and includes both a parade and a dance competition, and the participants are judged on their dancing, their costume construction, and the music and singing involved.