The Confidence of Ignorance

Nicholas Quirke was rendered helpless with laughter on 6 May 2021 when he saw photos and film of him at Xishuangbanna’s Wild Elephant park. They left the hotel in another downpour and dressed appropriately in the rainwear garb of the previous day. On their arrival at the park the rain had again stopped but hearing the exciting sounds of drums and shouts they followed the beat to a performance hall where an energetic traditional dance was in full flow. He took photographs and found himself being lured onto the stage, a temptation he couldn’t resist, to take part in a dance. He had great fun but did not realise what a comic, even frighting sight he presented. With the confidence of ignorance, still dressed in rain mac and rucksack, he negotiated the sticks the dancers wielded looking like a nimble Notre Dame legend. He could only imagine what the public thought of the black bug laowai that took to stage. Though the park was home to packs of wild elephant some of the magnificent beasts were kept in captivity where they could be ridden and posed with for photographs. As the elephants entered the area he was reminded of Colonel Hathi’s March from The Jungle Book as they paraded in, trunks holding tails. They watched for a while, impressed by the skills the elephants demonstrated but he found the display undignified and shameful as they spun, hoops, kicked balls and saluted flags for the entertainment of the masses. The park existed for the protection of the Asian elephant but this was a sorry cost to the dignity and quality of life of these clever mammoth animals. They left and instead embarked on a safari through the jungle to see if they could spot any in their natural habitat. A stop at the remarkably beautiful butterfly house preceded a 3 hour walk in the tropical forest. They did not see anything other than some signs that elephants had been there though they encountered a laowai family of four who shushed them saying they had sighted a herd. Nicholas was sceptical as even if they they alarmed the troop their movement would be obvious and noisy. he doubted that elephants tiptoed around the forest. The sun had naturally reappeared and it was another sweltering walk through another glorious, rich green landscape. By the time the walk finished the 12 days non stop activity was taking its toll and when they got back to the city they decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in TaeTea relaxing. They had already decided that they were going to explore the NightMarket they had been too tired to go into previously and as soon as night fell they walked through the stalls, eating snacks, enjoying the sights which, overflowed with people in costume capturing the iconic moment for their followers, and wandered the dockside. A beautiful balmy evening full of noise and colour. They had one more trip the next day before an evening flight back to Beijing and they spent the final hour of the day packing before sleep called.

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