I never would’ve visited Xishuangbanna, or Xbanna, as Xpats call it, if it wasn’t for Covid. I went there at Christmas where I slept through an earthquake, only to wake up and find myself trapped in quarantine. Since my holiday was spent waiting in nose-jab lines, I decided to visit the city again. While Xbanna has more temples than Lucky Charms has marshmallow bits, my favorite thing about this lush city is the bird walker park.
Birds are to men in China what Woodies are to old guys in Southern California. Ornithophiles walk their birds to a local park, hang the cages on a hook or branch, and just sit and stare.
I felt like I barged into a men’s club because I did, as I tried to figure out what these guys are doing. There was no money or cards on the ground, so these guys were not betting on which bird would have the best tweet. The male crowd was not talking but listening intently, sitting in the traditional Chinese, giving their quads a good workout. A few were showing their six-packless guts, as it is customary in China for men to roll up their shirts on steamy days.
The birds are hung on branches and this bird hanger and carried to the park covered with a cloth tent. There must have been thirty-plus cages but only two varieties of birds: a rusty color songbird or one that was black and white with a longer beak. Along with the owners were cage repairmen with spare cage bars, mealworms, various seeds, and an assortment of cigarettes for the men.
Other things in Xbanna? Well, the city reminds me of Maui due to the lush shades of green and the ambiance in the walking areas. The biggest difference is the cobblestone and the possibility of an elephant citing instead of whale watching.
As for food? Dai cuisine (a minority group near the border of China/Thailand, that has flavor influences from both cultures). Sticky pineapple rice, grilled fish with lemon grass, barbeque meats, miniature eggplants (about the size of green olives) that you’d dip in a green or red salsa, pineapple rice, soup –there’s always soup– omelet, pork rinds, local herbs, and a rice caramel dessert that you scrape off banana leaves. But as for the birds? They just got worms.
What else is there to see? The buildings in Xbanna are purposely shaped like peacock feathers. At night, it’s fun to look at, too.
Want to hear the birds? Watch the video below.