What do little people and butterflies have in common? Well for starters they share an eccentric theme park, just outside Kunming China. If you’re bored of taking in Kumings beautiful lakes and parks, perhaps a day out at Kingdom of the Little People and an equally eccentric butterfly park might provide an interesting change.
The Theme Parks
On entering the theme park the first thing you will see is the ‘World Butterlfy Ecological Park’. It is clear from the first moment that the creator has something of an eccentric vision. The park is a beautifully strange garden of colourful and amazing amounts of flowers, scattered with odd sculptures and garden scenes made from tin people, and of course butterflies.
On moving up the hill you find the Kingdom of the Little People. There are several shows a day, we arrived between shows to find the place almost deserted, with just a few little people wandering around, half in costume obviously taking a break between performances.
Wandering around the park you will find a deserted mushroom village, which is the backdrop for the show, but not where the performers actually live. It’s strangely eery, like a ghost town, the few doors that are open show that some of the rooms must be used as change rooms for the performances.
Eventually, a bunch of Chinese tourists start to trickle in and someone indicates to us to move up the hill for the start of the performance. The performance starts, not with the little people, but with a daredevil circus style act of normal people climbing razor sharp poles and riding motorcycles around large cone cylinders
We are then moved back down to the main arena for the Kingdom of the Little People performance. It starts, with heavy metal music blaring and the introduction of the cast, group by group. Soldiers march out and take their positions, followed by what I assume to be royal men and women, fairies and finally the King himself!
Once they are all arrayed, the music changes dramatically from head banging to what I can only describe as a fairly love song. The entire performance was in Chinese, so I can’t speak to exactly what most of the songs where about, just the general feeling. The performance continues with different groups coming on to perform fairy dances, a cute little crooning singer, who actually singled us out as the only two white people and said ‘Hello’ and even a Kingdom of the Little People rendition of Gangam style.
Exploitation or Entertainment?
There has been some conjecture since the Kingdom of the Little People opened in 2009 that the park is more of a human zoo and is exploiting performers. The owner maintains that he is providing employment, which is apparently hard to get for people of shorter stature in China.
I can’t really answer definitively which view point is true. Seeing as my Chinese is still currently limited to Nin Hao (hello) and zhi xie (thank you), and their English appeared limited to about the same, I couldn’t actually ask them how they felt about working there, I can only go on what I saw and sensed.
It felt to me like they where just performers going about doing there job. Some seemed in quite a good mood, others seemed more nonchalant. But they all seemed to me about what you’d expect from a group of people performing the same show 5 times a day, they where doing a job. As far as I know they’re not forced to be there.
Overall, it’s an different kind of day out and a chance to see the more kitsch side of Chinese tourism.
Getting There and Costs
This was the interesting part, as the only directions I could find where on the Go Kunming website and where a little sparse, so hopefully this is more helpful
1. Take the 82 bus to the end of the line at Ma Jie – you will be getting off at the Kunming North Bus Station. The 82 bus runs down Renmin West and Dong Feng rds in town.
Cost: 2 yuan
2. You now need to look for a white/beige bus that looks like this: It will leave from outside the main bus station. You can also take a taxi from here, if like us you aren’t able to find this bus. It apparently leaves around 12pm
Cost: 6 yuan
3. If you can’t find the bus and you have a friend that is so insistent that you just must see this kingdom with you then a taxi will take you there for 150 yuan – if you have more people this is obviously more viable.
Cost: 150 yuan
4. Entrance is 50 yuan for both parks and performance.
5. The White/ Beige bus will take you back to town around 5pm
It's a little expensive for what it is if your a backpacker on a budget, especially if you take the taxi option up. However if your a lover or kitsch theme parks or just want to see a more unusual side to China it's a fun day out.