Kunming Adventures!


I apologize that it’s been several weeks since my last blog entry, but I’ve been battling with pain issues and also just generally been really busy with work.

A few weeks ago my eldest brother, Colin, came to visit for 10 days. The last time he was here in Kunming was July of 2013, when I was coping miserably with a badly broken leg and pretty much laid up in bed wracked with pain during his entire visit.

So, I was determined during his visit this year to get out and show Colin around the city of Kunming.

Also his visit enabled me to get out myself, because Colin is an exceptionally strong 6ft 4in guy who could lift me over pretty much any obstacle we might encounter in the city.

As you can see below, this blog post comprises mostly pictures from several of our outings.

Perhaps our most unusual excursion was visiting what is known here (and, indeed, throughout China tourism circles) as the Little People’s Kingdom.  And I’m not talking about children. Rather, the Little People’s Kingdom is a major tourist attraction build around an actual community of real dwarfs!

The back story here is that a local entrepreneur came up with the idea of advertising all over China for dwarfs who had been marginalized by society. His pitch was to move to Kunming’s temperate climate and live in purpose-built village with lots of other similarly sized people, earning a living by daily live theatrical performances.

Here’s a link to a story run a couple day ago by The Guardian, one of my favorite daily newspapers. Remarkable professional photos here …


The most interesting challenges of our visit included the rough terrain, incredibly steep inclines and raining weather that we had to overcome. I didn’t mind the rain so much because I was in my manual wheelchair and thus knew I would not short-circuit my power chair.

I have to give all the credit to Colin, who pushed me up rocky terrain just to go see the mushroom houses. It was kind of fun confirming that, if I am in the company of a really strong person, I can pretty much travel anywhere in the world despite how non handicap-accessible any particular location maybe.


Another day, our great friend Jenny Liao insisted we take a gondola/cable car ride up the side of a mountain … remember, we’re in the Himalayan foothills.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chinese cable cars are about the tiniest things you can imagine!

When I first designed my manual wheelchair before coming to China, I opted to get these little vertical wheels under my wheelchair that would allow me to go down the aisle of an airplane. Thus I was able to pop off my big main wheels and have Jenny and Colin lift me into the gondola car. Honestly, I don’t think we had half an inch to spare, and we had to get in and out several times before we finally succeeded squeezing me inside.

Once we got to the top I was obviously unable to go climbing around the mountain, but the cable car ride was worth it, alone just discovering that I could fit in one with my wheelchair deconstructed.

I am particularly interested in how I fit into cable cars and gondolas because in 2016 I am actually planning a trip to go over to Geneva, Switzerland to visit CERN, the 27 km particle accelerator straddling the borders of Switzerland and France.

While in Switzerland, I intend to be taking as many gondola rides as I can. Maybe I should try to get some sort of skis put on my wheelchair so I could careen down the mountain by myself!

Some of the other photos are just from outings around Kunming, hotels we went to, places we ate, etc. I just wanted to use at least one blog post to show you some of the activities around Kunming in case any readers are thinking about participating in the Kunming Walking Program. Many Chinese agree that Kunming is perhaps the most appealing major city in the country.

I stay indoors at my desk much of the time because I work quite a lot, but there are a great many interesting attractions throughout the city. Indeed, I’m told Kunming is today the #1 national tourist destination for the Chinese.

In my next blog I’m going to devote time to share with readers my progress over the last 3 to 4 months with hypnotherapy dealing with chronic pain. I have been working over Skype video with a hypnotherapist in Chicago and will tell you how this is working out.


Suzanne, Jenny, Ali, Colin, Mom and Dad at an extravagant lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel


Colin and Ali outside the Minority Village


Family Photo at the Intercontinental Hotel

Two little children wanted to take a photo with me instead of the little people at the little people kingdom… I suppose white quadriplegic foreigner is more of an attraction 🙂


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Sitting in the rain taking selfie’s before the little People Kingdom performance!


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Little people performing live


Group photo with the Little people royal guards


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Spectacular views from the mountainous countryside where the Little People reside…. And my brother trying to see if I could fly down the hill!


Ali with a little person… Not a child. She is actually in her 20’s


Good old London taxi…


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Jenny and Colin pushing me up the incredibly Rocky Hill to go see the mushroom houses




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Mushroom houses galore!

Preparation for entering the cable car … wheels off


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View from the Chinese cable car looking out onto Kunming city

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Inside the cable car



Jenny and Ali at the top of the mountain



My Dad and Colin enjoying lunch in our garden


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Sibling love

5 responses »

  1. So nice to see these photos of all of you! I am so glad you had a nice adventure with colin. I had never heard of the little people kingdom!

  2. Wow, another amazing post! What stories you have, Ali! I was interested to read the Wiki page on the dwarfs and their theme park. Apparently and not surprisingly, I suppose, the park has received a lot of criticism from Little People of America and Handicap International as being exploitative and generally outrageously un-PC. How did you feel about it? After reading that article, it struck me as ironic that an American woman w/c user would visit the park – how many levels of irony is that? Did it make you uncomfortable?

  3. Hi Ali, I am so happy to see these gorgeous pictures from you. Your report from your trip is amazing!!! The mushroom houses are so cute. Your plan to visit Switzerland at 2016 is very cool and I am sure, it is possible to come at the top of all the mountains. There are many different wheels, wheel chairs or other additive for such enterprises. If you need, I can support you about the equipment. Big hug.

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