Lufeng Dinosaur Valley

Date Written: 07.09.2013 Place: Nanning Time: 16:19

Lufeng Dinosaur Valley has got to be one of the creepiest places I’ve been in China.

A place – be it a town, city, street or even graveyard – in China can be hard to make itself creepy – as one of the world’s largest countries it also has one huge population to go with it. Its huge population thus creates huge crowds, causing any element of creepiness to be immediately ejected out of it – my point is, imagine how creepy the Terracotta Army could be if you weren’t squashed amongst hundreds of tourists and instead looking upon the stone warriors completely on your own – very creepy!

Anyway, having seen a billboard advert for Lufeng Dinosaur Park at Kunming train station, and being an everything-dinosaur fan since Jurassic Park’s release, I decided I had to go.

After some Internet research, I learnt over 60 dinosaur fossils and full skeletons lay resident in the park. 60. I read on to find out Lufeng has the most dinosaur fossils/skeletons found in quantity than any other place in the world. So, Lufeng is like a dinosaur gold mine, and I was sold.

I was staying at the Hump Hostel in Kunming and thought a tourist attraction this great would surely have a tour I could easily jump onto. I looked in the hostel’s tour book, but I found nothing.

Hmm okay… I asked a girl at reception, she didn’t understand me. Back to more online research where I found a WikiTravel page on the park. Travel instructions included. I must take a bus to get to Kunming West Bus Station, to get on a bus to Lufeng, where I will then find another bus to the park. That’s 3 buses in total and 3 and half hours to get there – alright, I thought, I still deemed this worth a trip.

I set off on Monday (to avoid busy weekend crowds!) and started to notice on the way to Lufeng things got a bit, well, quiet. The small clutters of houses across the open highway had dinosaurs painted on their outside walls, so I told myself this place must be a big attraction! Lufeng Bus Station was small ish with no roar of crowds queuing, standing around, or waiting for a bus like most China bus stations I had been to had. I found the bus to the park fairly easy maybe because of this but possibly as the bus was yellow with accompanying dinosaurs paintings on the sides of it too.

Only one Chinese man and myself got off at the park, where we were dropped off outside the park’s toll gate. The park had its own toll gate. As I walked to the ticket hall I could see this park was huge already, but, I didn’t see any crowds. Something I had grown accustomed to in China.

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120 ¥ a ticket, I walked up the park’s entrance, “Jurassic Path” (below), and still found myself with only a handful of other people. A lot of the park was amusement only, with fake dinosaurs darted around the place, some drinking from a lake after you entered from Jurassic Path and some amongst the trees and foliage.

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I made my way to the main attraction; the quarry, where the real dinosaurs are. When I finally got into the grey building, it was mostly dark with the lighting softly focused on the dinosaurs, which I could see they were vast.

Cast in a frozen running posture and grouped together as though in a herd, hunting, they were motionless. Standing amongst them was both absorbing and bewildering. The Chinese man who jumped off the bus when I did was wondering through the skeleton valley in front of me.

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The warehouse was quiet, dead, there were more dinosaur skeletons than there were people. Some dinosaur faces drooped low to my own face level, so you could study their last expressions and hollow eye sockets. I’d noticed I had slowly taken over the Chinese man from the bus.

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Both sides of the warehouse was hilled with a murky orange ground, when the walking platform lowered down to another level you could see a scattering of bones half excavated still in the earth.

I looked down at these for a little while before walking back through the skeletons instead of the main entrance, when I began to notice, as I turned the corner back into this path, I thought the Chinese man was following me. I stopped to appear as though I was studying the skeletons, he stalled, stopped and after a minute took some photos of the skeletons. I waited until he moved on before I made my exit.

There must have been seven or eight park ‘buggies’, all silently parked outside with no queues, no passengers. All seven or eight drivers congregated to the middle buggy, a few sleeping.

One came over and I pointed in the direction heading further into the park, the Chinese man I thought was following me had now exited and started heading the way I was pointed. I jumped on the buggy and was whisked away, far from the Chinese man, even if he was actually following me, I still can’t really tell. I would get plenty of headway on him now, I was on the buggy whereas he was walking.

I assumed the driver would drive me to the next attraction, yet the drive circled around the whole park. There were no other buggies with passengers in passing us, no other people walking along the paths, no bellowing noises from any of the rides or attractions that echoed from near or far, just complete silence. When we must have been passing the “Jurassic Waterfall” I couldn’t hear the water falling down onto the rocks.

I was eventually dropped off near the fair ground which was close to the entrance where I had entered the park. No rides were on, none of them were moving and again no people. A log flume, or what I thought was a log flume, had been emptied of its water, not a soul around.

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I walked through restaurants and snack bars, full of empty tables, a hundred empty tables, with just two staff members looking at me blankly. I carried on through until I reached the car park, to wait for my bus back, but it was empty.

There were two men sitting near a drinks stall, staffed by one woman. None of them spoke English, so through the translations I had on me and a clumsy drawing of a bus I just made in my notebook they told me it would arrive at 14:50. (At the time a 2 hour plus wait.)

I walked to the toll gate to ask the same question, the toll gate girl spoke no English. I walked back into the park and tried to ask at the tourist information office, but to no avail. I went back to the drinks stall. Confused, I sat down. It wasn’t for another 10 minutes or so when one of the two men from before came back up to me saying “1 – 30” and pointed back towards the toll gate. I said okay, thinking where I was dropped off was probably where I need to be picked up, makes sense. He must have thought I looked confused because he motioned he’ll show/walk me there.

We started walking, with the other man slowly following. That’s when I began to think “this was stupid Emma, a young single British woman by herself, who can’t speak any Chinese, going to a ghost town theme park, now has two men taking her somewhere….” I began to feel a little frightened.

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Then I saw a bus like the one which brought me here, just outside the toll gate, I flagged it down, almost in a run towards it, to which the man beside me, walking with me, said “no, no, no, no,” I ignored him and I recognised the Chinese symbol on the front of the bus meaning ‘Lufeng.’ The driver nodded when I got on it, the man outside the bus was now saying OK, as if saying no, my mistake, yes this is your bus!

I sat down and waited for the bus to take me back safely to Lufeng bus station, before changing bus to get back to Kunming and feeling more of a comfort about being in a big crowd of people but still feeling spooked about the deserted park.

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