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San Pedro Prison – Bolivia’s Most Bizarre Tourist Attraction

San Pedro Prison is the largest in La Paz, Bolivia, housing around 1,500 inmates,  but that’s not what makes it special. Unlike most penitentiaries around the world, this place is a self-organized community with its own market stalls, restaurants, hairdressers and even a hotel. Oh, and no guards.

You’ve probably heard of or seen special prisons before. A few months ago we wrote an article on Norway’s Bastoy Island, where prisoners have hotel-like accommodations, are allowed to walk around freely and engage in a variety of relaxing activities. Today we take you on a tour of San Pedro, in La Paz, Bolivia, a sort of jail town where prisoners are free to live with their families and buy whatever they want without fearing repercussions from the guards. In fact there are no guards inside the large prison, or bars on the cell windows, so inmates have the relative freedom of going wherever they please. The police don’t interfere with the affairs of the inmates, who are expected to resolve their own issues with the help of representatives elected democratically.

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Y Lan – The Lady Playing with Sand

Y Lan, real name Tran Thi Hoang Lan, is a famous Vietnamese artist who uses multicolored sand to create beautiful paintings. Her works are famous all over Asia, as well as in Europe and North America.

Y Lan has no formal arts training and discovered her unique talent for making sand paintings purely by mistake. In 2001, while visiting her husband’s home town in Phan Thiet she saw the coastal sands in the area and was mesmerized by their beauty and took three differently-colored varieties in a transparent flower vase. After she came home she was just obsessed with the exotic beauty of the sands, so she went back and took more sand samples of different colors. Then she started thinking about what to do with this wonderful colored sand she had gathered, and the idea for her grainy sand paintings was born. Now, Y Lan is internationally recognized as the inventor of sand painting and has established her own company selling these masterpieces all around the globe.

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Children Work Together to Build 1.8 Million LEGO Map of Future Japan

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of LEGO blocks being introduced in Japan, the Danish company organized a cross-country workshop called “Build Up Japan” in which over 5,000 children created their visions of future Japanese buildings. The assembled pieces were all brought to Tokyo and assembled as a giant white map.

As Johnny from Spoon&Tamago noticed, the Internet is full of all kinds of massive LEGO works. We ourselves featured an impressive LEGO map of Middle-Earth, a LEGO football stadium model and even a full-size LEGO Ford Explorer. But the “Build Up Japan” event was special in more ways than one and definitely worth covering. While most large-scale works of art are usually created by experienced LEGO masters who spend years working on their pieces, this giant map was created piece by piece by around 5,000 Japanese children from six different regions of the island country. And, instead of having the kids just reproduce some of their country’s iconic buildings, organizers encouraged them to set free their imaginations and create imaginary structures of a futuristic Japan. The future of the country was literally in their hands and they made sure it was a bright one. When the assembled LEGO structures were completed, they were sent to Tokyo to be a part of a massive 1.8 million LEGO map that left the audience speechless.

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Chinese IKEA Customers Make Themselves a Little Too Much at Home

If you’ve ever walked through an IKEA store thinking about how cool it would be if you could just lay down on one of them soft beds, cover yourself with a fluffy blankets and nap, then you need to move to China, because that’s what IKEA visitors do over there.

The Chinese simply love IKEA! Millions visit the company’s mainland stores every year, but only a few of them actually end up buying something, as many just come to enjoy the air-conditioning on a hot summer day and take a nap on the comfy furniture on display. “Some of them even come in once the store opens in the morning, and won’t leave until the store closes in the evening,” a security staff from the IKEA store in Shanghai told Morning Star, but although this sometimes bothers employees, the company hasn’t taken any measures against people making themselves a little too much at home, because it sees it as a future investment. They believe when these people have more consumption power they’ll come back and buy something, but until then they’re free to loiter around.

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Thames Town – A Little Piece of England in China

It’s no secret the Chinese wrote the book on knock-offs, but did you know they copy whole towns these days? Thames Town, in Shanghai, is a replica of small English town complete with everything you might expect, except the people.

“I wanted the properties to look exactly the same as those in the United Kingdom. I think English properties are very special. When we decide to learn from others, we should not make any improvements or changes.” That’s what James Ho, the head of Shanghai Hengde Real Estate, the company in charge of building Thames Town, told Reuters back in 2006, when the weird settlement was inaugurated. The buildings of Thames Town copy the real ones in England so closely that complaints have been filed by English pub owners, and this genuine British look was exactly what was supposed to draw people to this place. Only, like many other ambitious and expensive Chinese projects, Thames Town failed to impress a lot of people and is now virtually a ghost town in Shanghai, the city that drive’s China’s economy.

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The Intriguing Skull Illusions of Istvan Orosz

Famous Hungarian artist Istvan Orosz creates intricate optical illusions that always hide a human skull. The presence of the eerie element is more obvious in some of his works than in others, but they are all equally impressive.

If you like optical illusions, you’ll love Orosz’s anamorphosis. The meticulously executed works of art will trick you into thinking you’re eyes are looking at Medieval-themed drawings before you spot the cleverly disguised skulls. I don’t know why the Hungarian graphic designer, poster artist and film director chose a skull as the main element of his works, but his talent or optical illusions is unquestionable.

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Tang Du Zoology – Dining in China’s Indoor Natural Habitat

There are plenty of cool places to eat at in China, but one of the most amazing has to be the Tang Dousheng State Park, also known as Tang Du Zoology. This unique venue spreads over 1,600 square feet and features over 1,500 exotic plants and various animals.

I don’t know about you but I haven’t yet had the chance to dine in a place larger than three NFL football fields, so the Tang Dousheng State Park in Taiyuan, an industrial city about 400km from Beijing, sounds pretty special to me. But it’s not just the size that makes this place stand out from other food joints in China. Inaugurated in 2005, Tang Du Zoology was meant to be an indoor “natural habitat” full of exotic plants, rugged rockery and rare animals, where people could experience fine Chinese cuisine in a wild-like environment. Usually you have to go outside for a breath of fresh air, but in Taiyuan, you have to step inside this amazing restaurant to let your lungs know what they’ve been missing out on. The place also serves wide range of Chinese food styles (Guangdong, Shandong, Sichuan, Anhui) but the food is not the first reason to dine at Tang Dousheng State Park.

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Esplendor Buenos Aires Hotel – An Art Gallery You Can Sleep In

Usually, we only feature hotels on Oddity Central if they’re built on an old oil rig or if they look like a hamster cage, but the Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires isn’t weird like that. The only reason we decide to write about is because of incredible collection of portraits made from unusual materials located inside.

Although it’s known as one of the best hotels in the Argentinian capital, the Esplendor Buenos Aires Hotel is worth visiting just for the impressive portraits displayed around the hotel, including in the lobby, restaurant or all over the corridors. And while many hotels do their best to treat their clients to some fine art, what the Esplendor offers is truly special – portraits of various South American celebrities, from football legend Diego Armando Maradona to revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, made from all kinds of unusual materials.

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Japanese Photographer Tries to Keep Love Fresh Forever by Wrapping It in Vacuumed Plastic Bags

Some couple try all kinds of romantic tricks to keep love alive for longer, but Japanese photographer Haruhiko Kawaguchi takes a more literal approach – he wraps people in plastic wrap, sucks out the air and takes photos of their distorted bodies.

The bizarre images of people huddled together in weird positions, in vacuumed plastic wrap may look like stills from a a sado-masochistic practice, but they are Haruhiko Kawaguchi way of showing and preserving the love between two people. His project, “Flesh Love”, is pretty straightforward. Two people, usually couples, are “packaged” in a 100 by 150 by 74 centimeters plastic bag the artist buys from the Internet. After carefully arranging their body parts so he can get the best shot, Kawaguchi uses an old vacuum cleaner to suck out all the air and make the subjects look like a pack of packaged meat you buy at the supermarket. It takes about 10 to 20 seconds for hit to take the photographs, during which time the shrinkwrapped couple has to endure the pressure and lack of air. But it’s all in the name of love.

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Jim Power – The Mosaic Man of New York City

For the past 26 years, Jim Power, known by most as The Mosaic Man, has been decorating the light posts of New York’s East Village with intricate tile and mirror mosaics. And the homeless 64-year-old is still at it.

“When I got into this, I was immortal all a sudden,” Power says about how he felt when he first started creating his art, in the late 1980s. The Vietnam veteran set out to make East Village a known arts destination by creating a trail of 80 mosaic-decorated light posts, each with its own theme and design inspired by local history and culture. At the height of his career as a street artist, The Mosaic Man was up to 70 light posts, but in the later part of the 80s and into the 90s, mayor Rudy Giulianni started a clean-up-the-city anti-graffiti campaign and took down 50 of his beautifully-adorned artworks. It was pretty hard to bear, but Jim never gave up on his dream of completing the trail, and managed to rebuild every one of them.

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Vinyl Portraits of Famous Musicians Created with Thousands of White Dots

Daniel Edlen, from Phoenix, Arizona, is probably one of the world’s most patient artists. Using just white acrylic paint, he dabs thousands of tiny white spots on black vinyls to create amazingly-detailed portraits of famous musicians.

But why would an artist go through a painstaking process of dabbing white spots on records, instead of painting them the old-fashioned way, with a brush? Well, Daniel told My Modern Metropolis that  “it’s challenging painting on raw records because the paint streaks if I stroke it. Dabbing is the only way it works, but consistency is hard because I don’t use any black and I can’t remove paint easily once it’s dried.” That means the talented artist doesn’t afford to make any mistakes during the creative process, and that’s probably why he can take up to a whole month to complete a single piece.

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Mind-Blowing 3D Sketchbook Artworks by Nagai Hideyuki

21-year-old Japanese artist Nagai Hideyuki creates amazing sketchbook drawings which viewed from the right angle create a realistic 3D illusion.

We’ve featured some pretty impressive three-dimensional art in the past, and young Hideyuki’s works are right up there with the best. Using a technique known as anamorphosis, the talented Japanese is able to create mind-boggling masterpieces that seem to come to life right out of his sketchbook. At 17, Nagai dreamed of becoming a cartoonist, but soon realized drawing comics wasn’t the thing for him. Then, three years later, he stumbled upon Julian Beever’s street art, and instantly fell in love with the idea of creating 3D artworks. Unfortunately, he discovered drawing on the streets of Japan was illegal, so he started looking for another way to exercise his talents. That’s how his intriguing sketchbook art was born.

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Huangluo – The World’s First Long-Hair Village

Hair is very important to women, who generally use it to highlight their features, but for the women of the ethnic Yao people of Huangluo Village, China, hair is their most prized possession.

Located in the Longji Scenic Are of Gulin, China, Huangluo Village numbers around 82 households of Red Yao ethnics, who get their name from the traditional red clothing. Like many other Chinese villages, Hunagluo enjoys very attractive natural surroundings and has plenty of ancient traditions to keep tourists entertained, but the most fascinating thing about it is the women’s obsession with long hair. In fact, the Yao settlement has received a Guinness certification for the “world’s longest hair village” and is also known as the “Long Hair Village” across China. Considering the average hair length of the 120 women in Huangluo is 1,7 meters and the longest locks exceed 2.1 meters, I’d say its reputation is well-deserved.

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Artist Creates Portraits with Strips of Shredded Money

Using thousands of paper strips from shredded U.S. Federal Reserve Notes, American artist Evan Wondolowski creates impressive portraits of famous figures, from George Washington to Notorious B.I.G.

According to This Is Colossal, “Evan says that he starts with an underdrawing of the portrait on newsprint and then glues each shred of currency piece by piece before finishing up with a little vine charcoal to increase contrast.” Sounds like a pretty complicated process, but he does manage to restore value to worthless dollars, by turning them into unique works of art. So far, Wondolowski has used shredded dollars to make detailed portraits of icons like Stephen Colbert, Biggie Smalls or George Washington. Looking at how elaborate each of his pieces is, it’s no wonder he takes over a month to complete them.

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Guy Paints and Draws Incredible Portraits with One Continuous Line

Think about the most impressive maze you’ve ever had to solve, and I guarantee it’s not as cool as what this Reddit user can create with a single continuous line.

I could never draw or paint anything worth looking at, but I’ve always been fascinated by what some people can accomplish if they’re given a simple pen or paintbrush. Reddit user “renbo” is definitely one of these incredibly gifted artists. He creates amazing portraits/mazes of celebrities and movie characters by drawing a single intricate line that never crosses itself or end. It’s just one continuous loop that somehow manages to emphasize the subjects’ most important features. In order to make sure his artworks are perfect, renbo says he tries not to lift the pen off the canvas unless his hand gets really fatigued.

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