Pyongyang Cafe – A Small Piece of North Korea on the Spanish Coast

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Entering North Korea is not the easiest or safest thing to do for foreigners, but curious tourists can now experience a small piece of North Korean culture in the Mediterranean city of Tarragona, where a small bar founded to promote Kim Jong-Un’s totalitarian regime recently opened.

Alejandro Cao de Benos, the founder of Pyongyang Cafe, is the only Westerner to occupy a post in the North Korean regime, even if it is only honorary. A firm believer in communism, he became interested in North Korea after the fall of the Soviet Union, which coincided with meeting some North Korean families in Madrid. He started traveling to the isolated Asian country, managed to meet with the late Kim Jong-Il, and in 2002 he was appointed special delegate for international cultural relations by Pyongyang. The title is not official, but he has taken his mission very seriously. Cao de Benos, a.k.a. “Cho Sun-il” (which translates as “Korea is one”) went on to found the Korean Friendship Association which currently has delegates in 30 countries around the world.

As someone who regularly appears in the Spanish media to defend North Korea against what he calls Western propaganda and manipulation, Cho Sun-il decided to open Pyongyang Cafe as a way to offer people an authentic North Korean experience. “We want to break with all the myths, manipulation,” he says. “And as not many people can go to Korea, because it’s complicated and far, they can come to our cafe.”

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Shoyna – The Russian Village Fighting a Losing Battle against Sand

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Shoyna, a small Russian village located on the edge of the arctic circle is often referred to as the world’s northernmost desert. The sand covers everything as far as the eye can see and the few people living here never dare shut their front doors at night, for fear of being buried alive by the ever-shifting dunes. But it wasn’t always like this…

Shoyna was settled in the 1930’s by fishermen drawn to the coast of the White Sea by the abundance of fish in the area. In just two decades, it had grown into a bustling fishing port with a population of around 1,500 people and a fleet of roughly seventy fishing boats. However, it wasn’t long before excessive trawling decimated the fish colonies and the fishery collapsed. The dozens of vessels lining the shore stopped coming and many of the families that had thrived in Shoyna slowly moved away. Today, the official number of inhabitants is 375, most of whom survive on unemployment benefits and pensions. Hunting is also a way to make ends meet, thanks to the large number of barnacle and Brent geese that use Shoyna as a stopover on their migration course, but the most lucrative job in the village is definitely that of bulldozer driver, as everyone needs their house dug up from the sand at one point.

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Chinese Businessman Turns Boeing 737 Airplane into a Restaurant

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China’s very first airplane restaurant was recently unveiled in Wuhan. Named “Lilly Airways”, the unique eatery is located in the cabin area of an old Boeing 737.

Businessman Li Liang acquired the aircraft from Indonesian airline Batavia Air, in May 2015, but then had to go through six months of exhausting custom procedures in order to get the aircraft into China. “Demounting, port, shipping, business license, trade declaration…all these procedures were never done by anybody before, which means I had to go through them one by one,” Li said, adding that the Boeing 737 had to be disassembled a total of eight times in its four-month journey from Indonesia to Wuhan, China. Getting the plane split into parts that then had to be packed in around 70 containers and shipped multiple times apparently cost the eccentric businessman a whopping 3 million yuan ($452,325). Add that to the 5 million yuan ($5.28 million) he paid for the plane itself and you have one of the most expensive restaurants in the world.

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The Spanish Village of Witches Cursed by the Catholic Church

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Nestled in the foothills of the Macayo Mountains, in Aragon, Spain, lies a quaint village plagued by a curse so strong that only the Pope can lift it.

Trasmoz was once a bustling settlement with a population of around 10,000 people, but today it numbers only 62 inhabitants, of which only 30 live there permanently. For many, the downfall of Trasmoz has a lot to do with the curse placed on the village by the Catholic Church centuries ago and the stigma associated with witchcraft. Its history is riddled with legends of witches and pagan rituals, and even the ruined castle at its center is said to have been built in a single night by a magician called Mutamín. How many of these stories are true, and how many are simple rumors spread by the Church to justify its actions is left to interpretation.

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Fishing with Fire – A Mesmerizing Tradition of Taiwan

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For hundreds of years, fishermen in Taiwan have been catching sardines with the help of fiery stick held over the edge of a boat. The fish are so attracted to the light that they jump out of the water and into the nets of the fishermen.

Fire fishing is as simple as it is mesmerizing. Fishing boats head out to sea during the night, and light up a bamboo stick covered with sulfuric soil at one end to create a bright flame. The sulfur dissolves in the water and the gas produced then flashes with fire. Drawn to the light spectacle, sardines jump out of the water by the hundreds at a time and end up in the fishermen’s nets. Sulfuric fire fishing was developed during the period of Japanese Rule and is now practiced only in the Jinshan sulfur harbor.

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Pablo EskoBear – The Legendary Cocaine Bear of Kentucky

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When it comes to weird tourist attractions, it’s hard to beat a stuffed black bear that died of what many people consider the worst cocaine overdose in history. Nicknamed Pablo EscoBear, the unique tourist attraction is currently on display at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, in Lexington.

On December 23, 1985, the New York Times reported about a 175-pound black bear that had apparently died of an overdose of cocaine in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. Three months earlier, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton II had dropped large quantities of drugs from an airplane over that area, before jumping from it himself. Unfortunately, Thornton got tangled in his parachute and fell to his death in someone’s yard, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Before turning to a life of crime, Kentucky blue blood Andrew Thornton II had worked as a narcotics officer of all things, and then as a lawyer. It is believed that he had built his network of connections during his time on the right side of the law, before becoming a drug smuggler. He was on a coke-smuggling run from Colombia when he dropped 40 plastic containers full of cocaine in Chattahoochee National Forest.

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Mexico’s Butterfly Forest – A Unique Natural Wonder under Threat

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Every year, hundreds of millions of Monarch Butterflies from Canada and the United States journey as far as 2,500 miles to the forests of Michoacan, Mexico in what is known as the world’s largest insect migration. Countless butterflies cluster together both on the trees and on the ground, covering large areas into carpets of orange and black. It’s a breathtaking sight to behold, but as always, human greed is threatening to destroy it.

The great monarch migration is one of nature’s most fascinating mysteries. Tiny butterflies from places like Toronto, Winnipeg or Detroit embark on this epic transcontinental journey and somehow make it all the way to central Mexico. Nobody knows exactly how they do it, but some experts believe they are guided by celestial navigation and magnetic fields.

The Monarch butterflies start to arrive in Michoacan in late October to make their winter home in the trees high up in the mountains of the natural reserve. Once here, they will spend the next five months clustering together in large masses made up of thousands of tiny bodies that often look like colorful beehives. Often times, these clusters become so heavy that they cause tree branches to bend or even snap. But there’s a purpose to all these clustering – it allows the monarchs to survive in the low nighttime temperatures at these high altitudes.

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Picnic with the Dead in an Idyllic Greek Village

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The Pontics are a group of ethnic Greeks who prospered on the shores of the Black Sea between the years of 1914 and 1923. Over 350,000 of their population perished at the hands of the Ottomans, Kemalists and neo-Turks during the Greek Genocide, and those who remained were forced to leave their homeland to seek refuge in Greece. But even today, this small community manages to keep its age old traditions alive. One of their most notable customs is the yearly ‘Picnic with the Dead’.

Every year on the Sunday after Easter, also known as St. Thomas Sunday, several Pontic Greek families in the village of Rizana make their way to the local cemetery to picnic on the graves of the deceased. Many of them bring along folding tables and chairs, table cloths, traditional meals, vodka, flowers, and candles to set in the midst of the marble gravestones. No one is allowed to cry as the day is seen not as one of mourning, but of celebration in honor of the departed. Family members are seen smiling and greeting each other, “Christos anesti” (Christ has risen), while children laugh and play amidst the graves.

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Ikaria – The Greek Island of Longevity

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On the Greek island of Ikaria, longevity is the norm rather than the exception. It’s not uncommon to find elderly men and women who have easily crossed the normal life expectancy of the rest of Europe. In fact, one in three Ikarians ends up living well into their 90s, and many of them go on to become centenarians.

Not only do they have a long life expectancy, but the people of Ikaria are also healthier when compared to other Europeans – they have much lower rates of cancer and heart disease, are less likely to suffer from depression or dementia, are physically active into old age, and even maintain a healthy sex life. Over the years, several visitors have tried to uncover the Ikarian secret to good health and longevity, and have pinned it down to a series of factors, including the local diet and the locals’proclivity for afternoon naps.

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Manila Cemetery Known as “Beverly Hills of the Dead” Is Full of Luxurious Mansions

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Death doesn’t put an end to the luxurious lifestyles of some of Manila’s wealthy Chinese residents. They are buried by their loved ones in a mammoth graveyard known as the Chinese Cemetery of Manila. This place is a small neighborhood in it’s own right, with many tombs reaching the size of mansions with all the modern amenities included!

The ginormous mausoleums lining either side of two-way streets within the cemetery are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that many living people can only dream of. They have fully-functioning kitchens and bathrooms with luxury fittings, and plush bedrooms for visiting relatives. Some of these places even have full-time residents who don’t seem to mind sharing their living space with the dead.

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World’s First Hedgehog Cafe Opens in Japan

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Tokyo is now home to the world’s first hedgehog cafe, the latest in a long list of animal-themed establishments in the city. Located in the Roppongi entertainment district, the cafe is named ‘Harry’ – a play on the Japanese word for hedgehog.

Hedgehogs aren’t native to Japan, but they’ve long since been sold as pets in the nation that’s crazy for all things cute. At Harry, 1,000 yen ($9) can buy animal lovers an hour in the company of the prickly yet adorable creatures. The cafe is home to 20 to 30 friendly hedgehogs of different breeds that you can spend time with and even take home. A chalk-written blackboard lists all the available hedgehog breeds available for purchase and their prices by sex. So if customers find it hard to part with the adorable rodents once their hour is up, they have the option to give them a forever home.

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Manipur’s All-Women Market – Over 4000 Shopkeepers and Not One Man Among Them

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Literally translating to ‘Mother’s Market’, Ima Keithel is Asia’s largest all-women market, where all the stalls are run exclusively by women. Located in the heart of Imphal, in the Indian state of Manipur, the 500-year-old vibrant bazaar has 4,000-odd local women trading with thousands of customers each day. The market also serves as a meeting ground for discussions on important social and political issues of the state.

The market’s origin dates back centuries, to a time when Manipur was ruled by kings. During this time, a tradition called ‘Lallup’ was followed, requiring male members of the local Meitei community to serve the king whenever summoned. So the women of the household would take the responsibility of farming and commerce. This instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in them, which has been passed all the way down to the present generation of female traders. Interestingly, to this day, only married women are permitted to trade at the market.

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Krishna’s Butter Ball – A Precariously Perched 250-Ton Boulder Defying the Laws of Physics

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For over 1,300 years, this large rock has been confounding the locals of Mahabalipuram, a beach town near Chennai, in Southern India. The mysterious landmark is perched on hill at a 45-degree angle, balancing off an extremely small surface area without slipping or even budging an inch. Men and even elephants have tried moving it from its precarious position , but every attempt so far has failed.

The locals call it ‘Vaanirai Kal’ (Stone of the Sky God), but the rock is more popularly known as ‘Krishna’s Butter Ball’, referencing Lord Krishna’s favorite food, butter, fallen from the heavens. The gravity-defying rock, measuring 20 ft high and five meters in diameter, is estimated to weigh over 250 tons, which makes it heavier than the monolithic stones of Machu Picchu, or Ollantaytambo. Despite its massive size and weight, Krishna’s Butter Ball is firmly anchored on a four-foot base along the slope of a small hill located on the outskirts of Mahabalipuram. It looks like it might slip any moment and come crashing down the hill, but it has stayed that way for several centuries now.

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Welcome to Ropoto, the Abandoned Greek Village Literally Going Downhill

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The deserted Greek village of Ropoto, in northwestern Thessaly, is slowly but steadily slipping out of existence. Located 15 miles from Trikala city, the hilltop settlement was once home to a charming and bustling community, but everything changed in 2012, when a landslide caused several homes and buildings in the village square to slide down the hillsides. As many as 300 families were displaced from their homes, turning Ropoto into the ghost town it is today.

Ropoto’s tragic story is narrated in detail by former village council president Yorgos Roubies, in a 12-minute documentary produced by GreekReporter.com. Roubies lead the film crew through the sinking village, pointing out to ruins – including a crumbling hotel and school, the site where a tavern used to stand, and the wreckage that used to be his home. Recalling the terrifying day that altered the fate of the villagers forever, he said: “The first major disaster occurred early on April 12, 2012. Every autumn we were pushing the waters out of the village, to the big stream, but in 2011 there were no machines to push the rainwater away. We also had groundwater and that’s how it happened.”

“The churches, everything was gone, there’s not even a cafe here. If someone gets sick, they won’t even be able to find a glass of water. We had never seen such a disaster.”

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Mysterious Boiling River in Peru is So Hot It Boils Animals Alive

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There is a mysterious river flowing deep through the Amazon rainforest in Mayantuyacu, Peru, that can literally boil small animals almost instantly. While water temperatures along the 6.4-km-long river range between 50 and 90 degrees Celsius, in some parts almost reaching the boiling point of 100 degrees. That’s hot enough to cause third-degree burns in a matter of seconds.

The local Asháninka people have known about the mysterious Boiling River for centuries, referring to it as ‘Shanay-timpishka’, which translates to ‘boiled with the heat of the sun’. Ancient legend has it that the hot water is unleashed by a giant serpent named Yacumama (mothers of the waters) and a large boulder shaped like a serpent’s head lies at the river’s headwaters, as a testimony to the primitive tale’s veridity.

For the rest of the world, however, this natural oddity was just that – a legend. Apart from a few references dating back to the 1930’s there was no scientific documentation of the boiling river and most geologists simply dismissed its existence based on the fact that it would take huge amounts of geothermal heat to boil entire sections of a river, which would be impossible because the Amazon basin is located 400 miles away from the nearest active volcano. Except for a few tourists who visit Mayantuyacu each year to experience the traditional healing methods practiced by the Asháninka people, the civilized world was oblivious to the existence of a real boiling river.

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