Bathing in Pepto-Bismol – Australia’s Pink Lake

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Would you believe it if someone told you Pepto Bismal isn’t manufactured from chemicals, but sourced from the water of a natural lake? It isn’t true, but you certainly might you certainly might be tempted to believe it after seeing pictures of the Lake Hillier, a bright, bubble gum pink body of water located on the edge of Recherche Archipelago’s largest island, in Australia. The salt water lake is so striking that airplane passengers passing over Middle Island often get out of their seats just to get a glimpse of it.

The earliest records mentioning the existence of Lake Hillier are the journals of Matthew Flinders, a British navigator and hydrographer. In 1802, Flinders had to climb Middle Island’s highest peak to survey the surrounding waters and came across the remarkable pink lake. Hillier has been pretty much untouched by human hand for a long time, except for a few years when a salt extraction operation was set up in the area. The pink lake isn’t just stunningly beautiful, but a also a natural mystery scientists have been unable to unravel. So far, no explanation has ever been found for its unique hue. Some theories state that the color could result from a dye created by the organisms living in the lake – Dunaliella salina and Halobacteria. Another speculation is that the pink color might be  attributed to the presence of red halophilic bacteria in the salt crusts. No one knows for sure, but that bright pink definitely is definitely no illusion. When the water is collected in a container, it retains its pinkish tinge. Although the waters are shallow and have been deemed safe to swim in, most tourists are reluctant to go in for a dip in what looks like a delicious strawberry milk shake.

 

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The Exchange Bar & Grill Where Prices Fluctuate Like Stocks

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You don’t have to be an experienced stock trader to make a killing at the Exchange Bar & Grill in New York City, where prices of food and drink fluctuate according to the law of supply and demand.

The way it works is quite simple. According to the Exchange website, “The prices for your favorite drinks fluctuate depending on supply and demand. Watch a while when no one is ordering your favorite drink and snag it when the cost falls to unbelievable lows – or use your leverage to jack up the price of any cocktail, drink or shot for the whole bar.” Unlike the real stock market, insider trading isn’t illegal. You are welcome to make use of the tactic to catch the ‘market crash’, when every drink in the bar hits rock bottom. At times like this, beers are sold for as low as $2 to $4. Exchange can seat up to 60 people and atmosphere is like a nice lounge with dim lighting, HD screens and leather couches. The ‘ticker tape’ flashes the fluctuating menu prices in red lettering according to an algorithm, the secret to which even Steven Yee, an operating partner at Exchange, claims he doesn’t know. “The algorithm was created by the person who wrote the software, and the guy won’t even share it with me.” Yee also says that the ticker is just a fun feature, and that they are more about good food, fantastic staff, a bar and a great atmosphere.

Exchange-Bar-and-Grill

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Fangweng – China’s Cliff-Hanging Restaurant

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Trekking in the mountains generally means having to survive on packaged food; but not if you’re in China. There’s a particular mountain in the Hubei Province, 12 km north of the city of Yichang, where you can actually experience fine-dining on the side of a cliff. Located in the Happy Valley of Xiling Gorge, the Fangweng hanging restaurant offers a breathtaking view of its natural surroundings to adventurers brave enough to set foot in it.

The dull brick building that acts as an entrance to the Fangweng Restaurant simply doesn’t do the place justice, and it’s only after you pass through it that you can give yourself a pat on the back for discovering such a unique venue to experience Chinese cuisine while admiring the natural beauty of Xiling Gorge. Unless you’re afraid of heights, in which case the 30-meter-long narrow concrete bridge hanging on the side of a vertical cliff overlooking the Yangtze River might just be your worse nightmare. Luckily, there’s a metal railing you can grab on to while you crawl your way to the actual restaurant. The bridge leads to a dining hall carved into the cliff-side, where most of the tables are set. Warmly lit by traditional lamps hanging from the ceiling and decorated with Chinese furnishings, the cave itself is a sight to behold, but the main attractions of Fangwen are the two concrete platforms extending away from the cliff, from where diners can see all the wonders of Happy Valley or watch bungee jumpers as they leap off a nearby bridge.

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Tokyo’s Monk-Run Bar Mixes Cocktails with Buddhism

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Who says booze and religion don’t mix? That’s certainly not the case at Vowz, a unique Tokyo bar run by two Buddhist monks who serve customers delicious cocktails, religious chants and sermons.

There are over 10,000 bars in Tokyo, but none like the Vowz, in the city’s Yotsuya neighborhood. Opened by Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshinobu Fujioka, this offbeat watering hole has been bringing members of his congregation together for 13 years. “They become totally different believers here, the distance between them and myself diminishing,”the shaved-head bartender says. “They are more connected with each other.” In the old days, people would go to Buddhist temples to socialize and have a drink, but times have changed, and Fujioka decided to adapt in order to remain close to the people. So he opened the Vowz Bar, a place where people could come in and listen to Buddhist sermons and homilies without feeling constrained in any way. “At the temple, folks are always well-behaved and attentive, no matter how long or boring the sermon is,” head monk Gugan Taguchi says. “Here at the bar, they don’t like my sermons — they walk out.” But thanks to the friendly atmosphere and the tasty cocktails prepared by the monks themselves, that hardly ever happens.

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Spin Your Room Around at Holland’s Unique Crane Hotel

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If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to spend the night in an industrial dockside crane, there’s a unique hotel in Harlingen, the Netherlands, that you absolutely have to visit. The 0ne -room Crane Hotel may not be very spacious, but it allows tourists to operate the giant crane and spin 360 degrees for incredible views of their surroundings.

Located in the seaside town of Harlingen, just an hour’s drive from Amsterdam, the Crane Hotel offers a luxurious getaway for two. The genuine dockside crane used to move containers around during the 1960s was converted into a unique hotel between 2001 and 2003. Although it retains its industrial look on the outside, the interior has been radically altered to provide the same degree of comfort that other high-class hotels do. They’ve added tasteful decorations, the latest audio-video technology, a comfy double bed, and a twin person shower cabin, but also kept some of the elements that make this place so unique, like the observation deck and original windows. Perched about 17 feet above Harlingen’s peer, the Crane hotel is no longer accessed via its old steel ladder, but by a modern internal lift. And as if just spending the night in a real dockside crane wasn’t cool enough, you can also satisfy the kid in you by playing actually driving the industrial equipment. The crane is still functional, and you can rotate it 360 degrees to catch some amazing views of the old Dutch fishing town.

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The Swimming Pigs of Big Major Cay, in the Bahamas

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Not everyone agrees with me, but I’ve always thought pigs were adorable creatures. Sure, they aren’t exactly the cleanest, but they’re very cute especially when they’re young. So when I heard about this tiny island that a bunch of pigs had all to themselves, I just had to find out more! Turns out this pig island is located in the Bahamas, where the creatures were first discovered in 2009 by photographer Eric Cheng and captain Jim Abernathy.

The island’s official name is Big Major Cay, but most people know it as Pig Island. The region is blessed with a natural water spring and sheltered by a string of neighboring islands that protect it from tropical storms. It’s the perfect environment for the pigs to laze around all day like little beach bums. They frolic in the water, swimming along-side each other and showing off their paddling skills to visitors. It’s interesting how the pigs appeared on this island in the first place. Rumor has it that a few sailors passing by the island a few years ago thought to leave a few pigs behind and turn the place into a reliable and secret source of food. Lucky for the pigs however, the sailors never returned. The creatures have never had to worry about their own food, thanks to the passing yachts that regularly dump excess food into the sea. It seems the pigs are able to tell when their next ‘shipment’ is arriving, so they eagerly plunge into the waves when they spot a yacht. They sweem a few feet up to the vessel, in the hope of getting the best catch.

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Popeye’s Village in Real Life

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Tucked away in the small European country of Malta is a place you’d probably never expect to find in the real world– Popeye’s Village. Also known as Sweethaven Village, it is an ideal family-vacation spot and one of Malta’s major tourist attractions. The fun park is modeled on the theme of the favorite children’s cartoon character, Popeye the Sailor Man. Interestingly, this village was the actual set used by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions to shoot the 1980 film Popeye, based on the comic strips by E. C. Segar.

At Sweethaven, you can expect to see models of all the main characters of the popular children’s cartoon – Popeye the Sailor, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Swee’Pea and Wimpy. You can also go on joy rides and visit play houses, puppet shows, museums, and cinema sessions featuring the film Popeye and the construction of the set. You can even star in your own film, record it and take it home. But that’s not all, there are a host of other things to see and experience, like face painting, balloon modelling, storytelling, open-air barbeques, crafts and Wii games. There’s also a mini golf course and a free wine tasting for adults. The season-specific activities are a huge hit as well, these include water trampolines, play pools and boat rides during the summer, and a Christmas Parade along with Santa’s toy town in December.

Popeye-Village-Malta

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Austria’s Healing Caves Offer Radioactive Miracle Cure

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The largest pain management center in the world, and a popular health tourism destination, the Healing Caves of Gastein welcome over 75,000 people every year. They all flock to this miraculous place to undergo a controversial form of therapy with radioactive radon gas used to cure a variety of medical conditions, from arthritis to psoriasis.

When the people of Gastein started exploring the nearby Radhausberg Mountain in search of gold, they had no idea they would discover something infinitely more valuable –  naturally occurring low levels of radon gas. In time, they realized that the radioactive gas combined with the mountain caves’ high humidity and temperatures of up to 41.5° Celsius helped strengthen their immune system and cured some very serious illnesses. Word about the Gastein Healing Caves spread like wild fire throughout all of Austria, Germany and other Central European countries, and today Gastein is known not only as a world-class skiing destination, but also as a miraculous place of healing with a mind-blowing success rate of 90%. Most of the people who come here for radon treatment say a few sessions in the caves keep them pain-free for a whole year. Apparently, the radioactive gas is absorbed through the skin and lungs, activating the body at a cellular level and stimulating the self-healing process.

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Sculptor’s Beautiful Tree Carvings Reveal Their Inner Spirits

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The Tree Spirits of Saint Simmons Island are one of the most fascinating roadside attractions in North America. Carved into dozens of live oaks and hardwoods, the mysterious wise faces that seem to reveal the trees’ inner spirits are the work of local sculptor Keith Jennings.

Jennings started his Tree Spirits project in 1982, as a hobby. Looking for a way to kill time around the house, the artist armed himself with a few hand tools and began exercising his artistic talents on a tree in his backyard. “I had too much time and too little money,” Keith remembers about the beginnings as a tree carver, but his works impressed the community to such a degree that he was later commissioned to release the inner spirits of 20 other trees around Saint Simmons Island, off the Georgia coast. Although it has long been said that the faces he sculpts into the trees are meant to represent the sailors who drowned on ships made from trees from the island, Keith Jennings dismisses the rumor. “The trees do it all,” he says. “I don’t have that much to do with it. The wood speaks to you, ya know?” Each of his intriguing artworks are created entirely according to the tree they’re carved into. “I like the way they age as they. The bark starts rolling over the edges and gives each one a spooky, eerie appearance,” the artist says.

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La Balade Des Gnomes – Belgium’s Fairytale Hotel

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If you’re looking to take a break from your everyday life and retreat in a fairytale world, there’s probably no better place than La Balade des Gnomes, near the picturesque town of Dubuy, Belgium. Featuring ten amazingly-decorated bedrooms and a special suite designed as a Trojan cow, this place is certainly unique.

Formerly an ordinary Belgian farmhouse, La Balade des Gnomes was transformed into a magical tourist resort by architect owner Dominic Noel. Inspired by fantasy settings, ancient Greek history, science fiction and medieval castles, the resourceful Mr. Noel managed to create his incredible hotel exclusively out of natural materials like wood, stone and cob (mud mixed with lime and straw). “The hotel was created by people who have a strong interest in nature,” the owner says, but anyone with a rich imagination would certainly appreciate the unworldly design and decorations of this place. The names of the rooms do a good job of describing what you can expect to see when you walk through the door: The Legend of Trolls seems taken straight out of the Lord of the Rings, In a Moon Neighborhood takes you to a distant future where humans can spend their vacation in a hotel on the Moon, while Macquarie Island boasts a marine decor complete with a boat-shaped bed.

Balade-des-Gnomes-Hotel

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Share Breakfast with the Long Necks at Giraffe Manor

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How do you talk to a Giraffe face-to-face? By peeking out of the top-floor window of a very high house, of course. That’s exactly what the owners of Giraffe Manor, in Kenya, do. And you could too, if you went to spend a few nights in one of the 6 rooms of the old manor turned hotel.

The residents of this unique tourist attraction are the Carr-Hartley family, along with eight Rothschild giraffes, one of the rarest subspecies on the planet. The English-style manor was built in the colonial era and is part of a 140-acre estate in the shadow of Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley, both 41, grew up close to the house in Nairobi when they were children and always dreamed of owning it someday. So once they started a family of their own and the house came up for sale, they jumped at the opportunity. Since Michael’s family has been involved in the protection of animals for several generations, they do not mind taking care of the endangered giraffes. In fact, they love it.

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China’s MMO Video Game-Inspired Restaurants

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Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) video games are very popular in China. Combine that with the country’s culture of fakes and copycats and you get lots of unofficial merchandise and even venues  inspired by popular virtual reality universes. One such place was the World of Warcraft-themed restaurant on Chaoyang Road, in Beijing.

Opened in 2008, by a businessman who just happened to also be a huge fan of Blizzard’s fantasy universe, the unique World of Warcraft restaurant was designed entirely around the MMO and its original opening cinematic. Created as a “comfortable gathering place for fellow gamers”, this place had Warcraft-inspired decorations, dishes named after locations in the game and plasma screens showing live footage from the MMO world. The large banner above the entrance featured the game’s logo, an Alliance mage and a Horde warrior, as well as the crests of the two playable races. This would have probably been enough to attract the millions of Chinese fans who live and breathe World of Warcraft, but the entrepreneur really went all out trying to make the restaurant itself appeal to die-hard gamers.

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The Indian Coin Divers of Yamuna River

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It sometimes amazes me how humans are able to find a source of livelihood in almost any type of environment, in accordance with their surroundings. Case-in-point, the coin divers of the Yamuna River, in Delhi, India’s capital city. This unique group of men works around the year, braving the bone-chilling cold waters even during winters, to dive into the river and retrieve coins from the bottom. The same coins that are thrown into the waters by passengers of boats crossing the river, as an offering to the River Goddess. Wondering what such an offbeat job pays? Well, sometimes as little as 100-200 rupees (US $ 2 to 3) a day, and sometimes as much as a diamond ring.

22-year-old Sartaj Ahmed has been in the profession of coin-diving for the past 6 years. The brave young man says he started diving when he was just a boy, but it was only when he turned 18 that he began hunting for coins. “Some days I get 100-200 rupees but on lucky days, I can find small trinkets. I have even found a gold ring once.” 34-year-old Sajad Ahmed has been at it for 20 long years. He says it gets harder and harder each other, but they really do not have any other choice. 21-year-old Amit Kumar, who’s been doing this for 10 years, says, “We dive into the river and collect coins, brass, copper, sometimes even silver and gold.” Diving for coins is the only source of his daily income. “What can be done, I have to do something for my living. We live here so we keep diving here.”  Vicky, another young diver, says, “I dive and normally take home money for my daily expenses.” Raju says that he prefers coin diving because he doesn’t like working for a boss.

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Giethoorn – A Rural Venice in the Netherlands

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The tiny Dutch village of Giethoorn, located right in the middle of the De Wieden nature reserve, is fondly known as the Venice of Netherlands. Quite an apt name for the place, since it has distinct features that are reminiscent of the romantic Italian city – 7.5 km of canals, about 50 little wooden bridges, boat rides, quaint houses, and more.

If there’s something that Giethoorn does not have in common with Venice, it’s history. The small village was first inhabited in the year 1230 by a group of fugitives from the Mediterranean regions. It is said that when they first arrived in the area, they noticed an unusually large number of goat horns that were left over after the big flood of St Elisabeth had ravaged the area in 1170. So they named their settlement Geytenhorn (horn of goats), but with dialect changes over the years the name gradually changed to Giethoorn. There’s a story about how all the lakes came to be as well. Early settlers took to peat mining; they dug for peat in the areas that suited them the most and left holes in the ground. These holes soon filled up and turned into lakes of varying sizes. So to carry the peat from one area to another, they would sail through navigable canals and ditches. The means of transportation that was once a necessity is now a huge tourist attraction.

Giethoorn-Venice

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Conquer Your Fears in China’s Snake Village

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Nestled in the heart of a vast farmland in East China’s Zhejiang province, the small village of Zisiqiao has a pretty common look, but it hides a scary secret. The aptly names “snake village” is home to thousands of the most feared snaked species on Earth.

Snakes are a vital ingredient in Chinese medicine, and are also widely used to make soup and wine believed to increase a person’s immunity. As the number one snake village in China, Zisiqiao breeds and sells over 3 million snakes per year, to satisfy the ever-increasing demand. The 160 snake-breeding families living here now boast an annual income of several thousands yuan, and in this Year of the Snake, a significant profit increase is expected. The once poor village of Zisiqiao is now the envy of similar rural communities, with some of the larger snake farms making tens of thousands of dollars from this lucrative business. Obviously, it’s not the easiest job in the world, and most breeders admit they have been bitten several time, even by deadly snakes, but the rewards are definitely worth the risk.

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