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Thailand’s Cobra Village – Where Men and Snakes Live in Harmony

Sixty years ago, a doctor from Thailand had a vision for his small, dusty old village – to convert it into a major tourist attraction. And in an attempt to do so, he actually convinced his fellow villagers to raise pet snakes in their homes, putting them in shows for tourists. Surprisingly the ploy worked, and today the village of Ban Kok Sa-Nga in Thailand’s Northeastern Province of Khon Kaen is better known as ‘The Cobra Village’, among tourists.

All of the 140-odd homes in Ban Kok Sa-Nga have at least one pet snake, which they place outside in wooden boxes. The pet snakes range from deadly ones, such as king cobras or monocled cobras, to less dangerous ones such as copperheaded racers and pythons. The atmosphere in the village itself is always festive; it is one big snake show theme attraction. The snakes are bred in captivity and put together in daredevil shows such as – you won’t believe this – man vs. snake boxing matches. Obviously not for the light-hearted, these shows involve the handlers taunting an already enraged giant king cobra. As the snakes slither across the stage, the men pull their tails to provoke them further. Despite all the weird stunts that take place in these shows, what spooks out most tourists is the level of comfort the villagers share with the snakes. Most people are terrified of these creatures, but the people of Ban Kok Sa-Nga don’t even bat an eye-lid. Even the children are completely at ease; they are taught how to handle snakes, how to fight them and feed them, at a very young age.

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Aogashima Island – Living inside a Volcano

Can you imagine yourself living in a giant volcanic crater? Well, for starters, you can forget about Starbucks. But it sure would be the ultimate destination to get away from it all. It’s not all that surprising then, that about 200 people actually inhabit the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, with only one school and a single post office.

Aogashima, a part of the Izu Archipelago, lies two hundred miles south of Tokyo, in the Philippine Sea. The island and its 205 inhabitants (as of 2009), are a part of Japan and governed by Tokyo. When I first saw pictures of this breathtaking location, it sort of reminded me of an inverted pudding on a plate. Or an oddly shaped donut. But Aogashima is really a volcano within a volcano. The island is quite well known for having a volcanic caldera within a larger caldera. So what you have is one big, giant crater, which is the island itself, inside which is nestled a much smaller version of itself. This gives the whole island a rather mysterious appeal, almost like something out of a fantasy movie. It’s hard to believe there are such places still left in the world, untouched by noisy human activity.

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Meet the Flintstones in Arizona’s Real-Life Bedrock

If you are a loyal Flintstones fan, then you’re going to love this, especially if you live around northern Arizona. Because that’s where the real-life Bedrock city is located. Not an actual city of course, but a place to go to 365 days a year to experience Stone Age with your favorite cartoon characters. Closed only on Christmas day, it’s an improvement over the first Bedrock city in Cluster, South Dakota, which is open only from the middle of May through Labor Day.

Arizona’s Bedrock City was built in 1972, by Francis Speckles, son of an investor. At the time it used to feature a live Fred and Barney. But that wasn’t easy to sustain, given the isolation of the area and the shortage of local workers. But the isolation is actually a blessing-in-disguise, because it gives the place a whole lot of charm, and an authentic Stone Age feel. Today, the place consists of colorful concrete structures that recreate the magic of the 1960s animated series. Located at about a half hour’s drive south of the Grand Canyon, Bedrock City is a great roadside stop for people who want to relive some wonderful memories, especially those who grew up in the 60s and 70s.

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Strange Wedding Customs – The Crying Ritual of the Tujia People

Throughout history, various cultures have had strange requirements of their women. But none perhaps as strange as the custom of crying before marriage, as followed in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province. According to the custom, it is mandatory for a bride to cry at her own wedding, whether she likes it or not.

The crying marriage ritual was at its peak during the early 17th century and remained so until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. It is said to have originated during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC), when historical records reveal that the princess of the Zhao State was to be married into the Yan State. At the moment of the princess’ departure, her mother is said to have cried at her feet, asking her to return home as soon as possible. This is said to be the first crying marriage ever. Although the custom is not as popular now as it used to be, there are still a large number of families that practice it with gusto. In fact, it is a necessary procedure for marriage among the Tujia people, in China’s Sichuan Province. The ritual itself is pretty simple – the bride has got to shed tears. If she doesn’t or is unable to, her neighbors will look down upon her as one of poor breeding. Worse still, she could even become the laughing stock of her village. In one extreme case, the bride was beaten by her mother for not crying at the wedding. Perhaps the girl was too happy to be free from her mother?

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World’s Worst Hotel Warns Visitors Not to Sue Before They Arrive

What’s the worst hotel you’ve ever stayed in? Never mind, it couldn’t have been any worse than the Hans Brinker Budget Hostel in Amsterdam, which actually prides itself on being the “world’s worst hotel”.

While most other hotels go out of their way to convince potential clients they have the cleanest rooms, the most comfortable beds and the most incredible views, the Hans Brinker hostel lets everyone know just how awful their accommodations are. Some of their most popular advertising slogans include: “It can’t get any worse. But we’ll do our best” or “Improve your immune system – stay at Hans Brinker!” Pretty funny stuff and although a lot of people who stayed there confirm it’s pretty much all true, it apparently just adds to the charm of the place. Despite management’s best efforts to warn guests about the rudimentary facilities of their establishment, most of the hotel’s 511 beds in 127 rooms are occupied these days. Of course, the fact that no room costs more than €25 ($32) can be considered an incentive.

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Chinese Company Knocks Off Entire Austrian Village

A Chinese metals and mining company has invested nearly 1 billion dollars into replicating an entire Austrian scenic village just an hour away from Huizhou city, in subtropical southern China.

Nestled deep in the breathtaking Northern Limestone Alps, the village of Hallstatt is one of Austria’s most popular tourist attractions. Featuring a rich culture and history dating back to prehistoric times, and gorgeous natural surroundings, this unique piece of heaven draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Did I say unique? I meant once unique, because Chinese company China Minmetals Corporation has recently completed a replica of the iconic Austrian village in a scenic location, close to the city of Huizhou. The cost of this knock-off project was around $940 million. The Chinese have always been known for their skill in creating knock-offs, from designer clothes to smartphones, and fueled by China’s economic growth, their projects are becoming even more ambitious. They started out by copying iconic landmarks from around the world, then they moved to whole districts inspired by western civilization  and now they’re building replicas of entire settlements. I’m betting they’ll be replicating entire countries pretty soon.

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Indonesian Villages Use Piles of Sand Instead of Mattresses

The residents of three small fishing villages in the Batang region of Indonesia prefer to sleep on piles of sand than on modern mattresses. This ancient tradition that’s still practiced today for its supposed health benefits.

Taking a nap on a sandy beach is pretty relaxing, but can you imagine going to sleep on a pile of sand every night? For the people of Batang-Batang, there’s really no comparing mattresses to their amazing sand beaches. As the only thing they have in abundance, sand plays a crucial role in the life of these coastal communities. It’s everywhere around their homes, cooling their feet on hot summer days, and keeping them warm during the night, and it even enters their houses as comfortable beds. Even the richest of residents prefer sleeping on sand than on mattresses, and even if some own conventional beds, they are mostly for decorative purposes. The villagers, most of them fishermen, believe the sand brought in from nearby beaches has medicinal properties that can help with a variety of conditions, from rheumatism to itches, although there’s no scientific proof of this. However, it’s a known fact that the sand in the area is highly adaptive to air temperature. When the air is hot, the sand offers a nice cooling retreat, and on cold nights, it keeps the villagers warm.

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The Fake-Head Waitresses of Japan’s Anime Cafe

Maid cafes are a dime a dozen in Tokyo’s geeky Akihabara district, but Kigurumi Cafe t.t.t. one-ups them all by introducing waitresses wearing full-body suits and creepy plush heads to reallybring anime characters to life.

Wikipedia defines cosplay as a performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. You’ve probably seen cosplayers dressed as popular video game or anime characters at geeky events, or at least photos of them posted online. But few people know there’s an extreme type of cosplay known in Japan as Animegao or Kigurumi. It implies not only wearing a character’s costume, but also an oversize fake head complete with giant anime-style eyes to bring popular 2D drawn girls into our 3D world. If you’ve seen my post on Anna Amemiya, the half-human half-anime model, you already know what I’m talking about, if not, get ready to be freaked-out.

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Dung Spitting Competition Will Leave a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

Kudu Dung Spitting is an African sport popular enough to have its own official competition, in which contestants have to put a kudu dung pellet in their mouth and spit it as far as possible.

Some people use dung to make coffee taste better, but in some parts of Africa it’s used to fuel a weird pastime called Bokdrol Spoek. Roughly translated as “spitting buck droppings  this quirky tradition has people putting dung pellets in their mouth and spitting them as far as they can. The origins of kudu dung spitting can be traced back to tribal hunters who had difficulties catching the fast antelope. Most times the only sign of the animal was a trail of dung, which meant it had been there but it was long gone. Apart from swearing at the elusive kudus, hunters would engage in a contest of pellet spitting, to pass the time. In countries like South Africa, the disgusting custom is so popular that there’s even a championship held every year to find out who can spit a piece of antelope poop the farthest.

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Brooklyn’s Superhero Supply Shop, No Villains Allowed

Think you have what it takes to become a superhero, but lack all the necessary accessories and superpowers? Don’t worry, in the real world, antimatter and immortality can be bought by the gallon. Well, at least at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Shop they can.

Sure, most comic book superheroes made their own costumes, but these are busy times, and it’s more convenient to buy them That’s where the Superhero Supply Shop, in Brooklyn, New York comes is. If you have a few buck to spare, you can conceal your true identity behind a cool mask in no time at all. But capes and costumes are just a few of the awesome things you can find in this amazing place. Just because we haven’t all been blessed with incredible strength, mind control powers or lightning speed, doesn’t mean we can’t be superheroes, right? It just means we have to buy our superpowers, and there’s no shortage of those at the Brooklyn Superhero Supplu Shop. You can find x-ray glasses, grappling hooks, cans of gravity, cloning fluid, and even an invisible jet that costs $42 million. Whatever you need to make crime-fighting easier, these guys have it.

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El Bosc de les Fades – Barcelona’s Fairy Tale Cafe

If you’re looking for an other-worldly experience in the Catalonian city of Barcelona, look no further than El Bosc de les Fades (The Fairies’ Forest), a unique cafe decorated as an esoteric land of fairies.

Tucked away off Las Ramblas, on Pasatje Banca next to the Wax Museum, El Bosc de les Fades is one of the most unusual attractions of Barcelona. As the name suggests, this offbeat venue was inspired by a fairy forest, complete with an artificial woodland of snaking branches, trickling waterfalls, will-o-the-wisp lights, weird demons lurking in mirrors, various optical illusions  and, of course, fairies. It’s kitschy, yet original, and most people enjoy the novelty of it. The main room of the cafe offers plenty of seats under the lush artificial vegetation, or at the bar that’s also been decorated to fit the fairy tale theme, but for visitors who want the full-immersion effect of this place, there’s the private grotto where they can get lost in the very depths of the mysterious forest. And if you’re looking for a creepier fantasy setting, El Bosc de les Fades also features a “haunted house” room complete with eerie mannequins and a magic mirror in which apparitions suddenly appear and then vanish again.

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Share a Table with Your Pooch at Deco’s Dog Café

Animal cafes, places where you can enjoy a nice drink surrounded by animals, have become really popular in Asia, but Deco’s Dog Cafe takes things to a whole new level by allowing pet owners to share a gourmet meal with their pooches.

Even if they don’t have the time or space to take care of a pet, people seem to enjoy spending time around animals, so cat cafes, dog cafes, and even reptile cafes have become popular venues in Asia. But when Hideko Notani opened Deco’s Dog Cafe, in 2001, she wanted to create more than just a place where people could relax surrounded by pooches. She envisioned a cafe where dogs would be in charge instead of their owners, where they would be treated to gourmet meals very similar to those eaten by their human masters. The special menu includes human and canine versions of fine dishes like cabbage rolls, sweet potato scones and chicken pie, but  no one’s stopping owners from sharing the food with their dogs.

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Taiwan’s Carton Restaurant, Where Everything Except the Food Is Made from Cardboard

Located inside the Carton King Creativity Park, in Taichung City, Taiwan, the Carton Restaurant is a unique eatery where everything from the furnishings, to the decorations and even the plates are made from corrugated cardboard.

Unless you’ve actually been to Taichung, I assure you haven’t seen anything like the Carton King Restaurant before. Except for the food, the waiters and some cutlery, everything inside this place is made from cardboard and paper. It seems almost impossible, but you actually sit on cardboard chairs, sip drinks from cardboard cans, and eat your food out of cardboard bowls at a cardboard table. The food is pretty average, according to the reviews I’ve read, a bit on the pricey side, but that’s to be expected considering the amazing venue it’s served in. What’s great about this place is the recycling potential. In case anything breaks or becomes damaged, it’s simply recycled. That was actually the point of the whole Carton King Creativity Park, to show the real power of paper and cardboard, and convince people it can be used for a lot more than generic packaging.

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Bar Devoted to Female Self-Pleasuring Opens in Tokyo

If you’re a woman looking for a girls-only bar where you can talk about love and sex without any inhibitions, the Love Joule female self-pleasuring bar in Tokyo’s Shibuya entertainment district might be the perfect place.

Japan is known for its wide array of weird bars and restaurants, so it should come as no surprise it now has its very own “love and sex bar dedicated to women”. It’s known as Tokyo’s masturbation bar, and judging by the female self-pleasuring toys put on display behind the bar, you’d be tempted to think it’s nothing but a fancy sex shop. In reality, Love Joule is just a place where women can come and talk about topics that have long been regarded as taboo in the Japanese culture, without feeling embarrassed or worrying about social repercussions. “Once they take a seat, customers are able to experience a pleasant place in which they can openly discuss masturbation,” says owner Megumi Nakagawa. “Since most people view female masturbation as something of a mystery or taboo, it is not a usual topic at typical bars.” Read More »

World’s Largest Vertical Garden Grows on Italian Shopping Center

A shopping center in the Italian town of Rozanno has recently claimed a rather unusual Guinness record, for the world’s biggest vertical garden. Growing on the walls of the commercial complex, the unique garden covers an area of 1,263 square meters and is made up of about 44,000 plants.

Just o be clear, the thousands of plants covering the sides of Rozanno’s shopping center were not planted in the ground next to the building and simply grew to cover the walls, they actually grow on the building itself. Italian architect Francisco Bollani, who was in charge of the project, says it took his team a whole year just to grow all the 44,000 plants, and another 90 days to place them on the walls of the commercial building. Although it might seem like the walls are covered with soil from which the flora grows, the walls were actually lined with metallic containers that hold the plants. Using these Lego-like metal pieces made the vertical garden a lot easier to build then with classic methods, but it also increased the cost of the project to a total of €1 million ($1.3 million).

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