Taichung’s Rainbow Village – The Hand-Painted Wonder of Taiwan

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It’s hard to believe that one man can change the fate of an entire village. Huang Yung-fu, an 86-year-old war veteran has done just this.

Huang lives in a village in a corner of the Taiwanese city of Taichung, a community that was created for Nationalist soldiers in the 1940s and 50s. Over the years, the place slowly changed into a permanent settlement, suffering from urban problems like abandonment, decay and housing dereliction. However, none of this is visible in the settlement today, thanks to the transformation brought about by Huang’s colorful paintings. The streets and the walls of practically every building in the village are covered with Huang’s simplistic paintings of plants, animals, TV personalities, birds and buffaloes. Considering the fact that he began painting only two years ago, his accomplishment is pretty huge. The bright colors and simple strokes used by Huang only add to the attractiveness of his work.

Photo by Steve Barringer

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Japan’s Creepy Hotel for the Dead

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A hotel for the dead, now that’s something. This one is for real, actual corpses. And it’s pretty luxurious, going from the pictures. It’s a place where your folks check you in, and you wait it out until it’s time for you to be cremated. Also, it’s pretty luxurious.

The hotel Lastel run by Hisayoshi Teramura in Japan’s Yokohama suburbs, looks like any other building from the outside. In fact, young couples mistake it for a regular hotel and come asking for accommodation. But the place is not meant for lovers, or for weary travelers. Only for those who have already made their final exit from this world. The need for such a hotel very much exists in Japan, where there is a wait time of at least four days for a crematorium. With a total of 1.2 million deaths in the country in 2010, the annual death rate is at 0.95%, while the global average is only 0.84%. The Japanese also apparently tend to splurge on funerals, on the cost of flowers, coffins and memorial services. Mr. Teramura seems to have found a business opportunity in the area of death.

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Leila’s Hair Museum Is a Tribute to Victorian Hair Art

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Leila Cohoon of Independence, Missouri is a retired hairdresser. She now teaches hair weaving and runs her own cosmetology school. She is however, linked to hair in more ways than apparent. Leila collects hair art, and puts it all on display in her museum.

What is hair art, you ask? We wondered the same. Contrary to expectations, the museum does not display human hair in bunches, like the hair museum of Avanos, nor is the hair taken from the heads of the dead. Ask Leila, and she explains that hair art consists of intricate wreaths of hair set in frames to create beautiful designs. These frames were frequently used to decorate Victorian homes. Leila’s collection started in 1956, with wreaths and jewelry made from hair. Initially she stored her collection in her house, under the bed. Around 20 years ago, she decided to display them and started a one-room museum in her cosmetology school. She later rented out a commercial space and runs her museum there. The walls of Leila’s Hair Museum are completely covered from floor to ceiling, with hair art. Her collection includes over 300 wreaths and 2000 pieces of jewelry containing human hair.

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Collector’s Holiday Home Houses over 10,000 Teddy Bears

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Ricky Lenart, an artist and resident of Uptown New Orleans, has an entire holiday home dedicated to his collection of teddy bears. Every room of his three-story house at Duffossat Street is filled with the soft toys, a total of 10,000 in number.

Lenart’s unusual hobby did not come cheap. He says that it would have actually been cheaper to give people $10,000 each. This year alone, he spent a total of $40,000 to $50,000 on decorations for his home. He says he has had a lifelong fascination of teddy bears, which prompted him to start his collection. Before he knew it, the bears were everywhere. The Teddy Bear House, as it is called, hosts guided tours for visitors in the holiday season. All the bears are put on display in various rooms, and are otherwise put in storage between seasons. The guided tour sessions are an hour-long and proceeds from ticket sales are donated to nonprofit organizations.

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The Iconic Goat Tower of Fairview

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The Fairview Wine and Cheese farm in South Africa is famous for more than just its wine and cheese. Owned and run by Charles Back, it houses a unique monument built for the comfort and use of the farm’s goats – The Goat Tower. Acknowledging the fact that goats love to climb, sometimes even up on livestock, to get a better view, Back first got the idea of the tower some thirty years ago.

The tower, a first of its kind, is built of brick and mortar, and consists of a steep metal roof. It also has a spiral staircase made of wood, and windows too. The goats in Fairview farm have the privilege of climbing the two-story tower at will, resting within it. Since 1981, the tower has become a symbol of the winery, so much so that they produce a wine called “Goats do Roam”. The goat tower is by far, the first known to be built with such a purpose in mind. However, according to Back, the tower was inspired by a similar one his parents had seen during a vacation in Portugal. As a result of that trip the farms first goats were purchased, and the tower built.

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Wieliczka Salt Cathedral – Poland’s Underground Wonder

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The Wieliczka Salt Mines in Poland have been used for several centuries to extract salt, but are now in the news for a different reason. Through their excavations and adventures, Polish miners have left behind something unique in these underground spaces, little known to the world until recently. 

It has been over ten years since any salt has been extracted from the Wieliczka Mines, and yet, people still pay a visit. Though an ordinary-looking mine from the outside, just 200 meters down below, lies an astonishing spectacle to behold. The salt mine has actually been converted into a cathedral, art gallery and it also contains a lake.

What’s all the more beautiful and intriguing about this place is that it has been built over the years by miners themselves. During the course of a few centuries, generations of miners left behind pieces of art, religious and historical figures, and even built their own cathedral down under there, to be able to pray. The huge cathedral is perhaps the most astonishing of the wonders that lie below the ground. Remarkable religious carvings can be found, of scenes such as the Last Supper and Jesus appearing to the apostles after crucifixion.

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Brazil’s Ballet School for the Blind

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Reports of visually impaired people performing regular activities with finesse are not new. However, such stories never cease to amaze us. The resilience and confidence displayed by some of the blind leave us awestruck, and sometimes the blind are even able to do things that people with normal vision are not.

Dance is one such activity. While it is almost inconceivable to think of a blind person being able to perceive and enact the dance moves of a beautiful and classical form like ballet, a Brazilian ballet school has managed to do just that – train blind dancers. And how they dance!

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Mauth Ka Kuan – India’s Well of Death

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Circus shows have been getting censored, simplified and overall less exciting just about everywhere. Not in India though, that’s the place where the infamous phrase “death defying stunt” lives on through Mauth Ka Kuan, or the Well of Death.

Though originally performed all over the world, riding a bike on a vertical wall can now only be seen live in the “Land of contrasts” and it makes visiting the place even more tempting. The stunt is old so you’d imagine India’s bike riders have honed and perfected it to the highest level. Actually, the Well of Death – as the arena is referred to – isn’t just a marketing ploy.Riding on incredibly old bikes that haven’t seen maintenance since they left the factory, the Indian bikers ride with absolutely no safety gear at break neck speeds. The walls on which they ride are vertical and built from salvaged wood.

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China’s Richest Village Is a Tribute to Knockoffs

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China is the most populated country in the world, probably the most hard working country in the world and well on its way toward becoming the richest one as well. Considering how they’ve managed to achieve such a feat is considerably less fun than making snide remarks at their legendary knockoff business.

Millions of brands around the world saw their products replicated cheaply and brands like Mike, Abidas, iFone appeared from nowhere. Though still considerably involved in the replica production China has since come a long way. Just about every manufacturer on Earth has plants there and, more importantly, most of their products are being sold there as well. You’d imagine that once the Asian country got a real taste of proper products, started making some real money and was looking for what to spend it on, they’d forget about the cheap fakes right?Well, sort of, rather unusually, the Chinese have now acquired a taste for expensive fakes. A prime example would be the country’s richest village.

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Katskhi Pillar – Going to Church on a Stairway to Heaven

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Trust me on this, that headline has absolutely nothing rock’n’roll about it . Weirdly enough, it’s actually true and you can even go on to experience it yourself, provided you’re willing to travel.

Travel a little or a lot rather depends on where you’re starting from as you’ll have to go to Georgia in order to live this out. Oh, and that’s not Georgia, the American state, but Georgia a small country that sits borderline between Europe and Asia. In this rather remote country, that’s seen it’s fair share of misfortune over the years for various political issues, economic and social pressures and so on, you’ll be able to find an unusual bastion of hope.

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Haenyo – The Diving Grandmothers of Jeju Island

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The Korean Jeju islanders have something to be proud of – their grandmas are divers. It may seem surprising, but for the people of the island this has been a way of life for centuries now. This tradition, once a thriving profession that drove the economy of the land, is in fact, now fast deteriorating.

To understand more about the diving grandmothers, we need to go back a few hundred years in Korean history. Jeju Island lies around 53 miles to the south of mainland Korea. Given the geographical location, fishing has always been the major occupation of this Island. The surrounding waters are rich in exotic sea food like octopus, conch, abalone and urchin.

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La Pourcailhade – Becoming a Pig in France

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La Pourcailhade is a festival dedicated to one of the most popularly eaten animal around the world, the pig. I’d like to mention that the Festival isn’t dedicated to pork as much as it is to the pig. There’s the usual “eat the most… to win” contest and a few barbecues go on but they’re far from being the main attractions at La Pourcailhade.

These would be the Best Pig Outfit competition, the “Cri do Cochon” and even the piglet race. The latter is self explanatory and it is made even more fun by betting on the side. It’s basically what the Koreans feel when going to the dog tracks.Where things during La Pourcailhade get even more interesting is in the Best Pig Outfit competition. It is also rather self explanatory but could you seriously imagine anything funnier than grown people walking around and showcasing their pig-like appearance? Especially French people, perceived as some of the coolest and snottiest people in the world.

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Japan’s Zauo Restaurants, Where You Catch Your Own Meal

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Zauo, which translates as “sit and fish” is a unique restaurant chain where clients are given fishing gear and get to catch what they want to eat. It’s one of those quirky places where you just have to go for an authentic Japanese experience.

I don’t know if they were inspired by the old saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” or if they just thought the concept would put them ahead of the competition, but one thing is for sure – whoever thought of making Zauo a fishing restaurant hit the jackpot. It is one of the most popular venues in all of Japan, for locals and tourists alike, and whether you like sushi and sashimi, katsus, sukiyaki and other hotpots, or cooked fish, Zauo has it all.

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Japan’s Pig Rodeo – Animal Cruelty or Just Plain Fun?

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Although pigs aren’t exactly known for their speed and stamina, the people of Mikame, in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture seem to think they’re the perfect animals to ride.

Ehime Prefecture has been known as Japan’s pork production capital for a long time, and 25 years ago someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate by riding hogs in a unique event known as Pig Rodeo. Part of the annual Seiyo City Mikame Summer Festival, the crazy event has been a popular tourist attraction, but to most of the western world it remained a mystery until 2009, when a YouTube video was picked up by a number of media outlets. There was a lot of controversy surrounding pig rodeo, at the time, and someone even started an online petition to get it banned, but in the last two years there were hardly any stories written on the subject.

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Paga Village – Where Crocs and Men Live in Perfect Harmony

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The small village of Paga, in Ghana, defies the laws of nature as local population bathes and swims in the same nearby pond as over 100 deadly crocodiles. So far none of the villagers have ever been harmed by the reptiles.

Something very weird is definitely going on in the African village of Paga, where people live happily among crocodiles who don’t seem to mind their company, either. It is believed everyone in the village has a corresponding crocodile in Bolgatanga, and according to reliable sources the deaths of important village personalities have coincided with the death of a crocodile. Because they believe crocs are the souls of their village relatives, people never hurt or kill the sacred animals. That’s all very nice, but what’s really bizarre is the crocodiles themselves seem to have developed a strong relationship with their human neighbors and never cause them any harm. Young men go knee-deep into the water to fish, right next to the some of the world’s largest crocodiles, and always come out unharmed.

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