Taiwan’s Funeral Strippers Dance for the Dead

9 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

Ok, what’s the last thing you’d expect to see at a funeral? So maybe stripper isn’t the first thing that pops into your head, but you have to admit it’s pretty darn strange. Apparently, in Taiwan, bringing a stripper to the funeral is an important part of the grieving process.

Taiwan’s funeral strippers would have probably remained a mystery to the western world, if not for the efforts of anthropologist Mark L. Moskowitz, who wanted to show US audiences what real culture is. His 40-minute documentary, Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan, sheds light on the bizarre practice through interviews with strippers, government officials and common folk.

Funeral strippers are apparently a pretty big part of Taiwanese culture, especially in rural areas. Up to the mid 1980s, this kind of raunchy performances took place all over the island, even in the capital city of Taipei, but after authorities passed laws against it, it disappeared from urban settlements and moved to the country. The laws aren’t as easy to enforce there and people seem to enjoy going to a funeral knowing they’ll get some adult entertainment. Strippers usually arrive on the back of diesel trucks known as Electric Flower Cars, and perform in front of the dead and his mourners. The scantly-dressed girls do pole dancing, sing, and some even come down  from their stage to interact with the audience (sit on their laps, give lap dances, shove their heads into their breasts, etc.).

..

CosquilleArte – The World’s First Tickle Spa Opens in Spain

2 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

Relaxing is probably one of the last words people use to describe tickling, but at the CosquilleArte Spa, in Madrid, Spain, they actually use delicate tickling techniques to relieve clients’ stress.

I’ve seen some pretty bizarre spas since I began writing for OC, from resorts treating guests to wine, tea and sake baths, to clinics that use crude oil as treatment, but I never imagined someone would get the outrageous idea of using tickling as a stress-relieving therapy. But what I found even more ridiculous was that the idea actually worked and CosquilleArte has become one of the most popular spa venues in the Spanish capital. It wasn’t until later, when I learned the tickling methods have nothing to do with the terrible torture we all had to face from childhood friends, that this unusual form of therapy started to make sense.

Instead of jabbing their fingers into clients’ sides and armpits, like I’m sure you and your friends/siblings used to torment each other, the massage therapists at CosquilleArte gently trace their fingertips and soft feathers down their backs and other sensible areas, and adjust their touches according to how ticklish every person is. Although most first time customers clench when they’re touched, they leave the wacky establishment a lot more relaxed than when they came in.

Photo by CosquilleArte

..

Entrepreneur Turns Atomic Reactor into Popular Amusement Park

4 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

Wunderland Kalkar is a unique amusement park built on the site of a never-used power plant, complete with a fast breeder reactor, in Kalkar, Germany.

Construction of the Kalkar nuclear plant began in 1972, but was constantly  delayed due to technical difficulties and protests from those concerned about the safety of nuclear power. When it was completed, over 10 year later, authorities decided to pull the plug on the project, and the $4 billion complex was dismantled in  less than a decade. The fast breeder reactor remained in place, and in 1995 Dutch entrepreneur Hennie van der Most bought what was left of the Kalkar plant for a mere €2.5 million and managed to turn it into a profitable amusement park visited by over 600,000 people, every year.

Wunderland Kalkar has around 40 rides, for children and adults alike, and a 400-bed hotel. Among the most interesting features of the park are the swing ride set up inside the cooling facility, and the climbing wall on its outer walls. Also, chairoplanes, quad bikes, go-karts and a whole bunch of other fun gadgets make trips to Wunderland Kalkar a blast for the whole family.

..

Entire Village Painted Blue for Smurfs Movie Launch

6 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

The small village of Juzcar, in Spain’s Malaga region, has recently been painted blue as part of a global promotion for the Sony Pictures film “The Smurfs 3D”.

Juzcar is a peaceful, traditional “pueblo blanco” village, located in the Genel Valley region of Andalucia. It boasts a population of just 250, and yet Sony has selected it as the perfect location for the world premiere of its new film “The Smurfs 3D”. Locals were delighted, especially since the news meant their small village would become a temporary tourist attraction, but their fame and fortune came at a price: Sony requested that the entire settlement, including its historic church be painted blue, to resemble the smurfs’ fantasy village.

In preparation for the big premiere on June 16, 12 unemployed locals armed with various painting tools used 4,200 liters of paint to turn Juzcar into a real life Smurf village. There have been no complaints regarding the sudden transformation, and considering tourists have already begun arriving, the locals are more than happy with the change. Although Sony has agreed to turn the village to its former white glory, locals are now considering leaving the town as it is now, hoping Juzcar could become a permanent tourist spot. It sounds like Chefchaouen might have some serious competition.

..

China Inaugurates Park Made Entirely Out of Clay

1 CommentStumble it Icon digg it Icon

A unique cultural park made entirely out of clay has recently been open to the public, in Tangshan City, China.

Featuring rows of houses, busy streets filled with vendors and their carts, high ranking officials and horse-pulled carriages, the park is a reproduction of Zhang Zerui famous scroll painting Riverside Scene during the Qingming Festival. The man behind this unique project is a local from the city’s Fengrun District, named Qin Shiping. Tangshan has along standing tradition in ceramics, and Qin worked as a sculptor and painter ever since he was a young boy. In 2005, he got the idea to offer a unique view on China, and since he had always been a fan of Zhang Zherui’s painting, he decided to recreate the images depicted in the artwork with clay sculptures.

Qin Shiping put his idea into practice in 2008. He hired two clay sculpture experts with plenty of experience behind them, and 100 more regular clay workers who got started on the project. Three years later, the Tangshan clay sculpture park has finally been completed and opened to the general public. It’s 300 meters long and 60 meters wide and has been built at 2/3 life-size scale. The exact cost of the park hasn’t yet made public, but back in 2009, Qin Shiping stated he had already invested over 10 million yuan ($1,545,000).

..

India’s Ram Ram Bank Gives Whole New Meaning to Banking

Comments OffStumble it Icon digg it Icon

It has no guards, no locks, offers no interest or credit schemes, and doesn’t event deal in money. Still, India’s unusual Ram Ram Bank, in New Delhi, serves over 5,000 happy customers, with more signing up every day.

Ram Ram Bank was established 25 years ago, by Tewari, a retired school teacher from Sitapur, who quit his job in 1983, after his guru advised him to devote his life to Lord Ram. He got the idea of opening a bank where people could deposit their “Ram naam” (pieces of paper with the Lord’s name scribbled hundreds of times). He didn’t need any security, since the writings were of no use to mere mortals, and all he had to do was deposit them and ocasionally take them to be displayed at a temple in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Ram.

Scribbling Ram naam notes has always been very popular in India. Some people say it helps them connect with God, others say the faith helps them work harder to achieve their goals, but all of them claim that writing Ram’s name just makes them feel better. In the past, everyone who wrote these holy notes traveled to Ayodhya themselves and deposited them at the temple, but in this day and age fewer people find the time to do it anymore. That’s where the Ram Ram Bank comes into play. All a person has to do is write his Ram naams every day and send them straight to the bank, or hand them over to one of the many volunteers around the city, at their own convenience.The pieces of paper are deposited in a small room, and taken to Ayodhya every six months.

..

Thai Temple Interior Inspired by Modern Sci-Fi Movies

2 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

You’d probably expect temple murals to depict religious themes and Buddha, but the Wat Rong Khun temple in Chiang Rai isn’t your ordinary holy place, as you can easily tell by the murals.

According to Wikipedia, in 1997, Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat volunteered to carry out the work for Wat Rong Khun’s ubosol (the temple’s assembly hall) at his own expense, but he changed the original plan so drastically that it  began drawing in both local and foreign tourists, eager to see the white wonder. Just like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia cathedral, the unconventional Buddhist and Hindu temple is still under construction and some say it won’t be finished in the next 100 years.

Wat Rong Khun is entirely white, to symbolize Lord Buddha’s purity, and the mirrors used signify his wisdom, which “shines brightly all over the Earth and the Universe.” There is also an impressive bridge across a sea of human hands reaching out towards the sky, but perhaps the most interesting thing about this unique temple is its interior artwork. The imagery is painted in golden tones, depicting sacred animals and spaceships alike. That’s right, futuristic spaceships piloted by robots, ans superheroes like Superman in flight, that’s what’s painted inside Wat Rong Khun. Other scenes you might recognize show popular characters like the Predator, Neo from Matrix, Spiderman, Batman, and even creatures from the Avatar movie.

..

Ting Mong – Cambodia’s Creepy Scarecrows

Comments OffStumble it Icon digg it Icon

If you ask me, common scarecrows are creepy enough, but the Cambodian Ting Mong carry real firearms and instead of birds they scare off evil spirits.

Scarecrows usually belong in  the fields, protecting villagers’ crops, but in some Cambodian villages you’ll see them in front of houses, by the gate, or on garden paths, and you can bet they’re not there to scare some man-eating birds. Ting Mong are a part of old Khmer culture, and even though Budhism came to Cambodia thousands of years ago, there are still some rural areas where people believe in spirits and their power over the living. These creepy “scarecrows” are actually guardians who ward off evil spirits and protect against disease and death.

Many Khmers believe a powerful force is embodied in the Ting Mong, which will keep spirits from coming inside, and to make them even more effective, they equip the life-size dolls with real or sculpted weapons. Some carry machetes and swords, while other carry modern weaponry like revolvers, AK47s and even sculpted bazookas. Even a bad-ass spirit wouldn’t dare approach a Ting Mong carrying this kind of firepower.

..

Chefchaouen – The Blue City of Morocco

5 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

One of Morocco’s most popular tourist destinations, Chefchaouen is most known for its blue-rinsed buildings and alleys, an old tradition leftover from the city’s Jewish population.

Chefchaouen was founded by Moorish exiles from Spain, in 1471, as a small fortress to fend off the attacks of invading Portuguese forcess in northern Morocco. After the Spanish Reconquista, the small mountain town became one of the largest Moriscos and Jews  refuge sites, and during their stay they managed to leave their mark on it, one that makes the modern city so special.

The name Chefchaouen comes from “chauen”, which is Spanish for horns, and refers to the shape of the two mountains overlooking the settlement. But it’s not its strange name, the beautiful and unique handicrafts sold by local craftsman, or the delicious goat cheese that attracts the majority of tourists to Chefchaouen. It’s the blue-painted houses and buildings of the city, a tradition inherited from the former Jewish inhabitants. In the Bible, Israelites are commanded to dye one of the threads in their tallit (prayer shawl) blue, with tekhelel. This was an old natural dye, processed from a species of shellfish, but in time its production collapsed and the Jewish people eventually forgot how to make it. But, in honor of the sacred commandment, the color blue was still woven into the cloth of their tallit. When they look at the dye, they will think of the blue sky, and the God above them in Heaven.

While the Jewish population of Chefchoauen isn’t as numerous as it one was, practically everyone in the city still follows this old tradition and frequently renew the paint job on their homes.

..

Azerbaijan Clinic Uses Crude Oil Baths as Therapeutic Treatments

2 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

A clinic in the town of Naftalan, 160 miles noth-west of Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, has found a therapeutic use for its abundant quantities of crude oil.

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s leading oil exporters, and in the country’s western plains “black gold” has been seeping out of the ground for centuries. In fact, they have so much of the stuff, that in the town of Naftalan, they use the excess crude oil as a cure for various illnesses. It all goes down at the famous Naftalan Clinic, where people from all over the former Soviet Union and even from the Emirates and Europe come to treat various skin diseases, rheumatism, arthritis and even their nerves with crude oil. Doctors here say their miraculous oil therapy is used to trat up to 100 different conditions.

The most popular treatment at Naftalan is the crude oil bath. Patients lower their bodies into 35 gallons of crude oil, at a temperature of 40 degrees. Many of them say the warm oil relaxes their joints and they’d love to spend more than 10 minutes soaked in black oil, but since it contains almost 50% naphthalene, a hydrocarbon deemed potentially carcinogenic by EU regulations, longer sessions could be hazardous to their health. The clinic’s doctors claim millions of people have been treated at Naftalan over the years, and none of them have suffered any complications, as a result. Still, to be on the safe side they limit the sessions to 10 minutes, and no more than a bath per day, during a 10-day treatment.

..

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the Cats

15 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the Cats is regarded as a sacred cat haven in Cyprus, as it’s name has been linked to felines for almost 2,000 years.

The original monastery was built in 327 AD, by Kalokeros, the first Byzantine governor of Cyprus, and patronised by Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. At that time, a terrible drought affected the whole of Cypus, and the entire island was overrun with poisonous snakes which made building the monastery a dangerous affair. Many of the inhabitants left their homes and moved off the island, for fear of the snakes, but Saint Helena came up with a solution to the plague – she ordered 1,000 cats to be shipped in from Egypt and Palestine to fight the reptiles.

In the following years, the cats did their duty, hunting and killing most of the snakes in the Akrotiri Peninsula, which soon came to be known as the “Cat Peninsula”. The monks would use a bell to call the cats to the monastery at meal time, and then the felines were dispatched to their snake-hunting duties. Pilgrims from all around Europe traveled to the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas to see its feline guardians, and the discovered documents of a Venetian monk describe them as scarred, missing various body parts, some completely blind as a result of their relentless battle against the snakes.

..

Valle de la Prehistoria – Cuba’s Jurassic Park

1 CommentStumble it Icon digg it Icon

Valle de la Prehistoria, near the city of Santiago de Cuba, is a prehistoric-themed tourist attraction that features life-size models of over 200 dinosaurs and cavemen.

Located inside the Bocanao National park, Valle de la Prehistoria spreads over 11 hectares of land and is as close as it can get to a real-life Jurassic Park. The vast recreational park dedicated to science and palaeontology is split into multiple areas separated by geological epochs, and features lush vegetation, man-made waterfalls and 227 concrete statues representing 59 different species, including dinosaurs, mammoths, felines and early cavemen.

Perhaps the most spectacular statue in the whole Valle de la Prehistoria is the 12-meter-high Cro magnon welcoming tourists at the park entrance, with a giant stone axe in hand and a Flintstones-like sign post that reads “Do not hesitate! Go! Dare to discover the Jurassic Park dreamed by Spielberg himself”. According to people who visited this popular tourist attraction, it is indeed a fun way to travel back in time, and no other facility manages to recreate a prehistoric atmosphere as faithfully.

..

The Hill of Crosses – A Man-Made Christian Miracle

Comments OffStumble it Icon digg it Icon

Covered with over 100,000 crosses of different sizes, Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses is both a symbol of the country’s nationalism and an international pilgrimage site.

Located 12 kilometers north of the small industrial city of Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses is believed to date back to the 14th century, during the occupation of the Teutonic Knights. The tradition of placing crosses began as a symbol of the people’s fight for independence and their fight against foreign invaders, and evolved into a struggle of Lithuanian Catholicism against oppression. During the peasant uprising that lasted between 1831 and 1863, people erected crosses on the hill, in protest, and by 1895 there were around 150 of them on the site. By 1940, the number of large crosses grew to 400, surrounded by many other smaller ones.

Occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, Šiauliai and the Hill of Crosses suffered significant damage when the Soviets took over, at the end of the conflict. The communist regime repeatedly removed all the crosses and leveled the hill three times, in 1961, 1973 and 1975, burning the wooden crosses and turning metal ones into scrap metal. The area was covered with waste and sewage to discourage locals from returning, but the Hill of Crosses was a symbol of Lithuanian nationalism and the pilgrims from all over the country quickly came back to the hill after each desecration, to place even more crosses. Many of them risked their lives sneaking past armed guards and through barbed wire fences to show their commitment to national struggle. The Soviet’s finally got the message and in 1985, the Hill of Crosses was finally left in peace, and its reputation rapidly spread throughout the Christian world.

..

Nestinarstvo – The Fire Dancing Ritual of Bulgari

2 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

A centuries-old custom that can be traced back to the Tracians, Nestinarstvo (Fire Dancing) is a mysterious ritual in which people actually dance on smouldering embers without getting any burns.

Believed to be one of the oldest pagan rituals in the Balkans, Nestinarstvo has defied persecution by both the Christian Church and communism and is still practiced in some Bulgarian and Greek speaking villages of the Strandzha Mountains. One of this remote settlements is the legendary Bulgari village, where people still dance on hot coals, just like their ancestors have done for thousands of years.

The enigmatic ritual of Nestinarstvo begins at sunset, when the chief nestinar (fire dancer), wearing a white shirt and red sash wrapped around his waist, arrives in Bulgari’s square and begins spreading the hot embers in a circle. Street lights are turned-off  and all the villagers gather around the scorching dancing ring, accompanied by the sound of bagpipes and drums. The nestinari begin dancing around the circle, carrying religious icons, and then suddenly walk through fire, their feet lightly touching the red-hot embers, sometimes pressing down hard in circular motion. The dance continues until the nestinari put out the blaze with their feet.

..

The Unique Burial Customs of Tana Toraja

3 CommentsStumble it Icon digg it Icon

The Toraja Tribe of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is known for the cheerful way of treating death, and its unique burial grounds carved in sheer rock.

One of the most beautiful tourist destinations of Indonesia, the green hills of South Sulawesi are home to the Toraja, a tribe that still honors the old Austronesian lifestyle, similar to Nias culture. Most tribe members are Christians, converted during Dutch colonization, but traces of their old beliefs still remain and are most visible during funeral festivities and burial customs. The Toraja are obsessed with death, but not in a tragic sense; to them funerals are a lot like going-away parties celebrated by sacrificing dozens of buffaloes and pigs for a feast enjoyed by the entire community.

The main concern of a Toraja tribe member is to make sure he raises enough money so his family can throw the best party in town, when he leaves this world. Their bodies are stored under the family home for years after their death. During this time the remaining relatives refer to that person not as “the deceased” but as “the sick”, and raise money for the actual funeral, which is usually attended by hundreds of guests. Tourists are welcome to attend the festivities, as long as they don’t wear black or red.

..

Page 21 of 40« First...10...1920212223...3040...Last »