The Unique Burial Customs of Tana Toraja

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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.

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Galleta Meadows – A Metal Menagerie of Incredible Creatures

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Galleta Meadows is a unique sculpture park of the Anza Borrego Desert, filled with dozens of metal creatures that supposedly inhabited the area millions of years ago.

The Anza Borrego Desert isn’t the most hospitable place on the North American continent, and it’s definitely not where you’d expect to find an outdoor art exhibit like Galleta Meadows. Owned by multimillionaire Dennis Avery (as in Avery office supplies), this unusual tourist attraction is a desert creature park open to anyone brave enough to face the desert and the unbearable heat that comes with it.

The story of Galleta Meadows began in the 90′s, when Avery decided to invest some of his fortune in a vast territory in Borrego Springs. Ho got it for an “uncontestable price” but had no idea of how he was going to use it, so he put no barbwire around it and no “Private Property” signs. Later, he built a winter residence, followed by a tourist resort, a country club and a golf course, but he needed something unique to attract tourist to his newly opened facilities.

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The Hair Museum of Avanos

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Regarded as one of the weirdest museums in the world, the Hair Museum of Avanos, in Cappadocia, is definitely a must-see if you’re into bizarre tourist spots.

Ever since 3000 BC, Avanos has been known for its high quality earthenware, made from the mineral-rich mud of the Red River, but in recent years, the town has mostly been mentioned in relation to a unique hair museum created by skilled Turkish potter Chez Galip. The unusual establishment, located under Galip’s pottery shop, is filled with hair samples from over 16,000 women. The walls, ceiling, and all other surfaces, except the floor, are covered with locks of hair from the different women who have visited this place, and pieces of paper with addresses on them.

The story goes that the museum was started over 30 years ago, when one of Galip’s friends had to leave Avanos, and he was very sad. To leave him something to remember her by, the woman cut a piece of her hair and gave it to the potter. Since then, the women who visited his place and heard the story gave him a piece of their hair and their complete address. Throughout the years, he has amassed an impressive collection of over 16,000 differently colored locks of hair, from women all around the world.

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Fossil Cabin Museum Is Made of Thousands of Dinosaur Bones

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Often referred to as “the oldest cabin in the world”, the Fossil Cabin of Medicine Bow is a unique roadside attraction made of thousands of dinosaur fossils.

Located eight miles east of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, on US Route 30 is one of the most amazing tourist attractions in America – the Fossil Cabin. This starter cabin turned fossil museum is constructed of approximately 26,000 dinosaur bones extracted from the nearby Como Bluff dig site. It was designed by Thomas Boylan an entrepreneur who hauled out the dinosaur bones and together with his family completed the Fossil Cabin in 1933. Thomas had apparently been collecting dinosaur bones for seventeen years when he realized his entire pile of bones came from various species and there appeared to be no complete specimen, so he decided to use his collection as building material.

In 1938, Robert Ripley, of Ripley’s Believe It or Not dubbed it “the oldest cabin in the world” and judging by the primary building material, he wasn’t exaggerating one bit. It gained a lot of attention after that and it brought a lot of customers to Boylan’s neighboring gas station, but after he died, and Interstate 80 was built, business started to go downhill. The Fossil Cabin was sold to the Fultz family who managed it as a fossil museum. Inside visitors could admire and in some cases purchases various dinosaur bones, petrified sea-life, and other things that appeal to dinophiles.

Unfortunately, Fossil Cabin is currently closed to the public, pending acquisition of a new manager, but you can stop by and shoot some great photos of its dinosaur bone walls.

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The Miniature Wonders of Ave Maria Grotto

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The Ave Maria Grotto is a four-acre park featuring 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most important Christian buildings and shrines, located in Cullman, Alabama.

Known as “Jerusalem in Miniature” this wonderful attraction was built from concrete, stone and seashells, by Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk of the nearby St. Bernard Abbey. Joseph was born in Germany, in 1878 and nearly lost his life to a flu epidemic that swept around Europe. He emigrated to the USA as a teenager, and settled in Alabama, where a freak accident left him scoliosis and a back injury. That’s probably the reason he decided to join the newly opened Benedictine monastery of Cullman. He took his vows at the age of nineteen and was put in charge of the monastery’s powerhouse.

It was around this time Brother Joseph began tinkering with stones, leftover cement and other junk he found outside the powerhouse. He would build Bible scenes from old ink bottles and rusted birdcages, and his handiwork soon attracted the attention of Father Dominic, who asked him to make two miniature grottoes for him to sell and raise money for the abbey. The artworks were so impressive they sold immediately, so what Joe though was just a one time deal turned into a regular business, and he ended up creating over 5,000 grottoes.

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Man Lives in Real Life Adams Family House

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Steve’s Weird House is a Victorian home decorated with all kinds of oddities and unusual artifacts one would expect to find in the Adams Family mansion.

Steve Bard, also known as “Weird Steve” is just an average guy from Seattle who has dedicated his life to decorating his humble abode in the most unusual way possible. Every inch of his house is covered with curiosities, circus sideshow exhibits, antique medical instruments and all kinds of other weird junk. The items in Steve’s collection include the world’s smallest mummy, Siamese twin calves, wreaths woven from human hair, skeletons, and various two-faced animals.

Apart from all the creepy decorations he collected over the years, Steve has also put together a veritable Toaster Museum with over 150 antique toasters, a Funky Future Room decorated in the style of “The Jetsons” and “Barbarella”, and a Minotaur Garden set up in his back yard. The latter features a 13-foot-tall bust of a minotaur, a 25-foot-tall Rapunzel Castle Tower and a sinister cemetery.

Unfortunately, Steve’s Weird House isn’t an attraction open to the general public. He likes to keep all his precious esoteric collections to himself, although he could probably make loads of money if he turned his house into a tourist spot. Still, you can check out the inside of this real life Adams Family mansion through a virtual tour and two Youtube videos, at the bottom.

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Size Does Matter at Controversial Pigs of God Festival

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Pigs of God is a controversial Taiwanese festival and contest where pigs that have been force-fed for years are publicly slaughtered, then put on floats and paraded through the city streets.

The origins of this gruesome event aren’t very clear, but while some say it’s part of the religious beliefs of the Hakkas, an ethnic group with a population of over four million in Taiwan, animal rights activists claim that in the last few decades it has become a simple meaningless contest used by families to show off their wealth and power. They are currently fighting for the banning of a clear form of animal cruelty, and the substitution of real pigs with ones made of dough, rice or flowers.

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The Tree of Life – A Mysterious Natural Phenomenon

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Standing alone in the heart of the desert, miles away from any water source and other vegetation , the Tree of Life, in Bahrain, is one of the world’s most remarkable phenomena.

The Tree of Life is located 2 kilometers away from Jebel Dukhan, atop a 25-meter-high sandy hill, overlooking a golden sea of sand. The mystery of its survival in such harsh conditions has made it a legend among the people of Bahrain, and has attracted people from all around the world curious to see it first hand. The 400-year-old natural wonder has baffled biologists and scientists for years, and even though they’ve come up with several theories, it remains an enigma. Seeing this is a mesquite tree, some say its roots spread very deep and wide, reaching unknown sources of water, but no one has been able to prove it.

Locals have their own explanations when it comes to the secret of the Tree of Life, but theirs have little to do with science. Many of them believe this is the actual location of the Garden of Eden, while Bedouins are convinced the tree has been blessed by Enki, the mythical God of water. Whatever the explanation, it’s amazing how Sharajat-al-Hayat, as the Arabs call it, has kept growing continuously for around 4 centuries.

While the Tree of Life is one of the most famous attractions of Bahrain, visitors are instructed to double check their gear and make sure their car doesn’t get stuck in the sand, as we are talking about the middle of a desert.

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Aokigahara Forest – The Suicide Woods of Mount Fuji

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Referred to as “the perfect place to die” in Wataru Tsurumui’s bestselling book – The Complete Manual of Suicide – Aokigahara is a thick, dark forest located at the base of Mount Fuji, famous as a popular suicide spot.

No one knows exactly how many bodies go undiscovered among the trees of Aokigahara forest, but the ones uncovered so far have already earned this place an eerie reputation. In 2002 alone, 78 bodies were located in Aokigahara, and by 2006, another 16 suicides were reported. Some of the victims even carried copies of Tsurumui’s book with them, which makes this even creepier. The whole place is dotted with signs that read “please reconsider!” or “please consult the police before you decide to die!” but these have little power on those determined to die here.

“We’ve got everything here that points to us being a death spot. Perhaps we should just promote ourselves as ‘Suicide City’ and encourage people to come here,” says the mayor of Aokigahara exasperated by the high number of suicides registered in the area. Locals claim they can always tell who is going into the forest to admire its natural beauty, and who isn’t planning on ever coming back. They say part of the reason people decide to commit suicide in Aokigahara forest is because they want to die at the foot of the sacred Mt. Fuji and because it’s so dense and thick that sounds from just a few kilometers inside can’t be heard outside the woods.

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The Cat Museum of Kuching

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Located in the strange UFO-like DBKU building, in Kuching, the Cat Museum is the perfect tourist attraction for cat lovers interested in anything and everything feline.

The Malaysian city of Kuching translates as The Cat City, so it makes perfect sense it have its very own cat museum, especially since many Malaysians believe cats bring good luck. The Cat Museum, along with dozens of cat statues around Kuching were erected in celebration of the city’s name, and the important role cats play in the every day life of the locals. It was inaugurated in 1993, and has since then become a favorite destination of cat lovers all over the world.

The Cat Museum of Kuching features over 2,000 feline related items, but it’s much more than just a collection of artifacts – it’s also a research center that focuses on the history and various beliefs surrounding cats. Among the most impressive displays are a mummified Egyptian cat dating back to 3500 BC, and the only stuffed specimen of the world’s rarest cat, Felis badia,  which lives in the jungles of Borneo. There are also plenty of cat statues made by various cultures, cat photos, posters and even stamps for cat loving philatelists or morbid cat burial scenes.

Believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, the Kuching Cat Museum offers plenty of valuable information into the history of cats and their part in human life, and is a must-visit attraction for cat enthusiasts everywhere.

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The Sanctuary of Truth – Pattaya’s Wooden Wonder

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Rising105 meters into the sky, the Sanctuary of Truth is a one-of-a-kind gigantic structure that pays homage to the ‘Ancient Vision of Earth’, ‘Ancient Knowledge’ and ‘Eastern Philosophy’. It looks like a Thai temple or a palace, but it’s actually neither of them, so many people just look at it at as a monument to Thai craftsmanship.

Covering thirty two acres of land, on a rocky hilltop overlooking the ocean, the Sanctuary of Truth is the most magnificent sight in North Pattaya, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. It is entirely carved out of teak wood and features the most beautiful and elaborate wood carvings I have ever seen, inspired by the four major artistic and philosophical influences in Thailand (Chinese, Thai, Khmer and Hindu). Buddha heads, sacred animals and all kinds of  religious and philosophical themes are depicted in the thousands of wooden sculptures and carvings adorning both the interior and outside walls of the sanctuary.

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The Giant Talking Lamp of Malmö

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One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Swedish city of Malmö, the giant lamp of Lilla Torg square seems like something taken out of Alice in Wonderland.

First installed in 2006, the 5.8 meters high lamp quickly became a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. Featuring a foot that also acts as a bench, this installation was created with the idea of giving passers-by a chance to sit down, relax and forget about daily stress, if only just for a few minutes. Throughout the year, the enormous lamp tours the various squares of Malmö, but on December 15, just before Christmas, it always returns to Lilla Torg.

It looks cool enough as it is, but it would be even better if someone would build a giant nightstand, and maybe a glass of water, to go with the lamp. And if it wasn’t bizarre enough, the giant lamp of Lilla Torg actually talks, as well. Check it out in the video at the bottom.

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Nonseum – A Museum for Inventions That Nobody Needs

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Nonseum is a quirky museum for crazy ideas and inventions that no one could really find a use for in real life.

Located in the small village of  Herrnbaumgarten, about an hour’s drive from Vienna, and close to the Czech border, Nonseum is one of the wackiest tourist destinations in Europe. It was created in 1983, by Fritz Gall and Friedl Umscheid, two locals who decided to offer a home to exotic inventions that never really took off. The idea came to them one day, while they were enjoying some beers, and saw a waitress turn over a stained table cloth, thus reusing it. That’s when they realized everything, no matter how crappy it is, deserves a second chance. They established the Nonseum – a museum for useless inventions – in a local building and started searching for exhibits.

Now, the Nonmuseum has hundreds of useless items on display, and has just celebrated its 100,000th visitor. Among the many eccentric inventions of this unusual museum, you can find a Portable Anonymizer that’s supposed to keep your identity a secret in real life, a foldable  snow sled, a guillotine for finger nails, and even a Champagne Cork Catcher – a device that keeps the cork from flying away when you pop open the bottle.

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Tottori Sand Dunes – Japan’s Unique Desert Formation

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Many people will tell you there are no deserts in Japan, but while the Tottori Sand Dunes may not be the size of the Sahara, they sure look a lot like a desert to me.

The reason most people don’t refer to the Tottori Sand Dunes as a desert has to do with the amount of rainfall in the area. Japan is known for its humidity and rain, and although summer temperatures in the sand dunes exceeds 60 degrees Celsius, t gets far too much rain to qualify as a real desert. Regardless of their technical classification, the Tottori Sand Dunes are one of the strangest sights in Japan, and one of its most popular tourist attractions.

Stretching along the coast east of Tottori City, in the Tottori Prefecture, the Tottori Sand Dunes measure 2 kilometers from North to South and around 16 kilometers from East to West. They have existed for over 100,000 years, and research suggests they were formed from  the sediments brought down from the Chukogu Mountains by the Sendai River, collected by the ocean currents and prevailing winds off the Sea of Japan.

The highest of the Tottori Sand Dunes measure around 90 meters high, and thanks to the frequent rains,they have slopes of up to 40 degrees steep, making them a favorite destinations for sand boarding enthusiasts. The best time to visit this odd place is early in the morning, before other groups of tourists have a chance to trample over the sand ripples, but moonlight walks across the dunes is also an unforgettable experience. During the summer afternoons, the exposed sand reaches temperatures of up to 65 degrees Celsius, which makes barefoot walking quite pleasant.

The Tottori Sand Dunes are not the only strange sand dunes in the world. The Dune of Pyla, in France is actually surrounded by acres of green forest.

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Design Panoptikum – The Museum of Extraordinary Objects

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Design Panoptikum is a unique Berlin museum featuring all kinds of rare and unusual items collected by Russian-born artist Vlad Korneev.

“A Panoptikum”, Korneev says, “is a collection of extraordinary or rare objects” and he really couldn’t find a better way to describe his quirky museum on Torstraße Street, in Berlin. The moment you set foot in his Design Panoptikum, you find yourself surrounded with all kinds of bizarre things, from funky clocks, to odd-looking medical equipment, and even a life-size Power Ranger brought in from Japan.

Vlad Korneev handpicks the exhibits in his museum, from his secret back-alley store, from eBay and even from the junkyard. He carefully and patiently restores every one of them and then proudly displays them in his panoptikum. Visitors can purchase most of the merchandise shown in the main rooms, but the backrooms hold some truly special exhibits that are not for sale, but can be rented for film or fashion shoots. When asked where can find, let’s say, an old airplane engine, Korneev gracefully avoids a straight answer, as his sources are an important secret of the trade.

Among the rarest objects you can find in the Design Panoptikum are a talking dispensing machine, an old birthing doll, one of the earliest electric sun lamps and many other devices that make Vlad Korneev’s museum look like mad scientist’s lab.

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