Big Knit Café – Where Knitting Goes Well with Coffee

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Knitting is mostly known as a favorite grannies all around the world, but at Bangkok’s Big Knit Café, it’s practiced by crafty young professionals trying to unwind.

Who would have thought knitting could be the recipe of a truly successful café business? Not many people, I’m sure, but that didn’t stop Khun Nice from starting Big Knit Café, a now internationally known venue where anyone can savor a cup of coffee or a tasty piece of cake, while knitting and learning new tips from local crafters. Even if you don’t know the first thing about knitting, all you need to do is buy a kit, and the staff at Big Knit Café will teach you everything there is to know.

Apart from all the cakes, pastry delicacies and drinks, Big Knit Café also offers a large colorful collection of yarn, from cotton and bamboo to alpaca and cashmere. The walls are practically lined with rows of yarn, and all customers have to do is decide on type and color.

Big Knit Café is far from being a knitting spot for grannies, as the place is visited by women of all ages, even college students and children, eager to discover the secrets of the art. Even some Thai celebrities stop by Big Knit Café, every once in a while, to relax in a nice, friendly atmosphere.

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Kobe Luminarie – Japan’s Festival of Light

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Kobe Luminarie is an extraordinary light festival that takes place every December, in commemoration of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

The first edition Kobe Luminarie took place in December of 1995, as a memorial to the lives lost in the terrible earthquake of January 17. It was entitled “Dreams and Light” and was a message of hope that two and a half million people came to see, on the first day. Following the success of the first festival, Kobe Luminarie became a yearly event that celebrates Kobe’s remarkable recovery from disaster.

Various light decorations are created from millions of small light bulbs and LEDs, from bright arches to citadels and whatever else Italian designer Valerio Festi and his team decide on. Since the name of the festival comes from the plural of the Italian “luminaria” -which means light decoration – the decision of employing an Italian team must not have been incidental. Every year, the theme of Kobe Luminarie changes, and that has people from all over the world coming back year after year, to see the new light structures. Approximately five million people attend the Kobe Luminarie every year.

Apart from the beautiful light structures, another impressive aspect of Kobe Luminarie is that it relies on its audience to keep going. Visitors support the event by putting coins in the donation boxes set up around the brightly lit structures, and this assures the funding for next year’s festival. A great way to show appreciation, considering the entrance if free of charge…

Just to be clear, Kobe Luminarie has nothing to do with Christmas, despite the common colorful-lights theme. This year, the festival of light took place between December 2-13, and was named “Il cuore nella luce” (The heart in the light).

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The House of the Beautiful Flowers – A Retirement Home for Prostitutes

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Casa Xochiquetzal (The House of the Beautiful Flowers) is a retirement home for prostitutes, established in Mexico City’s  Tepito neighborhood, that got it’s name from the Aztec goddess of love and women.

The center was founded in 2007 by a former prostitute, Carmen Munoz, impressed by the old sex workers she saw sleeping in the streets. And it wasn’t easy at all. It took years of lobbying for her to get the support of the government and local media. Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador, mayor at the time,  gave her a dilapidated 18th century house, which she transformed into what is now home for 23 old prostitutes, with available accommodations for 45 women. They have to fulfill one condition, other than the obvious one, being a former sex worker, and that regards their age – women have to be at least 60 years old. Interestingly enough, even if they aren’t required to, many of the prostitutes choose to continue practicing their job.

In most cases, they have been sold as young girls or even as children and forced into prostitution, thereby no contact with their families has been kept. Although most of them can still work, the money is very little, compared to what younger women earn, and this makes it impossible for them to survive by themselves, so Casa Xochiquetzal comes as somewhat of a blessing.

Although they display a lot of joy and seem to have a lot of fun together, almost every one of the old prostitutes hides a trace of sadness, especially when it comes to their children who barely remember they exist, much less come to visit them at the House of the Beautiful Flowers.

This story is part of a documentary that CNN made for the launch of VICE magazine in Mexico. Bernardo Loyola, producer of this documentary, confesses he found this weird and quite “different”, but nevertheless, he was impressed by the power these women have to continue with their lives, no matter the difficulties. For him, the visit at the House of the Beautiful Flowers was a turning point that totally changed his perception of prostitution.

 

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Conflict Kitchen – Pittsburgh’s Unique Restaurant

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Conflict Kitchen is a unique take-out restaurant that only serves foods from countries the United States is in conflict with.

Although some people might get the idea that Conflict Kitchen is just a way of cashing out on the war on terror, the Pittsburgh establishment is much more than just a great marketing idea. Yeah, they serve some of the most popular dishes from countries like Afghanistan or Iran, developed in collaboration with actual members of Afghan and Iranian communities, Conflict Kitchen also offers important insight into the culture of these countries a lot of people know nothing about (except that they’re the enemy). Every order that goes out the take-out storefront is served in a custom wrapper featuring interviews with members of the Afghan community living both in their home country or the US, on issues ranging from culture and ideology to serious geopolitical issues.

Every four months, Conflict Kitchen changes its focus from one country to another, and every iteration features events, performances and discussions on the problems the country faces, thus allowing attendants to learn more about these nations and their role in the conflict with America.

So far, Conflict Kitchen has covered the Iranian and Afghan cuisines, but they’re preparing for iterations that will focus on North Korea, Venezuela and more.

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Taiwanese Brothel Is Being Re-opened as a Museum

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What was once the place of entertainment for soldiers stationed on Kinmen Island, Taiwan, is now being re-opened as a unique museum. Hsu Ying-fan says the museum’s sole purpose is that of giving  visitors a general idea on the so-called Military Paradise and what it served for.

Bearing an euphemistic name, “The Special Tea House Museum“, this one of a kind place features one of a kind “art”. Here you can find displays of photography or posters depicting the brothel’s noonday and also samples of tickets bought by soldiers who were waiting for their turn.

The brothel was closed in 1990 due to criticism manifested mainly by local woman’s groups, and with it being re-opened as a museum, officials are hopping the island will become a tourist attraction.

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Malaysia’s Unique Oil Rig Hotel

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Once just another oil rig used to pollute the ocean, Malaysia’s Seaventures Dive Resort is now one of the most popular diving spots in the Pacific Ocean.

The waters surrounding an oil rig are probably the last place you’d imagine to find such an amazing array of coral reefs, and a diverse marine life, made up of hundreds of species of colorful tropical fish, sea turtles and other marvelous creatures. But this particular oil rig is actually a hotel where divers from around the world book rooms, so they can be close to Sipadan Island, known for its incredibly beautiful underwater scenery.

The oil rig sitting in the Celebes Sea is owned by Suzette Harris, an Singaporean business woman whose father in law bought the metal monster, in 1988. She says in Singapore you can buy a used oil rig, just as easy as you would an old boat. After buying it, he had it towed to Borneo waters and started this unique diving hotel.

While they tried painting it in lively colors, to give it a welcoming look, there’s just so much you can do with an oil rig, and visitors should not expect five-star accommodations. The rooms are tidy but tiny, there’s hardly any closet space and the air smells from the oil powering the generators. The food isn’t exactly gourmet either, but tourists who stay at the oil rig hotel, don’t care much about these details. To them it’s all about being at the heart of the Coral Triangle, an area with a rich marine diversity.

Seaventures Dive Resort may not be as luxurious as I’m sure many other hotels in Malaysia, but it’s unique setting, and the fact that it’s the only oil rig hotel in the world, make it one of the world’s most popular tourist resorts.

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The All Saints Day Giant Kite Festival of Guatemala

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Every November 1st, the people of Santiago Sacatepéquez , Guatemala celebrate the Day of the Dead by flying giant colorful kites, during the All Saints Day Kite Festival.

Known as “barilletas gigantes” in Spanish, the giant kites of Santiago Sacatepéquez are masterpieces that take great skill and patience to complete. Months before the Kite Festival, teams of people begin work on the colorful kites that will bring them great honor and the respect of their peers, on the big day. A giant kite is made of cloth and paper tied to a bamboo frame, and features a colorful design, usually with a religious or folkloric theme. In recent years, designs have been hinting at the ever-growing corruption of the Guatemala government.

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China Showcases the World’s Largest Luminous Pearl

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A mystery to the western world, luminous pearls are legendary in China, and people go to great lengths for a chance to even touch one of them. The largest luminous pearl has just been placed on display, in China’s Hainan province.

Very little is known about the giant green pearls of China. The few who actually have heard of these remarkable jewels refer to them as “Yemengzhu” and praise them to be rarities that bring good luck. They have been a part of Chinese legends for centuries, and people there believe that just touching them can bring great fortune and prosperity. But this kind of myths are all to common in a traditional country like China, and what makes Yemengzhu special has little to do with local lore.

Luminous pearls are wonders of the mineral world that shine in the dark without the help of ultraviolet light. This kind of Fluorite is so rare that western geology don’t even recognize its existence, and the Chinese only discovered the first one in 1982, at a Tungsten mine, in Guangdong. Since then, bigger and bigger deposits were discovered, and the largest one yet weighs 6 tons and is 1.6 meters in diameter. When it was discovered, it had an irregular shape, but was ground in the form of a sphere. The process took three years to complete, because of its tough nature, comparable to the finest grade of diamonds.

The largest luminous pearl is currently exhibited in Wenchang, China’s Hainan province, and has been appraised at 2.2 billion yuan ($331 million).

 

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Khalid Nabi – Not Your Average Cemetery

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The Khalid Nabi cemetery, in northern Iran has become a popular attraction for both locals and tourists, because of its strange tombstones shaped as male and female sexual organs.

Scientists say the bizarre cemetery is around 1,400 years old, and judging by the number of headstones, it’s the final resting place of at least 600 people, the most important of which is Khalid Nabi, a prophet born 40 years before Muhammad. You’d be inclined to be believe most people come to the cemetery as pilgrims to a prophet’s grave, but you couldn’t be more wrong; they actually come to see the penis and breast-shaped tombstones.

Nobody knows exactly what the 6-foot-tall columns shaped like phalluses and the smaller, cross like-headstones that resemble female breasts are meant to symbolize, but the mere fact that a wacky attraction like the Khalid Nabi cemetery gets this kind of attention, in a country like Iran, is weird enough. Some scientists say the weird tombstones could have been influenced by the phallic religion practiced in India and central Asia, but most of the visitors don’t even care, they just came here to see some funny penis-shaped rocks.

I’m just not sure who Iran is going to blame for this, but I’m sure they’ll somehow relate the phallus stones to some “capitalist pigs”.

 

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Just What the World Needed – Hello Kitty Theme park Opens in Tokyo

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As if the world didn’t have enough of their annoying icon, Hello Kitty, the Japanese thought they’d open a new theme park as well.

If you’re a regular visitor of Oddity Central, you probably already know I’m not the world’s biggest Hello Kitty fan. I’ve featured quite a few strange Hello Kitty stuff, from a pink assault rifle to a Hello Kitty-themed Ferrari. Now, it brings me great…honor to present to you Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise, a Hello Kitty theme park that just opened in Tokyo.

I guess the Japanese didn’t want to look bad, after their Chinese neighbors built a Hello Kitty castle, and a nice new pink theme park was just the thing. Located on Odaiba Island, Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise opened on October 22nd, and hopes to attract as many as 700,000 Hello Kitty fans in its first year. While the despicable icon has tons of fans in Japan’s capital, not many of them bothered to check out the theme park, probably because Odaiba is quite a long way from central Tokyo, and many of them don’t care to make the long trip. Let’s just hope the place stays empty and they’ll be forced to close it down soon, because unless you’re the Pink Lady, human eyesight just can’t handle all that pink.

In case you’re interested, the 10,000 square-foot park features a big Hello Kitty shop, where you can find all kinds of accessories, toys and other pink junk, a Hello Kitty pancake restaurant, a small theater, a big statue of Hello Kitty and a whole bunch of other pink, girly stuff fans go crazy about.

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Prince Saint Vladimir – The World’s First and Only Chapel Boat

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The Prince Saint Vladimir is basically an old boat converted into a floating church that could make the sacred relics on board accessible to people in remote areas along the Volga River.

This isn’t the world’s first floating church, communities living on water have built plenty of them all around the world, but the Prince Saint Vladimir (named after the saint who baptized Russia) is the world’s first self-propelled chapel boat. Built back in 2004, the unique church was designed to reach even the shallowest waters, so that all the people of the Volvograd region could have access to a church and priest. There were two other similar churches built before, but because they were practically converted barges, they could only be moved by tugboats. The Prince Saint Vladimir is, however, a self-propelled craft.

On September 13, 2010, the great river voyage of the Prince Saint Vladimir began. The floating church will travel around 3,000 kilometers along the shores of the Volga, from the river mouth, all the way to Moscow. It will make stops in both cities and small communities along the shores, allowing people access to relics of eight great saints from the era of the Undivided Church. Its voyage will take the sacred ship to areas that have suffered from drought and terrible wildfires, and the Russian Church hopes it will bring comfort to locals.

Along with the captain and ship crew, a priest will be on board the Prince Saint Vladimir at all times, and he will celebrate the Sacred Liturgy at every stop.

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T’Spookhuys – Probably the World’s Spookiest Restaurant

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Known also as the “House of 1,000 Ghosts”, the T’Spookhuys Restaurant was designed to scare the hell out of its customers, with a truly creepy interior design and bizarre menu.

Located in the city of Turnhout, Belgium, T’Spookhuys was founded by Karl Hendrix and Bjorn Leys, as a place where people could experience the horrors of a haunted mansion. When it opened its gates to the public, on October 1st 1997, it shocked pretty much everyone with its creepy interior decorations, squeaky doors, smoke coming down from the ceiling, moving paintings, and other special effects. Soon everyone wanted to “dine in hell” and witness the weird spectacles and cameos that took part at the T’Spookhuys Restaurant.

Some of the foods on the menu included mud pie and spicy worms served in skull-shaped bowls, by waiters dressed as vampires and devil worshipers, but instead of driving people away, this incredibly spooky atmosphere brought in more curious clients. Not even the rumors about satanic rituals being performed on the restaurant’s upper floor didn’t scare anyone.

In 2008, eleven years after they opened this crazy establishment, the owners of T’Spookhuys decided to close down the place and open a whole new club, in the city of Zandhoven. To the joy of urban explorers, T’Spookhuys was left intact, allowing them to explore and take photos of what used to be probably the spookiest restaurant in the world. As you’d expect, there are dozens of stories of ghost and tormented spirits living in the abandoned restaurant, saying that they are the real reason the owners decided to close shop and move away, but no ghost sightings have been reported yet.

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A Trip to the Museum of Broken Relationships

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The Museum of Broken Relationships has to be one of the most bizarre tourist attractions in the world. Here, visitors can admire all kinds of memorabilia donated by people with broken hearts, from all over the world.

Olinka Vistina and Drazen Grubisic, two Croatian artists who broke up in 2006, decided to open the Museum of Broken Relationships when they realized how hard it was to give up items symbolizing lost love. This way, they could keep the items together, and before they knew it, the two artists started receiving all kinds of items from other broken-up couples.

Before settling permanently in Zagreb, and becoming the first private museum in Croatia, The Museum of Broken Relationships toured the world over, from Istanbul to New York, showcasing its collection of hundreds of bizarre items. Teddy bears, fluffy handcuffs, photographs, watches are among the most common items in found in the museum, but you can also see bizarre things like an axe, a pair of edible underwear and even an artificial lower leg, donated by a man who broke up with a nurse.

Olinka Vistina says the majority of donated items come from Great Britain, which means there must be many broken hearts there. The recently opened Museum of Broken Relationships is apparently a great success, welcoming up to 1,000 visitors every week.

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Excalibur – The World’s Tallest Free-Standing Climbing Wall

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At 37 meters tall, the Excalibur Tower is the tallest free-standing climbing wall in the world. A part of the Bjoeks climbing center, in the Dutch city of Groningen, Excalibur is the tallest thing for miles, offering a memorable panorama to climbers who manage to reach the top.

You’ll probably find considerably higher climbing walls set up on the side of buildings, bridges and dams, but as far as free-standing climbing walls go, Excalibur is the tallest, beating the Texas Stone Works wall by just a few inches. The 37-meter-high tower has an overhang of 36 feet, and is ideal for both beginner climbers and experts who will find themselves literally hanging in the air, due to the tower’s curvy shape.

According to both creators of the tower and climbers who have actually made it all the way to the top, the views from up there can prove a bit too much intimidating, considering the Netherlands aren’t known for their mountainous landscape, which makes the Excalibur the tallest thing as far as the eye can see.

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Sandu’ao – China’s Incredible Floating Village

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Often referred to as the “Future Water World”, the village of Sandu’ao is China’s largest community living on the sea.

Located in China’s Fujian Province, just 30 kilometers from downtown Ningde City, Sandu’ao is one of just few settlements built on water. It’s basically a huge self-sustaining floating village, where inhabitants need not set foot on dry land to ensure their survival. Making use of homemade and purchased boats, they make their living fishing and ocean farming. believe it or not Sandu’ao has its own floating postal service, convenience store, police station and even a series of restaurants.

After being devastated by aerial bombardments, during the Japanese invasion of World War 2, Sandu’ao went through a decade of rebuilding and development and is now China’s largest cultivation base of yellow croakers and various other seafood, including shellfish, shrimp and giant prawns. The sea farming is carried out in tens of thousands of cages and fishing nets that seen from a distance make a memorable sight many call “plantation on the sea”.

Just like most Chinese villages, Sandu’ao features modest houses made of wood, the only difference is they are built on sturdy pontoons made of bamboo and wood, wired to plastic barrels and pieces of PVC, to ensure buoyancy. Because in which it’s placed is completely cut off from the open sea, no waves threaten the peace of Sandu’ao and the pontoons simply sway gracefully on the calm waters.

An important source of seafood for the entire country, Sanu’ao is also becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction for travelers eager to experience everyday life on water.

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