The Sign Post Forest of Watson Lake

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Featuring tens of thousands of sign posts from all around the world, the Sign Post Forest of Watson Lake is one of the most popular roadside attractions along the Alaska Highway.

Located in Watson Lake, one of the newest towns of the Yukon, Sign Post Forest takes up a couple of acres, and features all kinds of signs, from street signs to license plates, and even huge road panels. This unique tourist attraction was born in 1942, when Private Carl K. Lindley was asked to repair a signpost damaged by a bulldozer. He decided to personalize the job by adding a new sign with the distance to his home town of Danville, Illinois.

Several soldiers followed his example and the tradition of adding signs was born. And it became more and more popular every year, with people bringing in different signs, from every place they traveled. In 1990, sign post number 10,000 was nailed in, and the count in 2008 had reached 65, 164 signs. With between 2,500 and 4,000 signs being added every year, the count has almost certainly passed the 70,000 mark.

Many of the signs nailed onto the signposts of Sign Post Forest have been especially created for this place, but there are a large number of original signs “borrowed” and brought all the way to the Yukon. The size of some of the signs – a 6-by-10-foot road panel from the German Autobahn, for example – makes you wonder how on Earth someone managed to bring them to the Sign Post Forest.

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The Mitchell Corn Palace

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As the only corn palace in the world, the Mitchell Corn Palace attracts over 500,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Dakota.

The Mitchell Corn Palace is not a palace made of corn, as many assume when hearing its name, but it is almost completely covered with it. The Arab-looking structure is adorned with “Crop art”, specifically murals made from corn and other cereal. Some say it’s the most impressive thing they’ve ever seen, while other refer to it as just a gym covered n corn. I guess it’s just a matter of how much you appreciate agricultural art.

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The Mysterious Rock Sculptures of Staten Island

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On the beaches of Mount Loretto State Park, on Staten Island, you’ll find a series of mysterious rock towers and mounds, known as the Rock Sculptures of Staten Island.

Looking a lot like the ruins of an ancient temple, these mysterious rock formations cover near half a mile of beach, near the ruins of the old Raritan Bay clamming industry. Believe it or not, a single person has been stacking thousands of rocks on top of each other, for over a decade. Every Friday, Douglas Schwartz, a zookeeper at the Staten Island Zoo, sets out on the beach of Mount Loretto State Park and spends around 45 minutes stacking and stabilizing rocks into tower-like formations.

Some people refer to this place as “New York’s little Stonehenge” and those who have already discovered it appreciate its beauty and tranquil effect. There are children playing around the rock sculptures, trying to create their own, while grownups enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s amazing how relaxing looking at dozens of rock sculptures, on a deserted beach, can be.

 

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Hay-on-Wye – The Bibliophiles’ Mecca

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Home to the largest secondhand bookstore in the world, Hay-on-Wye is more than just a little town on the border between England and Wales, it’s book heaven on Earth.

The history of Hay-on-Wye as the “town of books” began on Fools’ Day of 1977, when during a bold publicity stunt, bibliophile Richard Booth announced the independence of Hay-on-Wye as a kingdom of books, with him as the monarch. Ambassadors were sent to the International Court of Justice, in Hague, and a rowing gunboat started patrolling on the river Wye. Since then, he managed to establish a healthy tourism industry based on books, and thousands of visitors come to Hay-on-Wye every year, to look for whatever books they need.

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Five Epic Pyramids of the World

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Most likely, the only pyramids you learned about in school were the “Great” ones in Egypt. If you were lucky, you maybe heard that there were some in Central America, but mostly the education was all about Giza and the buried Pharaohs. However, pyramids were built as sacred architecture all over the world, from Chichen Itza (Mexico) to Indonesia; from China to the Canary Islands. If you’re traveling because you’re interested in cultures that you may not have known about before, then you have to check out these epic pyramids of the world.

1) Pyramids of Guimar (Tenerife) – Tenerife is one of the most well-traveled locales in the Canary Islands. There are plenty of hotels and cheap flights to Tenerife; this makes the Pyramids of Guimar a great first “Pyramid That’s Not In Egypt” to see. Built out of volcanic rock and fitted together without mortar, these pyramids are mysterious in that a) they’re comparable in size to all the major pyramids of the world, yet b) no one knows who built them. There are all kinds of stories involving Gnostic Christians, Freemasons, or even Aztec traders before the first millennium, but no one knows for sure. That’s why they’re so interesting.

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Haw Par Villa – The Most Disturbing Theme Park in Singapore

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Haw Par Villa, also known as the Tiger Balm Gardens has to be one of the weirdest tourist spots you can find in Southeast Asia, and the weirdest in Singapore.

Aw Boob Haw and Aw Boon Par, the two brothers behind the famous Tiger Balm, built the Haw Par Villa in 1937. It featured over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas inspired from Chinese folklore, history and mythology, and quickly became an attraction for people who appreciated Chinese culture. Although it was a huge place, Haw Par Villa was always full of people taking pictures of its weird-looking exhibits and kids running around holding balloons. That was 20 years ago, because now Singapore’s weird theme park is almost deserted.

But just because this place lost its glow doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit, especially if you’re into offbeat attractions. I mean this place will really blow your mind, with statues like a woman breastfeeding her father in law, armed monkeys, or the human faced giant crab. Now these apparently do make some sense if you’ve read up on Chinese mythology, but to an uneducated guy like me they just look freaky.

Not to mention the Ten Stages of Hell exhibit, a place that will creep the hell out of a grownup, let alone a child. According to Chinese mythology, a soul must pass through ten courts of judgment, before being allowed into heaven, and Haw Par Villa has very detailed representations of these trials. As you’re about to see, they are not pretty.

All in all, Haw Par Villa is still considered a must-see attraction for people fond of Chinese culture, and efforts are being made to restore it to its former glory. If you want my opinion, don’t take your kids with you, unless you enjoy explaining why an old man is sucking on a woman’s breast…

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The Weird Nose Plugs of the Apatani Women

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Women of the Apatani Tribe, in India’s Apatani plateau, are famous for the bizarre nose plugs they’ve been wearing since times long passed.

The Apatani, or Tani, are a tribal group of about 60,000 members, often praised for their extremely efficient agriculture, performed without animals or machinery. They have no written record of their history, and traditions are passed down orally, from generation to generation.

One tradition that is quickly fading into the mist of time is the traditional Apatani nose plugs, worn by most of the elder women in the tribe. There was once a time when every woman had to wear these bizarre accessories, but since the middle of the 20th century, the custom began to die. According to the Apatani, the nose plug was born as a way of protecting the women of the tribe. Apparently, Apatani women have always been considered the most beautiful among the Arunachal tribes, their villages were constantly raided by neighboring tribes, and the women kidnapped.

To make themselves unattractive to the other tribes, Apatani women began wearing these hideous nose plugs and tattooing their faces with a horizontal line from the forehead to the tip of the nose, and five lines on their chins. Let’s face it, that turns off any raider in search of beautiful women to have his way with.

But the tradition of the Apatani nose plug hasn’t been practiced by any woman born after 1970, and as time passes, this custom will probably soon be forgotten. Well, at least we still have the Ethiopian lip plug.

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Seven Flora and Fauna that Can Only Be Found in the Everglades

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The Everglades is home to many unique plant and animal species, mostly because it’s the farthest-north tropical environment in the world. It is the only true tropical forest in the northern hemisphere. The flora and fauna found in the Everglades are without peer.

Fauna

Florida Panther & Florida Black Bear – This entry gets two, since you’re not likely to see either of them. Both species are critically endangered, so count yourself lucky if you see the slight frame and tan fur of the Florida Panther, or hear the inquisitive snuffling of the Florida Black Bear. Well, count yourself lucky, back away slowly, and hope the animal isn’t hungry.

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The Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival

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Dating back to the year 1357, the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival is the oldest wrestling event in the world, attracting oiled up wrestlers from all over Turkey, and beyond.

Oil wrestling is one of Turkey’s most popular sports, and regarded by many as the manliest sport on Earth, so it’s no wonder over 1,500 oiled up Turks gather, every year, on a green field near Edirne, for a seven day event that decides the best oil wrestler in the land.

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Go See the Titanic, in Tennessee

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Just because it sank almost 100 years ago, doesn’t mean you can’t visit the famous Titanic. One of the best way to do it is to travel to the Titanic Museum, in rural Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The world’s largest museum attraction, this 50% scale replica of the Titanic is actually just the front bow of the famous ship. Located in Pigeon Forge, this new tourist attraction cost $24 million and took over one year to build. But it has plans of attracting around 1 million visitors a year.

Unlike its sister museum, in Branson, Missouri, The Titanic of Pigeon Forge is not a Hollywood style museum, it’s an interactive experience that features all the tragic elements of the Titanic story. As soon as they enter the museum, visitors are offered a boarding pass with the name of one of the original passengers, and are greeted by in-character stewards and ship officers, always ready to offer information about the ship. There is even a section where visitors can sink there hand in a tank of -2 degrees Celsius cold water, the temperature the water was when the Titanic sank.

The Titanic Museum of Pigeon Forge also has a replica of the beautiful White Star liners Grand Staircase, as well as 400 artefacts from the original Titanic, including a life vest, and a tooth, recovered from survivors.

Even though the Titanic didn’t make it to America, it continues to fascinate its inhabitants, and the owners of the Titanic Museum hope this will make their investment profitable.

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The Sculpture Park of Veijo Rönkkönen Is the Weirdest Place in Finland

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Deep in the forest of Parikkala, in the easternmost part of Finland, lies one of the craziest tourist attractions on the face of the planet – the sculpture park of Veijo Rönkkönen.

Regarded by most as the most important ensemble of contemporary folk art in Finland, the sculpture park of Veijo Rönkkönen is a lot to take in, the first time you visit. Finding yourself surrounded by hundreds of creepy statues, grinning at you with their real human teeth, is enough to spook you into turning back as soon as you set foot in the park.

Veijo Rönkkönen, a former paper mill worker, completed his first sculpture in 1961, and now his yard, and the path leading to it, are filled with over 450 statues, 200 of which are self portraits of the artist in Yoga positions he has mastered so far. The statues have loudspeakers hidden inside them, and the sound effects add to the eeriness of this place.

Although he has had the chance to exhibit and even sell his artworks, in auctions, Veijo Rönkkönen has never agreed to showcase his art. Every time he was asked to showcase his work, the near-hermit always replied he needed to discuss it with the statues first. Sadly, they never agreed to travel.

The sculpture park of Veijo Rönkkönen is free to visit, if you dare, but the artist insists every visitor sign his logbook, before they leave.

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Say Good-Bye to Austin’s Cathedral of Junk

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The 60 tons of junk that made up the awesome Cathedral of Junk, in Austin, Texas, are probably on their way to the recycling plant right now, leaving us with just photos and memories of the famous roadside attraction.

Vince Hannemann began building the Cathedral of Junk in 1988, just because he thought it would be cool. There’s was no real purpose behind it, just a nice thing to build in an Austin backyard. He was in his mid twenties when he started, and he kept adding do it over the years, until it grew into a 60-ton pile of junk. But it wasn’t really junk, it was just made of it. In reality, the Cathedral of Junk had long become one of the cities most popular attractions. Tourists were coming over just to give Vince something new to add to his masterpiece, but, sadly, that won’t be happening anymore…

After a safety complaint, fro one of his neighbors, real estate inspectors showed up at Vince Hannemann’s door, saying he needed to get a permit, if he wanted to keep his 33-f00t-tall cathedral, made of everything from bicycle wheels to old urinals, computers and lawnmowers. he tried to comply, and together with a team of volunteers, began altering the cathedral to meet required standards. But looking at his beloved creation being reduced to something he didn’t recognize anymore, Vince decided to tear it down. “It already isn’t the Cathedral. It might best be described as Junkhenge,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not willing to get a permit for the little that is left.”

According to many, this was the work of real estate firms, who did everything they could to bring down the Cathedral of Junk. It’s a sad time for the Austin art world…

 

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Qeswachaka – A Handwoven Bridge Made of Grass

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The Qeswachaka hanging bridge, of Cuzco, Peru, is handwoven every year, from a local grass called Qoya.

Located approximately 100 km from Cuzco, Qeswachaka bridge was once part of a network of bridges, built in the time of the Inca empire, but is now the only one of its kind, in the world. Spanning 120 feet over the Apurimac river, at around 13,000 feet above water, Qeswachaka (also spelled Q’eswachaka or Keswachaka) is built using the ancient Qhapaq nan technique, used by the Inca people.

Qhapaq nan bridges were built from grass, and were wide enough for only one person to pass, at a time. In ancient times these bridges were constantly under surveillance and everyone crossing them was monitored. When Pizzaro began his march for Cuzco, Qeswachaka was destroyed, to slow his advance, but was reconstructed, many years later.

Made from a local herb, known as Qoya, the fibers of Qeswachaka bridge deteriorate rapidly, and local communities have to reconstruct the bridge every year. Around 1,000 men and women, from various Andean communities gather at Qeswachaka bridge, every second week of June, for the rebuilding ceremony. Long blade of Qoya grass are woven into six long cables, which are bound and secured by eucalyptus trunks, buried at each end of the bridge.

It’s not that building a more modern bridge would be impossible, but this is a way for the Andean people to celebrate and honor their Inca ancestors, and keep their centuries old traditions alive.

Photos by REUTERS via Daylife

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The Jizo Army of Chausudake Volcano

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Located on the barren slopes of Chausudake Volcano, in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture, hundreds of small Jizo statues make up the eeriest spirit army I’ve ever seen.

One of the most beloved divinities in Japan, Jizo is seen as a savior working to ease the suffering of those serving time in hell, and answers the prayers for health, and success of the living. He is a friend to all, and Jizo statues are usually placed at intersections of roads, to help travelers pick the right way to go. He is extremely important to pregnant women and children, and statues are often adorned with tiny children’s clothes or bibs. Parents whose children have died place toys and offerings beside the statues, asking for protection of their child’s soul.

The Jizo statues of Chausudake Volcano offer a sight unique in Japan, and all over the world. Jizo representations can be found in many places around the Land of the Rising Sun, but the dark volcanic rocks, from which the statues have been carved, and the barren surroundings create an eerie atmosphere that’s hard to forget.

 

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Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Museum

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Barney Smith, a former plumber, from Texas, has spent the last 30 years decorating toilet seats and setting up his unique toilet seat art museum.

It all began over 30 years ago, when Barney Smith was looking for a mounting for a set of antlers. Considering his profession, he found a wooden toilet seat worked perfectly. From that moment on he began painting and attaching all sorts of things t this bizarre art medium, and now, he is the proud owner of over 700 toilet seat artworks.

After his wife forced him to move them out of the house, Barney’s masterpieces are now stored in his garage. The artist finds inspiration for his work in pretty much everything he’s ever done. Some are inspired by his travels around the world, others by his profession, or his 60-year wedding anniversary. That’s also the reason 89-year-old Barney Smith doesn’t sell any of his artworks – they all mean too much to him.

The toilet seats, made from sawdust and glue, are donated by a local company, and the decorative accessories were donated by various people, by mail. And even though his rapidly approaching 90, old Barney still has a nice supply of blank toilet seats, waiting to be adorned. So if you have any unique items you’d like used in the name of art, don’t hesitate to contact the artist.

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