The Tower of David – Venezuela’s Skyscraper Slum

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The Tower of David is a 45-storey skyscraper in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. From the outside, there’s nothing too special about the tower, but on the inside, it’s hardly what you’d expect. In the past seven years, the abandoned building has been become the tallest slum in the world and home to over 3,000 homeless people in the city. It is greatly feared to be a hotbed of crime, drugs and gangs.

When construction began in the early 1990s, the Tower of David (locally known as Torre de David) was intended to be one of the most prominent structures of the new financial district. But when the developer died in 1994, the project was abandoned. By the year 2007, squatters had completely taken over the incomplete concrete skeleton. This actually isn’t too surprising, given the fact that Caracas is a city in need of almost two million homes.

For now, the residents seem to have made themselves very comfortable inside the tower. They enter the structure through an attached parking garage, and motorcycles are used to transfer residents up the first 10 floors. The first 28 floors are inhabited by families, but there are no elevators in the tower, just a single flight of stairs that they have no choice but to climb.

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Dinner with a Bang at Tokyo’s Airsoft Restaurant

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EA Bar is a new themed restaurant in Tokyo that caters exclusively to airsoft lovers. Pronounced ‘air’, the restaurant has its own airsoft shooting range and a very impressive collection of airsoft guns, fashioned after lethal weapons. That’s not all – the theme extends to the cocktail menu, with all the drinks named after guns. And, to top it all off, the food is decorated with tiny army action figures.

Airsoft guns, which are replica firearms with plastic or environmentally safe pellets, have become very popular in Japan. This explains the restaurant’s success – lovers of the sport don’t need to drive out all the way to rural fields to fire their guns. After a tiring day at work, they get to unwind at a shooting range in the heart of the city, and enjoy a nice hot meal at the same time.

EA is located in Kichijoji, a posh Tokyo neighborhood. Customers aren’t bound by a shooting-related dress code, given that the restaurant’s interiors are modern and chic. Among the various dishes served are pasta, risotto and a selection of curries. Some of the drinks on the cocktail menu include a chocolate liqueur called Glock 18c, a SPAS12 with absinthe, and a vodka-based Thomson.

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Share a Coffee with Snakes and Scorpions at Vietnam’s Popular Pet Cafe

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If you love dogs, cats and cute, cuddly bunnies, then Vietnam’s Pet Café is certainly not the place for you. It exists to serve a totally different kind of animal lover. Located in the capital city of Hanoi, the café has an awesome collection of snakes, rats, lizards, tarantulas and even a few hedgehogs, stored in glass cages of various sizes. As you sit at your table and share a coffee with a friend, you can gaze upon these slow-moving reptiles in replicas of their natural habitats. And if you’re feeling a little brave, you could even ask to touch or play with them.

28-year-old Nguyen Minh Nghia, the owner of Pet Café, has a degree in mining and geology, but is now a stockbroker. He has been obsessed with animals since childhood, and that’s what prompted him to start the café. “I loved animals since I was a little boy. I began raising reptiles 5 years ago, when a friend asked me to feed his salamanders as he was too preoccupied with his own business,” Nguyen said.

He fell in love with the creatures and ended up traveling to Thailand, Singapore, Australia and China, amassing a huge collection of snakes, salamanders and other reptiles that are now his best friends. “These pets are easy to feed, but for beginners, it is not a walk in the park,” he said. “You have to read a lot of materials to learn how to raise reptiles. I’ve chosen reptiles that are suited for the environment and climate in Vietnam. To keep them alive here, I’ve got to study a lot about their living environment. My café is always dark because many reptiles do not like the light.”

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Luxury Services Company Is Offering James Bond Fans the Ultimate 007 Holiday for a Whopping $800,000

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If you’re a James Bond fan and you have $800,000 to spare, this is the perfect vacation for you. The 007-themed 21-day, seven-country luxury tour could have you living a life straight out of a Bond movie. The package includes luxury hotels, private jets, sports cars, casino stops, speedboats and three-star gourmet meals. The tour was announced last Thursday by luxury goods and services website VeryFirstTo.com.

The premium action-packed vacation for two starts off in London. Subsequent destinations include Monte Carlo, Venice, Istanbul and special attractions in India and Thailand – locations that have all been featured in previous Bond movies. “The privileged purchasers will be staying at the finest hotels seen in the Bond films, often staying in the same hotel rooms,” said Leija Graf from Select Collection, one of the organizers of the trip.

In London, the tour will begin at the Dorchester Hotel, which is where the opening scene of the new James Bond book, Solo, is set. Guests will be served a Martini masterclass, before being whisked away on a London ‘Bond’ tour in a Rolls-Royce. A private jet will then transport them to Nice, and from there a helicopter will transfer them to Monaco. A short limousine ride later, they will spend the night at Mertopole Hotel, one of the finest in the principality.

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Experiencing Life on Mars in the Rocky Red Desert of Utah

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Who says you need to go to Mars to know what life could be like over there? Some places on Earth are apparently good enough to simulate the experience. And that’s exactly what a team of experts from Mars Society have done – recreated life on the red planet by dressing in space suits and living in isolation in a rocky Utah desert. The group of researchers lives there on a space research base, surviving on food rations, conducting research experiments and showering just once in three days.

The area surrounding the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is quite similar to the atmosphere on Mars – hot, windy, red, and rocky. Just like in the science fiction movies, every time the team needs to leave the station, they have to pass through an air lock. The team consists of four men and two women, living in a cramped, two-storey hut 40 miles from the nearest town of Hanksville. The crew sleep in small pod-like beds, have very limited contact with the outside world and a very slow internet connection to send only a few e-mails a day.

Most of their communication is with ‘mission control’, who monitor and record data about the crew’s lives every two weeks. This includes details like psychological status, food intake and exercise. According to 27-year-old Mission Commander Lara Vimercati, who is also a NASA biologist, “Everything we do each day must be as though we are on another planet. We have to go through an air lock procedure and suit up before we have any contact with the outside.” Visitors are sometimes allowed; they need to travel to MDRS on a slow buggy (only 5 mph), down an unmarked path filled with rocks.

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The Rumbling Train Track Street of Hanoi

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I thought that Thailand’s Railway Food Market was the only one of its kind in the world. Turns out I was wrong. A similar railway track exists in Vietnam as well – this one doesn’t pass through a busy market place like its Thai counterpart, but a narrow residential neighborhood. The video footage of the train shows it passing mere inches from the front doors of people living in the capital city of Hanoi.

Hanoi is pretty much iconic for its narrow buildings and streets. And since the main train station is right in the heart of the city, it’s no surprise that the train tracks pass by busy streets. The section of tracks that leads to Long Bien Bridge passes through Old Quarter, which is a densely populated residential area. The houses here are so close to the tracks that people could easily get smacked if they don’t watch their step, or decide to stick their hands out the window at the wrong time. Luckily, the trains go by only twice a day.

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Takeda Castle Ruins – Japan’s Breathtaking Castle in the Sky

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If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, then you’re probably familiar with Durmstrang Institute – a perfectly hidden school in the mountains for dark witches and wizards. If this school were to exist in real life, I think I’ve found the perfect place for it – Japan’s Takeda Castle. This spectacular castle is located in Hyogo Prefecture in the Wadayamacho district of Asago. It was constructed centuries ago on the summit of a 1000 foot high mountain. Today, the ruins of the castle run a quarter of a mile long and over 300 foot wide.

Takeda Castle is special because of the breathtaking view it presents on autumn mornings (between sunrise and 8 am). That’s when a thick mist hangs over the sky because of a sharp drop in overnight temperatures. The effect created by the mist is truly breathtaking – like a castle in the sky, floating on clouds. The entire site is often referred to as Japan’s Machu Picchu, after the majestic mountain ruins of Peru. The castle, in all its beauty and ancient glory, attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The number of visitors began to grow after the site was featured in a 2012 Japanese film called ‘Anata e’.

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The Cinema at the End of the World

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The world’s eeriest cinema hall is located in the Sinai Peninsula, in the Egyptian desert. Well, it isn’t exactly a hall. It’s more like an arrangement of wooden seats out in the open. It has been dubbed the ‘End of the World’ Cinema, and I think it couldn’t have had a better name. The neat arrangement of wooden seats in the middle of nowhere looks as apocalyptic as you can imagine – like a cinema used by a mysterious ancient civilization. The 150 seats are completely worn out, the screen’s foundations are broken and the building that once housed the generator and projector is in ruins. Surprisingly, the cinema is only a decade old.

I’m really not sure who would want to watch a movie sitting out in the open in the middle of a desert, but apparently a crazy Frenchman thought it was a brilliant idea. The project was his brainchild – he bought everything he needed for the cinema from an old theater in Cairo. According to Kaupo Kikkas, an Estonian photographer who recently took pictures of the site, the cinema was doomed ever since its conception.

“On a sunny day at the very beginning of this millennium, a crazy Frenchman found himself in the desert of Sinai,” he wrote. “After some puffs of a magic smoke he wondered – how come there are no cinemas in the middle of the desert? He flew back to Paris and arranged some money. After that he went to Cairo to buy original seats and projection equipment from an old cinema theater. Then came back to Sinai, arranged a generator for electricity, and a monstrous tractor to pull up the screen that was like a gigantic sail. And now more or less everything was ready for the premier.”

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Siberia’s Real-Life Swan Lake Teeming with Life in the Dead of Winter

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Svetloe Lake, located near Urozhainoe village in Siberia, is better known to locals as the Swan Lake. Come February, the lake is usually teeming with activity – beautiful swans arrive in hundreds and make this place their winter home, which is surprising because swans generally prefer to fly further south where the climate isn’t so harsh.

What makes Svetloe Lake so special that swans willingly flock at it in the dead of winter? Well, for starters, it is fed by many warm springs so the temperature of the water is always above zero – even when the surrounding air drops to minus 40C. The lake’s waters are warm in comparison, at 5C to 6C, making it the perfect hang-out place for the beautiful birds. The swans began to appear at the lake way back in 1967. Only about 15 birds would make an appearance then, but the numbers have steadily increased to over 350 today and still continue to rise.

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The Hauntingly Beautiful Blue Pond of Hokkaido

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If you happen to have a Mac that runs on OSX Mountain Lion, then these images are probably familiar to you. The aptly named ‘Blue Pond’ reflects such a pristine blue color off its waters, that you just can’t take your eyes off it. The pond, located on the left bank of River Bieigawa near the town of Biei in Hokkaido Island, Japan, wasn’t very well known until recently, when the computer giant decided to make it a part of their latest operating system.

Interestingly, the Blue Pond is not a natural formation. The artificial pond was created when a dam was built to protect the area from mud flows due to its proximity to a volcano on Mt. Tokachi. When the volcano erupted in December 1988, local officials decided to construct the dam upstream along the river. All the water blocked by this dam gets collected in a depression in the forest, creating the pond.

It’s not just the striking blue that sets the pond apart, but also the barren tree stumps that protrude from the surface of the water. Also, the color of the pond hardly remains constant. It keeps varying based on the season, and the viewing angle. In a certain light and angle, the electric blue pond appears to be a lovely green instead. This unusual phenomenon has no real scientific explanation. Some theories attribute it to a high concentration of aluminum hydroxide in the water. The naturally occurring mineral is known to reflect the shorter wavelength blue light, just like the earth’s atmosphere does. Of course, the water itself is colorless.

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No Grownups Allowed at Japan’s Children-Only Magical Sweets Shop

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Most teenagers can’t wait until they’re 21 so they can have a legal ID, but here’s one shop in Japan that will make them want to stay young forever – an ID proving that they’re a sixth grader or younger. Because that’s how young you’ve got to be to enter Japan’s Future Sweets Factory – a magical place filled with all things sweet and delicious. Kids get to enter the factory alone, leaving their parents behind in the lobby area.

Future Sweets Factory is located on the premises of the hugely popular Patisserie es Koyama (famous for its special roll cake), in Sanda City, Hyogo Prefecture. The entrance to the factory is through a large, colorful egg-shaped dome. Beyond the dome lies a waiting hall where children bid goodbye to their parents for a few hours. The kids proceed through a special kid-sized door to where all the magic happens, just like in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!

Inside the factory, away from their parents’ watchful eyes, kids are treated to samples of freshly made sweets. True to its name, at the Future Sweets Factory kids get to sample all kinds of sweets that are yet to hit the market. They also get to watch the chefs bake three special surprise sweets that cost only 150 yen each. The factory is decorated to suit the kids’ tastes – with cartoon characters and robots.

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You Can Win $1 Million Playing on the World’s Most Extreme Golf Course, But You’ll Need a Helicopter

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The Legend Golf and Safari Resort is truly, well, legendary. The one-of-a-kind golf course is located in South Africa’s north-eastern Limpopo Province, nestled within the 22,000 hectare Entabeni Game Reserve. It is the longest par 72 golf course in the world, and of course safe from all the wildlife. It is also the only one with all 19 holes individually designed by golf legends like Trevor Immelman, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, among others. There’s a tribute course too, made up of perfect replicas of nine of the best par 3’s in the world.

But the thing that makes Legend Golf and Safari Resort really special is the hole that everyone comes to play – the Xtreme 19th. It is believed to be the longest, highest and most dramatic par 3 in the world. The hole itself is 587 meters away from the tee-off box and if you manage to hit a hole-in-one, you are guaranteed a special price of US $1 million. But, truth be told, you’d probably have a better chance of winning the lottery.

To get a shot at the prize money, you first need to take a helicopter ride to the tee box, which is high up a cliff on Hanlip Mountain. Standing up there could make you feel like you really are at the edge of South Africa. The tee box is 430 meters above the green (shaped like the African continent), providing a breathtaking panoramic background and plenty of leverage as well. As soon as you reach the high ground, you are handed six balls equipped with tracking devices and then you are welcome to try your luck.

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Kids Get a Taste of the Tough Life at Hungarian Military Summer Camp

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Summer camp in the town of Mogyoród, Hungary plays out slightly differently than what most kids are used to in other parts of the world. Hundreds of children between the ages of 11 and 22 gather at the camp each year, to experience the tough military life for a week. These kids are actually attracted to the military way of life and volunteer to sign up for the camp. It’s not surprising, actually, given the fact that militarism is dominant in Hungarian society.

At the Military Traditional Association, the kids live in tents, receive military training from experienced, active soldiers and learn all about the Order and the Homeland. They stay up all night on guard duty, learn how to fire AK-47s (with blanks, of course) and are put through stimulation tear gas attacks. Intense physical exercise, educational behaviorism and screamed orders is what the week is all about.

Zsolt Horvath, head of the military summer camp, said: “We give them real military training at a basic level. They have endurance tests, running sessions in the morning, fitness exercises. Throughout the day they listen to trainers from various army units who teach them exercises.” Discipline is paramount at the camp – any misbehavior is punishable with push-ups. Both practical and theoretical training are imparted, hoping to groom future members of the Hungarian army.

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The Ringing Rocks of Pennsylvania – A Famous Geological Oddity

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If you strike a rock, you’d expect to hear a dull ‘thud’. Or maybe a ‘chink’. Definitely not a ringing sound. So you’d be surprised to know that ringing rocks actually do exist. Nestled in the midst of the 128-acre Ringing Rocks County Park in Pennsylvania, is a field of unique boulders. Spread out across seven to eight acres, the boulders produce a distinctive metallic ‘clang’ when struck with a hammer or another piece of rock. Native Americans have known about the rocks for centuries, and passed on their knowledge to the first White settlers in the mid-1700s.

The sound produced by the rocks is so unexpected that it could get you wondering if they are really made of stone. They actually sound hollow and metallic. The strange phenomenon has baffled scientists and geologists for years. Several experiments have been conducted on the ringing rocks, but the exact reason for the unusual sound remains unknown.

Richard Faas, a geologist from Pennsylvania, tested a few of the rocks in his lab in 1965. He discovered that when struck, each individual rock produced low frequency tones that aren’t audible to the human ear. The tones from multiple rocks interact with each other and it’s the collective sound that we get to hear.

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America’s Most Artistic Parking Garage

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The city of Detroit is home to the most artistic, most magnificent car park in America. The opulent structure that was once known as Michigan Theater is now being used as a three-level parking garage. And here’s the irony of the situation – one of the reasons the theater had closed down was insufficient parking space!

In fact, you could safely say that the car park has come a full circle. Before the theater had opened at the site, it used to contain Henry Ford’s first automobile workshop. That was torn down in 1926 and the theater was constructed with a massive budget of $5 million. Michigan Theater was one of the largest in the state – it could accommodate 4,000 people.

The premises was a multiplex of sorts – it served as a theater, concert hall and movie house. The French Renaissance décor included 10-foot tall chandeliers, a gilded four-story lobby, and mezzanine seating for black tie guests. The structure, covering 1,000 sq. ft., was an architectural marvel and a symbol of Detroit’s growing wealth.

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