The Guinea Pig Festival of Huacho Has Rodents on the Menu

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It’s funny how a cute and furry pet in one part of the world can be considered a delicacy in another. But that’s exactly what guinea pigs are in the small town of Huacho in Peru. In fact, they have a whole festival dedicated to dressing up and cooking the hairy rodents – The Festival of the Guinea Pig, or as the Peruvians call it, the Cavies.

As a part of the festival that has been around since the mid-2000s, guinea pigs are dressed up as kings, miners, peasants, traditional folk singers and also in modern costume for fashion shows. There are prizes for best costume, so every effort is made to impress judges during the show. As cute as they may look in their little outfits, it’s disturbing to know that sometimes, in an effort to make the costumes stay on the guinea pigs, the people of Huacho do not hesitate to use staples. Prizes are handed out for the biggest, fastest, best-dressed and even the tastiest animal of all. Because once the parade is over, it’s time to eat the models! The guinea pigs are taken out of their costumes and cooked in various ways, like baking, frying, or roasting on an open flame. The locals love their cavies served whole on a plate – complete with the heads, guts, paws and even claws. Garnishes include tomatoes, cucumbers, Andean potatoes, and large Peruvian corn calledchoclo. And the best way to eat the animal, according to the Peruvian folk, is to pick up the entire guinea pig and simply suck the meat off the bones. A single dish of whole fried or baked guinea pig with all the garnishes costs approximately $7. According to festival visitor, Juan Rojas, “Guinea pig meat is very nourishing and contains lots of vitamins and other things.” Native to the high Andes, the meat of guinea pigs is considered to be low in fat and an important source of protein.

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Women-Only Sleeping Cafe Opens in Tokyo

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Power naps – those short periods of sleep during the day – have been known to boost brain activity and increase productivity at the work place. Now a sleeping cafe in Tokyo’s Akasaka business district is offering hard-working Japanese women the chance to enjoy the benefits of the power nap, for a fee.

Stress and fatigue at the office are real issues in Japan, but for the women workaholics of the Asakara business district, in Tokyo there is a place where they can go relax and restore their energy – the Quska Sleeping Cafe. This ingenious concept offers patrons the chance to get a quick shut-eye either during their lunch breaks or in between their constant hours of overtime. It charges ¥150 ($1.60) for ten minutes of sleep in their comfortable facilities, but have even more affordable rates for clients looking to buy four-hour slots (¥3,120, around $33) or more. Now, you may think 10 minutes makes no difference if you’re ready to drop to the floor from fatigue, but various studies have shown that brief naps (10 -15 minutes) improve a person’s alertness and overall performance without the negative effects of sleep inertia associated with longer sleeping periods. Japanese companies are well-known for their productivity, and one of the reasons for this may be the power nap. For years, they’ve actually been encouraging their employees to take naps during work hours, and sleeping cafes like Quska provide the perfect environment.

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Colomares Castle – An Enchanting Masterpiece Dedicated to Christopher Columbus

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Boasting a combination of Byzantine, Roman, Gothic and Mudejar architectural styles, Colomares Castle, in the Spanish town of Benalmadena is a unique monument that pays homage to explorer Christopher Columbus.

Looking at this fairy-tale castle with all its exquisite details, you could never guess it was built by a doctor with no architectural background, and two local brick layers. Esteban Martin, M.D., spent seven years working on Colombares Castle, from 1987 to 1994, trying to create a marvelous monument honoring Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. For the good doctor building the castle was a labor of love, undertaken in his spare time. He tried to combine all these different architectural styles and at the same time include various elements relating to Christopher Columbus and his historic journey, like finely carved representations of the three ships that made the trip to America. In the end, he manged to construct the largest monument dedicated to the Genovese explorer, covering an area of 1,500 square meters. At the same time, Colomares Castle made into the Guinness Book of Records for hosting the world’s tiniest chapel, just 1.96 square meters in size.

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Japanese Restaurant Employs Masked Monkey Waiters

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Are you running a restaurant and can’t afford to hire waiters? Well, you could take a cue from this Japanese restaurant that hired monkeys for the job. And in an attempt to make them look more human, they even strapped masks on their faces. Not that they really fooled anybody.

The restaurant in question is Kayabuki, in the Miyukihoncho part of Utsunomiya, North of Tokyo. The place is a traditional ‘sake house’, which makes its choice of staff even stranger – a couple of monkeys named Yat-chan and Fuku-chan working as waiters (or waitresses, we’re not sure). 16-year-old Yat-chan is the older of the two, but he moves quickly between tables as he takes the customers’ drink orders. Fuku-chan gives diners a hot towel and helps them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.  Believe it or not, the pair is actually certified by local authorities to work at the restaurant. The customers like them as well, so they get tipped with soya beans. One customer, Takayoshi Soeno said, “The monkeys are actually better waiters than some really bad human ones.”

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The Sacred Antogo Fishing Ritual, or How to Catch All the Fish in a Lake in 15 Minutes

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Just beneath the village of Bamba, in the Northern part of Dogon country in Mali, lies a small, yet sacred lake, where fishing is permitted only once a year – during the unique ritual called Antogo.

In the past, Bamba is said to have been covered in lush green forests. The lake, which is considered to be sacred and populated with good spirits, used to offer tons of fish that contributed to local food requirements. But with changes in climate, desertification, and the passage of time, the region gradually became dry, infertile and inhospitable. The locals now face huge problems such as unavailability of water, but the lake still represents a precious resource to the local Dogons, but one which they exhaust every year during Antogo. The event is held on the 6th month of the dry season, generally in May, but the exact date is fixed each year by the council of wise men. Saturdays are market days in Bamba, and for the first three market days of the month wooden sticks are placed in the middle of the lake, acting as a signal, a warning that the ritual is getting closer. On the day that is finally designated as the day of Antogo, hundreds gather from all parts of Mali around Bamba’s lake. The 3 biggest groups are formed by the most respected and ancient families of various Dogon villages. The group from Bamba itself is usually the largest. These groups of people maintain a collective mystical silence, except for the wise who recite incantations and praise deities. When they are done speaking, the ritual itself – and all the magic associated with it – begins.

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Extreme Mountain Unicycling Is as Crazy as It Sounds

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As if coming down the side of a mountain on two wheels wasn’t hard enough, thrill-seekers have come up with an even crazier sport – extreme mountain unicycling. Saying this sport is dangerous and difficult is probably a huge understatement.

If you though unicycling was just a goofy pastime, and out previous posts on Cycle Ball and other interesting unicycle sports haven’t changed your mind, this one definitely will. Extreme mountain Unicycling is all about climbing dangerous peaks and then sliding and bunny-hopping all the way down without falling into seemingly-bottomless chasms. Not really my idea of a fun time to be honest, but I have to admit watching the likes of Lutz Eichholz cycling their way down the Dolomite Mountains, in Italy, on one wheel is pretty cool. The young German and his friend Stephanie Dietze garnered the support of Adidas sportswear, who sponsored their trip and provided a professional cameraman to record their unbelievably dangerous feats.

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Indonesian Tribe Believes Chiseled Teeth Make Women Beautiful

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If tattooed black gums are considered a thing of beauty in West Africa, it’s chiseled, pointy-sharp teeth that’s the ‘in thing’ for some Indonesian tribes. I do wonder though, why it’s always the women who have to subject themselves to bizarre beauty rituals.

Well, we may not be able to answer that question any time soon, but we can tell you about Indonesian tooth-filing, a beauty regimen that involves the sawing of teeth until they achieve a sharp, narrow and pointed shape. Women in some Indonesian rural communities are considered extremely beautiful after they’ve undergone such a treatment. Mantawaian is one such village, where the wife of the village chief, Pilongi, had to go through with it a couple of years ago. She had managed to avoid the ritual when she was a young teenager, but as the wife of a powerful man in the village, she had to oblige him by becoming more beautiful.

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The Floating Man-Made Islands of Lake Titicaca

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The people of Uros, a small South American tribe in Peru, have made living arrangements for themselves that are so unique, they’re not found anywhere else in the world. These people live most of their lives on man-made floating islands? The islands were created on Lake Titicaca in Peru, for the protection against other stronger tribes. The lake is the largest by volume in South America, and provides ample protection by itself since it is completely isolated and located about 3000 m above sea level.

But the Uros people were apparently not satisfied with the protection of the lake alone. They went one step further to ensure their safety, making good use of the reeds that grow in abundance along the banks of the lake. The reeds proved to be a malleable material, so they were dried out, bundled and shaped into boats that float very well. This natural material also made it possible for the ancient Uros to create a system of floating domiciles that could be quickly moved away from the mainland in case of any emergency, called the tortora islands. Today, about half the population of the Uros about 500 individuals), still prefer to live in this age-old manner. Of course, they’ve renovated their floating islands to include some modern amenities as well.

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World’s First Official Barbie Cafe Is as Pink as You’d Expect

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As if Asians didn’t have enough pink in their lives, from all those crazy Hello-Kitty-themed venues, now there’s an official Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan. And yes, it has dolls, themed foods and more pink than most men can bare.

January 30th witnessed the inauguration of the world’s first official Barbie Cafe, in one of the busiest shopping districts in Taipei. The iconic doll’s maker, Mattel, licensed Taiwanese restaurant chain Sinlaku to open the themed cafe in hopes that it will promote Barbie as a fashion brand. Iggy Yip, senior manager of Mattel’s Greater China division, commented: ”We picked Taiwan because theme restaurants are very popular and successful here. We are very confident that the Barbie Cafe can promote our brand image.” Indeed, the island is home to a number of unique restaurants and cafes, including one modeled after an A380 airplane, a cardboard restaurant, and even a popular toilet restaurant. But there is a special relationship between Taiwan and Barbie, as this was where the popular doll was originally manufactured, before production lines were moved to mainland China and other parts, to lower costs. In 2009, another Barbie restaurant was opened in Shanghai, China, but it closed down two years later, after it proved unsuccessful.

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The Maeklong Railway Food Market – A Strange Wonder of Thailand

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Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory loves trains, but I’m not too sure if he’d like this particular one. The Maeklong market railway passes right through the middle of a tightly packed market – so tight, that passengers can probably grab a few vegetables as they pass through. The market’s stalls are actually set up on the train rails, but shopkeepers know the train’s schedule, so just before it passes through, they quickly drag their goods into the shops and pull the roofs down. After the train has passed through, it’s back to business as usual. This happens no less than 8 times a day.

The Maeklong market has become so popular with tourists that there might actually be more people visiting to see it rather than buy anything. Located 72 km or an hour’s drive south-west of Bangkok, Maeklong is the capital of the Samut Songkhram province. Most people compare the market to something like a movie set; it’s that surreal. It’s amazing how every inch of space available has been utilized. The small stalls on either side of the railway track are made from tarpaulins and sometimes just a bedspread. They consist of plastic trays filled with vegetables and vibrant Thai fruit like mangosteens and rambutans. You can also find fresh-cut flowers, fragrant spices, cuts of meat, fresh seafood and poultry. And it doesn’t just stop with food; there are other goods to be purchased as well, like clothes, lingerie, toys, and pirated DVDs. Sometimes there aren’t even stalls, just people sitting on the ground with trays of fruit at their feet.

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The Pain of Growing Up – Being Stung by Hundreds of Bullet Ants in the Amazon Rain-Forest

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Among the most bizarre coming-of-age rites we’ve ever featured is the one followed by the Satere-Mawe Tribe, an indigenous tribe from the Amazon rain forest, Brazil. What a boy has to do to become a man in this tribal community is painful, to say the least – he has to withstand being stung by not one, but a swarm of Bullet Ants. In case you’e not familiar with this exotic insect, here’s an interesting fact: the Bullet Ant claims the number one spot on the SSPI (Schmidt Sting Pain Index), a scale created by Justin Schmidt that rates the pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. Some say the ant’s sting is just as agonizing as being shot by a bullet.

In preparation for the initiation rite, the elders of the tribe collect the ants from the jungle. These ants are drugged and placed stinger- first into special gloves woven from leaves. As the drug wears off, the ants become increasingly agitated and are raring to sting. This is when the boy puts on the gloves and lets the bullet ants work their magic, for 10 whole minutes, no less. “It’s the same as having your hands on fire,” says one Satere man. But the real pain starts once the gloves come off, and the venom starts to take effect. As the pain continues to rise, the hands become paralyzed and look like stumps. But just one attempt is usually not enough to turn a Stare boy into a man. He must go through this ritual as many times as it takes for him not to cry during the process. The day he doesn’t shed a single tear, is when he becomes a real man. Sometimes, this can take up to 20 attempts.

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Friends in Real Life – Man Opens Iconic Sitcom Cafe in Beijing

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If you were a fan of the hugely popular sitcom Friends, you surely remember their favorite meeting place, the Central Perk Cafe. Tired of just seeing the characters experience the coziness of that soft orange couch, one Chinese fan decided to create his own Friends cafe, in Beijing.

Like so many of us, Du Xin loved Friends. “I’m crazy about Friends. For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life,” he told NPR. After watching the show, he started searching around Beijing for a place where he could actually sit on an orange couch just like the one his favorite heroes relaxed on in the sitcom. When he couldn’t find a Central Perk, he decided to create it himself. And he wasn’t going to settle for something similar, he wanted a place that looked exactly like what he’d seen on TV all those years, down to the tiniest details. Tucked away on the sixth-floor of the Chaowai Soho complex, this replica of Central Perk has the coveted couch, the same windows and doorway as the original, the brick interior and even the same hand written snack items featured on Friends. In order to nail all the things he wanted, Du studied thousands of photos of the show’s set and watched endless reruns, and five months later he had the cafe of his dreams.

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Okunoshima Island – Japan’s Rabbit Paradise

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Okunoshima is a small Japanese island, located in the Inland Sea of Japan, in the Hiroshima Prefecture. What’s special about this place is that it is completely crawling with rabbits – a bunny paradise of sorts. Nicknamed the Rabbit Okunoshima attracts thousands of animal lovers every year. Feeding bunnies can be one of the most relaxing pastimes, and people come here to do just that. The island is a popular day-trip and weekend holiday destination.

Okunoshima might be a place of natural beauty, but it has a dark, dirty past as well. In the early 20th century, it served as the base for the Imperial Army’s lethal gas operation. Over 6,000 tons of about 5 types of poison gas were manufactured on this very island between the years of 1929 and 1945. The mission was top secret back then, so Okunoshima was actually omitted from maps and workers were sworn to secrecy. Today, you can still see the ruins of these factories on the island. Given its history, there are several explanations of the unusually large number of rabbits in this place. Some sources say the furry animals were brought over during World War II, to test the effects of the poisonous gases. When the war ended, the workers are said to have released the rabbits into the wild. Other sources claim that a group of children were on a field trip at Okunoshima in 1971, when they left behind 8 bunnies. Well, we might never know how the first rabbits got on to the island, but they did their job well – copulating to make sure they left behind hundreds of their progeny to roam the island today. Hundreds might not sound like a lot, but on an island just 2.5 kilometers in circumference they make their presence felt.

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The Amazing Tree Houses of the Korowai Tribe

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In our part of the world, grown-ups are known to build tree houses for their kids, but there exists a parallel culture on this very planet, where the grown-ups themselves live in tree houses. I’m talking about the Korowai tribe of Papua, Indonesia, that has engineered and survived in towering tree homes as high as 114 feet above the ground. The tribe inhabits an inaccessible jungle located 150 km inland from the Arafura Sea, and was completely isolated from the world, until 1974, when they were discovered by a Dutch missionary. The Korowai tribe consists of a small society of traditional family ties, hunter gatherers who have been quite popular with the press for their cannibalistic tendencies.

However, what’s most fascinating about the Korowai people is the way they have designed their homes. There are a few reasons why they live up in the trees – to protect themselves from swarming mosquitoes, evil spirits, and of course, troublesome neighbors. What better way to escape the pesky next-door-neighbor than to hide up in a tree? Ideally, a Korowai tree house is constructed in a clearing, with a large Banyan or Wambom tree serving as the main pole. Once a suitable tree has been located, its top is removed. The floor frame is laid down first, made from branches and covered with sago palm. Walls and a roof are added, bound together with raffia. Additional poles are added to the corners for extra support. The average tree home ranges between 8 to 12 meters above ground level, but some go as high as 35 meters. Each house is sturdy enough to accommodate up to a dozen people.

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Tianducheng – A Small Piece of Paris, Made in China

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It appears that the Chinese have tired of imitating objects, so they’ve now moved on to entire cities. How else could you explain the gated community of Tianducheng, that boasts its very own Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and European-style villas? Located near Hangzhou, the capital of the coastal Zhejiang province, the community built by real estate company Zhejiang Guangsha Co. Ltd. in 2007 is a housing development meant to attract China’s rich and powerful. The developers apparently wanted to give the wealthy Chinese a chance to enjoy European culture without actually having to travel thousands of miles.  It took five years of meticulous construction and landscaping to create the entire 19 sq. km (12 sq. mile) community.

According to Lu Xiaotian, the company’s director, “The community can house up to 10,000 people comfortably.” Apart from the obvious touristy feel, the community also provides amenities ranging from a school, a country club and a hospital. All this, in the midst of the serene surroundings of a park atmosphere. The real estate group has largely capitalized on the fact that Chinese honeymooners tend to flock to Paris, and also that French designer labels and wine are popular status symbols in major Chinese cities. So the community of Tianducheng gives residents the opportunity to sit on the steps by their very own Bassin de Latone, a cleverly done imitation of the famous fountain located in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. They can also admire the Eiffel Tower, which is a 108 m high replica of the 324 m original, in their very own neighborhood. Apart from the obvious imitations of famous monuments, there are the Parisienne-style gardens surrounded by rows and rows of European-style villas.

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