Pyongyang Cafe – A Small Piece of North Korea on the Spanish Coast

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Entering North Korea is not the easiest or safest thing to do for foreigners, but curious tourists can now experience a small piece of North Korean culture in the Mediterranean city of Tarragona, where a small bar founded to promote Kim Jong-Un’s totalitarian regime recently opened.

Alejandro Cao de Benos, the founder of Pyongyang Cafe, is the only Westerner to occupy a post in the North Korean regime, even if it is only honorary. A firm believer in communism, he became interested in North Korea after the fall of the Soviet Union, which coincided with meeting some North Korean families in Madrid. He started traveling to the isolated Asian country, managed to meet with the late Kim Jong-Il, and in 2002 he was appointed special delegate for international cultural relations by Pyongyang. The title is not official, but he has taken his mission very seriously. Cao de Benos, a.k.a. “Cho Sun-il” (which translates as “Korea is one”) went on to found the Korean Friendship Association which currently has delegates in 30 countries around the world.

As someone who regularly appears in the Spanish media to defend North Korea against what he calls Western propaganda and manipulation, Cho Sun-il decided to open Pyongyang Cafe as a way to offer people an authentic North Korean experience. “We want to break with all the myths, manipulation,” he says. “And as not many people can go to Korea, because it’s complicated and far, they can come to our cafe.”

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Shoyna – The Russian Village Fighting a Losing Battle against Sand

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Shoyna, a small Russian village located on the edge of the arctic circle is often referred to as the world’s northernmost desert. The sand covers everything as far as the eye can see and the few people living here never dare shut their front doors at night, for fear of being buried alive by the ever-shifting dunes. But it wasn’t always like this…

Shoyna was settled in the 1930’s by fishermen drawn to the coast of the White Sea by the abundance of fish in the area. In just two decades, it had grown into a bustling fishing port with a population of around 1,500 people and a fleet of roughly seventy fishing boats. However, it wasn’t long before excessive trawling decimated the fish colonies and the fishery collapsed. The dozens of vessels lining the shore stopped coming and many of the families that had thrived in Shoyna slowly moved away. Today, the official number of inhabitants is 375, most of whom survive on unemployment benefits and pensions. Hunting is also a way to make ends meet, thanks to the large number of barnacle and Brent geese that use Shoyna as a stopover on their migration course, but the most lucrative job in the village is definitely that of bulldozer driver, as everyone needs their house dug up from the sand at one point.

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The Spanish Village of Witches Cursed by the Catholic Church

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Nestled in the foothills of the Macayo Mountains, in Aragon, Spain, lies a quaint village plagued by a curse so strong that only the Pope can lift it.

Trasmoz was once a bustling settlement with a population of around 10,000 people, but today it numbers only 62 inhabitants, of which only 30 live there permanently. For many, the downfall of Trasmoz has a lot to do with the curse placed on the village by the Catholic Church centuries ago and the stigma associated with witchcraft. Its history is riddled with legends of witches and pagan rituals, and even the ruined castle at its center is said to have been built in a single night by a magician called Mutamín. How many of these stories are true, and how many are simple rumors spread by the Church to justify its actions is left to interpretation.

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Fishing with Fire – A Mesmerizing Tradition of Taiwan

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For hundreds of years, fishermen in Taiwan have been catching sardines with the help of fiery stick held over the edge of a boat. The fish are so attracted to the light that they jump out of the water and into the nets of the fishermen.

Fire fishing is as simple as it is mesmerizing. Fishing boats head out to sea during the night, and light up a bamboo stick covered with sulfuric soil at one end to create a bright flame. The sulfur dissolves in the water and the gas produced then flashes with fire. Drawn to the light spectacle, sardines jump out of the water by the hundreds at a time and end up in the fishermen’s nets. Sulfuric fire fishing was developed during the period of Japanese Rule and is now practiced only in the Jinshan sulfur harbor.

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Chinese Artist Spends 20 Years Turning Ancient Valley into an Artistic Wonderland

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Artist Song Peilun is being hailed as “The Father of Yelang Valley” after spending the last two decades turning a forested patch of land into an artistic village as a tribute to the ancient civilization that once thrived in the area.

Yelang was an ancient political entity first described in the 3rd century BC centered in what is now western Guizhou province, China. Experts believe that many ancient cultures were rooted here, but there are unfortunately no architectural remnants left standing in the great valley. Inspired by Crazy Horse, a mountain monument dedicated to a Native American warrior, in the US state of South Dakota, after visiting the United States, Chinese artist Song Peilun dedicated his life to building a memorial to the artistic heritage of Yelang Valley and restoring part of its former glory.

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Pablo EskoBear – The Legendary Cocaine Bear of Kentucky

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When it comes to weird tourist attractions, it’s hard to beat a stuffed black bear that died of what many people consider the worst cocaine overdose in history. Nicknamed Pablo EscoBear, the unique tourist attraction is currently on display at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, in Lexington.

On December 23, 1985, the New York Times reported about a 175-pound black bear that had apparently died of an overdose of cocaine in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. Three months earlier, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton II had dropped large quantities of drugs from an airplane over that area, before jumping from it himself. Unfortunately, Thornton got tangled in his parachute and fell to his death in someone’s yard, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Before turning to a life of crime, Kentucky blue blood Andrew Thornton II had worked as a narcotics officer of all things, and then as a lawyer. It is believed that he had built his network of connections during his time on the right side of the law, before becoming a drug smuggler. He was on a coke-smuggling run from Colombia when he dropped 40 plastic containers full of cocaine in Chattahoochee National Forest.

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Vineyard Keeps Vines Pest-Free with the Help of This Adorable 900-Duck Army

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Vergenoegd Wine Estate, a small vineyard in South Africa, keeps the use of chemicals to a minimum with the help of a 900-strong army of ducks that make sure all the vines are always free of pests and snails.

One of the last things you would expect to see on a vineyard is a large group of ducks running around, quacking and looking or things to feast on. And yet that’s the sight you’re very likely to behold at Vergenoegd Wine Estate, in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A feathery army of 900 Indian Runner Ducks is unleashed through the grape vines two times a day – once at 9.45am and again at 3.30pm – and allowed to feast on any pests and snails they can find. Over the years, the ducks have become a tourist attraction of sorts and even have their own daily parade where visitors can watch them run to work. As you can see in the video below, it’s a pretty impressive sight.

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Aptly Named Rollercoaster Restaurant Delivers Your Food via Tiny Rollercoasters

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British theme park Alton Towers is giving fast food a whole new meaning with its-newly opened ‘Rollercoaster Restaurant’ where dishes are delivered to patrons via – you guessed it – tiny rollercoasters. For an attraction famous for its adrenaline pumping rides, this is the perfect eatery.

When you enter the Rollercoaster Restaurant, an employee will seat you at your table and explain how to use a tablet to order food, which will travel to your table via a 26-foot rollercoaster with two gravity-defying loop-the-loops. But here’s the catch – you share a rollercoaster with three other tables, so there’s no way of telling whether the dish on the way is the one you ordered or not.

Once it makes its way down to the bottom, the dish will plant itself on a massive lazy suzan, along with a flag displaying the table number. If it happens to be yours, you can simply rotate the lazy susan towards your table and help yourself. Thankfully, the food arrives in closed containers and drinks arrive in bottles to avoid spillage, while hot beverages like tea and coffee are served the regular way – by hand.

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Antlerman’s Shed – Inside an Awe-Inspiring Building Decorated with Thousands of Deer Antlers

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James Phillips, from Three Forks, Montana, has been collecting shed antlers for over half a century now. The 66-year-old takes long hikes in the foothills of the mountains, looking for antlers to take home. Over the last six decades, he has collected over 16,000 individual pieces that now cover virtually every inch of a specially constructed 30 x 64 foot building known as Antlerman’s Shed.

Antlerman recalls that his passion for collecting sheds began in 1958. “I, as a ten year old, took a short walk from my parents’ homemade trailer up a creek into the timber,” he wrote on his website, Antlerman.com. “I stumbled onto an old set of elk antlers and packed them back to camp. A few days later I hiked a little further and brought home a couple old white elk antlers. To this day, when I find a shed I get the same rush as I did then. Antler hunting is in my blood.”

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The Wild Parrots of Brooklyn – New York’s Cutest Immigrants

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Among the brightest of Brooklyn’s diverse inhabitants are Quaker parrots – tropical green birds with blue wing tips, measuring about 12 inches from beak to tail. Although they’re native to the generally hot regions of central and southern Argentina, they’ve successfully managed to colonize the relatively colder New York borough over the past four to five decades.

No one knows exactly how these colonies of exotic birds came to live in the Big Apple, but as with all mysteries, there is a lot of speculation surrounding their existence. The most popular explanation has to do with an accident at JFK Airport, during which a number of birds escaped from broken shipping crates and ended up making a home for themselves in the city. Others believe the real answer to this mystery is much less dramatic, and actually has to do with clumsy bird owners. Quaker or Monk Parrots were very popular pets during the 70’s as they were very cooperative and easy to train, so it’s easy to assume that some of them escaped and founded the colonies that today exist all over New York – in Pelham Bay in the Bronx, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in eastern Queens in Howard Beach, throughout Staten Island, and sometimes in Central Park.

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Manila Cemetery Known as “Beverly Hills of the Dead” Is Full of Luxurious Mansions

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Death doesn’t put an end to the luxurious lifestyles of some of Manila’s wealthy Chinese residents. They are buried by their loved ones in a mammoth graveyard known as the Chinese Cemetery of Manila. This place is a small neighborhood in it’s own right, with many tombs reaching the size of mansions with all the modern amenities included!

The ginormous mausoleums lining either side of two-way streets within the cemetery are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that many living people can only dream of. They have fully-functioning kitchens and bathrooms with luxury fittings, and plush bedrooms for visiting relatives. Some of these places even have full-time residents who don’t seem to mind sharing their living space with the dead.

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Goose Creek Tower – Alaska’s Whimsical Dr. Seuss House

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The Alaskan wilderness is home to many natural wonders but also an unusual man-made structure that appears to have jumped right out of the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Located over 130 kilometers away from Anchorage city, the quirky 185-ft edifice known as Goose Creek Tower looks like a bunch of houses built on top of each other. 

This strange tourist attraction was built after a forest fire created a natural clearing among the trees, midway between Willow and Talkeetna. This particular spot apparently offers a beautiful view of Denali – North America’s highest mountain peak – and it’s this detail that explains, at least in part, the strange design of Goose Creek Tower. It started off as a single-storey house, but as the forest started growing back after the fire, owner Phil Weidner began adding additional floors just so he could enjoy the picturesque view from the windows, over the canopy. The completed structure is so reminiscent of the illustrated Dr. Seuss stories by Theodore LeSieg, that locals fondly refer to it as the ‘Dr. Seuss House’.

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World’s First Hedgehog Cafe Opens in Japan

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Tokyo is now home to the world’s first hedgehog cafe, the latest in a long list of animal-themed establishments in the city. Located in the Roppongi entertainment district, the cafe is named ‘Harry’ – a play on the Japanese word for hedgehog.

Hedgehogs aren’t native to Japan, but they’ve long since been sold as pets in the nation that’s crazy for all things cute. At Harry, 1,000 yen ($9) can buy animal lovers an hour in the company of the prickly yet adorable creatures. The cafe is home to 20 to 30 friendly hedgehogs of different breeds that you can spend time with and even take home. A chalk-written blackboard lists all the available hedgehog breeds available for purchase and their prices by sex. So if customers find it hard to part with the adorable rodents once their hour is up, they have the option to give them a forever home.

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Manipur’s All-Women Market – Over 4000 Shopkeepers and Not One Man Among Them

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Literally translating to ‘Mother’s Market’, Ima Keithel is Asia’s largest all-women market, where all the stalls are run exclusively by women. Located in the heart of Imphal, in the Indian state of Manipur, the 500-year-old vibrant bazaar has 4,000-odd local women trading with thousands of customers each day. The market also serves as a meeting ground for discussions on important social and political issues of the state.

The market’s origin dates back centuries, to a time when Manipur was ruled by kings. During this time, a tradition called ‘Lallup’ was followed, requiring male members of the local Meitei community to serve the king whenever summoned. So the women of the household would take the responsibility of farming and commerce. This instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in them, which has been passed all the way down to the present generation of female traders. Interestingly, to this day, only married women are permitted to trade at the market.

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Krishna’s Butter Ball – A Precariously Perched 250-Ton Boulder Defying the Laws of Physics

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For over 1,300 years, this large rock has been confounding the locals of Mahabalipuram, a beach town near Chennai, in Southern India. The mysterious landmark is perched on hill at a 45-degree angle, balancing off an extremely small surface area without slipping or even budging an inch. Men and even elephants have tried moving it from its precarious position , but every attempt so far has failed.

The locals call it ‘Vaanirai Kal’ (Stone of the Sky God), but the rock is more popularly known as ‘Krishna’s Butter Ball’, referencing Lord Krishna’s favorite food, butter, fallen from the heavens. The gravity-defying rock, measuring 20 ft high and five meters in diameter, is estimated to weigh over 250 tons, which makes it heavier than the monolithic stones of Machu Picchu, or Ollantaytambo. Despite its massive size and weight, Krishna’s Butter Ball is firmly anchored on a four-foot base along the slope of a small hill located on the outskirts of Mahabalipuram. It looks like it might slip any moment and come crashing down the hill, but it has stayed that way for several centuries now.

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