Riding a Swing on the Edge of a Cliff in Ecuador

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It’s called the Swing at the End of the World and it could literally be the end of you, as this extreme attraction in the mountains of Ecuador lets thrill-seekers swing over an abyss without any safety measures whatsoever.

Hiking up the path to Bellavista from the edge of Baños, Ecuador, you reach a viewpoint and a seismic monitoring station named La Casa del Árbol (The Treehouse). As the name suggests it’s a small house built in a tree, at the edge of a canyon. The view from up here alone is worth the trip, but for adrenalin junkies, La Casa del Árbol offers a unique bonus – a swing hanging over the precipice. Believe it or not many of the people who come here actually use it just to see what it’s like to swing into the void, and the internet is full of scary photos of them hanging over the abyss. It’s reportedly a great way to keep yourself entertained when the clouds block the view of Ecuador’s rumbling Tungurahua volcano, but just I can’t stop thinking about the possibility of one of the lines, or the thin metal beam supporting it breaking which would most likely cause the rider to fall to his death. I know, I’m a coward, no need to rub it in.

 

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Chickens Don’t Fly? They Do at This Unique Thai Restaurant

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At the Ka Tron Restaurant, in Bangkok, Thailand, food is handled like heavy artillery. Its famous fried chickens are set ablaze and launched from a massive catapult at unicycle-riding waiters who catch them on metal skewers. How is that for dinner and a show?

Popularly known as the “Flying Chicken Restaurant”, Ka Tron proves a great gimmick really can make up for average food. Hardly any of the dishes served here are prepared in a truly unique way, they are just your run of the mill Thai recipes, but it’s the way they are served that sets this place apart from all the other eateries not only in Thailand, but the whole world. The chicken is carried out on a silver platter not to the diners, but to a long platform raised a couple of feet above the ground in the middle of the outdoor dining area, and set on one of the several metal catapults. A waiter riding a unicycle makes his way to the platform and stops a few feet away of the loaded catapult. As he struggles to keep his balance and concentrate on what comes next, the edible projectile is set on fire and launched from the medieval artillery device. The chicken soars through the air and most often than not lands on metal skewers the waiter holds in both his hands, in his mouth and on his head.

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Japan’s Hand Canon Fireworks Look Insanely Dangerous

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Out of all the impressive fireworks celebrations held annually all around Japan, Tezutsu Hanabi is by far the most eye-catching. Experienced masters hold large bamboo tubes filled with black powder in their arms as flames gush out towards the sky. Did I mention they explode at the end?

Tezutsu hand cannons are believed to have originated as a form of long-distance communication smoke devices called Noroshi. With the introduction of smokeless gun powder, these Civil War era tools started being used as fireworks and later as a form of prayer at Yoshida Shrine, in Toyohashi. The Tezutsu Hanabi fireworks display has been carried out for the last 300 years, as part of the Gion Festival, attracting tourists from all over Japan and beyond with columns of flames up to 20 meters-high piercing the night sky. Seeing dozens of men walking around nonchalantly with 80-cm-long, 10-cm-wide bamboo cylinders filled with over three kilograms of ignited black powder is indeed quite the spectacle.

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Become Spartacus at the World’s Only Traditional School for Gladiators

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Roman Gladatorial games may have been banned almost two millennia ago, but you can still train to become a modern-day Spartacus at Italy’s Scuola Gladiatori Roma, the only genuine school for gladiators in the world.

Following the success of box-office hits like Gladiator, starring Russel Crowe, or HBO’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand series, the popularity of ancient gladiators has reached record highs. But few fans of these ancient warriors know they can do more than build their own gladiator armor and read-up on their history on obscure websites. At the Scuola Gladiatori Roma, in Rome, they can actually train to fight in the arena like their lives depended on it. Students have to go through rigorous physical training that tests their agility, coordination, speed and strength, before moving on to the actual weapons training and finally facing their experienced instructor in the arena. True wannabe gladiators attend courses for several months, even years, and become specialized in certain weapons and combat techniques, according to their physique. But for those with less free-time on their hands, the Scuola Gladiatori Roma offers a “Gladiator for a Day” experience that puts participants through a crash course on gladiator training in ancient Rome.

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Dick’s Last Resort Restaurant – Would You Like Insults with That?

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Dick’s Last Resort is an American restaurant chain renowned for its obnoxious waiting staff. Patrons can expect to be insulted, made fun of and put in uncomfortable situations, all in the name of fun, of course.

If you like greasy southern grub Dick’s Last Resort is the perfect eatery for you. They specialize in juicy steaks, ribs, burgers and fried chicken, all served in extra-large portions sure to satisfy the biggest appetite. But that’s not why so many people across America come here. They come to be abused by the surly, obnoxious staff. The first ever Dick’s Last Resort restaurant opened as a fine dining establishment, 28 years ago. There were too many of those around and the venture turned out to be a failure which led to bankruptcy. Determined to make it in the restaurant business, owner Steve Schiff gave it another shot, only this time he decided to “go sloppy”. The classy decor was replaced by a wacky one, and the uber-friendly staff became obnoxious and abusive with patrons. Believe it or not, the bizarre concept proved a winner, and today Dick’s Last Resort is a successful restaurant chain with 13 different locations across the United States.

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Live Like a Genuine Convict at Latvia’s Prison Hotel

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Latvia’s Karosta Prison was used as a Nazi and Soviet military prison for most of the 20th century. Hundreds of prisoners are said to have died here, many of them shot in the head. Nowadays the nightmarish facility has been transformed in a prison-themed hotel where guests can sign an agreement to be treated like actual inmates.

Located in the city of Liepaja, Karosta Prison is one of Latvia’s most unique tourist attractions. Visitors can take tours of the old prison facility and learn the gruesome history of this place, visit the prison museum and even book a stay in one of the old cells. Karosta is certainly not the only prison converted to a hotel in the world, but it sets itself apart by allowing visitors to experience authentic prison life in Communist Era conditions. It might sound like a gimmick to attract tourists, but a stay at Karosta Prison is actually no walk in the park. To make sure there are no complaints, the hotel requires guests to sign an agreement acknowledging they are to be treated like prisoners by the trained staff. That includes sleeping in a cell on an old mattress laid over wooden boards, eating prison food served through the barred doors, getting verbally abused by the guards and following orders to the letter. Failure to comply to the strict code of conduct is punished through physical exercise and cleaning work around the prison.

Karosta-Prison-Hotel

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The Dancing Inmates of the Philippines

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The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, in the Philippines, has become internationally famous for using choreographed dancing to rehabilitate dangerous inmates. Videos of their dance routines have registered tens of millions of views on sites like YouTube, and the prison itself is now a tourist attraction of sorts.

Prison life is tough everywhere – well, maybe except Norway – and the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is no exception. Inmates sleep on hard pallets, share their cells with around a dozen other roommates and have a very strict schedule of work. But at least they get to dance. The truth is they don’t have a choice, because apart from the elderly and the sick, every one of the almost 2,000 prisoners is required to take part in the jail’s now-famous dance routines. Most of them enjoy doing it, because it takes their minds off their problems, keeps them away from drugs and violence, and teaches them discipline. In fact, two former inmates went on to become professional dancers when they got out. Introducing dancing as a rehabilitation technique was the idea of security consultant Byron Garcia. He was brought in to Cebu Prison in 2004, to deal with the constant riots. He moved the prisoners from an ancient stockade to a larger, more modern facility, fired dozens of corrupt guards, broke up gangs, banned the use of cash and introduced dancing. That last measure made the biggest difference. Violence subsided and the inmates health and behavior improved dramatically. Yet no one took notice…

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Houtong Cat Village – How a Few Purring Felines Saved a Dying Community

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This is the story of how a few dozen cats managed to save an entire community just by purring and looking pretty. Houtong was just another dilapidated mining town in the mountains of eastern New Taipei City, but everything changed when the felines came and livened up the place.

Houtong used to be one of Taiwan’s most important coal extraction sites, up until the 1970s. Then, oil and electricity took the place of coal, and the town suffered a steady decline. At one point it was reduced to a train stop along the Yilan line, one that most travelers ignored, and that forced many of its younger residents search for better opportunities elsewhere. The population of this defunct mining town dwindled from around six thousand inhabitants to a couple  of hundred, who struggled to survive. But their fortunes changed in 2008, when a cat lover who goes by the name “Palin88” organized a series of cat photography events in the mountain town. He and his friends posted the photos online, and got an overwhelming response from fellow feline enthusiasts. As they shared the photos on forums and social media sites, Houtong welcomed more and more tourists eager to photograph the cats themselves, or simply watch them roaming through the town. Nowadays, Houtong is known as the Cat Village, or Taiwan’s Cat Mecca.

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Experience Space Travel in the Back of a Japanese Bus

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Long bus tours can be pretty boring, but Japan’s Star Fighter buses are so incredibly cool they just don’t give you a chance to get bored. If you think they look impressive on the outside, wait until you see what’s in store for passengers inside.

Going on a Tokyo bus tour usually gives tourists a chance to catch a glimpse of Japan’s fascinating metropolis, but that’s not what the Star Fighter Tour operated by Willer Travel is about. In fact, their futuristic-looking buses don’t even have windows. So if it’s sightseeing you want, look elsewhere, but if you fancy an interactive space adventure right here on Earth, this is one Tokyo attraction you don’t want to miss. As you can see in the photo below, Star Fighter buses don’t look like ordinary tour buses. Their shiny silver paint job  is somewhat reminiscent of Star Trek, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, because the real exciting stuff is on the inside. As you step aboard, the space shuttle-themed decor makes it hard to tell if you’re on a bus or a ship ready for take-off. There are hatches on the floor and air locks on the walls, and the normal windows have been replaced with “Hyper Windows”, which are really LED screens that show the infinite space outside, as soon as the tour starts.

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Idol Rock – Nature’s Balancing Act

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The 50-acre expanse of Brimham Moor in North Yorkshire, England is home to a number of curious rock formations shaped by tens of thousands of years of erosion, but the most impressive of all is Idol Rock, a 200-ton monolith balancing on a tiny pyramidal base.

The 15-foot high Idol Rock looks like it’s about to crumble, but it never does. Weighing an estimated 200 tons, the giant rock formation has been performing its amazing balancing act for as long as anyone can remember, defying the laws of physics and leaving the visitors of Brimham Moor scratching their heads in awe. Also known as The Druids Idol or The Druid’s Writing Desk, this unique attraction sits on a tiny lump of rock only one foot in circumference. Photos of it have been circulating on the internet for years, with many claiming it is just the result of Photoshop manipulation, but the Idol of Brimham is very real, an example of Mother Nature’s artistic talent.

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The Chillout Ice Cafe Is Literally a Very Cool Place to Hang Out

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In the desert city of Dubai, summer temperatures average at about 40 degrees Celsius, so the last thing you’d expect to be able to do in this place is chill out in a sub-zero climate. But this is the UAE, where almost everything is possible, if you have the money. Welcome to the Chillout Ice Cafe!

Tourism is a huge part of Dubai’s economy, as it supports the entire emirate’s retail and hospitality industries, so in order to keep people coming to this desert paradise, local entrepreneurs have invested heavily in all kinds of unique attractions, from the stunning Burj Al Arab hotel to a palm-shaped artificial archipelago, and even an ice cafe where visitors can hang out at -6 degrees Celsius, surrounded by nothing but ice. Located in the Times Square shopping mall, right next to the famous Dubai Ski Dome, where people can actually ski down artificial snow slopes, the Chillout Cafe is made entirely of carved ice, including ice curtains, frosty tables and seats covered with fur, ice chandeliers, as well as beautiful sculptures highlighted by fluorescent lights. The cutlery, plates and glasses are also made of ice. Talk about a cool place to hide away from the scorching sun.

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Jembatan Akar – Indonesia’s Amazing Tree Root Bridge

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For the last hundred years, the residents of two tiny Indonesian villages in West Sumatra have used a 30-meter-long bridge formed from the interconnected roots of two trees located on each side of a fast-flowing river, to reach each other and trade supplies. Today, the natural wonder known as “Jembatan Akar” has become a popular tourist attraction.

According to locals the amazing tree root bridge was built in 1890, by Pakih Sohan, a Muslim teacher from Lubuak Glare, disappointed by the fact that students from Pulut-pulut couldn’t attend his classes on Islam and Quran recitations due to the Batang Bayang river that separated the two settlements. He planted two small Jawi-jawi – a type of  broad-leaf banyan tree – and started stringing their roots around a stem bridge made of bamboo. In just a few years time the two trees reached each other over the river, but the bridge wouldn’t be able to support the passing villagers’ weight for another two decades. It took approximately 26 years for Jembatan Akar to become the sturdy bridge it is today, and with each passing year, it becomes even stronger, as the banyan tree roots continue to grow.

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The Iconic Floating Forest of Sydney

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There are a lot of shipwrecks in Sydney’s Homebush Bay, near the Olympic village, but none quite like the SS Ayrfield, also known as “The Floating Forest” for the lush mangrove vegetation that now covers its rusty hull.

The SS Ayrfield (originally launched as SS Corrimal), was a collier ship built in England in 1911 and used by the Commonwealth Government during World War II to transport supplies to American troops in the Pacific. It was sold in 1950 and operated as a collier on the sixty-miler run between Newcastle and Sydney, until 1972 when the ship’s registration was canceled and it was sent to its final resting place, Homebush Bay. Before the 2000 Olympic Games, this place was a ship breaking zone, and the dozens of shipwrecks that still remain here are a constant reminder of its history. Some say there’s a certain creepiness about the Homebush Bay ship graveyard, but that is lessened by the unique look of the SS Ayrfield, which locals often refer to as the Floating Forest. A bunch of full-grown mangrove trees now call this rusty partly-submerged piece of metal home, creating a new and unique attraction that draws in photographers from all over the world.

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All Aboard the Controversy Inn’s Tram Apartments

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Viewed as one of the most unusual hotels in the world, the Controversy Inn gives the term “room and board” a whole new meaning by repurposing old tramcars  as luxurious accommodations for guests.

Located in Holland’s Hoogwoud village, the Controversy Inn is run by two kooky Prince fans and offers visitors the unique opportunity of sleeping in fully reconditioned tramcars that used to run in Germany and Amsterdam years ago. It might not sound like the most comfortable stay, but the owners of this wacky establishment have gone out of their way to make the trams as cozy as possible. All the “rooms” feature double beds, showers and toilet facilities, a well-supplied kitchenette, and lovely decorations made from old-traffic lights, discarded furniture, car parts and other recycled objects. The three tramcars and the full-sized railway car have all been themed around different cultures around the world – America, Italy, France and Mexico – and come with their own matching type of breakfast. Frank and Irma Appel, the two motoring enthusiasts behind the Controversy Inn, sleep in an English-style Double-Decker bus they’ve somehow managed to insert right in the living-room of their picturesque farmhouse. How crazy is that?

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Playa del Amor – The Hidden Beach of Marieta Islands

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If it weren’t for the sound of the waves gently washing up on its fine sand beach, people would probably walk right past Playa del Amor without even knowing it was there. Located several meters inland on one of the Marieta Islands, the Hidden Beach is one of those unique natural wonders you definitely don’t want to miss.

The Marieta Islands archipelago, located off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico are believed to have formed centuries ago due to volcanic activity in the area. During the early 1900s, the Mexican Government took advantage of the fact they were completely uninhabited and used the islands to conduct military tests. After years of research and efforts to legally protect the archipelago, scientists led by the famous Jacques Cousteau managed to convince Mexican authorities to declare the Marietas a national park protected against fishing, hunting and any other harmful human activities. To this day, the islands remain uninhabited and only authorized boat service providers can take tourists to see their natural wonders up-close. Although the large explosions and bombings carried out for decades have greatly damaged the flora and fauna of this tropical paradise, some say they’re also responsible for the creation of one of its most amazing attractions – Playa del Amor, also known as the Hidden Beach of Mexico.

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