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.”

Pet-Cafe-Hanoi

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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’.

castle-in-the-sky

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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.

Blue-Pond-in-Hokkaido

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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.

extreme-golf-course

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The Eerie Melted Bricks of Fort Zverev, in Russia

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Fort Zverev, built in the 1870s by Russian engineer Konstantin Zverev, lies in complete ruins today. Nonetheless, it is as much of an attraction now as it was in its heyday. Located on an artificial island in the Baltic Sea, just north of Kronstadt, the fort is a derelict structure that can well be described as ‘hell on earth’. The rusting bunker hatches, water tubes and machine gun mounts scattered on the surface are hardly an indicator of what lies within.

Back when the fort was still in use, the Russians stored a type of fuel similar to napalm in the basement. Unfortunately, in 1970, an unexpected fire that started in the fort spread to the basement as well, causing an uncontrollable inferno. The incident was simply horrific – the burning fuel reached temperatures over 2000 degrees Celsius. It got so hot that the brick walls and ceiling literally melted and ran down like icicles.

Fort-Zverev

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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.

ringing-rocks

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Solvay Hut – The World’s Most Precariously Placed Mountain Hut

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The Solvay Hut may be quite humble in its construction, but the view it offers its residents is priceless. This tiny hut is perched right on the narrow north-eastern ridge of Matterhorn, in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland. It is the highest mountain hut in the region, at over 13,000 foot above ground level.

The emergency refuge is owned by the Swiss Alpine club, and is intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers, hikers and climbers. At about 1,500 foot below the summit and two-thirds up the mountain, it provides respite to many Matterhorn climbers and rewards them with the breathtaking view of all the Monte Rosa summits. It is only meant to be used during emergencies, but climbers do stop there to rest and click photographs.

The hut, which can accommodate about 10 people, is not a recent construction. It was actually built way back in 1915 and took only five days to complete. All the building materials were brought up to Hornli Hut, just 2,500 foot below, with the help of animals. A small temp cable car was used to haul up the materials from there. It was rebuilt in 1966 and an emergency telephone was installed in 1976.

Solvay-Hut

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The Dark Hedges – Ireland’s Real-Life Fantasy Setting

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Along Bregagh Road, near the village of Armoy in Northern Ireland, lies a tranquil byroad called The Dark Hedges. For the past three centuries, a stretch of Beech trees have been guarding either side of this road. They have reached up and intertwined with each other, creating an ethereal tunnel of trees with shadow and light playing through the entwined branches. The effect is nothing short of spectacular.

The trees were planted in the 1750s by the Stuart family, on the grounds of Gracehill House, James Stuart’s Gregorian mansion. They wanted to create a compelling landscape to impress visitors who approached the entrance to the mansion. Needless to say, the Stuarts managed to achieve the desired effect. Even today, the Dark Hedges attracts locals and tourists alike.

Up until fifteen years ago, only locals knew about the Dark Hedges. In 1998, Northern Ireland’s national tourist board began to use the setting to promote tourism. Visitors have been pouring in ever since. It is one of the most photographed places in the world, and has become a desktop wallpaper cliché. Several scenes of the hit series ‘Game of Thrones’ have been filmed here and it is also a popular location for wedding photography.

The Dark Hedges

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Dutch Town Has Street Names Inspired by Lord of the Rings

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Geldrop is a small town in the southern part of The Netherlands, with a population of 28,000. Not much information on this place is available online, but it seems like a perfectly ordinary Dutch town. But there is something special about it (apart from the fact that ‘Geldrop’ sounds like some kind of candy).

The names of all the streets in one of the neighborhoods of Geldrop are actually taken out of J.R.R Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. We have absolutely no idea why, or whose genius idea it was, but it’s one of the few places in the world with such bizarre street names. I’d understand if it were just one or two streets, but the entire neighborhood consists of Lord of the Rings references.

At the heart of the city is Laan von Tolkien (Tolkien Avenue). Then the streets branch out into names of hobbits, elves, dwarves and even a few ents (the talking trees). If you want to see for yourself, go to Google Maps and search for Geldrop. Or, you could just follow this link.

Geldrop-LOTR

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Fadiouth – A Unique Island Made Almost Entirely of Clam Shells

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Joal-Fadiouth is a small fishing village located at the far end of Petite Côte – a stretch of coast in Senegal. Joal is situated on the mainland and Fadiouth is an island just off the coast.  A narrow, 400-meter wooden bridge links the two areas. Fadiouth is special – it is almost entirely covered with clam shells.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Fadiouth have been harvesting molluscs. They scoop out the meat and use the shells to construct almost everything, even the island itself. The millions of seashells accumulated over the years have been held strong by the roots of mangroves, reeds and giant baobabs. Empty shells litter the streets; you can hardly step anywhere on Fadiouth Island without hearing a cracking sound from under your feet.

Fadiouth

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Arbol de Navidad – Mexico’s Unique Christmas Tree-Shaped Waterfall

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The Sumidero Canyon, located in the Mexican state of Chaiapas, is home to one of the most unique waterfalls in the world. This breathtaking natural formation, locally called Arbol de Navidad, is shaped like a Christmas tree.

Sumidero Canyon is dotted with several waterfalls, many of which aren’t even visible from ground level. But you can’t miss the enormous Christmas tree. A photograph of the waterfall with a boat below it gives an idea of just how huge it is. The moss-layered green rocks seem to erupt out of nowhere on the mountain-side. They are shaped a lot like the branches of a tree, and the moss completes the effect. Water spills from a hole above this formation, adding to the beauty of the scenery.

According to Sergio Lopez Mendoza, a professor at the School of Biological Sciences in a Chaiapas University, the Christmas tree has formed over 1000s of years. It is a result of the natural hydrological cycle, and the physical and chemical characteristics of the rocks. Unfortunately, the Arbol de Navidad is under threat of being destroyed. Professor Sergio says that the alterations caused by humans to the environment has caused the hydrological cycle to break. There are long periods without any water supply, so the Christmas tree is weakening and breaking.

Arbol-de-Navidad-waterfall

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Jacob’s Well – America’s Stunning-Yet-Deadly Diving Spot

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Jacob’s Well, in Wimberley, Texas, is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Named after a biblical reference, the well has claimed the lives of over eight divers, but judging by the large number of thrill seekers who choose to dive in it, that doesn’t scare many people.

On the surface, Jacob’s Well looks like a harmless spring that feeds Cypress Creek. Its mouth is just four meters wide, and looks like a calm water body, revealing very little of the dangers that lurk within. The well has four chambers extending several feet below the surface. Local dive shop owner Don Dibble puts it perfectly: “This is the horror side of it.” The first chamber is a straight drop of about 30 feet, after which it angles down to 55 feet. This chamber gets sufficient sunlight, so it is bright and populated with algae and wild life.

The second chamber is 80 feet deep, and houses a false chimney that looks like a way out of the well, but in fact traps divers. Richard Patton, a student at Southwest Texas State University lost his life in the chimney in 1983. A restricted opening from the second chamber leads into the third, which is a small room with unstable gravel. Divers must be careful not to dislodge the gravel in order to navigate this chamber successfully.

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Zalipie – Poland’s Fascinating Painted Village

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People all over the world love decorating their homes, but few are as good as the villagers of Zalipie. Home décor is a centuries-old tradition in this secluded village of southeastern Poland.

The women of Zalipie paint their homes, not with a single color, but a range of vibrant floral patterns. These patterns adorn the external walls, doors, windows and even the roof. The entire village looks pretty in a riot of colors.

It isn’t clear when the tradition began exactly. Local legend says that it originates from a time when smoke from stoves would escape through little holes in the ceilings. Women tried whitewashing  to cover up the tiny spots of soot on the walls, but that didn’t work. So they switched to paintings of beautiful flowers instead.

Zalipie-painted village

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Mas Provencal – The Perfect Restaurant for Flower Enthusiasts

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When you first step into Mas Provencal on the outskirts of Eze Village, you’re likely to mistake it for a greenhouse. Located close to the city of Nice in southeastern France, this restaurant has way more flowers than tables.

Mas Provencal’s interior décor is pretty special, perhaps even one-of-a-kind. Almost every square inch is covered with fresh flowers – roses, orchids, ivy, glads and more. There are plants everywhere and it takes some squinting to even spot the sign board. The large amount of flora either enthralls diners, or leaves them a bit overwhelmed. One tourist called the decorations “fabulously gaudy.” I don’t think I could have put it any better.

Inside the restaurant, each table is done up with elaborate center pieces made of flowers. Exotic trees adorn the passageways and you can spot a few carnivorous plants in the crowd. Antique knick-knacks are scattered everywhere. A large glass enclosed waterfall containing ferns is also part of the décor. The best part – diners can munch on grapes and cherry tomatoes hanging from the ceiling at arm’s reach.

Mas-Provencal-restaurant

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Slum-Like African Resort Gives Rich Tourists a Taste of Hard Life

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A Shanty is a small hut made out of old corrugated iron sheets or other waterproof material. It is a place of dwelling for the poor, often lacking in basic amenities like electricity or running water. To be living in one, you’d have to be going through an extremely rough patch in life.

Except of course, when your shanty is located in Shanty Town, and you’re just playing ‘poor’. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds, there are people in this world who think playing poor is a fun sport. And resorts like Shanty Town exist to help them achieve the experience.

Shanty Town is a part of Emoya Estate, a South African five-star luxury game reserve and spa. It comes equipped with corrugated metal huts that can accommodate up to 52 guests. Over here, the rich get to live like the poor. But no, not entirely like the poor. The environment is safe and the shanties are equipped with conveniences like running water, electricity and Wi-Fi. The interiors aren’t too bad either – the beds look clean and comfortable, there are refrigerators, televisions, tables, chairs and cabinets. Oh, and did I mention under-floor heating? Yes, they have that too.

ShantyTown

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