Tottori Sand Dunes – Japan’s Unique Desert Formation

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Many people will tell you there are no deserts in Japan, but while the Tottori Sand Dunes may not be the size of the Sahara, they sure look a lot like a desert to me.

The reason most people don’t refer to the Tottori Sand Dunes as a desert has to do with the amount of rainfall in the area. Japan is known for its humidity and rain, and although summer temperatures in the sand dunes exceeds 60 degrees Celsius, t gets far too much rain to qualify as a real desert. Regardless of their technical classification, the Tottori Sand Dunes are one of the strangest sights in Japan, and one of its most popular tourist attractions.

Stretching along the coast east of Tottori City, in the Tottori Prefecture, the Tottori Sand Dunes measure 2 kilometers from North to South and around 16 kilometers from East to West. They have existed for over 100,000 years, and research suggests they were formed from  the sediments brought down from the Chukogu Mountains by the Sendai River, collected by the ocean currents and prevailing winds off the Sea of Japan.

The highest of the Tottori Sand Dunes measure around 90 meters high, and thanks to the frequent rains,they have slopes of up to 40 degrees steep, making them a favorite destinations for sand boarding enthusiasts. The best time to visit this odd place is early in the morning, before other groups of tourists have a chance to trample over the sand ripples, but moonlight walks across the dunes is also an unforgettable experience. During the summer afternoons, the exposed sand reaches temperatures of up to 65 degrees Celsius, which makes barefoot walking quite pleasant.

The Tottori Sand Dunes are not the only strange sand dunes in the world. The Dune of Pyla, in France is actually surrounded by acres of green forest.

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Design Panoptikum – The Museum of Extraordinary Objects

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Design Panoptikum is a unique Berlin museum featuring all kinds of rare and unusual items collected by Russian-born artist Vlad Korneev.

“A Panoptikum”, Korneev says, “is a collection of extraordinary or rare objects” and he really couldn’t find a better way to describe his quirky museum on Torstraße Street, in Berlin. The moment you set foot in his Design Panoptikum, you find yourself surrounded with all kinds of bizarre things, from funky clocks, to odd-looking medical equipment, and even a life-size Power Ranger brought in from Japan.

Vlad Korneev handpicks the exhibits in his museum, from his secret back-alley store, from eBay and even from the junkyard. He carefully and patiently restores every one of them and then proudly displays them in his panoptikum. Visitors can purchase most of the merchandise shown in the main rooms, but the backrooms hold some truly special exhibits that are not for sale, but can be rented for film or fashion shoots. When asked where can find, let’s say, an old airplane engine, Korneev gracefully avoids a straight answer, as his sources are an important secret of the trade.

Among the rarest objects you can find in the Design Panoptikum are a talking dispensing machine, an old birthing doll, one of the earliest electric sun lamps and many other devices that make Vlad Korneev’s museum look like mad scientist’s lab.

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The Incredible Story of Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

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The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a 40-acre park full of plazas, waterfalls and thousands of unique creatures made from recycled materials. It’s a truly impressive sight, but even more so is the story of how Nek Chand spent four decades creating it and how he kept it a secret, for years.

In 1958, Nek Chand was a road inspector for the Public Works Department, and was making rafts and boats to be sail upon the recently created Sukhna Lake, but peddle boats were soon made available for rent by authorities, and his craft was banned. This allowed Nek to devote more time to his passion for rocks and stones, and he began gathering them from the nearby Shivalik Hills, and the Sukhna Cho, Patiala Rao and Ghaggar rivers. It was around this time that the Swiss architect Le Corbusier was asked to design the city of Chandigarh, the first planned city of India, and the small villages around the area were demolished. This provided Nek Chand with plenty of material for his increasing collection of rocks.

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People Actually Pay to Travel to Hell on Earth

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Trying to discover a “cool”, out-of-this-world spot for your next vacation? If you think you’ve seen it all, think again, because the Danakil Desert, in Ethiopia will blow you mind. Toxic gases, violent vulcanos, sulphurous lakes, fiery air temperatures make this place what many would call hell on Earth.

Although it’s among the most inhospitable places in the world, there are many “people happy to pay for a two-week tour,” as Tom Pfeiffer, German vulcanologist and founder of VulcanoDiscovery, said. It probably has something to do with man’s desire to travel to other planets, as this is exactly the feeling you get in this unearthly environment.

Judging by the “beauty” of the Danakil Desert, you’d think people would have to be paid in order to agree to come here, but in fact, daredevils pay over $4,600 for a three week tour that starts in Addis Ababa. There aren’t any four star hotels here, but tourists get to enjoy unique, incredible sights that can never compare to chilling by the pool. However, if you’re thinking about traveling to Danakil, you should know you’ll be facing harsh heats and some of the strangest smells imaginable.

 

photo credits

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Vladimir Putin Museum Opens in Russia

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No, you didn’t misread the title, a museum centered on Russia’s controversial president prime minister has been set up in Strelna, near Sankt Petersburg.

Apparently, this small museum dedicated to Vladimir Putin is set up on one of the upper floors of Lindstrom Villa, an iconic structure that hosted the 2006 G-8 summit. The villa was leased to Konstaninovsky Co., owned by Oleg Rudnov, the boss of most of Sankt Petersburg’s media outlets, and a close friend of Putin. In return, Rudnov decided to turn one of the villa floors into a museum honoring Russia’s former president and current prime minister.

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Chernobyl Nuclear Plant to Become Official Tourist Attraction

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The Ukrainian government has announced the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site will be included in a full scale tourist program.

I know it sounds weird, but tourists have been visiting Chernobyl through unofficial tourism programs, for several years. Authorities are just trying to make things official, so they can actually cash out on the interest people have in the famous contaminated zone. Oddly enough, the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency will be in charge of operating tours, and although they guarantee every measure will be taken to insure tourists’ safety, Chernobyl isn’t really as safe as they’ll have you think.

On April 26, 1986, reactor number 4 of the local nuclear power station exploded, causing the greatest nuclear disaster in the history of mankind (not counting the ones caused by US nuclear bombs in Japan). A perimeter of 30 miles around the epicenter was closed up to the public, to prevent radioactive contamination, maintained by thousands of technicians, to reduce exposure to radiation. While the catastrophe happened almost a quarter of a century ago, the area around the power station is still very dangerous, especially since the remaining three nuclear reactors have not been shut down, and the shield placed over reactor 4 has been steadily deteriorating, under pressure from within. A new, improved “sarcophagus”, big enough to cover the Statue of Liberty and weighing 20,000 tons, will be ready in 2012.

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Dordoy – The Shipping Container Bazaar of Kyrgyzstan

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One of Asia’s largest shopping centers, the Dordoy Bazaar consists of around 7,000 shipping containers, which makes it a monument to repurposing.

Located near the city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Dordoy Bazaar is one of the main entrepots through which Chinese goods make their way to markets in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It was inaugurated in 1992, and as wholesale markets across the country began to plummet, the bazaar’s popularity kept rising transforming it in the monument of raw commerce it is today.

Dordoy Bazaar stretches for about a kilometer, on the north-eastern outskirts of Bishkek, and features all kinds of goods, from Chinese and Turkish knock-offs to Russian music CDs, all off them stocked in the thousands of stacked shipping containers that serve as shops and storage space. Practically, the entire bazaar is built out of shipping containers organized in rows to form streets and plazas of sort. A 2005 newspaper report stated there were between 6,000 and 7,000 containers in Dordoy Bazaar, and their numbers probably went up considerably, since then.

The few buildings in Dordoy Bazaar that aren’t made of containers serve as administrative offices, hotels and toilets.

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Only in Japan – Love Doll Brothels Are Bustling

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Some people tend to compare Japanese Love Dolls with regular western sex dolls, but in reality, they are on a whole other level. Believe it or not, people actually pay big money to sleep with a doll, at the bustling love doll brothels across Japan.

The first Japanese love dolls were created 30 years ago, so that people with disabilities could enjoy some female companionship, but they quickly became an alternative for healthy men simply to shy to enjoy sleeping with real women. A lot of Japanese men are obsessed with anime and manga girls, and these realistic love dolls gave them the chance to actually fulfill their fantasies of spending some time with their favorite characters. Some have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying dozens of high-end love dolls, made of silicon, and feel much more comfortable in their presence than they would in that of a real woman. They don’t nag, they never complain and they don’t cheat.

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Taiwanese Brothel Is Being Re-opened as a Museum

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What was once the place of entertainment for soldiers stationed on Kinmen Island, Taiwan, is now being re-opened as a unique museum. Hsu Ying-fan says the museum’s sole purpose is that of giving  visitors a general idea on the so-called Military Paradise and what it served for.

Bearing an euphemistic name, “The Special Tea House Museum“, this one of a kind place features one of a kind “art”. Here you can find displays of photography or posters depicting the brothel’s noonday and also samples of tickets bought by soldiers who were waiting for their turn.

The brothel was closed in 1990 due to criticism manifested mainly by local woman’s groups, and with it being re-opened as a museum, officials are hopping the island will become a tourist attraction.

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Khalid Nabi – Not Your Average Cemetery

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The Khalid Nabi cemetery, in northern Iran has become a popular attraction for both locals and tourists, because of its strange tombstones shaped as male and female sexual organs.

Scientists say the bizarre cemetery is around 1,400 years old, and judging by the number of headstones, it’s the final resting place of at least 600 people, the most important of which is Khalid Nabi, a prophet born 40 years before Muhammad. You’d be inclined to be believe most people come to the cemetery as pilgrims to a prophet’s grave, but you couldn’t be more wrong; they actually come to see the penis and breast-shaped tombstones.

Nobody knows exactly what the 6-foot-tall columns shaped like phalluses and the smaller, cross like-headstones that resemble female breasts are meant to symbolize, but the mere fact that a wacky attraction like the Khalid Nabi cemetery gets this kind of attention, in a country like Iran, is weird enough. Some scientists say the weird tombstones could have been influenced by the phallic religion practiced in India and central Asia, but most of the visitors don’t even care, they just came here to see some funny penis-shaped rocks.

I’m just not sure who Iran is going to blame for this, but I’m sure they’ll somehow relate the phallus stones to some “capitalist pigs”.

 

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5Pointz Aerosol Art Center – The World’s Premiere Graffiti Mecca

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5Pointz Aerosol Art Center is an outdoor art exhibit space where graffiti artists can exercise their artistic talent, legally. Dubbed a “an institution of higher burnin’ “, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center is viewed as the Mecca of the graffiti art world.

If you’re interested in discovering one of New York’s off-the-beaten-track attractions, 5Pointz should definitely be at the top of your priorities. An old factory converted into an outdoor graffiti museum, the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center features 200,000 square-feet of art covered space that will probably blow your mind. Practically every square inch of this once bustling industrial complex has been covered with colorful layers of graffiti paint, depicting everything from peace messages written in WildStyle to portraits of The Notorious B.I.G.

Provided they receive the approval of Jonathan Cohen, the curator of 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, any artist from around the world can leave their mark on the largest graffiti art exhibit in the world. Artists from Japan, Brazil and the Netherlands have contributed to the space, and if you visit here on weekends, between noon and 7 pm, you’re likely to catch graffiti artists at work.

So if you happen to be in New York, head to Long Island City and visit 5Pointz. It’s always free, it’s always open, and it’s always has some new art exhibits for you to discover.

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Sandu’ao – China’s Incredible Floating Village

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Often referred to as the “Future Water World”, the village of Sandu’ao is China’s largest community living on the sea.

Located in China’s Fujian Province, just 30 kilometers from downtown Ningde City, Sandu’ao is one of just few settlements built on water. It’s basically a huge self-sustaining floating village, where inhabitants need not set foot on dry land to ensure their survival. Making use of homemade and purchased boats, they make their living fishing and ocean farming. believe it or not Sandu’ao has its own floating postal service, convenience store, police station and even a series of restaurants.

After being devastated by aerial bombardments, during the Japanese invasion of World War 2, Sandu’ao went through a decade of rebuilding and development and is now China’s largest cultivation base of yellow croakers and various other seafood, including shellfish, shrimp and giant prawns. The sea farming is carried out in tens of thousands of cages and fishing nets that seen from a distance make a memorable sight many call “plantation on the sea”.

Just like most Chinese villages, Sandu’ao features modest houses made of wood, the only difference is they are built on sturdy pontoons made of bamboo and wood, wired to plastic barrels and pieces of PVC, to ensure buoyancy. Because in which it’s placed is completely cut off from the open sea, no waves threaten the peace of Sandu’ao and the pontoons simply sway gracefully on the calm waters.

An important source of seafood for the entire country, Sanu’ao is also becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction for travelers eager to experience everyday life on water.

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Ordos – China’s Modern Ghost Town

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Known as the “empty city”, the Kangabashi district of Ordos was designed as a home for over 1 million Chinese, but it remains nearly uninhabited. What makes this even stranger is the fact that we’re talking about the second richest settlement in China.

Once just another a poor town in Inner Mongolia, Ordos boomed in 2003, thanks to its immense coal and natural gas reserves. The area surrounding Ordos has one sixth of China’s coal reserves and one third of its natural gas reserves. As was to be expected, the government couldn’t resist the temptation of starting lavish projects in the area, and the building of Kangabashi district is one of them.

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Austrian Lake Is Also a Popular Hiking Spot

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A rare natural phenomenon turns one of Austria’s most beautiful hiking trails into a 10 meter-deep lake, for half the year.

Located at the foot of the Hochschwab Mountains, in Tragoess, Styria, Green Lake is one of the most bizarre natural phenomena in the world. During the cold winter months, this place is almost completely dry, and used as a country park where hikers love to come and spend some time away from urban chaos. But as soon as temperatures rise, the snow and ice covering the mountaintops begin to melt, and the water pours down, filling the basin below with crystal-clear water.

Water levels go from one-two meters at most, to over 10 meters, in the early summer. The waters of Green Lake are highest in June, when this extraordinary place is invaded by divers, curious to see what a mountain park looks like underwater. Fish swimming over wooden benches, a grass-covered bottom, trees, roads, roads and even bridges create a surreal setting that feels like it belongs on dry ground. That’s because for half of the year, that’s exactly where it’s at.

Take a look at the amazing images of the Green Lake, shot during the summer season:

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The Wacky Ice-Cream Graveyard of Vermont

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Have you ever wondered where ice-cream flavors go to die? Well, believe it or not, they have their very own cemetery, in Vermont.

The New England city of Vermont is famous for its Ben&Jerry’s ice cream, and the company’s Waterbury factory is the most popular tourist attraction in the whole state. One of the things that makes Ben&Jerry’s special is the wide variety of flavors, but as new ones emerge every year, older and unpopular ones reach the end of the line. To honor their memory, Ben&Jerry’s built a cemetery just for them.

Located on a hill, behind the famous Waterbury ice-cream factory, the Flavor Cemetery features hundreds of plastic tombstones, for every wacky flavor ever launched by Ben&Jerry’s. Each tombstone has an artist-written epitaph and a list of ingredients of the “deceased” ice-creams. Since the birth of Ben&Jerry’s, 200 flavors that have failed to impress customers, ended up pushing daisies in the Flavor Cemetery.

But don’t start crying over the demise of your favorite ice-cream flavor, just yet. According to Ben&Jerry’s, you have the power to bring “deceased” flavors back from the dead, by asking for it on their official website. If a flavor gets enough votes to convince management, it will be exhumed and brought back in the world of the living.

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