Build It and They Won’t Come – World’s Largest Shopping Mall Is 99% Empty

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The New South China Mall in Dongguan, China is the biggest in the world. With an area of over 7 million square feet that can accommodate 2,350 stores, and attractions such as roller coasters, ghost trains and a replica of the bell tower of St Mark’s Square in Venice, you would think the place would be swarming with people. So did the owners of the mall, who expected over 70,000 visitors a day when they started building it. But today it stands empty, with almost no customers entering its gates. The 553 meter indoor and outdoor roller coaster hasn’t been operated since it was installed and 99% of the shops have never been leased out. The only ones that do operate are a series of fast food joints at the entrance of the mall and another few shops inside the huge complex.

New South China Mall was built in 2005 by Hu Guirong, who made his millions making instant noodles. He started the project with great enthusiasm, sending teams all over the world in search of ideas for his dream mall. And most of these ideas were even translated into reality. Where else in the world would be able to see a gondola on a mock Venetian canal inside a mall? But then something went horribly wrong, because when the place was completed in 2005, it simply failed to take off. It wasn’t even a dead mall, where tenants simply depart and business winds down slowly. No, Guirong’s mall never attracted merchants in the first place, as they felt it wasn’t a realistic place to set up shop.

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Ilha de Queimada Grande – Brazil’s Scary Snake Island

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An aerial view of the Brazilian island of Ilha de Queimada Grande, you would agree, looks breathtaking. It’s probably a place where you would love to spend an exotic vacation. But this is an excellent example that looks can be very deceiving. If you were to set foot on the island, you would always be no more than 3 feet away from your death. Because for every square meter of land on the island, there is a very deadly, very poisonous snake.

Ilha de Queimada Grande is located about 90 miles off the shore of Brazil. The island is, not surprisingly, devoid of any kind of human presence. The Brazilian Navy has forbidden people from visiting the island, except for a few scientists who need special approval. The reason – the presence of highly dangerous Golden Lancehead snakes. The lanceheads that occupy the island of Ilha de Queimada Grande can grow anywhere between half a meter to 2 meters long. The venom these snakes inject is so powerful that it can kill two men at once. This venom is fast-acting too, since it simply melts the flesh surrounding the bite. The scaly creatures breed all year round, producing 50 babies each time. With no enemies, the snakes have been able to take over the island and populate it quite freely. They survive mainly on migratory birds that use the island as a resting point.

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Chinese Artist Creates Transformers Theme Park

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It might look like the set of a new low-budget Transformers movie, but Mr. Iron Robot is actually a newly-inaugurated Transformers-themed park in Jiaxing City, China’s Zhejiang Province.

49-year-old artist Zhu Kefeng and his team have spent the last 10 years building giant metal robots from recycled iron and steel parts. He started out by making a realistic model of a car, then opened his own studio and began creating more intricate sculptures. He soon started doing commission work for people who liked his art, and for large orders he even set up a recycle bin where people could donate discarded metal parts. Zhu started working on Mr. Iron Robot theme park in 2010, with the money he had raised for selling his metal sculptures and his apartment in Shanghai. He and his team of collaborators worked hard and managed to turn an old abandoned factory into a modern attraction featuring over 600 Transformers-inspired sculptures.

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Japan’s Okinawa Island – The Healthiest Place on Earth

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I used to think that there were only a handful of people over the age of 100 in the world. How wrong was I! The Japanese island of Okinawa alone has about 457 of them. It is considered to be the healthiest place in the world, where the average life expectancy of an Okinawan woman is 86, and man’s is 78. Not only do they live long lives, they live very healthy and happy ones too. A fine example is 96-year-old martial artist Seikichi Uehara, who, at his age, defeated a thirty-something ex-boxing champion. And also Nabi Kinjo, the 105-year-old woman who hunted down a poisonous snake and killed it with a fly swatter.

The Okinawans’ secret, I’ve come to understand, lies in two things – their food, and their attitude towards life. As a happy bunch of people, the elders seem to have no worry etched on their faces, stress seems to be a foreign concept to them. An 88-year-old farmer who still works 11-hour days at the field, says, “I hardly ever get angry. I enjoy life because I’m happy at work and I think that’s the medicine for a long life.” I completely agree, and I wish I could look at life the way this brilliant guy does…

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4 Places Where Dying Is Not Allowed

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When something as natural and inevitable as death is banned, it does seem a tad illogical. You would be surprised to know that there actually are quite a few places on Earth where death has been forbidden, and deemed illegal. In fact, it seems that this is actually an age-old practice; the earliest known instance of the prohibition of death was in the 5th century BC,  when dying wasn’t allowed on religious grounds at the Greek island of Delos. Each place has a reason of its own, varying from religious beliefs to environmental factors.

We’ll take a look at four places where death is forbidden in today’s world:

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Bikini-Clad Baristas Serve One Hot Cup of Coffee at Java Girls Cafe

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At Java Girls, you don’t just get hot coffee, you get it served by hot women too. And to top it all off, they’re wearing nothing but bikinis and boots. I guess there couldn’t be a better way for men to kick-start their mornings. Java Girl’s latest franchise opened in Orlando last November, although the concept has been around since the early 2000s. Other branches are located in Oregon and Texas.

The Orlando franchise of Java Girls is co-owned by Todd and Bill Brognano, and thought to be the only bikini coffee shop located in central Florida. The shop employs only women, who come dressed to work in either bikinis or lingerie. So it’s not unusual here to spot a woman dressed in a two-piece, brewing espressos, lattes and frappucinos. And the girls don’t mind it one bit. “We like showing off what we got,” says 20-year-old Java Girl Belinda Messer. When they aren’t making coffee, the girls make it a point to stand outside the shop and entice passengers to a cup of coffee. They hold up signs like, “Now Open Extra HOT Coffee Spot.”

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Poveglia – The Venetian Island of the Dead

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When I first saw a picture of Poveglia Island, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty it is. But then I read the story behind the place and let me tell you, there’s nothing pretty about it. For centuries, the island has attracted nothing but the worst fate, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering torturous deaths. Today the island may look uninhabited, but legend suggests otherwise…

Poveglia is located in northern Italy, in the Venetian Lagoons. It has no owners and entry to the place is strictly forbidden. The only time any visits are made is to harvest vineyards. Even fisherman won’t venture intot  the waters near the island, for fear of catching human bones in their nets. For a time, it was owned by the Italian state but was sold to a private buyer in the 1960s. The poor guy lived there for a short while, but abandoned the place after a short while. More recently, a family was known to have purchased Poveglia in an attempt to convert it into a holiday home, but again, they couldn’t spend more than one night there. Rumors say that their daughter’s face was split open and 14 stitches were needed to fix it.

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Really Hang-Out at Tokyo’s Hammock Cafe

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Who needs chairs when you can just relax and have a cup of coffee or tea in a comfortable hammock, right? That was probably the idea behind Mahika Mano, a popular Tokyo venue, better known as the Hammock Cafe.

Located in the Kichijoji district of Tokyo, a place renowned for its chill-out atmosphere, Mahika Mano fits in just perfectly, with its hammocks hanging from the ceiling inviting passers-by to just sit back and enjoy a tasty drink. As soon as you walk in, the first thing that hits you is the absence of chairs, but as soon as you lay down in one of the hanging nets you start to wonder who ever got the crazy idea of using chairs, when hammocks are so much more comfy. As you can imagine, this unique cafe is pretty busy (sometimes you have to wait in a queue to grab a seat hammock) so the place has implemented a time limit of 90 to 120 minutes, so that everyone can have a chance to literally hang out. Whether this policy is enforced or not depends on the occupancy of the cafe.

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Vrindavan – Where India’s Widows Go to Die

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Superstitious beliefs are generally perceived in light humor, like when a black cat crosses your path, or you look into a broken mirror. But what about the ones that could cause several women to live in poverty and destitution for the rest of their lives? Unfortunately, that’s the ugly side of superstition and it does exist in several rural, underdeveloped societies of India. Societies, where it is normal to believe that apart from being a financial burden, widowed women and even their shadows, bring bad luck. Within such circles, widows – both young and old – are shunned and forced to leave their home. Their bangles are broken, red vermilion (the mark of a married woman) is wiped away from the forehead, and they’re forced to wear nothing but white saris, before being turned away from home. Thousands of these homeless widows gather at one place, Vrindavan, where it is believed that death will bring them salvation. So they go there to live in ashrams, awaiting their turn to die.

Unfortunately, life in the ashrams of the holy city of Vrindavan is not exactly a bed of roses for the lonely and abandoned women. In fact, some of them are so poor that they have even left the ashrams and taken to the streets to beg for their food. The north-Indian city, with a population of about 55,000, is believed to have about 20,000 widows today. The ones who do stay on in the ashrams receive only one small plate of food a day, and live in the poorest of conditions. Young widows face a threat to their safety as well, due to sexual abuse and human trafficking.

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Viganella – The Italian Village that Built Its Own Sun

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Viganella is a small village in Italy located right at the bottom of a deep valley, and surrounded by high mountains on all sides. This means that naturally, every year from mid-November to early February, the region has absolutely no sunlight. The return of the sun’s rays on the 2nd of February was celebrated with joy every single year for several centuries. That is, until December of 2006, when the problem was fixed forever.

Thanks to the brilliance of Giacomo Bonzani, an architect and sundial designer, there now resides on the slopes of a mountainside above Viganella, a giant mirror that reflects sunlight into the town square. A place that had not seen the sun’s rays during the winter since the beginning of time, was now suddenly bathed in its glorious light and warmth. The mirror is 40 square meters in size, 8 meters wide by 5 meters high and is located about 870 meters above the village. What’s more, it is actually controlled by a computer software that tracks the sun and tilts and turns the panels of the mirror so that the rays are always reflected downwards. It has actually become a tourist attraction of sorts, since its installation over 5 years ago.

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La Maison a Vaisselle Cassee – Outsider Art in Louviers, France

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La Maison a Vaisselle Cassée or The Broken Crockery House, is a very special place located in Louviers, France. I took a look at a few pictures and couldn’t help being reminded of the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel. Of course, you can’t eat this one and there’s no evil witch living there.

This was the home of Robert Vasseur and his wife, who abandoned wallpaper and painstakingly decorated their home with mosaics made from broken crockery, seashells, twinkling china and glass. Born in 1908, Vasseur was a milk transporter and also worked in textiles. His strange passion for mosaic decoration started way back in 1952 when he first got the idea while doing repair work in his kitchen. He embellished an old cement kitchen sink with broken crockery mosaics and never looked back. Starting with that old sink, he expanded his idea to the interior of his house, the backyard, then the garden and later even the dog house. This went on for the next 50 years or so.

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Filipino Restaurant at the Foot of a Waterfall

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Located in the Quezon province of the Philippines, Villa Escudero is a nice hacienda-style resort with cozy rooms and an exotic atmosphere. But what brought its international fame is the waterfall restaurant that allows tourists to enjoy a nice meal right at the foot of a small waterfall.

In most cases, getting too close to a waterfall can prove deadly, but not at this particular restaurant, at Villa Escudero. Here, people are actually encouraged to take off their shoes and get as close to the falls as possible. Set right at the foot of Labasin Falls, this special place invites customers to taste popular Filipino dishes, while fresh spring water from the falls flows under and over their feet, making this an unforgettable experience. As you can imagine, it’s nowhere near as impressive as Niagara, but visitors who don’t mind getting their clothes wet can sit right under the rushing waterfall and get their pictures taken. Words just don’t do this fantastic tourist attraction justice, so I’ll let the photos and video do the talking.

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Italy’s Natural Cathedral Is Made of Growing Trees

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Located on the outskirts of Bergamo, at the foot of Monte Arena, the tree cathedral created by Italian artist Giuliano Mauri is one of the world’s most impressive example of organic architecture.

Giuliano Mauri created “natural architecture” by blending organic materials like trunks and branches with classic architectural elements, creating impressive large-scale edifices. In 2001, his love for nature inspired him to draw up the plans for a project that took his art to a whole new level and left the people of Bergamo stunned – a cathedral made only of trees. The artist envisioned a unique organic building desinged in such a way that the branches of the trees forming its pillars would extend and arch to become its roof and walls. Unfortunately, Mauri died unexpectedly in 2009, and never got to see his grand plan come to life, but as a homage to his life’s work, the project was initiated in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.

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Chara Sands – The Miniature Desert of Siberia

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If I showed you an image of desert sands set up against a background of snow-capped mountain peaks, your first word would probably be ‘Photoshoped’. That’s what I thought too, but such a place really does exist and it’s called Chara Sands.

There is really no end to nature’s mysteries and Chara Sands, in Siberia, is just one of them. Located in the Trans-Baikal, about  25 miles from the Kodar Glaciers and right next to the mountains, ice fields and blue lakes, the bright and yellow sand dune is hard to miss. At 10 km long and 5 km wide, the dunes are of varying heights. Some of the tallest ones are 15 to 30 meters high. Given the large volume of the loose and shifting sands, the place actually looks like a desert, although it is not. Spotting a desert-like terrain in the tundra region is nothing short of a miracle and a well-recognized one around the world. According to the Russian Geographical Society, “The contrasts seem impossible: as if an incredible open-air museum was set up, displaying natural curiosities of the north and the south next to each other.” They couldn’t have put it better.

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Chateau Guédelon – A 13th Century Castle in the Making

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It is sometimes unbelievable how beautiful architecture was created in ancient times, without the use of modern technology. A medieval construction project in Treigny, France, aims at understanding exactly how this was possible. Guédelon Castle is a project that is being completed with only the materials and techniques that were available to man in the Middle Ages. Of course, it’s going to take decades to complete.

The construction of Guédelon Castle started back in 1997. Michel Guyot, the owner of the nearby Saint-Fargeau castle, first got the idea of the project when he was restoring his own property. Over the years, the project has matured in terms of complexity, and has become a major tourist attraction. Today, it has created over 55 jobs and draws around 300,000 people every year. It also acts as an educational backdrop for school excursions. The design of the castle is based on the architectural canons laid down by the King of France,  Philip II Augustus, in the 12th and 13th centuries. The work done is mostly manual and slow, involving materials such as wood, earth, sand, stone and clay. The blueprint of the castle includes a moat and six towers. What’s even more fascinating is that the workers dress in the garb of medieval times.

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