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The Art of Crossing the Street in Vietnam

If you plan to visit Vietnam, prepare to forget everything you ever learned about crossing the street. Forget about waiting for the traffic to stop, forget about zebra crossings, and forget about traffic lights. Because in Vietnam, people cross the street by charging right ahead, weaving their way through moving traffic. It’s the only way to do it!

It sounds dangerous, I agree, but it also seems kind of fun, in an adrenalin-pumping kind of way. I’ve just spent the past hour reading about how it’s done. This is from a Vietnam Travel & Living Guide: “You want to get to the other end of the street but it does not look quite feasible. Unless you try it. Crossing over the jam is actually not that bad. You will just have to do it. The magic is that no one will ever run into you.”

I watched a few videos as well; it really does seem like magic. The streets are filled with moving scooters and cars, and the pedestrians just flit across effortlessly. They seem to maintain an intense focus on the oncoming vehicles, finding gaps and moving through them slowly but steadily. There’s just no other way, given the fact that traffic is a nightmare in major Vietnamese cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh.

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The Santa Cruz Mystery Spot That Seems to Defy Physics

The Mystery Spot, located in Santa Cruz, California, is sort of like a house of illusions. Here, water flows upwards, cars and balls roll uphill, short people appear to be the same height as taller ones, and people can lean forward up to 45 degrees without falling flat on their faces. It seems as though the normal laws of gravity just don’t work here.

The Spot is actually a large barn located on a 150 square-foot patch of  hillside land. Visitors are permitted to enter the shack after paying the owners an entry fee. They are shown a variety of unbelievable sights, like plumb bobs hanging almost parallel to the floors, billiards balls rolling uphill and people standing at impossible angles. The shack itself appears to be falling over, pulled down by strange forces. Adding to the mystery is the fact that people sometimes lose their balance, become disoriented and even feel ill within its four walls.

Discovered in 1939, the area around the Mystery Spot was originally supposed be the building ground for a summer cabin, but rumor has it that when surveyors tried to chart the plot, they found that their instruments acted crazy over one particular patch of land. The people who stood on this spot claimed that a mysterious force seemed to be trying to push them off balance, making them feel light-headed. The owners eventually abandoned their plan to develop the site and a year later, they opened the Mystery Spot as a tourist attraction.

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Japanese Pub Shaves Prices for Bald Customers

Bald is beautiful at ‘Otasuke’, a new restaurant in Tokyo that has recently introduced discounts for the follicly challenged. Its management seems to have a soft spot for the bald, so they’ve slashed prices for men struggling with a receding hairline. Located in the Akasaka district in central Tokyo, Otasuke has been making headlines since its grand opening earlier this month.

‘Otasuke’ roughly translates to ‘helping hands’ in the local language. A sign outside the shop declares that the business fully supports ‘hard-working fathers losing their hair’ over their stressful jobs. ‘Be bald, be proud,’ it says. According to owner Yoshiko Toyota, she came up with the idea after volunteering in the efforts to rebuild the Tsunami-struck Tohoku region. When she saw how hard-hit the area was, she wanted to find a way to support the white-collared workers who are in turn helping out in Tohoku by driving Japan’s economy.

“I was thinking of some way to help support salarymen, but without a theme the idea was lame,” she said. “Then one day I was walking downtown and kept seeing bald guys. That was it.” Baldness affects 26 percent of Japanese men, and stress is a major factor. 48-year-old Shiro Fukai, a customer at the restaurant, said: “When you first start to go bald, it’s a huge shock, no question. Japanese businessmen have it really tough. The stress accumulates, then your hair begins to fall out.”

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Yanar Dag – The Eternally Burning Mountain of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, a small nation located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, is well known for its rich culture and history. The country is a great tourist destination, with a unique cuisine, ancient monuments, modern architecture, and mud volcanoes. And the most well-known of its volcanoes is Yanar Dag, also known as ‘Burning Mountain’. True to its name, the mountain has been burning for as long as anyone can remember, and the fire isn’t showing signs of going out any time soon.

Situated on the Absheron Peninsula, 25 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Baku, Yanar Dag is a 116-meter hill located on top of a pocket of natural gas that constantly erupts into flames. These flames jet out at least three meters into the air, through a porous layer of sandstone. Unlike the other mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan, Yanar Dag has no seepage of mud or liquid, so the fire always burns.

A 10-meter long wall of fire continuously burns alongside the edge of the hill. This makes for the most spectacular view, especially at night. The air around this open fireplace is always thick with the smell of gas. The heavy Absheron wind, twisting the flames into bizarre shapes, adds to the mystery of the region. Tongues of fire also rise from the surface of the streams located around the hill. These streams are called Yanar Bulaq, or ‘Burning Spring’.

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Japan’s Valley of the Dolls – Artist Repopulates Deserted Village with Creepy Dolls

When Japanese artist Ayano Tsukimi returned to her village 11 years ago, it wasn’t the place she once knew it to be. There were hardly any people around anymore, so she decided to repopulate the place herself – with handmade dolls. These dolls can be seen strewn across the village, on benches, in the street, outside her home, working in farms, and even lounging about the abandoned school compound. Over a span of 10 years, she has sewn about 350 life-size dolls, each one representing a former villager.

Nagoro is a remote village, nestled deep in the valleys of Shikoku Island. It was once a bustling center with a dam, a big company and hundreds of inhabitants. But the residents moved to bigger cities over the years, in search of better jobs, abandoning the village permanently. Its population is dwindling as the residents left behind continue to die. Today, Nagoro has only 37 living  inhabitants, and of course, many times more dolls. And Ayano believes that a time may come when she will have outlived everyone in the village.

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165-Meter-High Swiss Dam Is the World’s Tallest Non-Natural Climbing Wall

Diga di Luzzone is considered to be the Everest of wall climbing. The 540-foot artificial structure is the tallest vertical climbing wall in the world. It is actually part of the functioning Luzzone dam, but while  it was never built for climbing thrill-seekers around the world have made it their own. Nestled among the Alps, the wall offers a terrific view of the surroundings, although climbers don’t really get much time to enjoy it.

Access to the Diga di Luzzone costs about 20 CHF, which is quite cheap. The cost includes a ladder that you can use to gain the first 20 ft. right up to the holds of the first pitch. There are five pitches in total – each one long enough for you to feel the weight of the rope as you clip the higher bolts. Look down, and the exposure is simply mind blowing. All through the climb, you are exposed to the elements, making the man-made route feel as natural as possible.

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Offensive Osama Bin Laden-Themed Businesses Are Becoming Strangely Popular in Brazil

Downtown São Paulo isn’t the most likely place to find Osama Bin Laden lookalikes. So when bartender Francisco Elder Braga Fernandes was spotted several years ago, he became an instant celebrity. His resemblance to the infamous terrorist was so uncanny that people couldn’t stop taking pictures of him. But this Brazilian Bin Laden is quite the opposite – he’s totally against violence.

“I am a man of goodwill. I can’t stand violence,” said Fernandes. But that hasn’t stopped him from using his appearance to his benefit. The 54-year-old decided to market his controversial image by dressing up as Bin Laden and even changing the name of his bar from ‘Barbas’ to ‘Bar do Bin Laden’. “This was great for business,” he said. “No one calls me Francisco anymore, it’s Osama or Bin Laden.”

Over the years, Fernandes has become a local celebrity and a tourist attraction. Al Jazeera has covered the story of his bar twice so far. Tons of visitors line up to take selfie shots with him, and when Bin Laden was killed in 2011, a Brazilian television producer actually wrapped Fernandes in a white cloth and put him on a downtown overpass, just to scare passersby. Another producer had him wear battle gear and walk on the sets of a variety TV show with a fake bomb in his hand. “I don’t usually do this stuff, but it’s what they want so I do it,” he said. Read More »

World’s Most Expensive Restaurant to Charge $2,000 per Meal

The world’s most expensive restaurant is all set to open on the party island of Ibiza. Playa d’en Bossa, a major holiday resort in Ibiza is going to be home to the new Hard Rock Hotel. This exclusive new venue will include a new restaurant called Sublimotion, which is being described as an unparalleled gastro-sensory venture. Patrons will be served elaborate 20-course meals at a whopping cost of $2,000 per head.

The five-star restaurant, headed by Michelin-starred chef Paco Roncero, has an exclusive concept – to accept only 12 guests at a time and provide them ‘an experience for all the senses’. The menu, which is yet to be revealed, promises a ‘complete and unprecedented emotional experience’ to all the diners. “The dishes will cause a stir among the most neglected senses; from moments of humor, pleasure, fear, reflection and nostalgia, diners will be wandering through a world of sensations from the North Pole where they will enjoy a cold snack that they carve on their own iceberg or to the baroque Versailles where the elegance of a rose is sure to melt in their palate,” a spokesperson said. That does sound like a quite a ‘mouthful’.

The ambience at Sublimotion is also designed to titillate the senses. The spokesperson said that there would be ‘state-of-the-art’ systems that create a ‘vivid setting transcending human senses’. Roncero, who is considered to be Spain’s most famous chef, said: “We are very excited about the opening of Sublimotion and believe our guests will enjoy a culinary experience they’ve never previously encountered. We are so delighted to be working with Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza in one of the most international islands in the world.”

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The Rocket War of Chios – A Fiery Easter Celebration

We’ve seen a lot of bizarre traditions, but this is Greek custom involving two churches firing thousands of rockets at each other is pretty special. Every year on Easter Sunday, a fireworks war breaks out between two rival parishes on the small Greek island of Chios. Gangs belonging to two orthodox churches (Saint Mark and Panagia Erithiani) in the town of Vrodandos fire rockets with a single objective – to hit the other church’s bell. Of course, not all the rockets hit the target and locals can be spotted frantically running for cover.

The rocket tradition is of such importance that the townsfolk spend several months preparing for it. About 150 gang members are involved in the production of over 25,000 rockets that will be fired at the event. Derelict buildings are used to carry out the rocket-building work, with only one safety measure – they leave the doors open in case they need to make a speedy exit after an explosion. And they use bronze tools to prevent sparks that might ignite the volatile gun powder mixture.

“A good rocket has to fly fast, go far and stay lit until the end,” said rocket maker Vassilis Barkoulis. “You have to be careful in the details and process of its construction for a rocket to be good. If you do that carefully, you can have yourself a good rocket.” Good or not, producing rockets is actually illegal and there’s always the possibility the police raiding the premises. But it has never happened so far. The police prefer to entirely ignore the proceedings.

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The Whispering Wall of the Barossa Reservoir and Its Amazing Parabola Sound Effect

When the Whispering Wall was built over a 100 years ago, no one had a clue about its amazing acoustic properties. The concrete dam was constructed by about 400 workers over the South Parra River in Barossa Valley between 1899 and 1902. The dam holds back the 4,515-mega liter Barossa reservoir that supplies water to several areas in southern Australia. The Whispering Wall has always been famous – the 9 storey structure was the first arch dam to be constructed in the region and at one point, the highest in all of Australia. But little did the builders know about the hidden properties of the engineering marvel they had created.

Because the dam is a hard and curved surface, any sound made on one end travels completely unobstructed to the other end. So you could have a perfectly normal conversation with someone standing on the opposite end of the dam (about 450 ft. away), as though they were right next to you! The voices can be heard quite clearly due to a phenomenon known as the parabola effect. The wall is so perfectly curved that it forms one sector of a circle. And the sound waves just bounce in a series of straight jumps all the way to the other end.

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The Tower of David – Venezuela’s Skyscraper Slum

The Tower of David is a 45-storey skyscraper in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. From the outside, there’s nothing too special about the tower, but on the inside, it’s hardly what you’d expect. In the past seven years, the abandoned building has been become the tallest slum in the world and home to over 3,000 homeless people in the city. It is greatly feared to be a hotbed of crime, drugs and gangs.

When construction began in the early 1990s, the Tower of David (locally known as Torre de David) was intended to be one of the most prominent structures of the new financial district. But when the developer died in 1994, the project was abandoned. By the year 2007, squatters had completely taken over the incomplete concrete skeleton. This actually isn’t too surprising, given the fact that Caracas is a city in need of almost two million homes.

For now, the residents seem to have made themselves very comfortable inside the tower. They enter the structure through an attached parking garage, and motorcycles are used to transfer residents up the first 10 floors. The first 28 floors are inhabited by families, but there are no elevators in the tower, just a single flight of stairs that they have no choice but to climb.

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Dinner with a Bang at Tokyo’s Airsoft Restaurant

EA Bar is a new themed restaurant in Tokyo that caters exclusively to airsoft lovers. Pronounced ‘air’, the restaurant has its own airsoft shooting range and a very impressive collection of airsoft guns, fashioned after lethal weapons. That’s not all – the theme extends to the cocktail menu, with all the drinks named after guns. And, to top it all off, the food is decorated with tiny army action figures.

Airsoft guns, which are replica firearms with plastic or environmentally safe pellets, have become very popular in Japan. This explains the restaurant’s success – lovers of the sport don’t need to drive out all the way to rural fields to fire their guns. After a tiring day at work, they get to unwind at a shooting range in the heart of the city, and enjoy a nice hot meal at the same time.

EA is located in Kichijoji, a posh Tokyo neighborhood. Customers aren’t bound by a shooting-related dress code, given that the restaurant’s interiors are modern and chic. Among the various dishes served are pasta, risotto and a selection of curries. Some of the drinks on the cocktail menu include a chocolate liqueur called Glock 18c, a SPAS12 with absinthe, and a vodka-based Thomson.

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Share a Coffee with Snakes and Scorpions at Vietnam’s Popular Pet Cafe

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.”

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Korean Photography Enthusiasts Build Awesome Camera-Shaped Cafe

‘Dreaming Camera’ is a quaint little coffee shop located in the breathtaking countryside of Yangpyeong County of South Korea. The spectacular café was built by a photography enthusiast, which is quite obvious, seeing as how the building is shaped like a gigantic vintage camera.

I’m not sure who the owners are, but here’s what I could gather from the website: it’s a mom-and-pop type café, run by a family of three. The husband is a former air-force helicopter pilot with a huge passion for photography. He lives in a beautiful bungalow just next to the café with his wife and adorable daughter. The camera-shaped coffee shop had been his dream for many years before he finally got the chance to make it a reality.

Café Dreaming Camera is designed like a Rolleiflex camera – it is two storeys high with panoramic, round windows. The first floor is decorated with miniature and toy cameras. A few real ones are displayed as well, on a shelf beside the large window. On the website, the owner’s wife writes that all the real cameras are her husband’s area of expertise; she just knows that ‘everything is working’. The second floor has a photo exhibition on display, in which patrons are encouraged to participate.

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Luxury Services Company Is Offering James Bond Fans the Ultimate 007 Holiday for a Whopping $800,000

If you’re a James Bond fan and you have $800,000 to spare, this is the perfect vacation for you. The 007-themed 21-day, seven-country luxury tour could have you living a life straight out of a Bond movie. The package includes luxury hotels, private jets, sports cars, casino stops, speedboats and three-star gourmet meals. The tour was announced last Thursday by luxury goods and services website VeryFirstTo.com.

The premium action-packed vacation for two starts off in London. Subsequent destinations include Monte Carlo, Venice, Istanbul and special attractions in India and Thailand – locations that have all been featured in previous Bond movies. “The privileged purchasers will be staying at the finest hotels seen in the Bond films, often staying in the same hotel rooms,” said Leija Graf from Select Collection, one of the organizers of the trip.

In London, the tour will begin at the Dorchester Hotel, which is where the opening scene of the new James Bond book, Solo, is set. Guests will be served a Martini masterclass, before being whisked away on a London ‘Bond’ tour in a Rolls-Royce. A private jet will then transport them to Nice, and from there a helicopter will transfer them to Monaco. A short limousine ride later, they will spend the night at Mertopole Hotel, one of the finest in the principality.

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