Size Does Matter at Controversial Pigs of God Festival

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Pigs of God is a controversial Taiwanese festival and contest where pigs that have been force-fed for years are publicly slaughtered, then put on floats and paraded through the city streets.

The origins of this gruesome event aren’t very clear, but while some say it’s part of the religious beliefs of the Hakkas, an ethnic group with a population of over four million in Taiwan, animal rights activists claim that in the last few decades it has become a simple meaningless contest used by families to show off their wealth and power. They are currently fighting for the banning of a clear form of animal cruelty, and the substitution of real pigs with ones made of dough, rice or flowers.

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The Tree of Life – A Mysterious Natural Phenomenon

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Standing alone in the heart of the desert, miles away from any water source and other vegetation , the Tree of Life, in Bahrain, is one of the world’s most remarkable phenomena.

The Tree of Life is located 2 kilometers away from Jebel Dukhan, atop a 25-meter-high sandy hill, overlooking a golden sea of sand. The mystery of its survival in such harsh conditions has made it a legend among the people of Bahrain, and has attracted people from all around the world curious to see it first hand. The 400-year-old natural wonder has baffled biologists and scientists for years, and even though they’ve come up with several theories, it remains an enigma. Seeing this is a mesquite tree, some say its roots spread very deep and wide, reaching unknown sources of water, but no one has been able to prove it.

Locals have their own explanations when it comes to the secret of the Tree of Life, but theirs have little to do with science. Many of them believe this is the actual location of the Garden of Eden, while Bedouins are convinced the tree has been blessed by Enki, the mythical God of water. Whatever the explanation, it’s amazing how Sharajat-al-Hayat, as the Arabs call it, has kept growing continuously for around 4 centuries.

While the Tree of Life is one of the most famous attractions of Bahrain, visitors are instructed to double check their gear and make sure their car doesn’t get stuck in the sand, as we are talking about the middle of a desert.

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Aokigahara Forest – The Suicide Woods of Mount Fuji

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Referred to as “the perfect place to die” in Wataru Tsurumui’s bestselling book – The Complete Manual of Suicide – Aokigahara is a thick, dark forest located at the base of Mount Fuji, famous as a popular suicide spot.

No one knows exactly how many bodies go undiscovered among the trees of Aokigahara forest, but the ones uncovered so far have already earned this place an eerie reputation. In 2002 alone, 78 bodies were located in Aokigahara, and by 2006, another 16 suicides were reported. Some of the victims even carried copies of Tsurumui’s book with them, which makes this even creepier. The whole place is dotted with signs that read “please reconsider!” or “please consult the police before you decide to die!” but these have little power on those determined to die here.

“We’ve got everything here that points to us being a death spot. Perhaps we should just promote ourselves as ‘Suicide City’ and encourage people to come here,” says the mayor of Aokigahara exasperated by the high number of suicides registered in the area. Locals claim they can always tell who is going into the forest to admire its natural beauty, and who isn’t planning on ever coming back. They say part of the reason people decide to commit suicide in Aokigahara forest is because they want to die at the foot of the sacred Mt. Fuji and because it’s so dense and thick that sounds from just a few kilometers inside can’t be heard outside the woods.

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The Cat Museum of Kuching

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Located in the strange UFO-like DBKU building, in Kuching, the Cat Museum is the perfect tourist attraction for cat lovers interested in anything and everything feline.

The Malaysian city of Kuching translates as The Cat City, so it makes perfect sense it have its very own cat museum, especially since many Malaysians believe cats bring good luck. The Cat Museum, along with dozens of cat statues around Kuching were erected in celebration of the city’s name, and the important role cats play in the every day life of the locals. It was inaugurated in 1993, and has since then become a favorite destination of cat lovers all over the world.

The Cat Museum of Kuching features over 2,000 feline related items, but it’s much more than just a collection of artifacts – it’s also a research center that focuses on the history and various beliefs surrounding cats. Among the most impressive displays are a mummified Egyptian cat dating back to 3500 BC, and the only stuffed specimen of the world’s rarest cat, Felis badia,  which lives in the jungles of Borneo. There are also plenty of cat statues made by various cultures, cat photos, posters and even stamps for cat loving philatelists or morbid cat burial scenes.

Believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, the Kuching Cat Museum offers plenty of valuable information into the history of cats and their part in human life, and is a must-visit attraction for cat enthusiasts everywhere.

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The Sanctuary of Truth – Pattaya’s Wooden Wonder

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Rising105 meters into the sky, the Sanctuary of Truth is a one-of-a-kind gigantic structure that pays homage to the ‘Ancient Vision of Earth’, ‘Ancient Knowledge’ and ‘Eastern Philosophy’. It looks like a Thai temple or a palace, but it’s actually neither of them, so many people just look at it at as a monument to Thai craftsmanship.

Covering thirty two acres of land, on a rocky hilltop overlooking the ocean, the Sanctuary of Truth is the most magnificent sight in North Pattaya, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. It is entirely carved out of teak wood and features the most beautiful and elaborate wood carvings I have ever seen, inspired by the four major artistic and philosophical influences in Thailand (Chinese, Thai, Khmer and Hindu). Buddha heads, sacred animals and all kinds of  religious and philosophical themes are depicted in the thousands of wooden sculptures and carvings adorning both the interior and outside walls of the sanctuary.

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The Giant Talking Lamp of Malmö

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One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Swedish city of Malmö, the giant lamp of Lilla Torg square seems like something taken out of Alice in Wonderland.

First installed in 2006, the 5.8 meters high lamp quickly became a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. Featuring a foot that also acts as a bench, this installation was created with the idea of giving passers-by a chance to sit down, relax and forget about daily stress, if only just for a few minutes. Throughout the year, the enormous lamp tours the various squares of Malmö, but on December 15, just before Christmas, it always returns to Lilla Torg.

It looks cool enough as it is, but it would be even better if someone would build a giant nightstand, and maybe a glass of water, to go with the lamp. And if it wasn’t bizarre enough, the giant lamp of Lilla Torg actually talks, as well. Check it out in the video at the bottom.

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Cars Dream Restaurant Really Is a Car Lover’s Dream Come True

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The Cars Dream Restaurant, in the city of Surabaya, Indonesia, features ten vintage cars converted into furniture, making it the ideal place to dine if you’re into cars.

Bobby Handojo Gunawan, owner of the Cars Dream Restaurant, says he has been dreaming about opening an automotive-themed restaurant for 15 years, and since he’s always been passionate about tuning cars, using them as furniture just came naturally. With ten vintage automobiles converted into unique restaurant furniture and accessories, the Cars Dream Restaurant holds the Guinness record for Most Cars on Display in a Restaurant.

Here are some of the auto wonders you can see in this unusual Indonesian venue:

  • a red 1949 Mercedes Benz Limousine  converted into a big dining table for 20 people;
  • a red 1969 Chevrolet Corvette converted into a beautiful aquarium with 100 fish;
  • a yellow 1969 Lotus turned into an organ and audio system;
  • two 1961 Cadillacs transformed into a cozy seating area;
  • a 1962 Chevrolet Impala converted into a cool dinning table

The Cars Dream Restaurant also features a 1954 Mercedes Gullwig 300 SL and a 1961 Morris Mini Cooper set on display for auto enthusiasts to admire. They don’t have an engine anymore, but they look just as good as the day they were shipped off from the factory.

If you’re ever in Surabaya,and you have a thing for classic cars, you must stop by the Cars Dream Restaurant, at 68 Raya Menganti.

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Nonseum – A Museum for Inventions That Nobody Needs

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Nonseum is a quirky museum for crazy ideas and inventions that no one could really find a use for in real life.

Located in the small village of  Herrnbaumgarten, about an hour’s drive from Vienna, and close to the Czech border, Nonseum is one of the wackiest tourist destinations in Europe. It was created in 1983, by Fritz Gall and Friedl Umscheid, two locals who decided to offer a home to exotic inventions that never really took off. The idea came to them one day, while they were enjoying some beers, and saw a waitress turn over a stained table cloth, thus reusing it. That’s when they realized everything, no matter how crappy it is, deserves a second chance. They established the Nonseum – a museum for useless inventions – in a local building and started searching for exhibits.

Now, the Nonmuseum has hundreds of useless items on display, and has just celebrated its 100,000th visitor. Among the many eccentric inventions of this unusual museum, you can find a Portable Anonymizer that’s supposed to keep your identity a secret in real life, a foldable  snow sled, a guillotine for finger nails, and even a Champagne Cork Catcher – a device that keeps the cork from flying away when you pop open the bottle.

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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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A Farewell to the Nevada Shoe Tree

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One of Nevada’s most popular roadside attractions, the Old Shoe Tree, near Middlegate has been cut down by vandals.

The Old Shoe Tree on highway 50 (known as the loneliest road in America) was one of the quirkiest tourist spots in Nevada, featuring hundreds of old shoes hanging from its branches. Its origins aren’t exactly clear, but locals say people started throwing their shoes in it, in the early 1990s.

According to a local legend, the first people ti throw their shoes in the Nevada Shoe Tree were a couple of newlyweds passing through the desert on their way to California. They began to argue, so the groom pulled over near a big cottontree and left his wife there to cool down, and he went to the Middlegate Station Bar, to get a beer. When he came back, his bride was still in a fighting mood, so he took her shoes and tossed them into the tree, than left t get another beer. This time, when he returned, they were able to patch things up, but the shoes remained stuck in the tree, so they just left them there.  Over time, people who stopped to cool off under the cotton tree saw the shoes and threw their own, thus transforming it into a roadside tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, no one will have the opportunity to throw shoes in the Nevada Shoe Tree, or even take photos of it, as it was cut down by vandals, right on New Year’s Eve 2011. Locals are outraged, since the 70-foot cottonwood wasn’t just a symbol of the area, but a big help for local businesses which relied on the tourists it brought in.

The Churchill County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the matter, but sadly, nothing is going to bring back the Old Shoe Tree of Nevada. Check out the photos below, if you’ve never seen it before.

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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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World’s Most Expensive Christmas Tree Is Worth $11 Million

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An $11 million Christmas tree may seem incredible, but the simple fact  that it was put up in the lobby of a 7 star hotel  in United Arab Emirates makes it a little more believable. According to Hans Olbertz, general manager of the Emirates Palace Hotel, this is the world’s most expensive Christmas tree.

But what makes a Christmas tree worth $11 million. Well, it appears its immense value is given by the fact that instead of traditional ornaments, the tree is decorated with very expensive jewelry draping around it’s branches, along with a few gold and silver bows and some lights.

The artificial Christmas tree standing at over 13ft tall had an initial value of only $10,000, but the sum kept rising as gold, pearls, diamonds, sapphires and other precious stones provided by Style Gallery, were being added. There are now 181 jewels decorating the world’s most expensive Christmas tree.

Maybe the idea of an $ 11million Christmas tree wouldn’t seam that out of the ordinary if you knew that the Emirates Palace Hotel is offering a seven days package at the price of “just” $ 1million, which includes a luxurious car and a private plane at the disposal of the guest.

The owners of the luxurious Abu Dhabi hotel are planning to contact the Guinness Book of Records about their creation.

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