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Shilin-The Stone Forest

Shilin is a wonderful place that you must visit if you ever have the chance…

Because as an old Chinese saying goes ” If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time” and I couldn’t agree more. Shilin is an intricate krafts formation in the south-west of China, one of Yunnan province’s most popular tourist attraction. The tall rocks, that seem to be bursting out of the ground, reach heights of 30 meters and their numbers really create the illusion that you’re looking at a petrified forest.

There are many local legends inspired by this incredible place, but the most famous one says the gods created this huge stone labyrinth for lovers to get lost in and be together. Scientists say this 2,670 square kilometers area used to be a sea and when the waters pulled back some 270 million years ago, these formation emerged and the surrounding elements eroded.

Who knew huge limestone rocks could be so beautiful…

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Color-painted human skulls

That’s right, in this Austrian town, when you can’t bury bones, you paint them.

Hallstatt is a very small town in Austria with a very interesting ossuary, definitely the town’s biggest tourist attraction. The story behind it goes like this: Back in the 16th century, Hallstatt’s small cemetery had reached its limit and the people there had to come up with a solution. So people who died were only buried in the cemetery for 10-12 years, after which their bones were dugg up, bleached in the sunlight for a few months, then painted with the person’s name, dates of birth and death and some decorations and, finally placed in the ossuary.

The city is much smaller now and most of the people are cremated anyway, but this practice still take place on request, the latest of the 1200 skulls dates back to 1997. In the old days all the bones were placed in the ossuary, but these days its getting pretty crowded in there so only the skulls are allowed.

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The Tiger Temple

A place where tourists can pet tigers just like they do their cats, here’s something you don’t see every day.

The Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua is Theravada Buddhist forest temple, in Thailand. It has been a sanctuary for many endangered animals for quite some time now, including several tigers. It was founded in 1994 as a forest monastery, where animals could find sanctuary and in 1999 they received their first tiger cub, which died soon after. But they kept receiving tiger cubs from the villagers who probably encountered them wondering through the forest after their mothers were killed by poachers.

The Tiger Temple has raised money over the years and can now accommodate 12 mature tigers and 4 cubs. they live in cages and once a day they are taken to a nearby quarry, where they can roam freely. Tourists may watch from 10 meters distance and sometimes they are allowed to pet these magnificent creatures. Only one serious attack took place in the history of the temple.

The priests at the Tiger Temple are now gathering funds to build a larger facility and create an almost natural environment for the animals, so they can one day be let out into the wild where they belong.

In case you’re wondering, yes this is the place featured on Animal Planet.

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Bottle-wall houses

If you’re a big beer fan, don’t throw away the bottles, build yourself a house instead.

Yet another example that with a god imagination you can build anything out of anything. The first bottle house was built in 1902 by William F. Peck, in Tonopah, Nevada, using approximately 10,000 beer bottles; the house was later demolished in 1980. Tom Kelly built himself a bottle house in 1905, in Rhyolite, Nevada, using 51,000 bottles masoned with adobe. He reportedly used bottles because other materials were hard to come by in that area.

There are quite a few bottle houses in the world today, but most of them have been built specifically as tourist attractions or simply as artworks.

Oasis of the Americas

Yet another place I’d like to visit at least once in my lifetime.

Sadly I might not get the opportunity, and not because I may not be able to reach it, but just because it may not be there for long. This extraordinary place is in danger, the underground river that supplies the water for Huacachina Oasis is now being plundered by the people of the neighboring city of Ika. It’s not specifically their fault, global warming is affecting water supplies everywhere, so it’s humanity’s fault, shame on us!

It’s a shame that a place that over the centuries has sheltered countless travelers, preventing them from finding their end in the sun-scorched desert dunes that surrounds it. Quite an unfitting end for such a unique location, that is just beginning to attract tourists from all over the world.

So if you have the chance, go to Peru and visit Huacachina Oasis, who knows if you’ll ever get the chance again…

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Real upside-down house

With an upside-down interior and everything!

If you’re ever in Poland, you might want to go see one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, in the village of Szymbark. Designedby Polish businessman and philanthropist Daniel Czapiewski, the house manages to draw in huge crowds every day. This project was meant to be a statement about the Comunist era and also about the current stet of the world. everything is upside-down and it’s up to mankind to fix it.

What’s even more unusual is that all of the interior is also upside-down and it took the workers 114 days to complete it, instead of the normal three weeks, because they needed frequent breaks to recover from getting disoriented by the weird angles of the house. Visitors also often complain about mild sickness and dizziness after just a few minutes spent in the house.

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Wacky Austrian museum

Ever been afraid that a house might fall on you and squash you?

I know what it looks like, but no, that house did not just fall out of the sky. It’s an artistic project of sculptor Erwin Wurm and it was set up especially to look like a house just fell out of the sky and landed on the Viennese Museum of Modern Art. Actually it took two large cranes to get that house in its place and secure it properly.

Wurm says his work of art is a statement against over-development, here are his thoughts on the matter: “There are hundreds of thousands of houses and they are spreading like a plague, like a cancer across our land.”

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Cement tube houses

I could think of a number of uses for these cement tubes, but housing is still not one of them.

But as you can see it’s very possible, and the people living in them seem very content. Sure you only have enough space to fit a small bed but at least you have a roof over your head…well it’s not exactly a roof but you know what I mean. I guess this one of those places where rich people come to experience what the hard-knock life feels like, before heading back to their luxurious mansions.

Would be nice if they had a toilet or something, though…

Cappadocia Cave Hotel

Yes, I know, another place I’d like to visit in my lifetime.

Cappadocia Hotel literally carved into the Yunak Evleri mountain cliff. It includes 6 cave houses, a 19th century Greek mansion and 30 rooms dating back to the 5th and 6th century. Another reason to visit the luxurious Cappadocia Hotel is the opportunity to explore its elaborate underground cities, cavernous churches and incredible rock terrain.

So if you’re ever in Turkey and can afford to spend some serious bucks on a memorable vacation, keep Cappadocia Hotel in mind.

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Mountains in the Philippines

Who says agriculture doesn’t belong in mountain regions!

I have to hand it to these workers, they’ve certainly made lemonade with the lemons nature gave them. It’s definitely not easy to practice agriculture in this kind of environment, but they pulled it off in the Philippines and they did it by using their hands and tools, no kind of fancy machinery.

And I have to say that besides the purpose they serve, these mountains really look amazing!

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A case of excessive privacy

This is a perfect place for everyone who loves privacy.

This beautiful house is completely cut off from the mainland. Nothing unusual so far, it’s not like there haven’t been any houses built on islands before, but this house practically spreads across the whole island, you go out the door and you find yourself swimming. I wonder how this house close to Oslofjord Islands was built.

It’s nice if you can’t stand neighbors though!

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Burning crater of Darvaza

Located in desert of Turkmenistan is one of the most amazing landscapes in the world.

I know it looks like a lava-filled whole but it’s really nothing like that, it’s a man made crater dating back to the 1950s when the soviets were prospecting for natural gas. The strangest thing about it is it’s been burning ever since, that’s 58 years of continuous burn. Locals say animals are mesmerized by the flames as well, groups of thousands of spiders have been spotted plunging into the flames, as well as moths and birds. This is a one of a kind attraction and tourists say it’s worth the 3 our drive through the desert.

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Buzkashi, sport of the nomads

Buzkashi is a traditional Central Asian team sport, played on horseback. It’s a known fact that the people of the steppes were skilled riders, able to pick up sheep and goats from the ground while riding a horse in full gallop, and this sport is inspired by their extraordinary skill.

The goal of a Buzkashi player is to pick up the carcass or head of a dead goat or calf, get it as far away from the other players and ultimately pitch it across a goal line or into a circle or vat. I know, it sounds a lot like horseback polo, except for the dead animal, but there is another big difference between these sports: players can use any means, except tripping the horse, to stop scoring attempts. Players usually wear thick clothes and head protection to shield them from kicks or whip lashes.

Although some Central-Asian countries have tried to get Buzkashi accepted as an olympic sport, they haven’t succeeded in convincing anyone.

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Paradise can be found in a hangar

Who says you have to go to the tropics to enjoy a tropical vacation?

Open since 2004, Tropical Islands is an indoor resort, built inside a large aircraft hangar, an hour’s drive from Berlin. It’s a man-made micro-ecosystem complete with hundreds of species of plants, sandy beaches, crystal-clear waterfalls and even bird and insect sounds made by speakers disguised as boulders. It spreads over 5 million cubic meters and it is taller than the Statue of Liberty; when the sun shines outside, visitors can actually get a tan, thanks to the effect of the sunbeams penetrating the hangar’s transparent roof, even if the weather is freezing outside.

Malaysian entrepreneur Colin Au says: “My resort means they hardly have to leave home, yet when they’re here it’s like being on a tropical cruise.”

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The Festival of Colors

Now you can see what human rainbows look like.

Holi or Phagwa is a Hindu spring festival that takes place every year in India and Nepal. On the first day of celebrations, bonfires are lit, signifying the burning of the demoness Holika. On the second day, the real Festival of Colors begins; spring and the change of weather are believed to bring illnesses like fever, flews and colds, so people throw colored powders, with medicinal significance, to chase away these illnesses. The powder can now be bought from marketplaces, but there are still those who make it in the comfort of their own homes, using various plants and flowers that give it a mesmerizing fragrance.

The Festival of Colors usually takes place at the end of February or the beginning of March, depending on when the full moon occurs.

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