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How a Quirky Village Pond in Indonesia Became an Underwater Selfie Hot-Spot

It’s not very common for small ponds to have their own Instagram accounts, let alone tens of thousands of followers, but then again Umbul Ponggok is not your usual village pond.

Located in Indonesia’s Central Java region, Umbul Ponggok is a small pond measuring just 20 meters by 50 meters, but boasting the cleanest water imaginable. It is continuously fed with fresh water from 40 different springs, at a rate of 800 liters per second, so the water is always crystal clear. It’s this fascinating property that makes Umbul Ponggok an ideal location for underwater selfies, and in the age of Instagram you’d best believe people are taking advantage of it.

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Monet’s Pond – The Japanese Pond So Beautiful It Looks Like a Real-Life Monet Painting

Up until four years ago, Monet’s Pond, a small body of water just outside Seki City, in Japan’s Gifu Prefecture, didn’t even have a name, but thanks to social media and a catchy nickname, it has become one of the most popular tourist destination in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Before it became known as Monet’s Pond, this hidden gem was called Namonaki, or “Nameless Pond”, and what’s even more interesting is that it was never meant to be a tourist attraction. It was originally designed as an irrigation reservoir, but after it fell into disrepair during the 1990s, the owner of the neighboring  Itadori Flower Park took it upon himself to clear the overgrown weeds and clean it up. With the help of the neighborhood council, the man filled the lake with clean water from Mt. Koga, and planted beautiful water lilies. Later, Japanese carp were donated by local owners who could no longer care for them. But it would take over a decade and a half for this pristine body of water to reach its full potential as a tourist attraction.

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Japan Gets Its Very Own Whimsical Coloring Book Cafe

Tokyo’s Shin Obuko neighborhood recently became the home of what will undoubtedly become one of the most popular cafes in the Japanese capital – 2D Cafe, a place that lets you feel like you’re in a real-life illustration.

Most likely inspired by the success of Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20, the Seoul-based cafe that went viral around this time last year, the new 2D Cafe relies on the same illustration theme to draw in Instagram influencers looking for the next hottest selfie spot. Using an entirely monochrome decor that makes a 3d seting look 2D, this eye-catching venue tricks visitors into thinking they’ve set foot in a different dimension, you know, like that famous music video for A-ha’s Take on Me.

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SkyCycle – Japan’s Sluggish Yet Terrifying Pedal-Powered Roller Coaster

Most roller coasters rely on speed, tight turns and steep slopes to get riders’ adrenaline levels up, but SkyCycle, a pedal-powered coaster ride in the Japanese city of Okayama is proof that roller coasters can be even more terrifying at low speeds.

Located on a greenery-covered hill at the Washuzan Highland amusement park in Okayama, SkyCycle is probably the world’s slowest roller coaster ride. That’s because it’s pedal-powered so it goes as fast as the rider can pedal. It doesn’t have any steep slopes or spectacular drops either, but it still manages to get your heart racing by constantly conveying an uneasy sense of danger and uncertainty. It may look like a quaint ride for people who are too scared to go on conventional roller coasters, but once you get on one of those flimsy carts and realize there’s nothing but a loose safety belt keeping you from falling to your doom, your pulse goes up instantly.

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The Indonesian Island That Somehow Makes Mammals Smaller

Ever since the remains of “Homo Florensis”, an extinct species of unusually short humans, were discovered on Flores Island, in eastern Indonesia, scientists have been fascinated with this patch of land, which apparently has the power to somehow make mammals shorter and smaller.

It all began in 2004, when the remains of a human who would have been about 1.1 m in height were discovered at Liang Bua cave. Partial skeletons of nine other individuals were subsequently unearthed and analysis showed that they were part of a yet unknown species of the “Homo” genus named Homo Florensis. It’s estimated that they lived on Flores Island roughly 190,000 to 50,000 years ago. With an average height of just 1.1 meters, they were shorter than modern pygmies which earned them the nickname of ‘real-life hobbits’. Scientists believed they were the ancestors of the pygmies currently living on Flores Island, which made perfect sense, only it turns out that the two have nothing in common. If anything, both species had been independently “shrunk” by the island itself.

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Isolated Lighthouse in Iceland Hailed as Perfect Location to Survive Zombie Apocalypse

Perched on top of a tall slither of rock, six miles off the coast of Iceland, Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse is considered by many an introvert’s dream home and a wonderful placed to be in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Þrídrangaviti, which translates as “three rocks”, was built in 1939, soon before the start of World War 2. Nowadays, the lighthouse is accessible by helicopter and even features a small helipad to make landing there easier, but back in 1938, when work on it began, helicopters hadn’t yet been invented. Brave workers had to to scale the 120-foot-high rock to reach the pinnacle, where they laid the foundation of the lighthouse by hand, while ensuring that the strong winds and rain didn’t send them plunging into the freezing North Atlantic Ocean.

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This Famous Vietnamese Villa Has a Tomb in the Middle of the Living Room

From the outside, the famous “Tomb Villa” in the Vietnamese province of Ben Tre looks like an ordinary household, but step foot through the front door and you’ll notice that instead of the usual dining table there is a creepy marble tomb complete with a shrine to the person buried in it.

Living in a mansion with a tomb in the middle of the living room sounds like the plot of a horror movie, but for the inhabitants of the so-called Tomb Villa of Tan Thac Commune it’s everyday life. It sounds unbelievable, and many people still don’t believe it, especially since Vietnamese law clearly states that burials can only be carried out in cemeteries or on the holy ground of churches and temples, but the story of this unique villa has been documented online for over a decade now. It’s an inhabited house with an occupied tomb in the middle of the living room…

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Tourists Won’t Stop Visiting Australia’s “Asbestos Town”

It’s considered the most contaminated site in the southern hemisphere and one of the most toxic in the world, but for some reason tourists just can’t stay away from the abandoned mining town of Wittenoom, deep in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region.

In its heyday, between 1930 and 1966, Wittenoom was home to around 20,000 people, most of whom worked in the now abandoned nearby mines, extracting deadly asbestos every day. Today, it’s a ghost town surrounded by large ‘Danger’ signs designed to keep people as far away as possible. Even though asbestos mining ceased decades ago, Wittenoom is still surrounded by around three million tonnes of asbestos residue, enough to make the air there potentially deadly. The place is so dangerous that last year the Australian government decided to compulsorily acquire the properties of the last three people living in the area, just to get them to safety. And yet, there are thousands of tourists visiting Wittenoom every year and proudly posting photos of it on social media.

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Monte Neme – Spain’s Very Own Toxic Maldives

During the same time that a turquoise but toxic lake near the Russian city of Novosibirsk is making international headlines as the “Siberian Maldives“, a similarly dangerous attraction is gaining notoriety in Spain.

During the first and second World Wars, Monte Neme was a prized tungsten mine that supplied the material necessary for making light bulbs and hardening steel. Today, the mine is no longer accessible, but it remains popular, albeit for a totally different reason. Galician influencers have discovered that the turquoise lake that now covers the flooded mine is the ideal location for spectacular selfies. Despite knowing that the alluring water contains a high concentration of chemicals that give it its unusual color, they flock to Monte Neme to take photos, and some even bathe in the toxic water.

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The Siberian Maldives – An Alluring But Dangerous Tourist Attraction

Russian Instagram users in search of the perfect selfie have been flocking to a lake near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk that boasts turquoise water and white sandy beaches similar to those in the Maldives. But unlike the popular Indian Ocean archipelago, there is nothing natural about its beauty.

Dubbed the “Siberian Maldives” or “Novosibirsk Maldives”, the gorgeous lake is actually a man-made toxic dump used to dump ash from a nearby coal plant. The water apparently gets its bright turquoise color from its depth and the calcium salts and other metal oxides dissolved in it. Alluring as it may seem at first glance, the Siberian Generating Company (SGC) warns that its ash-dumping pond has a high pH of more than 8 and cause an allergic allergic reaction in contact with human skin. That hasn’t stopped people from posing for photos on the lake’s beaches and even venturing on the water on paddle boards and inflatable unicorns.

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Phone of the Wind – The Tragic Story Behind a Phone Booth Connected to Nothing and Nowhere

Outside the Japanese town of Otsuchi, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, there is a white, glass-paneled phone booth with a black rotary phone connected to nothing and nowhere. Ever since the tragic tsunami of 2010, which claimed nearly 20,000 human lives, thousands of grieving people have visited the booth to “call” their lost loved ones as a way of coping with their loss.

The Wind Phone, as the now famous Otsuchi telephone booth is commonly known, was actually built a year before the 2011 tsunami that ravaged Japan’s Tōhoku coastOtsuchi resident, Itaru Sasaki, had lost his cousin in 2010 and decided to build a phone booth in his hilltop garden from where he would call his dear relative as a way of dealing with grief. He would dial his cousin’s phone number on an old, unconnected rotary phone, and his words would be “carried on the wind” as he spoke. Even though no one would talk back to him, it made Sasaki feel a deeper connection to his cousin.

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This Russian Beach Is Covered With Hundreds of Man-Made Stone Towers

Cape Vyatlina, one of the most picturesque places in the Russian Far East, has come to be known as the Russian Stonehenge in recent years, after people started building stone towers on its rocky beach. Today, there are hundreds of them, and new ones are erected almost every day.

The tradition of building towers at Cape Vyatlina by stacking stones of various sizes on top of each other started in 2015, when a group of activists from Vladivostok built 155 such monuments in celebration of the city’s 155th anniversary. Many of these original towers, some up to 3.5-meters-tall, were destroyed by the collapse of a nearby grotto, but other locals and tourists took it upon themselves to restore them and even add to their number. Today, there are several hundreds of these hand-stacked stone towers covering the beach at Cape Vyatlina and building them has become somewhat of a superstition.

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Fuggerei – The German Housing Complex Where Rent Hasn’t Gone Up in 500 Years

In a time when the cost of renting a home seems to be getting higher virtually everywhere in the civilized world, the residents of an idyllic housing complex in Germany are living in an inflation-free utopia. The people of Fuggerei, a walled district on the outskirts of Augsburg, pay only $1 a year on rent, the same as the first tenants who originally moved here nearly 500 years ago.

Fuggerei was founded in 1514 by an affluent businessman named Jakob Fugger, as a social housing complex for the poorest people of Augsburg. The Fugger family moved to the bustling German city in the mid-14th century and established a prosperous cloth trading business. By the 16th century, the Fugger family was one of the richest in Augsburg, and their operations expanded to real-estate and banking. Jakob Fugger was the wealthiest banker in the city, which earned him the nickname “Jakob Fugger the Rich”, but he stayed true to his family’s values, and in 1514 he started the construction of Fuggerei as a way of giving back to the community.

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Japan’s Famous Aquarium Toilet

If you love exotic fish and don’t mind hundreds of them eyeballing you while you answer nature’s call, you’ll probably love using this unique aquarium toilet in Akashi, Japan.

Hipopo Papa (formerly Mumin Papa) Cafe, used to be known as one of the most popular dating spots on Hayashizaki Matsue Coast. It still is, but ever since the owner decided to do something special with the women’s toilet, it’s become famous primarily for being the only cafe in Japan – and probably the world – to feature an aquarium toilet. It’s technically surrounded on three sides by a giant aquarium filled with hundreds of exotic fish and a male turtle, which, considering this is a women’s only toilet, is a bit weird.

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Solothurn – The Swiss Town Obsessed with the Number 11

Solothurn is a picturesque town in the north-west of Switzerland known primarily for its special affinity for the number 11. It seems like everything in this place was designed around this magical number, from the fact that there are precisely 11 churches and chapels, as well as eleven historical fountains, eleven museums and eleven towers in Solothurn, to the rather bizarre clock in the town square that features an 11-hour dial and the number 12 missing.

Although virtually everyone in Solothurn knows about the town’s obsession with the number 11, its origin is shrouded in mystery. Some say it was inspired by a folk legend about magical elves coming down from the nearby Weissenstein mountain to hearten the people of Solothurn, who worked hard but never prospered. The grateful inhabitants started incorporating the number 11, or ‘elf’ in German, as a tribute for the creatures’ aid. But there are also those who claim that the number 11 has biblical connotations, deeming it holy and prophetic. One thing’s for sure, though, Solothurn’s obsession with this number can be traced back centuries.

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