Panjat Pinang – A Slippery Tradition of Indonesia

Dating back to the Dutch colonial days, Panjat Pinang is one of the oldest, most popular traditions in Indonesia.

Panjat Pinang is a very unique way of celebrating Indonesia’s Independence Day. Every year, in towns and villages around the country, tall nut-trees are chopped down and their trunks placed vertically, in the center of each settlement. A wheel full of prizes is placed on top, before the trunk is covered with oil or other lubricants, and young men are invited to try and reach the prizes.

This type of pole climbing was introduced to the Indonesians, by Dutch colonists, who came up with it as a form of entertainment. Every time an important event took place (like a wedding, or national holiday) they would install a Panjat Pinang pole and watch the natives attempt to reach the prizes.

Since the nut-tree poles are fairly high and very slippery, a single climber would have almost no chance of reaching the top, so contestants usually work together and split the rewards, if they succeed. Prizes consist of foods, like cheese, sugar, flour, and clothes. You might not think them worth the trouble, but for poor Indonesians, these are luxury items.

There is some controversy surrounding Panjat Pinang. While most Indonesia believe it is an educational challenge that teaches people to work together and work hard in reaching their goals, there are those who say Panjat Pinang is a degrading display that sends the wrong kind of message to Indonesia’s youth. There’s also the environmental issue of cutting down a significant number of nut-trees for such a hedonistic celebration.

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The Shocking Fireball Festival of Nejapa

The Fireball Festival is an old tradition celebrated each year, on August 31st, in the town of Nejapa, El Salvador.

“Las Bolas de Fuego”, as the locals refer to this bizarre event, is actually a reenactment of the fight between San Jeronimo and the devil. In 1922, the people of Nejapa and the surrounding area were forced to evacuate, by the eruption of a nearby volcano. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano, and believed their patron saint was actually fighting the devil with them.

Ever since they witnessed the fight between good and evil, the people of Nejapa have celebrated it each year, by organizing their very own fireball fight. If you didn’t know this was an organized celebration, you’d be tempted to think you’ve been dropped in the middle of a war-zone. Two teams of young men, with their faces covered by war paint, throw flaming fireballs at each other, surrounded by hundreds of bystanders who watch their every move.

Equipped with gloves and clothes soaked in water, the brave combatants throw and at the same time, evade the flaming fireballs made from rags and dipped in fuel. Some of their clothes do catch on fire, and some of the participants are often hit right in the face, at point blank, but despite all the health hazards, few injuries have been reported during the Fireball Festival.

It’s definitely a shocking display, but un a country like El Salvador, where gangs and violence are everywhere, getting hit by a flaming fireball, during “Las Bolas de Fuego” is the least dangerous thing that can happen.

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i-City – The Nighttime Wonderland of Malaysia

i-City, one of the latest high-tech attractions of Malaysia, can best be described as an unconventional mix of Oriental style and the latest in lighting technology.

Located in the city of Shah Alam, i-City is a one-of-a-kind theme-park where all the main attractions are made of plastic and millions of bright LED lights. Similar to Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch, during the day, i-City’s artificial forest of maple and pine trees really comes to life at night. Made out of plastic and fitted with colorful LEDs, they put on a light show unlike any other.

Inaugurated in early 2010, Shah Alam‘s i-City has already become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malaysia. From rows upon rows of LED-made Chinese lanterns, to LED peacocks, flamingos and LED cherry blossoms, i-City offers a variety of unique sights that are sure to amaze anyone who visits here.

Though nothing compares to the look and smell of real trees, the colorful display of i-City’s magical forest is proof of the wonderful things man can create if he puts his mind to it.Now sit back and check out a set of mind-blowing photos taken in i-City, at night.

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Manshyiat Naser – The City of Garbage

The Manshyiat Naser slum, on the outskirts of Cairo, is often referred to as “The City of Garbage” because of the large quantities of trash shipped here from all over Egypt’s capital city.

As unbelievable as the photos below may look, Manshyiat Naser is a real place, where people make their living out of trash. Like in any other normal community, you’ll find streets, houses and apartments throughout the settlement, but everything and everyone here depends on garbage. The inhabitants of Manshyiat Naser (called Zabbaleen) bring the trash into the city, by truck, cart, or any other means necessary, and sort any recyclable or useful waste.

Every street and every building in Manshyiat Naser is stacked with mountains of garbage, and you’ll see men, women and children thoroughly digging through them, looking for something they can sell. Although it may seem like an outdated system of handling trash, the Zabbaleen do a far better job than any of the waste handling systems of the modern world. Around 80% of the trash is recycled and resold, while the rest is either fed to the pigs roaming through the city streets, or burned for fuel.

The Zabbaleen barely manage to survive on what they make sorting out garbage, but many of them have done it for generations and wouldn’t conceive living their lives otherwise. They dispose of about a third of Cairo’s garbage, at no cost to authorities, and manage to make a decent living for them and their families. The Model of Manshyiat Naser has been copied in various cities around the world, including Manila, Bombay and Los Angeles.

Many photographers have been fascinated by the Zabbaleen way of life and the distinct look of the City of Garbage. As I look at the photos below, I can’t help but wonder: where’s Wall-E when you need him?

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Kori no Suizokukan – Japan’s Frozen Aquarium

As a way of battling the summer heatwave that hit Japan this year, authorities have inaugurated a frozen aquarium that will keep visitors cool and entertained.

Kori no Suizokukan is located in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture and features around 450 specimens of around 80 species of marine wildlife, all captured at a nearby sea port. Visitors can enjoy a brief break from the scorching sun and admire all sorts of fish, crabs or octopuses, as well as unusual objects like action figures, bottles of sake, or flowers, all embedded in huge blocks of ice.

The Frozen Aquarium was inaugurated, in Kesennuma’s fish market, in 2002, and uses flash-freezing technology to conserve fresh specimens and keep them looking so good.

While the Frozen Aquarium is a welcome tourist attraction, visitors can only spend a few minutes inside. Because temperatures inside the aquarium reach -20 degrees Celsius, a special suit is needed to keep people from becoming freezing exhibits themselves. Without these special suits, visitors would start feeling severe pains in just five minutes time.


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Meet the Thermometer Man

Richard T. Porter has earned the nickname “The Thermometer Man” by putting together a collection of around 5,000 thermometer of various shapes and sizes.

The small village of Onset, in Wareham, Massachusetts, may not be among the world’s top travel destination, but Richard T. Porter has been working long and hard to put this settlement on the tourist map. He spent decades putting together his thermometer collection and opened the Porter Thermometer Museum. The founder, curator and educator of this unusual museum has been featured by Ripley’s Believe Ir or Not, and is in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s largest collection of thermometers.

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Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch

The Bottle Tree Ranch created by Elmer Long is one of the most impressive attractions along Route 66, featuring hundreds with bottle-filled trees.

Elmer Long is the quirky artist behind the now famous Bottle Tree Ranch. He looks a lot like one of the guys from ZZ Top, but he’s really a fascinating man who loves greeting and getting to know the people who visit his roadside masterpiece. As a kid, Elmer used to travel through the desert, with his dad, who would collect any objects they found, and keep extensive notes about their location.

After Elmer’s dad died, he was left with a sizable collection of colorful bottles, but he had no idea what to do with it. One day, it hit him – he decided to build his first bottle tree. He got to welding and after he completed his work, knew that he had to go on. Elmer Long started the Bottle Tree Ranch in 2000, and since then has created over 200 scrap metal bottle trees.

Visiting the Bottle Tree Ranch of California’s Mojave County isn’t just about admiring the beautiful art installations, or hearing the sweet melody created by the wind going through the bottles, it’s also about meeting the artist. Elmer Long is just as fascinating as his bottle ranch, always welcoming guests and willing to strike up a conversation. He always complains about how people now prefer the interstates, even though they are completely soulless, compared to the old routes. He longs for the old days when people also traveled to discover the towns and wonders along the roads.

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The Unique Stilt Fishermen of Guangxi

The Jing people, an ethnic minority in China’s Guangxi Autonomous Region have a style of fishing unique in the world – they fish on stilts.

Unlike the stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka, who place wooden poles in the water and simply climb on them to fish, Jing fishermen actually walk on stilts and cast huge nets, in waters they couldn’t normally reach. This centuries old tradition is unique to the Jing people, and allows them to reach deep waters and avoid foot injuries from clams or sharp rocks on the sea floor.

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Silvas Capitalis – The Forest Head of Kielder

Silvas Capitalis, which translates as “forest head”, is an unusual art installation built by the American art group SIMPARCH.

Located on the grounds of Kielder Forest, near the Scottish border, Silvas Capitalis is not exactly the kind of shelter you’d expect to stumble upon while walking through the trees. It’s purpose is to provide visitors and cyclists of Kielder Forest with a refuge, and at the same time, add to the mystery of this place. Inspired by the “watchers” of Celtic folklore – spiritual beings who keep watch over the forest and its inhabitants – who were usually depicted as human heads, the forest head was considered too scary for young children. Visits to local schools were required to test the reaction of the kids, before the actual building began.

Silvas Capitalis is made from hundreds of individual timber blocks, individually cut, sanded and glued into the shape of a head. Visitors can climb up the stairs of Silvas Capitalis and actually look through the eyes of the watcher. The initial plan included carving out its ears so people could hear through them, but due to time limitations, this step was skipped.

 

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Christiania – Denmark’s Ultimate Freetown

The Freetown of Christiania is a self-governing neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city, where the people actually live freely.

Chritiania was created in 1971, and consists of the old Bådsmandsstræde Barracks and parts of the city ramparts. After the barracks were abandoned by the military, the area was simply taken over by the locals in the surrounding neighborhoods, as a playground for their children. This was actually a protest against the Danish government of that time, started by the article of one Jacob Ludvigsen.

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Horsetail Fall – The Awesome Firefall of Yosemite Park

Waterfalls are awesome, but the Firefall of Yosemite Park is definitely something you don’t see every day, literally.

Horsetail Fall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the North American continent, but it’s only truly special for two weeks a year. The first firefalls of Yosemite Park were man made. Large fires were started atop Glacier Point and the red-hot embers were pushed down the granite wall, in the evening. It was a nice show of fireworks, until the fire hazard of the 1960s, when the dangerous practice stopped.

But that didn’t mean Yosemite was left without a firefall, if anything, people got to discover a much more beautiful one. When the natural conditions are just right, tourists can enjoy a unique spectacle where water turns into burning fire. During the last two weeks of February, when the sun shines above Yosemite Valley, and water pours down the granite wall, the firefall phenomenon takes place. But because clouds and storms are common during the winter months, and sometimes California has dry years, Horsetail Firefall can only be witnessed rarely, and timing is of the essence.

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Vermontasaurus – The Scrap Wood Dinosaur of Vermont

The Vermontasaurus is the creation of Brian Boland, a man who decided to use scrap wood in the name of art. I’d say he nailed it.

A month ago, 61-year-old Brian Boland decided to turn a big pile of scrap wood, on the edge of his property in Vermont, into something beautiful that the local community could use as a free-admission gathering place. Using a dinosaur model as inspiration, he began building his Vermontasaurus, and within just nine days, the sculpture began taking shape. The basic rules he and a few volunteers set up ( no saws, no rulers and no using other materials other than what was available in the junk pile) let to the creation of an amazing piece of art, 22-foot-tall and 122-foot-long.

Some of Brian’s neighbors find the lack of rules in the Vermontasaurus sculpture quite interesting, while others just see a messy piece of art. But the opinions of his neighbors are the least of Brian’s problems. State officials don’t appreciate it when people start building stuff and don’t ask for permission first, so they’re now asking for all kinds of permits, priced at a few hundreds of dollars each, and even told the artist he may have to tear down the Vermontasaurus.

Right now people are forbidden to use the Vermontasaurus as a gathering spot, as it was intended, but hopefully, this amazing roadside attraction will have the chance to become one of Vermont’s most popular landmarks.

 

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The Sign Post Forest of Watson Lake

Featuring tens of thousands of sign posts from all around the world, the Sign Post Forest of Watson Lake is one of the most popular roadside attractions along the Alaska Highway.

Located in Watson Lake, one of the newest towns of the Yukon, Sign Post Forest takes up a couple of acres, and features all kinds of signs, from street signs to license plates, and even huge road panels. This unique tourist attraction was born in 1942, when Private Carl K. Lindley was asked to repair a signpost damaged by a bulldozer. He decided to personalize the job by adding a new sign with the distance to his home town of Danville, Illinois.

Several soldiers followed his example and the tradition of adding signs was born. And it became more and more popular every year, with people bringing in different signs, from every place they traveled. In 1990, sign post number 10,000 was nailed in, and the count in 2008 had reached 65, 164 signs. With between 2,500 and 4,000 signs being added every year, the count has almost certainly passed the 70,000 mark.

Many of the signs nailed onto the signposts of Sign Post Forest have been especially created for this place, but there are a large number of original signs “borrowed” and brought all the way to the Yukon. The size of some of the signs – a 6-by-10-foot road panel from the German Autobahn, for example – makes you wonder how on Earth someone managed to bring them to the Sign Post Forest.

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The Mitchell Corn Palace

As the only corn palace in the world, the Mitchell Corn Palace attracts over 500,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Dakota.

The Mitchell Corn Palace is not a palace made of corn, as many assume when hearing its name, but it is almost completely covered with it. The Arab-looking structure is adorned with “Crop art”, specifically murals made from corn and other cereal. Some say it’s the most impressive thing they’ve ever seen, while other refer to it as just a gym covered n corn. I guess it’s just a matter of how much you appreciate agricultural art.

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Hay-on-Wye – The Bibliophiles’ Mecca

Home to the largest secondhand bookstore in the world, Hay-on-Wye is more than just a little town on the border between England and Wales, it’s book heaven on Earth.

The history of Hay-on-Wye as the “town of books” began on Fools’ Day of 1977, when during a bold publicity stunt, bibliophile Richard Booth announced the independence of Hay-on-Wye as a kingdom of books, with him as the monarch. Ambassadors were sent to the International Court of Justice, in Hague, and a rowing gunboat started patrolling on the river Wye. Since then, he managed to establish a healthy tourism industry based on books, and thousands of visitors come to Hay-on-Wye every year, to look for whatever books they need.

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