Sunday, January 25, 2015

Taiwanese Village Transforms Itself With Cartoon Murals

Three sisters have unleashed a new life into the streets of the small Taiwanese village of Huija with a series of colourful murals. The sisters were on a holiday visiting their grandmother about a year ago. Having nothing to do, they decided to paint the outside of her home with cartoon characters including Daruma dolls, which are a good luck charm in Japan, just to kill time. On one of the windows they painted a sign that reads: “This is where grandmother lives.”

Soon other villagers of the community started copying them and painted there own walls, and before they knew it, the whole village was filled with colorful murals. New illustrations are popping up frequently, and on any given day, artists and villagers can be spotted at work on a painting.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Eski Kerman, An Ancient Cave City in Crimea

Eski Kermen is a medieval town located just 6 km from Mangupa, in the Bakhchisaray region in Crimea. The town is located atop one of the flat-topped mountains called mesa, which are normal for this part of Crimea, and is famous for its more than 300 caves. The caves were built in the 6th century and was used for human habitation because of the safety they provided and the shelter that they offered from the elements. Over the centuries the dwellings grew and housed several hundreds of people at one time. Religious life was important to these people who had a few temples and churches built in the caves. One of the churches still has frescoes that depict Christ and Mary, although the frescoes are beginning to show the wear of the elements.

The “cave city” was inhabited until the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century. Due to the mountainous terrain, the town is difficult to reach and was therefore one of the last to succumb to the Mongol onslaught. After the caves were abandoned by the residents, for a brief period, the neighboring villagers began to use the caves for commercial purposes. Today, the caves of Eski Kermen makes for a great day-trip and for hikes.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

World’s Highest Speed Limit at Holloman Air Force Base

If highway speed limits of 70-80 miles per hour is too slow for you, pay a visit to Holloman Air Force Base in south-central New Mexico, in the U.S. Operated by United States Department of Defense, Holloman is home to the world's longest and fastest high speed test track at 15.47 km in length, and consequently the world’s highest enforced speed limit. A sign near the track announces, in all seriousness – “Mach 10”. Ten times the speed of sound or 7,612.07 miles per hour. That’s how fast you are officially allowed to go, and is probably the only speed limit that you can break and get applauded for instead of being issued a ticket. Nobody has broken it yet – the fastest land speed record at Holloman High Speed Test Track is Mach 8.5 set in April 2003.

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Gotokuji: The Temple of The Beckoning Cats

Many Japanese shops, restaurants and other businesses keep a little cat doll with its paw raised near their entrances. It is a common Japanese figurine – a lucky charm – called Maneki Neko, which literally means “beckoning cat”, and is believed to bring good luck and money to the owner. Usually made of ceramic or plastic, the figurine depict a cat with an upright paw as if beckoning people towards it. It is said that the raised paw brings in customers, while the other paw brings in good luck and wealth. Some modern Maneki Neko are battery-powered and have a slow-moving beckoning paw. Today, these figurines are becoming increasingly popular among merchants in other Asian countries as well, and just like the ubiquitous “laughing buddha” statues, the Maneki Neko have transcended all boundaries, both physical and religious. But their true home will always remain in Gotokuji, a temple in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier

The Ruth Glacier, in Denali National Park and Preserve in the U.S. state of Alaska, covers an enormous area in the heart of the central Alaska Range. Located about 3 miles vertically below the summit of Mt. McKinley, it catches all the snow that falls on the southeast side of the mountain, and as the accumulated snow and ice that makes up the glacier slides down the slope, it get squeezed through a one-mile-wide bottleneck of what is called the Great Gorge.

The Great Gorge is one of the most spectacular gorges on earth. It runs for a length of 16 km and drops almost 2,000 feet over the distance, creating a grade that forces the Ruth Glacier to descend at an impressive pace of a meter a day. On either side of the gorge are solid granite cliffs that tower 5,000 feet above the glacier's surface. The depth of the ice within the gorge is more than 3,800 feet. If the ice were to melt tomorrow, it could create an abyss 2.6 km deep or more than one-half times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

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Blythe Intaglios: The Nazca Lines of America

About 15 miles north of Blythe, just west of U.S. Highway 95 near the Colorado River, are a group of gigantic geoglyphs. There are a total of six distinct figures in three locations, including a human figure at each location and animal figures depicting serpents and quadrupeds at the other two sites. The largest human figure measures 171 feet from head to toe. But from the ground level, the figures are indiscernible, nor they are visible from any nearby hill from any distance or angle. Just like Peru’s famous Nazca Lines, they can only be seen from the air. And that is precisely how Blythe Intaglios were discovered.

Unseen by modern humans until the 20th century, these huge figures hidden on the desert floor were discovered in 1931 by local pilot George Palmer when flying over Blythe. Palmer reported seeing outlines of two human figures, serpents and four-legged animals with long tails. Another giant figure appeared just to have stepped out of a large dance ring.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bioparc Valencia: The Immersive Zoo

Bioparc Valencia is a small (25-acre) zoo in Valencia, Spain, with a large collection of African animals. Unlike your average zoo where animals are locked in cages, the animals in Bioparc Valencia appear to roam freely in the park. But there is no need to be afraid. Bioparc Valencia is what is called an “immersive zoo” – a concept of immersing visitors into the animals' habitat and not vice versa. But this isn’t another Chinese zoo where visitors are locked in cages at the back of a trailer as it makes its way through the park. In Bioparc Valencia, there are no cages, instead using rivers, ponds, streams and rocks to separate visitors from the animals. Here, the barriers are practically invisible and the animals feel right at home.

“Visitors are able to get nerve-wrackingly close to the animals — only a small stream separates them. A stream so small that surely the hyenas intently taking in our scent on the other side could easily hop over it,” writes travel-blog HolaValencia.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival

Every year at the end of summer, livestock herders in the state of Idaho, in the US, guide thousands of sheep through hundreds of kilometers in a route stretching from the Sawtooth Mountains in the north to the winter pastures of the Snake River Valley in the south. The Trailing of the Sheep, as the event is called, marks the end of the four-day festival organized in the town of Ketchum, that celebrates the rich and colorful history and culture of sheepherding in the western United States. The sheep are accompanied by historic sheep wagons and dancers and participants from the Folklife Fair.

Sheep ranching began in south west region of Idaho in the late 1860’s when John Hailey, a Tennessee immigrant and key figure in early Idaho politics, brought the first sheep into the Wood River Valley. At that time, there were only 14,000 breeding sheep in the whole of Idaho. In less than 60 years, the sheep population swelled to 2.65 million, almost six times the state's human population. Ketchum became a major sheep center, second only to Sydney, Australia.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Shooters Grill: A Gun Themed Restaurant in Colorado

Americans love two things: fast food and guns, and you will find both at Shooters Grill, a gun themed restaurant in the U.S. state of Colorado, in a town called – unsurprisingly - Rifle. At Shooters Grill, customers are welcome and encouraged to openly carry firearms. A sign on the front door reads, “Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered, unless the need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.”

The decor inside the restaurant remains true to the theme, while items on the menu include names such as “M16 burrito”, “Swiss and Wesson grilled cheese”, “Bull's Eye Grilled Chicken” and "Locked and Loaded nachos”. But it’s the waitresses shuffling plates of food around that are worth watching. Each of them carries a fully loaded sidearm.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Abandoned Shopping Mall in Bangkok Turns Into Fish Pond

The New World shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, has been lying abandonment and lifeless since 1997, but not quite. The roofless four-storeyed structure has since flooded with several feet of rainwater and became a paradise for a variety of fish.

The store, which was built in 1982, was 11 storeys high, and very noticeable because it towered over the surrounding area. But it was later revealed that the developers only had permission to construct a four-storey building. In 1997, Thailand’s supreme court ordered the demolition of the seven-storey extension of the shopping centre leaving a gaping hole on the roof. Over the years, rain turned the ground floor of the mall into a shallow pond, and subsequently a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

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