The last of China's cave dwellers want nothing to do with modern housing

Before China came under the sway of Communist rule, many of the impoverished people of the country's southwestern Guizhou province opted to live in caves rather than face the frequent assaults by the region's criminal element. The cave complexes in Guizhou are massive, and until recently, were unknown to those who hailed from outside of the province. Its connection to the outside world is a small one. In order to enter Guizhou, visitors to the region need to navigate a narrow mountain footpath. The difficulties that getting to Guizhou poses has gifted its people with a rare commodity in our increasingly connected world: seclusion.

But of late, the region's cave dwellers have become less cloistered. Tourists eager to see cave dwellers' way of life have been making the trek to Guizhou. This is good news for Guizhou's cave dwellers: The tourists have proven happy to pay for the privilege of renting space in the caves. It's also bad news: the Chinese government has noted that some of its citizens are hiding out in caves. Because of the optics this presents, they've been encouraging the cave dwellers to move onto farm properties, complete with modest houses and a relocation payment – let's call it a bribe – of $9,500. Five of the cave dwelling families were totally into the deal. The other 18? Not so much.

From The Globe & Mail:

The remaining 18 families have held on stubbornly to their homes inside the cave. They say that the new homes are too small, that they fear losing access to their land, and that they alone, because of their historical connection to the cave, should have the right to independently control its small tourism economy.

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The Taj Mahal's white marble walls are turning green and brown with pollution

Thanks to pollution, bug excrement, and particulates thrown into the air by construction in the vicinity, the Taj Mahal has turned color. Constructed primarily using white marble in the 17th century, the UNESCO world heritage site building has changed in color from white, to a troublesome yellow and, more recently, has become sullied with shades of brown and green. Given the Taj Mahal's importance as a tourist destination (it draws close to 70,000 people per day!) and its cultural significance, India's Supreme Court has said enough's enough: they've ordered the country's government to seek foreign help to bring the building back to its former glory.

According to the BBC, the Indian Supreme Court recently scolded the country's government for allowing the site to fall into such disrepair, with one court justice saying, "Even if you have the expertise, you are not utilizing it. Or perhaps you don't care."

Ouch.

For its part, the Indian government has moved to protect the Taj Mahal in the past: it forced the closure of thousands of factories near the site in an effort to protect the building and grounds from pollution. Unfortunately, fighting pollution in the area is an uphill battle. The mausoleum, located in the city of Agra, sits adjacent to the Yamuna River. The river is rife with raw sewage, which attracts hordes of insects. Those bugs apparently love to poop on the world heritage site. On several occasions over the past couple of decades, the Indian government has attempted to clean the exterior of the building, in the hopes of bringing it back to its original coloring. Read the rest

Man gets swallowed by hippo and lives to talk about it

Ok, show of hands: who here's been eaten by a hippo? Anyone? No? Then you'll want to keep reading, because Chris Broughton has and his story is frigging horrific.

While he was in his twenties, Broughton ran a business that saw him guiding tourists down the Zambezi river, near Africa's Victoria Falls. During the years that he worked this gig, Broughton had made it a habit to avoid a particularly grumpy male hippo while he and his clients were out on the water. Hippos, you see, are wicked territorial. The beast had launched a couple of half-assed attacked against him and his customers in the past. No damage was done, but it was enough to make him wary of pissing the hippo off.

On one occasion, Broughton took a group of tourists out on the water along with three apprentice guides that he was showing the ropes to. One of the apprentices was attacked by the hippo, flinging him into the air. Broughton ordered the other two guides to get the tourists to safety while he went after his apprentice. What happened next, told in Broughton's own words, is absolutely insane.

From The Guardian:

I reached over to grab his outstretched hand but as our fingers were about to touch, I was engulfed in darkness. There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf.

I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry.

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Supercut of Instagram travel photo clichés

Filmmaker Oliver KMIA was traveling in Rome where he noticed the throngs of tourists surrounding the Trevi Fountain all trying to get the same photo of themselves with the monument. "I couldn't secure a picture of the Trevi Fountain for my Instragram account but I still had a very nice time in Italy," he writes. And when he got home, he was inspired to make this video, "Instravel - A Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience."

"I'm basically making fun of something I'm part of," he writes. "The irony is strong."

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Russia planning to build boutique hotel on the International Space Station

Russia's Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities is considering plans to add a space tourism module to the International Space Station. From Popular Mechanics:

The amenities will include a luxury orbital suite parked at the International Space Station (ISS) offering private cabins with big windows, personal hygiene facilities, exercise equipment and even Wi-Fi. In addition gazing at our tiny blue orb from a dizzying altitude of 250 miles, space tourists will have an opportunity for space walks accompanied by a professional cosmonaut.

The entire trip, lasting from one to two weeks will cost $40 million per person and going with the spacewalk option and an extended month-long stay will set the traveler back an additional $20 million....

To minimize the initial cost, (space station contractor) RKK Energia wants to book at least 12 passengers who would agree to make payments of around $4 million up front so that the company could begin the development of the orbital hotel module. It's a similar method that Virgin Galactic used at the beginning of its space tourism ambitions. The same clients will then pay two 12.6 million bills in the two years leading up to the flight, then paying the final $10.8 million payment at the time of the flight.

They better get to work though because the ISS is scheduled for retirement in 2028. Then again, maybe the whole thing can be converted into a boutique hotel.

"Russia's Plan To Build a Luxury Hotel on the ISS" (Popular Mechanics) Read the rest

A playable version of Oregon Trail to promote Oregon tourism

The semi-independent Oregon Tourism Commission has created a playable version of the classic Apple ][-era adventure game Oregon Trail to promote Oregon tourism. Read the rest

Norwegians fundraise to re-erect phallic rock formation

Concerned citizens are hoping to raise enough money to repair the phallic Trollpikken rock formation in southern Norway after suspected vandals apparently sliced off the head. Police are seeking tips on who chopped the tip. From The Guardian:

By Sunday more than 500 people had donated nearly 90,000 Norwegian kroner (£8,400) to fix the formation which is in Eigersund, south of Stavanger.

Kjetil Bentsen, an activist, told the public broadcaster NRK that he was convinced the Trollpikken would be rebuilt with donated money.

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Japan's "Weird Hotel," staffed by robots, in a Japanese theme-park

The Henn Na Hotel ("weird hotel") is staffed by robots: the Japanese-speaking check-in clerk is a vicious robot dinosaur, while the English-speaking one is humanoid; a robot arm stores and retrieves personal items from the guest lockers, and a chatbot serves as concierge. Read the rest

Cinematic Japanese tourism ad draws on martial arts traditions

Diamond Route Japan went all in on this gorgeous series of tourism ads. Their living samurai spirit ad taps into the romantic view of Japan depicted in their renowned epic period films. Read the rest

1922 house and furnishings made entirely from varnished paper

Having successfully invented the paperclip-bending machine, engineer Elis F. Stenman set out to build a new summer home for himself in Rockport, Mass in 1922, entirely from paper. Read the rest

Typical English village mystified by its cult status among Chinese tourists

Kidlington is a village of 13,723 people in Oxfordshire where nothing much happens. Read the rest

China's elites appear to be exfiltrating billions while on holidays

China has a massive "tourism deficit" -- the difference between the money that tourists spend in China and the money that Chinese people spend abroad: $206B from June 2015-June 2016, up from $77B in 2013. The missing money is hard to explain, since China doesn't export that many tourists. Read the rest

Hilarious and sophomoric collection of crass tourist photos (NSFW)

More here. (via Neatorama)

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King Arthur's grave was a hoax invented by cash-strapped 12th C monks

Since the 12th century -- and up to this very day -- tourists venture to Somerset's Glastonbury Abbey to see the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, allegedly buried in the churchyard by 12th century monks who discovered their skeletons in an underground tree-trunk. Read the rest

Body-painted models disappear into the Wonders of the World

Trina Merry (previously) has created "Lost in Wonder," a series of trompe l'oeil photos in which painted models are posed against many of the world's great wonders, vanishing into the background. Read the rest

Book and Bed: Tokyo's coffin hotel/bookstore

If you're in Ikebukuro and need a cozy, bookish bed for the night, try Book and Bed, a "designed hostel" that hides coffin-hotel-style bunks among bookshelves lined with handsome volumes and rolling ladders. The books aren't for sale, but you're welcome to read them in your bunk. Read the rest

See this magical tilt-shift, time-lapse, 4K view of Niagara Falls

"Nano Niagara Falls" by Joerg Daiber. (LittleBigWorld)

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