I have been to 66 countries. Here are some of the weirdest places I have been on my travels...
Yes Hell is a real place, a short distance from Trondheim in Norway. If you go in winter you can be pretty confident that Hell will freeze over.
Stjørdal, Trøndelag County, Norway
Imagine an enormous building the size of multiple airport terminals, filled to the brim with tiny booths, each one representing a wholesaler or factory that can make you - well pretty much anything that you need. Need T-shirt’s? Model Big Bens? Large ceramic horse statues? There will be a booth selling that somewhere. All your Christmas decorations, and pretty much everything you bought at the dollar store, probably passed through here.
Yiwu, Jinhua, China, 322005
For surreal experiences is it is hard to beat North Korea but yes some tourists do go there. In 2007 I took a trip to Pyongyang and saw the Mass Games held at the May Day Stadium, the largest sports stadium in the world. Masses of trained dancers and performers create incredible tableaux celebrating their country and their leaders.
Rungra Island, Pyongyang, North Korea
Somehow being in Varanasi feels like being in a different century. People come here from across India to cleanse themselves in the waters of the Ganges, pray, and burn their dead. Whether you consider yourself religious or not, the smells, sights and sounds are otherworldly.
Rabindranath Tagore Rd, Pathani Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001, India
Imagine you run a successful mushroom producing empire in a post-Soviet independent state. But you want more. Lithuanian mushroom magnate Viliumas Malinauskas had a dream to set up a park nicknamed StalinWorld. He collected unwanted public statues of Stalin, Lenin and Marx from across the country. Some of his more ambitious plans such as transporting visitors to the park in a Gulag style train thankfully never saw the light of day...
Grutas, Druskininkai, Lithuania
In Xieng Khuang Province in Eastern Laos stand the mysterious Plain of Jars. No one knows what these huge stone jars were used for. To access the jars you need a guide, since the whole area is heavily mined. During the "Secret War" (1962-75), the Americans made 580,000 bombing raids on Laos. Xieng Khuang Province was one of the worst hit, and still today is littered with UXO (unexploded ordnance) which continues to kill and maim. It will take 400 years to make the province safe.
Entering this salt mine which was first opened in the 13th century you descend a seemingly never ending series of steps. Once you reach the caverns below you can discover entire statues and even chapels carved by the miners over the centuries.
Danilowicza 10, Wieliczka, Poland
Set up by Mira Alfasa, known as The Mother, a follower of a philosopher Sri Aurobindo, Auroville was an attempt to build a utopian society in Tamil Nadu in Southern India. It is mostly powered by solar energy. At the center a giant golden dome called Matrimandir is used for meditation (it would also make an excellent lair for a Bond villain)!
Tamil Nadu, India
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