25 weird places to do just about anything
Conformity is easily recognized by its four walls, yawningly standard size and inability to think bigger, wackier and more creatively.
But why be normal?
Here’s our list of 25 weird places to eat, drink, sleep, golf, party, ski, be entertained, get married, honeymoon, go bowling, save the environment and -- bizarre though it may sound -- be refused entry. Work it out.
1. Weird places to eat
In a restaurant that disappears the next day
There’s an old Finnish proverb: “Show me a person who loves to cook and I’ll show you a restaurant waiting to happen.”
OK, so it’s not really a proverb, but it could be. Four times a year, Finland throws what they call “Restaurant Day.” Anybody who wants to can open a one-day, pop-up restaurant, inspections and permits be damned.
Originating in Helsinki, the first restaurant day drew 40 takers who created restaurants, cafes and bars that, like Brigadoon, disappeared the next day. This year, 677 "restaurants" have signed up.
The fifth restaurant day is on May 19, 2012.
Across Finland, www.restaurantday.org
In a fish bowl
In the Republic of Maldives, a country of 1,200 Indian Ocean islands, guests can eat in an all-glass undersea restaurant.
Getting reservations to this human fish bowl is tricky (only 12 peeps per seating), not to mention over-the-top expensive. Lunch starts at US$195 and the reason the waiters wear sunglasses is not to be cool, but because undersea glare causes unattractive squinting.
But where else can you dine five meters below sea level as the Indian Ocean’s exotic and brilliantly hued sea life swims above your head?
Ithaa, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives, www.conradmaldives.com
On a toilet seat
To pee or not to pee. That is the question at Modern Toilet, a chain of restaurants launched in Taiwan that, at last report, had leaked into Hong Kong.
Guests belly up to glass-covered bathroom sinks, sit on what we can only hope are unused toilet seats and enjoy such dishes as shabu shabu in miniature toilet bowls. Souvenir plastic urinals (got lemonade?) go home with customers.
Ex-banker Wang Zi-Wei who started in Kaohsiung with ice cream shaped like diaper deposits is living proof that P.T. Barnum’s “sucker” adage is still in effect.
Various locations in Taiwan and Hong Kong; www.moderntoilet.com.tw/en
In a giant casket
A 20-meter casket in Truskavets, Ukraine regularly made lists of weird restaurants as well it should.
With nary a window, nothing but a solitary candle per table (to create that locked in feel) and meals named for Ukrainian mourning rituals, this eatery built by a local funeral parlor was nothing if not strange.
Unfortunately, the local Catholic Church objected (perchance it was hogging too much fame), so the humongous casket was at last report on its way to Moscow.
If anyone should find the missing world’s largest casket, please report in. RIP, old friend.
2. Weird places to clink a stein
In a bar made from skeletons
The Oscar that H.R. Giger won for special effects in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is nothing compared to the skeleton bar he added to his eponymous museum in Gruyères, Switzerland.
Stein-clinkers at this other-worldly beer hall with its vaulted ceiling of crisscrossing vertebrae will be able to identify with Jonah’s spin inside the whale.
From high-backed “bar stools” made with spinal cord and pelvis bones (originally intended for an abandoned “Dune” film project), patrons with their balls still intact can attempt to decipher the strange hieroglyphs engraved into the floor.
IGER Château St. Germain, 1663 Gruyères; +41 26 921 22 00; www.hrgigermuseum.com
Inside a tree
I’ve tipped a glass in many a fine drinking establishment over the years, but the Baobab Tree Bar and Wine Cellar in the foothills of South Africa’s Modjadji Cycad Reserve stands head and shoulders above all others -- in fact, seven stories above.
This arboreal watering hole, located in the twisted innards of a giant baobab, not only seats 15, but it has a sound system, wine cellar and dart board.
It is more than 6,000 years old, 155-feet in circumference and has withstood drought, lightning strikes, black fungus and marauding elephants, all problems with which its weaker peers couldn’t cope.
Limpopo, South Africa, www.bigbaobab.co.za
3. Weird places to sleep
Inside an East German cargo plane
This vintage Ilyushin 18 that once transported Erich Honecker, the guy who masterminded the Berlin Wall, is now a ritzy suite complete with Jacuzzi, sauna, three flat-screen TVs and a ringside view of its modern cousins taking off and landing at Teuge International Airport.
Pilot wannabes have full access to the cockpit.
Teuge, Netherlands; www.hotelsuites.nl
In a bird’s nest
Guests at this Swedish Treehotel can tweet without a cell phone. After all, they’ll feel like sparrows in their bird’s nest suite made from real twigs and branches.
But it’s only camoflage. Inside the nest, accessed by a retractable staircase, are two bedrooms, a living room and Wi-Fi for non-avian type-tweeting.
Harads, Sweden; www.treehotel.se
In the mouth of a giant beagle
At this Idaho bed-and-breakfast, guests sleep, not in the doghouse, but in the dog itself -- a 9.14-meter-high wooden folk art statue of man’s best friend.
Created by a husband-and-wife team of chainsaw artists, Sweet Willie, as the enormous beagle/hotel would bark to if he could bark, leaves dog-shaped cookies on the pillow, disguises a bathroom as a fire hydrants and sells 60 breeds of chainsaw-enhanced dogs in the gift shop.
Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho, United States; www.dogbarkparkinn.com
4. Weird places to golf
On a salt flat
Don’t lick the tee boxes. In the Book of Genesis, God allegedly turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. In Bolivia, they turn pillars of salt into hotels, beds, chairs and now a nine-hole golf course.
Of course, when you’ve got 10,582 square kilometers of the stuff (Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat) what else would you use for construction material?
The Palacio de Sal is made from 1 million salt blocks that were mortared together with, you guessed it, salt water. The adjoining golf course, open from May to November, was designed by the French architect Christian Pensu with all tees, fairways and “greens” fashioned out of salt.
Potosi, Bolivia; www.palaciodesal.com.bo
Hazards on Uummannaq -- Greenland’s golf course -- include glaciers, giant icebergs and an occasional polar bear: not surprising when you figure it’s located 600 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.
The World Ice Golf Championships, a two-day event held here every March, draws 20 hearty, parka-clad golfers from around the world.
Uummannaq, Greenland; www.greenland-guide.gl
5. Weird places to party
In a tire repair shop
To the unschooled in Portuguese tongue, Borracharia sounds like a perfectly good name for a hot and sweaty nightclub. But try inviting Pele there for a samba.
He’d laugh you out of the room unless he’s been to Salvador da Bahia where a borracharia, which translates to tire shop, repairs, rotates and aligns tires by day and turns into a wild and crazy nightclub by night.
Rua Conselheiro Pedro Luís, 101-A, Salvador; +71 9142 0456
In a bar dedicated to Depeche Mode
There’s a Zombie room, autographed photos and dozens of kids in black at Estonia’s Depeche Mode Baar. Cocktails are named for popular DM songs -- "Personal Jesus" or "Master and Servant," to name a couple -- and video screens play concert footage nonstop.
Owner Dan Buinenko opened the first DM bar in 1999, and is still a huge fan of the British electro band. In honor of his devotion, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Christian Eigner come to party every time they make it to the Baltics, which as you can imagine, isn’t all that often.
But that didn’t stop Buinenko from opening a second, much larger and user friendly, Depeche Mode Bar less than two blocks away.
Voorimehe 4, Tallinn, Estonia; www.depechemode.ee
6. Weird places to snow ski
In the middle of a desert
It may be 110 degrees F outside, but inside Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, skiers can ski, board or toboggan on a variety of slopes.
This artificial ski resort has all the amenities of its outdoor counterparts including lifts, runs and ski lodges serving hot chocolate.
Finding anyone to work in the minus-degree temps proved difficult, but when you have this much money, you just import staff from the French Alps. Ski Dubai installed a flock of Antarctic penguins in early February.
In the Hawaiian islands
Packing for Hawaii should be a cinch: a couple swimsuits, T-shirts and shorts. Unless you plan to snow ski, a perfectly acceptable Hawaiian sport for fanatics who don’t need lifts, trail maps, ski patrol or a lot of oxygen.
On the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, a 4,205-meter mother of a dormant volcano, powder happens although you need a four-wheel drive and the ability to dodge lava and 13 giant telescopes.
7. Weird places to be entertained
In a staid-looking restaurant
Classifying Mark Kagaya a restaurateur is like calling Arnold Schwarzenegger an Austrian. While it’s true Kagaya owns and runs a restaurant, a rather mild-mannered-looking joint in the business district of Shinbashi, Kagaya is better described as a madcap vaudeville entertainer.
Not only does he don two or three costumes during the course of one dinner, but he sings, screams, draws portraits, presents novelty toys (watch out for the belching beer mug) and enlists puppets to deliver the food which, of course, is beside the point.
Hanasada Building B1F, Shinbashi 2-15-12, Minato-ku; +81 3 3591 2347; www1.ocn.ne.jp/~kagayayy
In a hobbit house staffed with dwarfs
Bilbo Baggins rarely shows, but the rest of the clan waits tables and tends bar at Manila’s Hobbit House. Staffed by Philippine dwarfs pretending to be Hobbits, this bar where tall people must duck stages nightly folk and rock acts and serves more than 150 types of beer.
An obsessed Tolkien fan and former Peace Corps volunteer opened the first Hobbit House (it moved to a larger location a few years ago) in 1973, long before Peter Jackson took over as reigning Lord of the Rings.
1212 Arquiza Trade Center, M.h. del Pilar Street, Arquiza, Ermita, Manila; www.hobbithousemanila.com
8. Weird places to get married
In a doughnut shop
At Portland, Oregon’s Voodoo Doughnut, couples can get legally hitched night or day. Owners Tres Shannon, a flamboyant one-time mayoral candidate, and Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson are both ordained ministers and will gladly sell ga-ga-eyed couples a wedding complete with coffee and doughnuts for 60 guests.
Originally opened in 2003 to feed the hangover crowd, Voodoo Doughnut was eventually forced by health officials to put the kibosh on their Nyquil, Robitussin and Pepto-Bismo donuts although the Pepto pink lives on in the shop’s bright pink boxes.
22 Southwest 3rd Ave., Portland, Oregon, United States; www.voodoodoughnut.com
At a walk-up art installation
At Portland’s 24-hour Church of Elvis, a storefront art installation, doting couples can obtain a marriage license, various pop culture trinkets or two-centimeter pieces of art, all made by its creator Stephanie Pierce, for a quarter.
Legal weddings are a bit more (US$25) and you have to call ahead so Stephanie, also an ordained minister, will be there to sign the papers. But the “cheap, but not legal” ones are still U.S. 25 cents.
408 N.W. Couch, Portland, Oregon, United States; www.24hourchurchofelvis.com
9. Weird place to honeymoon after the ceremony
In a piece of art
All five suites at Czech Republic’s Château Třebešice, a renovated Renaissance castle, are art installations.
My favorite, The Black and White room, was created by renowned artist Eugenio Percossi to resemble a period photograph with 1930s-style furnishing in endless shades of gray and black.
Even the plants, the fruit in the fruit bowl, the books and the paintings on the wall are black and white.
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic; www.trebesice.com
10. Weird places to bowl
On a South Pacific Island
Namale Resort & Spa, the private Fiji hideaway owned by motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins, has a two-lane, 10-pin bowling alley which you would think would be an anomaly in an island chain famous for its beaches.
Turns out, Fiji is a hotbed of bowling, albeit lawn bowling, with leagues, clubs and the South Pacific Bowling Carnival that celebrates 56 years of knocking over pins this year. All we’re saying is “The Big Lebowski” would certainly prefer Namale’s indoor alley with its two familiar wooden lanes.
With your fingers in a zombie mouth
Spray gun artist Oliver Paass designed a series of zombie bowling balls to promote 13th Street, Germany’s popular horror channel.
Working with Swiss agency Jung von Matt/Elbe, Paass and cohorts snuck into bowling alleys all over Germany swapping out ho-hum bowling balls with zombie balls all resembling decapitated heads.
11. Weird place to be refused entry
It’s tiny and it knows it
The Miniscule of Sound doesn’t mean to be rude. But as the world’s smallest night club -- 1.2 meters by 2.4 meters -- not many people can fit: 14 if they’ve all attended Weight Watchers recently.
Opened in London in 1998 in a swimming pool changing booth, this Guinness record-holder that can easily be flat-packed and shipped has also been spotted in Australia (although organizers accidentally threw it away) and Beijing.
12. Weird places to save the environment
In a hotel made from trash
Berlin artist HA Schult teamed up with Corona Extra to construct a mobile hotel from 12 tons of trash discarded along European beaches.
While not the cushiest address on the planet, the Save the Beach hotel, with five rooms made from a colorful collage of smashed cans, plastic bottles, rusted out instruments and torn jeans, makes an important environmental statement.
Beaches throughout Europe; www.coronasavethebeach.org
On a giant oil rig
Anytime you can divert an oil rig from becoming a potential oil spill, you’ve conceivably saved the life of one more sea anemone.
This bright blue and orange oil rig is now a scuba hotel smack dab in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Rooms are basic, but you can’t knock the view -- 360 degrees of ocean and palm-rimmed isles.
Seaventures Rig Resort, Sabah, Malaysia; seaventuresdive.com
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