Tag Archives: society

The Ruins of Western Xia’s Imperial Tombs

About 30 kilometers to the west of the modern city of Yinchuan, lies the enormous burial complex of the Western Xia dynasty. Spread over 40 square kilometers on the eastern slope of the Helan mountain range, these tombs are proudly called "the Pyramids of China” by the locals.

As anybody can see, these tombs look nothing like the majestic stone pyramids of Africa. Instead, the Western Xia Tombs are earth and brick structures having the appearance of a giant pile of mud and dirt. But in the heydays, they must have been truly something to behold.

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Photo credit: BabelStone/Wikimedia

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The Jingle Trucks of Pakistan

A typical Pakistani truck driver spends more time with his truck than he does with his wife. Which explains why he wants his 10-ton six-wheeler to look like a new bride.

These trucks plying across Pakistan’s national highways and the neighboring country of Afghanistan are distinctively ostentatious. The entire trucks, from top to bottom, are a riot of colors. Lavishly painted panels containing a mosaic of birds, flowers, landscapes, saints, and actresses in hyper-saturated color palette adorn the exterior, while plastic flowers, draped beads, mirrors, ribbons and velvet grace the interior. The cabin is crowned by a custom built wooden prow wrapped in more kitschy artwork, while a string of metal bells dangle from the chassis all round the periphery. When the truck is in motion, … Read the rest

The Ramree Island Crocodile Massacre

That night was the most horrible that any member of the motor launch crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left…. Of about one thousand Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about twenty were found alive.

The above extract, describing the horrific events of the night of February 19, 1945, is taken from the 1962 book “Wildlife Sketches Near and Far” by eyewitness Bruce Stanley Wright, who was one of the participating … Read the rest

Riverside: The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk

James Tiberius Kirk—Star Trek fans will recollect—was the youngest captain in the Starfleet history, who boldly lead the starship USS Enterprise and its crew into new worlds where no man had gone before.

Going by Star Trek’s timeline, James T Kirk won’t be born for another two hundred years. Yet, a small town south of I-80 on the eastern side of Iowa, United States, is already basking in the glory of the legendary captain’s exploits.

Riverside is a sleepy little place with a population of less than a thousand. Nothing much of anything happens here, which is why in 1985, Steve Miller, a member of the Riverside City Council, suggested that the council declare Riverside the future birthplace of Kirk.

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Photo credit: Peter Zillmann/Flickr

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THUMS: California’s Secret Oil Islands

Not too far off the coast of Long Beach, California, are a set of four artificial islands containing towering white buildings set amidst palm trees and shrubs and waterfalls, all dramatically lit by colorful lights at night. From the nearby shore, the man-made islands appear to be occupied by some sort of high priced condos or resorts. But truth is—they are just a façade camouflaging huge oil-drilling operations in the bay.

Disguising industrial infrastructures so that they blend with the environment is nothing new. The city of Toronto has been dressing up electric substations into quiet little houses for more than a century. Similarly, cities such as New York, Paris and London hide ventilation shafts and railway tracks behind phony walls and faux buildings. These fakeries … Read the rest

Why Dogs Can’t Stand ‘The Cave of Dogs’

In the west of Naples, Italy, is a large volcanic area called Phlegraean Fields filled with craters of old, extinguished volcanoes. Lying mostly underwater, the area is still volcanically active as evidenced by the numerous boiling pools of mud and fumaroles from which copious amount of steam can be seen rising at any time of day or night.

Centuries ago, travellers who could afford to travel came to Naples to see the famous volcano that buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under magma and ash. They also made a visit to Phlegraean Fields, where tour guides took them to a small cave called “Cave of Dogs”, or Grotta del Cane, for a gruesome little experiment.

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A guide shows a suffocated dog to two Read the rest

The Postal Stones of Madagascar

About 2 km off the coast of Madagascar, in the Bay of Antongil, is a small, uninhabited, tropical island called Nosy Mangabe. The island is covered in dense forest and there are no permanent settlements there. But in the 16th and 17th centuries, Dutch ships on their way to the far east, around the Cape of Good Hope, frequently stopped on the island to replenish their supplies of fresh water, repair damaged ship or recover from sickness.

Nosy Mangabe has plenty of fresh water from rains that washes the island practically all round the year. More than 160 inches of it falls on this 1,300-acres island in a year. The abundant fresh water running down the sides of the island’s many peaks and cliffs was too … Read the rest

Henderson Island: This Uninhabited Island Is The World’s Most Polluted

The remote island of Henderson—a tiny dot in the South Pacific Ocean—lies approximately halfway between New Zealand and Chile. It is one of four islands that make up the Pitcairn Group. It was here, in 1789, the mutineers of the HMS Bounty sought safe heaven, eventually settling on the island of Pitcairn, located some 190 km away from Henderson. Pitcairn is the only inhabited island in the group. No one lives on Henderson Island, and aside from an occasional visit from scientists and Pitcairn’s dwindling population, there are hardly any tourists here. The nearest major landmass is more than 5,000 kilometers away.

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Photo credit: Jennifer Lavers

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The Library That Stands On Two Countries

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House has two different addresses. If you are American, you’ll say the library is located at “93 Caswell Avenue, Derby Line, Vermont”, and if you are Canadian, you’ll insist its located at “1 rue Church Street, Stanstead, Quebec”. Both addresses are correct, and either one will take you to the same building. The only thing that matters is from which way you are approaching.

You see, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House is located astride the US-Canada border. One half of the building stands in Derby Line, which is an American town, and the other half stands in Stanstead, a Canadian town. Being border towns, Derby Line and Stanstead share many peculiarities—which we will come to shortly. But first, … Read the rest

The 30,000 Keys of Baldpate Inn

In 1913, American novelist Earl Derr Biggers penned a comedic mystery novel titled “Seven Keys to Baldpate”, that became so famous that it inspired as many as seven film adaptation, and a smash Broadway stage play of the same name. It also inspired Gordon and Ethel Mace to borrow the catchy name, as well as the theme of the story, for their mountain hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” is a story about a writer who attempts to write a novel within 24 hours. Seeking some peace and seclusion, the novelist travels to remote summer mountain resort named Baldpate Inn, in the dead of winter, and locks himself in, believing he has the only key. But all throughout the night, visitors keep barging … Read the rest