Monday, 31 March 2014

Aragusuku Island (Panari) of Yaeyama Islands

The population of Aragusuku Island (Aragusuku-jima) is approximately 6 people! The island is called "Panari" by locals because it means "separated". Aragusuku is actually made up of two separate islands that are connected by a coral shoal. During low tide, you can actually walk between the two islands. This area was once home to Dugong which are manatee looking mammals. The locals would catch these dugong and use them to pay their taxes to the Ryukyu Government.

Aragusuku is located right next to Iriomote Island. The only way to get to these islands is via a private tour company. Aragusuku Island has an excellent coral reef for snorkeling as well as an interesting village to explore. The island is still home to many houses, most of which are uninhabited. The island of Aragusuku was once heavily populated and even had a school. The island has its own type of pottery called Panari-yaki which was made until about 150 years ago. It is said that a great deal of the population was killed in a large tsunami that occurred long ago. As the population became older, many people moved away to neighboring islands.

Do not enter into the shrines that are found on the island. The shrines are sacred places where only locals and relatives of locals can enter. Also, no one is allowed to camp or stay overnight on Aragusuku Island. There are no stores, no shops, literally nothing that is commercial on Aragusuku Island. You will find nature, nature, and more nature. Also, please remember that the houses on the island are privately owned so please do not enter them. 

Source: japanguides

10 Things Taiwan Does Right

With 23 million people crammed onto an island that covers just more than 36,000 square kilometers, Taiwan ranks among the 20 most densely populated places in the world. Although the industrious island has built a global reputation for cheap electronics, this is one Asian tiger that offers far more than stickers on the backs of calculators. Economically there's little it has left to prove, but Taiwanese people remain a proud and determined bunch.
Here are 10 things they do better than anyone else.

1. Night markets

Craving oyster omelets and bubble tea in the middle of the night? Crowded with street hawkers, the 300 or so bustling bazaars on this tiny island operate until the small hours

2. Themed restaurants

The island is home to a treasure of quirky restaurant concepts: hot pink Barbie, Hello Kitty and toilet restaurants where guests eat out of miniature urinals, to name a few.

3. Free WiFi

Taiwan has a free, nationwide WiFi network. It was one of the first places in the world to offer free WiFi on a mass scale.

4. Chinese artifacts

With a permanent collection of more than 650,000 items, Taipei's National Palace Museum has the largest collection of Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world.

5. Animated news

Two members of NMA Taiwan's 400-person animation team act out scenes that will appear in one of their popular CGI videos. NWA's talents were exposed to the world with the 2009 release of their hilarious video of what might have happened during Tiger Woods' infamous car crash.

6. Mock meat

They might look and taste like fish balls, but these fried goodies are actually animal-free. Given how important flesh is to the traditional Chinese diet, it's little surprise that Taiwan is a leader in mock meat dishes that could fool even the most hardcore carnivore.

7. Little League baseball

Since the first Little League World Series in 1947, Taiwan has won more championships (17) than any country, nearly double that of runner-up Japan. In this snap, young Chien-Lung Lan of the Chinese Taipei Little League slides into home base.

8. National health coverage

Taiwanese citizens can visit any doctor in the country. Fees are reimbursed by the National Health Insurance Administration, whose 2% administrative costs are the lowest in the world.

9. Hello Kitty obsession

Not only does the island have a Hello Kitty cafe, but Kitty-themed beer, airplanes and hotel rooms.

10. Soup dumplings

Taiwan's national food, "xiaolongbao" (broth-filled, bite-sized steamed dumplings), have earned Michelin stars and been listed in the Miele Guide.

Source: CNN 

Stunning Rice Terraces in Asia

Upon seeing stunning images of rice terraces in Southeast Asia and China, one might think that rice is actually only the byproduct of a bigger project: landscape art. The technique of rice farming and the work today is done pretty much the way it was millennia ago – one reason why most of the amazing rice terraces are still intact.

The Philippines

Window to the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, the rice terraces in Banaue (a mountain village in the north of Luzon Island) are located about 330 km north of Manila. Their construction was started more than 2,000 years ago by the local communities, ancestors of the Batad indigenous people, and with only the use of primitive tools. 

Banaue’s rice terraces are 1,500 meters above sea level and cover more than 10,000 square kilometers of mountainside. In comparison, the Great Wall of China is ‘only’ 6,000 km long! No wonder then that Banaue’s rice terraces are frequently referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The ancient irrigation system is fed by the rainforests above the terraces through an intricate combination of collecting the water of mountain springs and transporting it via bamboo pipes, dams and sluices to the upper rice terraces, from where it flows through selected openings to lower paddies.

The whole of the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, just to put them on the Red List of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 2001. Almost 30% of the terraces are not managed any more and are therefore threatened by decay.


The rice terraces in Yuangyang, China, look like an artwork. What has saved these rice terraces built by the Hani people in China’s Yuangyang County so far is their relative remoteness. They are located in Yunnan province in southwest China, a region not easily accessible and therefore not exploited for tourism but rich in natural beauty and untouched scenery. The spectacular rice terraces drop from almost the summits of the nearby, 2,500-m-tall Ailao Mountains to the bed of the Red River.

The rice farmers who built the terraces almost by hand more than 1,000 years ago had to know about ecology and land preservation long before those concepts had names. Otherwise, without the hard work of maintaining the terrace walls as well as the ancient irrigation system, the precious top soil would have washed down the hillsides into the rivers.

Even today, the Yuangyang rice terraces are a self-sustaining eco-system, perfectly in sync with nature like it was a thousand years ago. 


Ubud, with a population of only 8,000, is a small town in the southeast of the Indonesian island of Bali. Because of its scenic rice terraces and steep ravines, Ubud has become a popular tourist destination and major arts and cultural hub. 

Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam

A stunning view of rice terraces near the Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. 

Lush green rice terraces in Mae Rim, Thailand.

Sapa in the northwest of Vietnam, near the Chinese border, is about 380 km away from Hanoi. It is a popular trekking destination because of the spectacular scenery of the Tonkinese Alps, home of the Montagnard hill tribes for centuries.

Source: scribol

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Doorway Railway of Hanoi

This railway line passes through the residential neighborhood and commercial area of Hanoi, Vietnam. Twice a day, the trains pass through the downtown, merely inches away from the doorsteps of buildings.

Recently Adam Armstrong traveled to Vietnam and observed the train in action. 

He describes the unusual sight:

“The people here know the schedule well,” said Adam. “At just about 4 pm and 7 pm every day, you suddenly notice people start to file into their homes and in the front yard where kids were playing and women were cutting vegetables is suddenly replaced by rushing steel and noise.”

A local newspaper claims that more than US$2.2 billion would be needed to improve conditions of Vietnam’s railways. The number of people dying in railway accidents accounts for about 2 per cent of all deaths in Vietnam.

“A majority of railway accidents reportedly happen at crossings, especially at illegally-built crossings. At present, Viet Nam has nearly 3,200 kilometres of railway with about 6,000 railroad crossings. However, just 1,000 were built legally while the rest were built illegally as shortcuts by households who live along railways,” said the Chairman of Traffic Safety.

Source: unusualplaces

73-Year-Old Man Creates Magnificent Excel Art

Tatsuo Horiuchi is a 73-year-old artist, who found his passion in digital art 13 years ago, right before his retirement. However, as graphics software often can be quite expensive, Horiuchi chose to challenge his artistic capabilities by creating his beautiful and highly intricate pictures with Excel.

The idea of trying out something new in life came naturally to Horiuchi – the retirement was approaching quickly and uncompromisingly, and like in most such cases, a new hobby becomes a must. Horiuchi’s been interested in graphic arts for quite some time and it was only a matter of choosing the most affordable and practical software.

Horiuchi had never used Excel at work, nevertheless he soon mastered the technique and even won Excel Autoshape Art Contest in 2006. His deeply delicate and harmoniously colourful images mirror the traditional Japanese paintings, often exhibiting gorgeous landscapes and pieces of natural and cultural heritage.

Source: boredpanda

The Abandoned Necropolis of Naqsh-e Rustam

Naqsh-e Rustam is a steep cliff to the north of Persepolis, the religious center of the Achaemenid Empire. For thousands of years, the sheer walls of the cliff have provided an ideal natural surface for creating bas reliefs, sculptures, and excavations into the living rock, in the manner of the rock-cut architecture of Petra, Jordan or the Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. The oldest identifiable reliefs are from the Old Elamite period (17th century BCE), though these survive in fragmentary form and were mostly effaced by later carvings.

The most dramatic feature of Naqsh-e Rustam are the Achaemenid-era tombs visible from many kilometers away. Carved side-by-side, the facades of the cruciform tombs resemble the living quarters of the palaces at Persepolis. The oldest of the tombs is definitively attributed to Darius I (521-486 BCE) by inscriptions. The three other tombs are attributed to his successors on the basis of indirect stylistic evidence.

One of the mysteries of the site is the purpose of the Kabah-i Zardusht, a rectangular stone tower set roughly in front of tomb number four (the westernmost Achaemenid-era tomb). The tower appears to have been constructed partly underground, but this is a result of modern excavations around the structure that have exposed it from centuries of burial. The tower is mostly solid except for a small room at the top that faces the cliffside. Various interpretations have been proposed for its purpose--it may have been a royal treasury, a tomb, or a fire temple, though the lack of any opening for smoke makes the last interpretation difficult. Curiously, an unfinished tower of similar design may be found in Pasargadae.

Sources: 1 2