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10 Popular Expat Countries To Stay Away From

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Retiring to Costa Rica, making a killing in Hong Kong, hanging out with other anime nerds in Japan—the reasons for moving abroad are legion and frequently awesome. It’s estimated that 2.2 million to 6.8 million Americans are currently enjoying the expat lifestyle, and most of them probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

But living abroad isn’t all sunshine and lollipops and guilt-free sex with hot locals. Plenty of the world’s most popular expat destinations have a darker, hidden side to them. Have a bad experience in one of these countries, and your dream life abroad could turn into a screaming nightmare.

10 Japan’s Justice System Is Built On False Confessions

Japan is a country so safe that it makes Canada look like Somalia. Its intentional homicide rate is around 0.3 per 100,000 people, far less than America’s 4.7. It has barely any terrorism. In 2013, only 12 people were shot to death, and even that paltry number was a massive increase. In 2012, the total number of shooting deaths was three.

There are many complex reasons why Japan is a nonviolent society. One is that its police force is utterly terrifying.

If you’re going to have a run-in with the law, pray it isn’t in Japan. Police have the right to hold you without charge for 23 days, and they’ll spend most of that time torturing you. Suspects have tables rammed into them, their feet stomped on, and threats bellowed into their ears. Sleep deprivation is common, and choosing to remain silent is taken as admission of guilt.

The only way to stop this onslaught is to sign a confession, and good luck retracting it later. Courts assume that a confession is an admission of guilt and will sentence you accordingly. People frequently go down for decades for crimes they clearly didn’t commit. It’s estimated that one-tenth of all Japanese prisoners are in jail due to false confessions, and the government has no interest in reopening their cases.

9 Thailand Will Jail You For Insulting The King’s Dog

Thailand is often portrayed as an east Asian paradise—a country where the girls are beautiful, the cost of living is low, and the weather is great. All of this is true. It’s also a country where you can be thrown in jail for over a decade for insulting the king’s dog.

The love the Thais have for their king makes the British seem like a nation of royalty-hating republicans. Strict lese-majeste laws hand down substantial penalties to anyone who criticizes or insults the royal family. Since the 2014 coup, the military junta has extended these laws to even cover the king’s pets. In December 2015, Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged before a military court for making a “sarcastic” Internet post about Copper, the king’s dog. It’s expected that he will receive several years in prison.

You better believe these laws apply to foreigners. In 2007, a Swiss expat was jailed for 10 years after he spray-painted over a picture of the king. The current US ambassador, Glyn Davies, is being investigated for criticizing the mere existence of these dumb laws.

8 Vietnam’s Drug Laws Are Utterly Brutal


Compared to many of its neighbors, where drug possession can lead to execution, Vietnam has a pretty relaxed drugs policy. Users are sent to rehabilitation centers instead of jails, where they cure their addictions through work. Sounds pretty progressive, right? Maybe in theory. In practice, the “rehabilitation centers” are brutal forced labor camps.

Those who’ve been through the system have reported beatings, torture, and being forced to work extremely long hours, making products for private companies. Missing a work quota can get you beaten. Complaining can get you beaten. Basically, just showing your face can result in some random guard deciding to put his fist into it, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

In some ways, the centers are even worse than prison, where at least you have a release date. Some in Vietnam’s rehabilitation program have been held for years without due process or any end in sight. Perhaps it’s no surprise that inmates frequently stage violent mass breakouts from these facilities.

7 Italy’s Taxes Are Staggeringly High

High Taxes


With its endless sun, world-class culture, and relaxed lifestyle, Italy might seem like the perfect country. So it may come as a shock to realize that it frequently features in polls about the worst countries for expats. The reason for this is likely financial. Any foreigner who moves to Italy can expect to be hammered with crippling taxes.

Tax rates in general are high in Italy. By some estimates, they’re the highest of all the G20 nations. A high wage earner can expect to take home only slightly more than half their salary, compared to around 60 percent in the US. This isn’t even the worst aspect. Thanks to its byzantine bureaucracy, filing tax returns in Italy is filled with hidden charges seemingly designed to catch foreigners out.

Since 2013, expats have had to declare all overseas assets. This includes the $14 floating around in your old US bank account. Forget to declare that spare change, and you can get slapped with a hefty fine. Same deal with foreign earnings. If you make $13.68 selling a T-shirt on eBay while living in Italy, the government will take a chunk of that sweet pocket change off you. Forget to tell them about it, and you’ll find yourself facing legal action.

6 India Has A Terrifying Number Of Traffic Accidents

The 2011 film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opened people’s eyes to the idea of retiring to India. The story revolves around a bunch of British pensioners who move to the subcontinent and have heartwarming adventures. In real life, those adventures would more likely come with the appellation “death-defying.” India is the top destination on Earth for deadly traffic accidents.

According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), more people die on Indian roads than anywhere else in the world. In 2009, the country recorded 105,725 fatal traffic accidents, with the WHO estimating the real number as closer to 200,000. By way of comparison, the US had the third-highest number with a mere 42,642. In a single typical year, bad driving kills more people in India than malaria does in the entire world.

This isn’t helped by the government’s recent decision to relax road safety laws. Since spring 2015, running over and killing a child gets you a $780 fine and a single year in prison. That’s the maximum penalty. There are many reports of wealthy teenagers hitting and killing homeless people and not even having their licenses suspended.

5 Nicaragua Suffers Endemic Corruption

Nicaraguan Policeman


Nicaragua is one of the world’s current retirement hot spots, thanks to the tons of incentives that the government is offering foreigners to settle there. On top of that, it’s beautiful, cheap, and hot all year round. What’s not to love?

Corruption. That’s what’s not to love.

According to Transparency International, Nicaragua is one of the most corrupt societies in the Americas. Their 2014 rankings placed it at 133rd out of 175 nations globally, only one place ahead of notoriously corrupt Russia. Only Venezuela and Haiti scored worse in Latin America, and the number of people retiring to either of those nations is practically zero.

Although this corruption rarely touches foreign residents, it still rears its ugly head from time to time. Almost everyone living in the country has a story to tell about police shaking them down for a bribe, and throwing cash around to get stuff done is a common fact of life. Still, plenty of people think it’s worth it for views as stunning as this one.

4 Singapore Has Absurdly Strict Laws

Singapore Police


Tiny Singapore is one of the wealthiest, cleanest, and safest nations on Earth. It’s also a top destination for expats looking to make a killing and come home filthy rich. But all that cleanliness and wealth creation comes at a price. Singapore is governed by laws that are often bizarre and always strict.

Some of the strictest have to do with keeping the city clean. Littering and spitting both carry fines, as do chewing gum and tossing cigarette butts away. These aren’t the sort of fines you can shrug off with a quick wave of a US dollar and a mumbled, “Sorry, tourist.” Singapore is a vastly rich country, and their fines reflect this. Anyone caught littering is forced to cough up a cool $1,000. Anyone caught urinating in an elevator is arrested.

These laws are certainly tough, but we imagine some of our readers might be behind them in principle. Littering and spitting are pretty disgusting, after all. But then there are laws that require stuff like flushing public toilets after use. Failure to do so can result in a $150 fine.

3 Britain Is Effectively Unaffordable

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wgpTNx_hW0
With its quaint villages, rolling hills, and bustling mega-capital of London, Britain can seem like a haven. There’s tea to drink, a queen to fawn over, and terrible food to complain about. Sounds perfect.

Of course, that’s all assuming that you can afford to live there. And we’re here to tell you that you almost certainly can’t.

The UK is currently in the middle of a massive housing bubble. Thanks to rich Russians, Chinese, and Saudis sinking all of their money into property in London, buying a home almost anywhere in the country is essentially unaffordable. The Guardian recently crunched the numbers for people looking to buy a house at the median price while earning the average British wage of £26,500 ($40,200) a year. For someone in those circumstances, they found that 91 percent of England and Wales would be beyond their means.

Of course, an expat would likely be making significantly above the UK average wage, but the problem persists. A worker on £45,000 a year ($68,300) would still find over half the country beyond their means, despite being in the top 20 percent of all UK earners.

It’s not until you hit the top 10 percent of earners at £60,500 ($91,800) a year that most of the country becomes affordable. Even then, 29 percent of it would still be out of reach. This includes most of the area around London—exactly where an expat’s job is most likely to be.

2 Dubai’s Drug Laws Are Fundamentally Insane

Dubai Police


The easiest way to not fall afoul of other countries’ drug laws is to not do drugs while abroad, or so you’d think. Dubai is different in that you can still get in trouble without actually breaking the law.

Across the UAE, it’s common for authorities to check the bloodstreams of people entering their country. Under Emirati law, having even trace amounts of drugs in your blood counts as possession. Possession carries a mandatory four-year prison sentence.

The simple solution would be to not do drugs at all, but the list of things that the UAE considers “drugs” is long and absurdly complex. Herbal Spice will get you jail time, as will many types of painkillers. In 2005, a British woman was held for several weeks after medication for her back pain showed up during a random screening. It transpired that she’d taken some prescribed codeine before setting off on her vacation. While being held in jail, she contracted dysentery.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to take a banned substance to land yourself some jail time. One Swiss national was jailed after three poppy seeds from an airport bread roll were found clinging to his clothes.

1 China’s Air Wants To Kill You

As the next emerging superpower, China is a hot destination for Americans and Europeans. There’s history to be seen and money to be made, all while getting a fascinating peek at one of the few surviving communist regimes on Earth. All this comes with a price. China’s air will go out of its way to kill you stone dead.

We’ve all seen the images of Beijing suffocating under thick clouds of pollution, but few of us realize just how bad things really are. In November 2015, air pollution in northeastern China reached 50 times the WHO-recommended safe level. This is a level so high that most outlets described it as an “airpocalypse.” China’s own state-run news agency, which almost never criticizes anything, called it “doomsday.” When a similar smog hit Beijing in December, authorities issued a red alert, complete with wailing air raid–style sirens. Schools were closed, offices were shut, and millions of people were warned to stay indoors at all costs.

These smogs are deadly in a way that most of us can’t even imagine. A summer 2015 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One claimed that pollution was killing 1.6 million people in China each year—roughly 4,400 a day. That’s comparable to how many people were killed in the Ukrainian civil war in 2015. Those who don’t die can still find themselves suffering from long-term health problems even after they’ve moved away. Emigrating to a country like China may seem like a dream come true. Just be sure to pack your gas mask.


Morris M.

Morris is a freelance writer and newly-qualified teacher, still naively hoping to make a difference in his students’ lives. You can send your helpful and less-than-helpful comments to his email, or visit some of the other websites that inexplicably hire him.

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Trip Ideas

10 Hidden Destinations That Just Aren’t Worth Finding

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Off the beaten track is one thing, but there are places in the world that the hardiest, most intrepid adventurers would think twice about traveling to. Whether because the climate is so harsh, or the place is so remote, some destinations just don’t seem to be worth the effort.

Here, we look at ten locations you probably would not want to choose for your next holiday. That is, unless you like long trips, frostbite, and very few amenities upon arrival. These places push the adage, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” to its absolute limit.

10 Pitcairn Island

Lying halfway between New Zealand and the Americas, Pitcairn Island is one of the most remote places on Earth. Only 10 kilometers (6 mi) long and 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) wide, Pitcairn was first discovered in 1767. The island was famously settled by mutineers from the HMS Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian. The inhabitants of Pitcairn today are descendants of this crew.

Today, there are only a few islanders left, despite efforts to recruit incomers. It appears that no one wants to move to an island with one shop, where orders need to be placed three months in advance. Though the island now has electricity and even the Internet, it is so isolated and barren that its major export used to be stamps. But who uses stamps anymore?[1]

If you fancy a visit, you can either try to hitch a ride with a passing container ship or fly to French Polynesia and then take a 30-hour boat ride. However, even if you do want to visit, you need to fill out an application, which will probably be refused. It seems that the Pitcairn residents are determined to remain cut off from the rest of the world and have adopted their own, sometimes peculiar, way of life.

9 Ittoqqortoormiit


Ittoqqortoormiit is the most isolated town in Greenland, a country not known for its accessibility. The area’s inhabitants are mainly reindeer, musk oxen, and walruses, with only the occasional human. It is hard to reach, being cut off from shipping by ice for nine months of the year, and the land is crisscrossed by fjords.

The 450 locals survive mainly by ice fishing and hunting, as well as some tourism during the three months that ships are able to dock. They also seem to spend a lot of time painting their homes in bright colors.

Those visitors who do make it in come for the wildlife and the scenery. Ittoqqortoormiit is surrounded by national parks and magnificent fjords.[2]

Ittoqqortoormiit is completely dark for two months from mid-November to mid-January; the Sun does not rise at all. During this time, locals mostly sit in their homes and look through color catalogues to decide what color to paint their house next year.

8 Edinburgh Of The Seven Seas

In the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, on the volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha, you will find a settlement named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Its nearest neighbor, Saint Helena (the island where Napoleon was imprisoned) is 2,173 kilometers (1,350 mi) away.

Getting to the island is difficult. Few ships pass that way. Visitors usually catch a lift with polar explorer vessels from Cape Town, which pass around nine or ten times a year. There are around 250 inhabitants on the island, along with a load of penguins, its very own albatross, and a nine-hole golf course that was built by a homesick British official once stationed there. However, the fierce winds and steep slopes make play somewhat tricky and are unlikely to improve your handicap.

The inhabitants of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas are all descendants of the original garrison, stationed on the island to prevent it from being used as a staging post in a rescue mission for Napoleon. After the garrison withdrew, a few men chose to stay behind and started a community founded on cooperation and equality.[3]

However, the community is shrinking, and the islanders have begun to try to recruit newcomers to boost their numbers. They have recently advertised for farmers to join the community and help grow its staple crop of potatoes. Applicants must enjoy their own company and be prepared to give it a good try.

7 Changtang

Changtang is situated on the Roof of The World. With an elevation of over 4,000 meters (13,000 ft), it covers a large area of Tibet, on the border with India. The area is vast but mostly uninhabited except for the snow leopards, brown bears, blue sheep, and wild yak.

Changtang is home to a few nomadic people who make a living from herding animals through the land. At one point, there were up to half a million people eking a living on land too barren for crops. The weather in Changtang is unpredictable at best, with short summers, bitter winters, and frequent storms, but those who brave it are rewarded with spectacular views and amazing wildlife.

Those inhabitants that there are have managed until recent times without the need for money, having established a sophisticated barter system. However, this is changing due to government regulation and taxation. Ah, progress.[4]

6 Utqiagvik

Formerly known as Barrow, Utqiagvik, Alaska, is the northernmost town in the United States. It occupies 55 square kilometers (21 mi2) and is 515 kilometers (320 mi) north of the Arctic Circle. Its population totals roughly 4,000 people, mostly Inupiat Eskimos. There are few attractions for visitors who do make the trip, unless they are particularly fond of ice and snow, although there is always the possibility of catching sight of a polar bear scavenging for food around the municipal dump.[5]

However, changes in global temperatures are affecting the region, and sightings of animals previously unknown in these areas are being reported. There are even reports of polar bears and grizzly bears mating, producing hybrid “grolar” bears. It is believed that this is not the first time that these species have interbred. Scientists have noticed similarities in the bears’ DNA structure which leads them to believe that the two species have crossbred in the past when the destruction of their habitats has threatened their continued existence.

Though the wildlife may have adapted to the changes in habitat, the Inupiat Eskimos have sometimes struggled to adjust to the growing economic development of the area, and rates of depression and suicide have increased as a result.

5 Easter Island


One of the most famous and mysterious places on Earth, Easter Island, well off the coast of Chile, is still one of the most inaccessible. It was “discovered” on Easter Sunday 1722 by a group of Dutch explorers, thus ignoring the island’s indigenous population, such as it was. The island once boasted a population of 12,000, but this had dwindled to 111 by the time the explorers arrived, and to 101 ten minutes later.

In 1722, the inhabitants of Easter Island were slowly starving to death. The population had dwindled over the last few centuries, it seems, from starvation due to the felling of the trees on the island. Some of the trees would have been cut down to transport the stones, while others would have been burned for firewood or cleared for growing crops. It is also believed that the seeds of the great palm trees were eaten by rats, which prevented further growth. Unfortunately, the explorers were not to be the islanders’ salvation. Those of the natives who were not shot as the incomers landed mostly succumbed to smallpox and syphilis, and soon, the native population was completely wiped out.

How the original settlers arrived there is a mystery, as is the reason they populated the island with stone carvings that perpetually looked out not to the sea but over the island. There are nearly 900 moai (the local name for the statues) on the island, some of them unfinished. The stones weighed up to 80 tons and were somehow moved from the quarry to their lookout posts around the island.[6]

4 The Kerguelen Islands

Once called the Desolation Islands, the Kerguelen Islands’ rebranding doesn’t quite disguise the fact that the islands really are among the most desolate places in the world. Situated in the Southern Indian Ocean, Kerguelen is made up mostly of inhospitable peaks and active glaciers.[7]

The islands are home to large penguin and seal populations, though not many people. Most of the residents are French scientists who are studying the weather and climate change. The islands contain no native mammals, though the marine ecosystems are teeming with life. The whaling ships that were once a common sight in the area have now been banned, and the numbers of whales and seals are increasing every year.

Unless you are a marine biologist or a meteorologist who speaks fluent French, it is unlikely that you will ever visit the Desolation Islands, but as there is little there but marine biology and weather, you probably wouldn’t miss it.

3 McMurdo Station

McMurdo Station is built on Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island. This is the most southerly piece of solid ground accessible to ships. The station was established in 1955 as a hub for the US Antarctic Program. It boasts a harbor, a landing strip, a helipad, and all the facilities needed to provide year-round support for scientists and researchers working in the area.

The inhabitants number around 250 during the winter but can rise to over 1,000 during the summer months. Ross Island itself contains a number of research stations, a large penguin population, and Mount Erebus, an active volcano.

Hut Point gets its name from the wooden hut erected by the famous explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott. The hut was later used by Ernest Shackleton in his 1907 Nimrod expedition. It is now protected by the Antarctic Treaty as an Area of Special Protection. The area also contains a number of memorials to Scott’s ill-fated expedition, including a cross on Observation Hill to commemorate the explorers who didn’t make it home.[8]

2 Socotra


Socotra lies off the coast of Yemen. The island has been isolated from its neighbors for millions of years and has developed its own unique species of flora and fauna. One of the most startling-looking plants found on the island is the dragon blood tree. It was said to have first grown on the spot where two brothers fought to the death. The blood of the two brothers was said to have nourished the tree, which explains why its sap is a crimson red color. Where dragons come into it is anyone’s guess.

The island, known as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, is home to over 700 endemic species. Nomadic Bedouin tribes still roam the island, sleeping under the stars in the summer and sheltering from the rain in the winter. However, recent influences from the United Arab Emirates have begun to change Socotra, and the once-remote island is fast becoming an outpost of the UAE.[9]

1 Oymyakon

Oymyakon is officially the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth. Situated in Siberia, temperatures at Oymyakon have been recorded as low as –67 degrees Celsius (–80 °F), the lowest temperature ever recorded outside the Antarctic. It is so cold that the town’s official thermometer, installed by some misguided official as a tourist attraction, broke when the mercury inside it froze.[10]

Oymyakon, meaning “water that never freezes,” is home to a thermal spring, which is probably just as well. Originally built as a stopover point for reindeer herders, who watered their animals at the spring, Oymyakon now has around 500 permanent residents, a shop, and even a school, although this will close if the temperature drops below –50 degrees Celsius (–58 °F). Big softies.

If you travel to Oymyakon, and why wouldn’t you, you can expect to see a lot of snow and not much else. Except, of course, a thermometer. Slightly used.

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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Trip Ideas

10 Terrifying Bridges You Won’t Want To Cross

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Some people have always been frightened of bridges. Gephyrophobia sufferers often try to avoid crossing bridges altogether, driving miles out of their way to avoid them. Of course, quite a few bridges can be rough experiences for those with acrophobia, as well.

With some bridges, however, terror seems to be the only sensible response. Here, we look at ten bridges that would turn anyone’s legs to jelly. Read on, but don’t look down.

10 Royal Gorge Bridge
Colorado


The Royal Gorge Bridge, the world’s highest bridge until 2001, was built in 1929 for a paltry $350,000. The bridge spans 384 meters (1,260 ft) across Colorado’s magnificent Royal Gorge. The Arkansas River thunders by 291 meters (955 ft) below, occasionally carrying white-water rafters battling against the elements.

It took just six months to construct the bridge. The two main cables each weigh 200 tons and consist of 2,100 individual cables twisted together. 1,292 planks of wood were bolted to the base to form the deck of the bridge. As there is no vertical truss to the bridge, it has a tendency to move with the motion of the footfall, which can be disconcerting when you’re crossing a gorge with a raging river almost 300 meters (1,000 ft) below you.[1]

If you don’t fancy taking the bridge, you could always try the aerial gondolas, which will get you to the other side without the need to panic.

9 Titlis Cliff Walk
Switzerland


In order to cross the Titlis Cliff Walk, you will first need to climb Mount Titlis, where you will find the bridge waiting for you at the summit. You will then walk through the glacier cave via an underground tunnel to reach it.

The Titlis Cliff Walk is around 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) above sea level and 100 meters (330 ft) long but only 1 meter (3.3 ft) wide. It stretches from one rock face to another in the Swiss Alps. The bridge crosses a roughly 500-meter-deep (1,600 ft) chasm. Walking in single file, it is said to be 150 steps to the other side. Over a chasm.[2]

Once you get to the other side, you can then take the “Ice Flyer” chairlift to the top of the other side of glacier. We can only wonder why no one thought to just climb up the other side in the first place.

8 Marienbrucke
Germany


Marienbrucke (Queen Mary’s Bridge) in Bavaria is on the estate of Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle is everything that a castle should be. Perched on the top of a cliff, it looks as if it should be occupied by a princess and a couple of dragons. The bridge is no less fantastic than the castle. It passes 90 meters (295 ft) over the Pollat River and offers brilliant views of the castle.[3]

The bridge was constructed solely for the purpose of enjoying the view. Maximillian II had had lookout posts created around the area to admire the castle, and in the 1840s, he commissioned the building of the bridge as a birthday present for his consort, Marie, who, luckily, liked mountain climbing and therefore had a head for heights.

7 Puente De Ojuela
Mexico

Even the road leading up to Puente de Ojuela is difficult to traverse, but the bridge itself is terrifying. The bridge is around 300 meters (1,000 ft) long and is suspended nearly 100 meters (327 ft) above a ravine. The bridge is only 0.6 meters (2 ft) wide. Thankfully, Puente de Ojuela is now only used by pedestrians, but it was used by pack animals in the past.

The bridge was originally constructed in 1898 and was used to move gold and silver taken from the local mines and bring supplies in. The bridge sways as you walk on it, and although it has handrails, the spaces between the planks are wide, which means that you have a good view of the canyon below if you are foolish enough to look down. Traffic also moves both ways across the bridge, so you may find yourself jostled as you walk.[4]

If you are brave enough to cross the bridge (designed, believe it or not, by the same people who designed the Brooklyn Bridge), you will be able to visit the ghost town museum and one of the abandoned mines. Hmm. Maybe not.

6 The Hanging Bridge Of Ghasa
Nepal

The Hanging Bridge of Ghasa should perhaps be called the Swinging Bridge of Ghasa. Due to the altitude and the area’s susceptibility to high winds, the bridge sways precariously as it is crossed by locals, visitors, and cattle.

Though the bridge looks rather fragile, it is said to be quite sturdy. It is still used to move cattle, though the beasts are sometimes blinkered to stop them from panicking as they cross the bridge. And you can see why. If only you could blinker the people, too.[5]

The bridge is said to have been built to ease congestion across other bridges and is used daily by locals driving their animals across it, which makes the idea of traffic jams interesting.

5 Iya Kazurabashi
Japan


One of the more unusual-looking bridges, Iya Kazurabashi is found in Japan’s Iya Valley among mountains and hot springs. The vine bridge is 45 meters (148 ft) long and only 14 meters (46 ft) above the Iyagawa River, but what it lacks in scariness, it makes up for in weirdness.

It is constructed from a plant called Hardy Kiwi, which, though relatively strong, is not really suitable for bridge-building because it is not durable and is prone to rotting. Not a good quality in a bridge.

However, the Hardy Kiwi was used, it is said, deliberately so that the bridge could be cut down quickly in case of invaders, thus preventing the invading army from crossing the gorge.

The bridge is rebuilt every three years, and the vines are lashed to tall cedar trees at either side of the gorge. In these days of health and safety, the vines also hide steel ropes inside them, just in case. However, the wide gaps between the steps of the bridge, giving a vertical view of the river below, and the wild swinging as you pass along it are still enough to frighten the life out of most visitors.[6]

4 Q’eswachaka Bridge
Peru

The Q’eswachaka Bridge, sitting on the Great Inca Road through the Andes, is the finest remaining example of an Inca suspension bridge. The bridges were of vital importance in connecting and consolidating the Inca Empire, and they continued to be used as ordinary parts of the road system for centuries afterward.

Again, in times of conflict, the bridges were cut down to protect the inhabitants from intruders. When the Spanish invaded, many of the bridges were burned.

Inca bridges are made by braiding natural fibers to make the floor, handrails, and vertical ties between the base and the handrails for protection. Stone pillars anchor the cables on either side of the bridge. Crossing the bridge is not a smooth experience, it has to be said, and the “loose” nature of the construction allows walkers to get a good view of the river below.

Local communities replace the bridge each year, harvesting the grass and weaving it into cables. The inhabitants of each side of the bridge then work together to pull the ropes across. They do not demolish the old bridge until the new one has been built alongside it. Each community begins work at their own end and meet in the middle of the bridge. The whole bridge can be rebuilt in three days, after which the communities gather for a celebration, which seems only right.[7]

3 Kuandinsky Bridge
Russia

The Kuandinsky Bridge stretches for 570 meters (1,870 ft) over the Vitim River in Siberia. Originally a railway bridge, this is now an unofficial vehicle bridge. The term “bridge” is used extremely loosely. It is just over 2 meters (6.6 ft) wide, and it has no railings or safety precautions of any sort to prevent cars from toppling into the frozen waters below. It is rusted, and the wooden sleepers have rotted in the harsh conditions. No major repairs have ever been carried out on the bridge, since the railway company that built it never used it, and no one else will take responsibility for it.[8]

The locals, who’ve perhaps had their brains addled by the constant cold, began to use the bridge as a shortcut across the river. Heavy cars are apt to break the sleepers, and holes are covered with any spare planks or bits of wood that can be found lying around. This means getting out of the vehicle and fixing the bridge en route. And, just to make it more fun, the wood is known to be extremely slippery when wet, which is all the time. There is, it seems, much to be said for the long way around.

2 Hongyagu Bridge
China

Sometimes, it seems that bridge designers are twisted, sadistic people. Take the designers of Hebei’s Hongyagu Bridge, which opened in the end of 2017.[9] They have constructed a bridge which spans 488 meters (1,601 ft) over a vertical drop of 220 meters (722 ft), which is nerve-wracking enough for most people. But the designers decided to add a glass floor so that users could have a great view of the valley below them and trick their minds into believing that there is nothing holding them up. And as if that isn’t enough, they decided to give the bridge added “sway.”

The glass panels are 4 centimeters (1.6 in) thick, which doesn’t seem like a lot when it sits between you and certain death. The bridge is capable of accommodating 2,000 people at a time, but only 600 are allowed to walk on it, just in case. Visitors have to wear “shoe gloves” to protect the glass from scratching or breaking. (This is apparently a thing with glass bridges. Who could have known?)

The bridge authority has stationed staff members at points along the bridge to assist those who feel faint. Still, it could be worse. The creators of the glass suspension bridge have designed it with added sound effects. As you take each step along the glass bridge, it sounds as if the glass is cracking beneath your feet. Nope.

1 Hussaini Hanging Bridge
Pakistan

The Hussaini Hanging Bridge in Pakistan hardly deserves the name “bridge.” The current bridge is the new, improved, version, the first (even scarier) version having been destroyed by the weather. The bridge is made of rope and planks. There is a constant icy wind blowing, too, which makes the bridge sway violently. At least ten people have died while crossing the bridge, according to locals.

If you were to fall, you would be plunged into the river below. Many tourists come to the bridge, often taking two steps onto it, taking a picture, and jumping hastily back. For the local people, however, it is not so easy. They still regularly make use of the crossing, even carrying large packs on their backs as they walk across.[10]

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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10 Strange Cemeteries You’ll Be Dying To Visit

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Most people do not like to think too much about cemeteries. We tend to visit them only as often as we need to and then leave as quickly as is decently possible. This is a shame, because there are some cemeteries that are well worth closer inspection.

Though in modern times, we tend to be somewhat squeamish about the process of death and mortal decay, it has often been celebrated in ways that are endearing, interesting, or, sometimes, downright strange. Here, we look at a few of them.

10 Merry Cemetery

The Church of the Assumption in Sapanta, Northern Romania, serves a small town of only around 3,000 people. Life there is often hard, and the townspeople are mostly poor. Though they may not have much wealth in life, they are guaranteed a lavish and rather unique final resting place.

Since 1935, the buried dead have been interred in Merry Cemetery. Each grave is given a hand-carved headstone, colorfully decorated in, shall we say, a naive style and adorned with a bespoke poem that celebrates their life.

If your Romanian is good, you can wander around the cemetery reading the inscriptions, written in the first person from the dead person to you. Some poems are funny, such as Ioan Toaderu’s, which reads:

One more thing I loved very much,
To sit at a table in a bar
Next to someone else’s wife

And some are sad or even angry, like this one from a three-year-old girl, which is directed at the taxi driver who ran her over:

Burn in hell, you damn taxi
That came from Sibiu.
As large as Romania is
You couldn’t find another place to stop,
Only in front of my house to kill me?

If your Romanian is not so good, you might just enjoy looking at the colorful carvings which sometimes depict the manner of their subject’s dying in a disturbingly comic fashion.[1]

9 The Hanging Cemetery

For centuries, the people of the mountainous region of Sagada in the Philippines have chosen not so much to bury their dead as to hang them out to dry. The period from death to interment is a relatively long one. The deceased is first placed in a “death chair” inside their home, and the chair is positioned facing the front door so that they can “welcome” visitors. The corpse is covered with rattan leaves and smoked, which serves to preserve the body and also to help rid the home of that just-dead smell.

The corpse remains in the chair for several days before it begins the next stage of its final journey. Traditionally, it is placed in the fetal position, with legs tucked under the chin. Limbs will be broken to accomplish this if necessary, though in more recent times, fewer families are willing to do so. The body is then wrapped in fresh rattan leaves and a blanket and carried by mourners to the cemetery. There is often a large number of people willing to act as pallbearers, since it is considered lucky if any of the bodily fluids leak through the leaves and drip on the mourners.[2]

Once at the cliffside cemetery, the body is fitted inside a coffin, usually only 1 meter (3.3 ft) wide. The coffin is then nailed to the side of the cliff. The higher the coffin is placed, the greater the person’s position in the tribe was in life. It is believed that the elevated coffins will bring them closer to their ancestral spirits.

The privilege of a hanging coffin is not open to everyone. It is reserved mostly for tribe elders, as it is believed that the corpses of those who died young are considered bad luck.

8 The Underwater Cemetery

An interment at the Neptune Memorial Reef gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “He sleeps with the fishes.”

Found about 5 kilometers (3 mi) off the coast of Florida, the Neptune Memorial Reef has been artificially created in around 12 meters (40 ft) of water. It has several classical-style statues to give it an Atlantis feel and would be a paradise for scuba divers. However, not only has the reef been built to encourage marine life, but it has also been specifically made to hold the cremated remains of those who want to be buried at sea.[3]

It is hoped that the remains will help to feed the coral and expand the reef. Although the burial of uncremated remains would be more nutrient-rich, they are currently not permitted.

7 Cross Bones

The Southwark area of London, where Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre once stood, was always a rather seedy place. There were a large number of taverns and a large amount of prostitution. During the 12th century, the bishop of Winchester had the right to license and tax prostitutes, who were known as the “Winchester Geese” because of their habit of exposing their white breasts to passersby. The phrase “bitten by a Winchester Goose” meant “contracted a sexually transmitted disease.”

The brothels, known as “stews,” thrived despite periodic attempts to close them down, so they were brought under the control of the Church, and regulations were drawn up requiring that prostitutes be registered, did not work on religious holidays, and did not sleep with anyone for free (presumably so that no one would feel hard done by).[4]

Although the bishop was content to tax the working girls, he was not prepared to bury them in holy soil. A plot of unconsecrated land, officially called the Single Woman’s Churchyard but unofficially known as the Cross Bones Cemetery, was set aside for their remains.

In the 17th century, Cross Bones became a graveyard for paupers and those without the means to pay for their burial. As a final indignity, their corpses were often stolen by body snatchers.

In 1992, the Museum of London carried out an excavation at Cross Bones. They found bodies crammed in on top of each other and, most surprisingly, discovered that over half of the bodies were from those aged under five years old at the time of their deaths.

6 Napoleon’s Cemetery

The island of San Michele stands in the Venetian Lagoon, and its cemetery is hidden by high walls, although it is open to visitors. The island was inhabited by monks from the 15th century until comparatively recently. Their monastery boasts a domed roof and a magnificent statue of an angel over the entrance.

When Napoleon invaded Venice, he decreed that, because of Venice’s tendency toward flooding, it was unhygienic to bury the dead on the main island. (You can see his point.) San Michele was designated as the official Venetian cemetery, and it is still in use today. The island offers fabulous views in a prestigious location, sitting as it does between Venice and Murano.

The dead may have expected to be able to rest in peace there, but since 1995, overcrowding at San Michele has meant that “inhabitants” can only be granted a ten- or 20-year lease, after which their remains are evicted to make way for new tenants.[5]

5 The Cemetery Of 200,000 (And 1)

Okunoin Cemetery in Japan contains almost a quarter of a million graves but is the focus of only one. It is the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most important people in Japanese religious history. He is said to be resting in eternal meditation while he awaits the coming of the Buddha of the Future.[6]

While he waits, Kobo Daishi is said to provide help to those pilgrims who ask for it. Visitors must bow before crossing a bridge into the cemetery, which contains 200,000 tombstones, all of which are set out to line the way to his mausoleum. Many prominent people and religious monks chose to be buried here in the hope that being close to his remains will bring them closer to salvation when the Buddha of the Future arrives.

In front of the mausoleum itself is the Hall of Lamps, which contains 10,000 lanterns, which are always lit, and 50,000 tiny statues, all of the great man. Visitors are able to leave Kobo Daishi offerings in the aptly named Offering Hall, though, word to the wise, he is probably okay for a while when it comes lamps and statues.

4 Dracula’s Cemetery

St Mary’s Church at Whitby was built in 1110, and its churchyard dates from around the same time.

The graveyard must have always held a certain amount of Gothic fascination, because it was the inspiration for a scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the novel, the vampire lands at Whitby and leaps from his ship (whose crew is mysteriously dead) and hides himself in an abandoned crypt in a church that very much resembles St Mary’s. Stoker stayed in the town while writing his novel, and he was said to have been very much taken with the atmospheric surroundings.[7]

Current visitors may find more gore than they were hoping for, however. The pounding of the sea has caused erosion along the cliffs, and subsequent landslides have exposed a number of corpses, though none so far have been sporting elongated teeth and a theatrical dress sense. Work is ongoing to try to prevent the churchyard, and its contents, from slipping into the sea.

3 The Cemetery Of Shame

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France is a military burial ground dedicated to those killed in action during World War I. There are 6,012 soldiers whose graves are proudly marked in four plots, marked A to D.

However, there is another plot at the cemetery, separate from the others. Plot E can only be accessed through the office of the superintendent. This plot contains 96 unmarked graves belonging to American soldiers who were dishonorably discharged and executed for crimes committed during World War II. None of these graves are mentioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission’s website for Oise-Aisne.

Between them, these men are alleged to have murdered 26 American soldiers. They are also alleged to have raped and/or murdered 71 civilians of other nationalities. The plot was designated as a place of burial for the “dishonorable dead.” The graves are identified only by number, and the dead are set with their backs to the rest of the fallen. The American flag is not permitted to fly over Plot E.[8]

The only inhabitant of the plot not convicted of rape or murder was Private Eddie Slovik, who was executed for desertion on January 31, 1945, the only man to be executed for this crime since the Civil War. His remains were removed in 1987, and he was reburied next to his wife after his family petitioned President Reagan for a pardon.

2 The Cemetery Of A Million Mummies

In an Egyptian cemetery whose name means, for reasons unknown, “The Way of the Water Buffalo,” archaeologists have discovered a million mummies. Literally.

The burial ground dates from the first to the seventh centuries, and most of its dead were buried without coffins or grave goods of any kind, so those hoping for a Tutankhamen-style treasure trove are likely to be disappointed. The cemetery was used by poor, low-status citizens of Egypt while it was controlled by the Roman Empire.

Although they couldn’t afford the lavish funeral rituals of the pharaohs, great care was taken by mourners in the burying of the dead. Scientists have yet to discover the reason for the incredibly large number of bodies, since it is unlikely that they were all local inhabitants.[9]

The archaeological dig has uncovered some surprising specimens, including one mummy that was over 213 centimeters (7′) tall and had to be bent in half to fit inside the grave as well as a number of blond and redheaded mummies. It may be that the cemetery authority buried people according to hair color, as clusters of redheaded and blond mummies have been discovered throughout the site. Then again, of course, they may have just buried families together.

1 The Plague Cemetery

In 1665, a tailor in the small parish of Eyam ordered a bale of cloth from London. When it arrived, the cloth seemed somewhat damp, so he put it in front of the fire to dry. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Eyam, the cloth contained a number of fleas. And even more unfortunately, the fleas were carrying bubonic plague.

Within two months, the tailor was dead, along with 42 other souls. The church rector, believing that he had a duty to prevent the disease from spreading to neighboring villages, decided that the entire village should quarantine itself. He told his parishioners that if they agreed to stay, he would remain with them and do everything in his power to relieve their suffering.

Knowing that he may well have been signing all their death warrants, he set up a “cordon sanitaire” around the village. Almost no one tried to escape, even as the death toll mounted. Some people lost almost their entire families to the disease. A woman named Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children in only eight days. She had to dig the graves herself, since none of the villagers wanted to go near her.

The task of burying the dead was a dangerous one. Marshall Howe, who had been infected early on but survived, volunteered for the task, believing that he was now immune. He often helped himself to the deceased’s possessions by way of payment, and it is believed that his wife and two-year-old son probably caught the disease from the stolen items. They were not as lucky as Mr. Howe, and he soon had the job of interring them, too.

The graves of the plague victims can still be seen in Eyam Parish Churchyard. Marshall Howe survived the plague, as did the church rector, though the rector’s wife succumbed after prolonged contact due to nursing the dying. By November 1666, with half the village dead, the plague was eradicated, and the neighboring villages were saved.[10]

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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