Wacky, bizarre travel experiences
Travelling sometimes offers moments of complete bewilderment where you can only shake your head and think: ‘Where the heck am I?’ Ben Groundwater reports.
This is what makes travel so great: those moments of complete bewilderment, of discombobulation, of being in a place and a situation so foreign and strange that you can only shake your head and think to yourself: ‘‘Where the heck am I?’’
You can’t plan these moments. They usually sneak up on you, catch you when your guard is down. You’re having a normal old day exploring when suddenly you find yourself in the most bizarre, immersive experience possible.
These are some of my favourites from the last few years: The Robot Restaurant, Tokyo: Any stay in Japan is just a string of strange happenings, but this is one of the strangest: Sitting in a dark room, picking at a fairly horrible bento box, drinking a beer and watching as a group of 3-metre-tall robots piloted by women in spiky gold bikinis battle it out to the tune of Gangnam Style. And then it gets weirder, as a roller-skating robot clown in an Afro wig starts dancing with a Kung-Fu Panda, more women emerge hanging from a neon-lit army tank, there’s hand-to-hand combat between a Transformer and a bikini-clad dancer, and then someone charges through the stage area piloting a robot dinosaur. Strangest. Thing. Ever. Bubble Butt in Aspen: There’s a back bowl over at Highlands, in Aspen, that provides some of the best skiing at the resort, and can only be accessed by hiking. It’s about a 45-minute climb up a steep ridge to reach the top of the bowl, a beautifully remote spot festooned with Buddhist prayer flags and a sense of peace. I make it up there one fine winter’s day and am immediately treated to a rich blend of two types of US: one, the US of natural beauty, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery; and two, the US of frat boys and sorority girls, as I’m joined on the summit by a group of students carrying a huge portable speaker and an iPhone, who all crack open ‘‘tall boys’’ of beer and start dancing in a circle to the tune of the song, Bubble Butt. Only in America. Mini wonders in Bangladesh: Theme parks can be pretty average sometimes, but Mini Bangladesh, in Chittagong, is not average. It’s well below. I’m visiting on a typically hot Bangladeshi day, excited to view the wonders of this not-acclaimed theme park. Basically, it’s a collection of miniature versions of Bangladesh’s most famous buildings. Except Bangladesh doesn’t really have any famous buildings. And the reproductions aren’t even that mini – they’re big enough to walk inside. And there’s a train to take people around the park, but it derailed weeks ago. It all seems hilariously typical of my stay. Cowboy karaoke in Beatty, Nevada: It’s a Saturday night in Beatty, Nevada, population: a couple of hundred or so. I’m having a beer in KC’s Outpost Saloon, one of the only pubs in town, a place that tonight is playing host to a local crowd, the cowboys and their ‘‘floozies’’, rootin’, tootin’ folks who are dressed to the nines in cowboy attire, all leather tassles, big hats and six-shooters clipped to hips. They’re here for one reason: karaoke. Cowboy karaoke. There’s a mustachioed guy on the microphone, a heavily armed horseman who’s destroying a John Denver song. The floozies are cheering him on. And I’m just sitting at the bar, drinking a beer, wondering how I got myself into this.
Future shock: Dancers dressed as futuristic characters perform at The Robot Restaurant in Tokyo.