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.

The Press - Escape - - THE OBSCURE -

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.

Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Fu­ture shock: Dancers dressed as fu­tur­is­tic char­ac­ters per­form at The Ro­bot Restau­rant in Tokyo.

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