Offbeat + Strange
Disclaimer: I'm an arachnophobe. When I plan my next vacation, the first thing I do is an online image search to see what the spiders are like there. (Example, brace yourself: Australia). I've known for a while that Sri Lanka, with its Huntsman spiders, was probably too scary for me. But with the news that there's another big spider on the island, you can definitely scratch the tropical paradise off my bucket list.
Scientists at the country's Biodiversity Education & Research organization have discovered a ginormous spider, dubbed the Poecilotheria rajaei. And by ginormous, I mean it has a leg-span of 8 inches – larger than the average human skull. Oh, and it’s super hairy too. And fast. And poisonous. And did I mention it’s ginormous?
Part of the genus Poecilotheria (lovingly called “Pokies” by those in-the-know), the rajaei has enough distinctive markings to constitute its own species, although no DNA samples have confirmed this. Specimens were found mostly in the island’s northern forests, although some were found in a hospital too. Extra creepy.
Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Photo by istockphoto
Buried treasures aren't just for pirate tales: Visitors to New Mexico can now act out their It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World dreams by finding an actual treasure buried somewhere in the hills.
Jeri Clausing of the Associated Press recently reported on Forrest Fenn, an 82-year-old owner of Old Santa Fe Trading Co, a gallery in Santa Fe and author of the self-published a memoir, The Thrill of the Chase. The book details Fenn’s own colorful history from his humble youth in Texas, decorated service in Vietnam, and years of entertaining celebrities like Jackie Onassis in his art galleries, while dropping clues to readers about where he hid a 40-pound chest full of gold, trinkets and exotic jewels. Fenn says the booty is out there, free for the taking, somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe.
Few things provide a better glimpse into another culture like stumbling upon on a village wedding or festival when traveling, but what about funerals?
The Torajan people, who live in the South Sulawesi region of Indonesia, are known for their lavish funerals, which can last several days. According to a recent CNN report, tourists are increasingly coming to watch the festivities, and grapple with a variety of ethics surrounding funeral-crashing.
These ceremonies go well beyond the uplifting, jazz-fueled processions one might see on the streets of New Orleans—and they’re much tougher to get to. First, you need to fly from Jakarta or Bali to Makassar, then take an 8-hour bus ride to Rantepao.
Where does browsing end and loitering begin?
Mark Galpin, owner of Alladin's Cave, an antique shop in Christchurch, in Southwest England might say that the "oitering" starts as soon as you enter his establishment. The shopkeeper has made his store the subject of a brouhaha recently after he posted signs that say "Sorry No Tourists" and banned shoppers who don’t live within a 30-mile radius. "We have put up with it for three years, and we believe that maybe one in every 2,500 tourists has spent a pound or two," Galpin told the Daily Mail. "The rest have spent nothing." The sign explains the ban on the grounds that the store's items would be too large to ship. ("So, scram, why doncha!" is all but implied.)
Galpin told reporters that his sales have shot up since the ban—now that there's more room for paying customers to wander around—but some of Christchurch’s civic leaders are not happy about it. "It's just so depressing that we have got one eccentric trader taking this stance," Peter Watson-Lee, the chairman of the Christchurch Chamber of Trade, told reporters. "Tourists bring a lot of money into the town. He is in the wrong town if he doesn’t want to welcome them."
Galpin reportedly said that he might consider allowing tourists again—if they chip in some money to a pot for charitable donations.
Photo by Peter Jordan_NE / Alamy
Many old cruiseliners may end up stripped for parts, but the Duke of Lancaster is proof that one man's scrap can become another's sprawling, blank canvas.
According to a CNN report by Sheena McKenzie, a graffiti collective recently cut a deal with the owners of an abandoned ship beached on Wales’ Dee Estuary, and invited artists from around Europe to start spray painting the vessel, while also pondering the theme of corruption. Some highlights: Three suit-and-tie-clad monkeys sitting on bags of money, some cartoonish pirates and a demon riding a uniformed pig.
How cute, you might say, when you spot a monkey ambling along the beach in Thailand. (“Wait, where'd my lunch go?”) But lately the primates have become a little too aggressive, so authorities have posted new signs on beaches in the country's Krabi province (which includes Long Beach, Phi Phi Island and the aptly named Monkey Bay) that read "Beware of the Monkey" in both Thai and English. According to a report from the Bangkok Post, roughly 600 beachgoers have been treated at one local hospital in the past year for monkey bites. The furry beachgoers have gotten so used to edible hand-outs from their human enablers that they can turn ugly when spurned. A whopping 75 percent of the victims are foreigners.
The need for monkey caution, however, is not limited to Thailand. The monkeys at India’s Amanbaugh Resort in Rajasthan have gotten so close to the guests, the hotel employs staffers to chase the critters away from guestroom patios where the hotel sets out complimentary cookies. In London, monkeys at the London Zoo have been known to pluck sunglasses right off visitors' heads. And in St. Kitts, the little rascals have been caught on video making off with tourists' cocktails. A more powerful deterrent, in the latter case, may be that monkeys can suffer from hangovers just like humans do.
Photo by David Kukin
To some travelers, feeding stingrays in their native habitat may seem like a way fun to share some inter-species goodwill, but it turns out that it can leave the wildlife feeling a little off-kilter, to say the least.
According to recent announcement, a study by the Guy Harvey Research Institute, at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University, looked at how regular human interaction is affecting the marine wildlife at Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, where travelers can pet, feed and swim with the big fish. Researchers found some distinct changes in the stingrays' behavior. For instance, the fish shifted from foraging for food at night to doing so only during the day—perhaps when human visitors might be handing out snacks—and then sleeping at night.
My three-year-old architect uses Legos to build "crazy towers," so I'm used to them reaching three-, four-, even five-feet in height. But now Legoland has built a true to scale version in Carlsbad, Calfornia that functions as an actual hotel. It opens April 15, and it might be incredibly cool—or incredibly weird.
The LEGOLAND Hotel has a dragon-guarded entrance; pirate-themed rooms with Lego skeletons and swords on the walls; several interactive play areas; and for parents, a somewhat Lego-free Skyline Bar.
My kids would love it. Me? I’m not so sure.
Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California Resort
When you're the smallest city park in the world, it doesn’t take much to suffer an epic natural disaster—perhaps a skateboarder who veers wildly off track, or a even a German Shepherd who couldn't make it to the next hydrant.
But Portland, Oregon’s Mill’s Ends Park—just two feet across in diameter—seems to have endured some sort of foul play: Oregon Public Broadcasting recently reported that the sole tree of the petite park, on a median on Naito Parkway, had been removed. "Someone yanked it out," said Mark Ross, of Portland’s Department of Parks and Recreation, to OPB.
Hotel designs are constantly shifting, so why not think a few millennia ahead? Paris’s Hotel O, designed by Ito Morabito, recently debuted as a colorful, futuristic boutique property near Place des Victoires.
While the 29 compact guestrooms feel like a space cabin, the loud blue, violet, and Kelly green accents make it feel as if you’ve already landed on another planet. In larger rooms, beds recede into walls to maximize small quarters. Dark, pressed wood acts as a unifying element across the bold color scheme. Quirky details extend to the bar with honeycomb-motif shelves, giving Hotel O’s imbibing guests something to talk about. Doubles from $329.
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of Studio Ora-ito