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When Life Imitates Soap Opera Plots: Do You Know This Amnesiac Tourist?

lost tourist

He's reportedly been in Austria since the beginning of the year, but a middle-aged tourist has no memory of who he is, or where he belongs. At least, that's what Austrian police have disclosed to the local newspaper, in hopes that someone will recognize this bereft traveler. Or—if this were a soap opera or decent date-night movie—perhaps someone could fall in love with the poor guy and take him back to their hometown where wacky antics could ensue.

Indeed, for anyone who thought amnesia was just a convenient plot device, it seems to be truly perplexing the authorities who are holding a traveler in Austria. According to police, the man was wearing hiking gear when he got off the train on November 19 in the German town of Lindau, on Lake Constance; after visiting the tourist office (a great resource, whether you have amnesia or not) and walked over the border to nearby Bregenz. A police spokesperson say that they have nearly adozen leads, but so far can only assume that the man is German (thanks his "High German" accent). "He has good days and bad days," the police spokesman told a reporter.

We wish the traveler a speedy recovery—and also hope that a Meg Ryan comeback film would emerge from all this.

Photo by iStockphoto

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Man Calls in Fake Bomb Threat to Ground Girlfriend’s Plane

airplane

Admit it, if this were part of a movie, it might be kinda awesome: Lovers have a fight just as the girl is about to leave town, perhaps for good. The guy must stop her from leaving—he sprints through the airport, of course—and then tries one last desperate move: Calling in a bomb threat so that her plane has to be evacuated. Girl de-planes, boyfriend apologizes. "You’re crazy!" she tells him. "Crazy about you," he replies. They kiss, music swells, credits roll.

We cannot vouch for any reconciliation, but a 31-year-old Chinese man reportedly did indeed call in a fake bomb threat to his girlfriend's flight to Shenzhen, because they had had an argument before she left. Her plane had actually already gotten some distance from Hefei Luogang International Airport and had to make an emergency landing at Nanchang Changbei. We're guessing that ruined their cinematic reunion. Perhaps even more disturbing, though, is that China has apparently endured a number of fake bomb threats lately: two within one week during fall 2012, and one last spring involving an 18-year-old man imitating the rules of a game; in fall 2011, a 28-year-old woman apparently even called one in on her own China United Airlines flight, to "make her husband worry."

If this trend continues, nervous fliers everywhere will have their own reasons to worry.

Photo by iStockphoto

Confessions of a Masseuse

masseuse

Freda, a therapist at a well-known U.S. destination spa, reveals a few of her own pressure points.

“People today just can’t disengage—they even put their cell phone under the face cradle. The world is not going to fall apart in one hour!”

“If your therapist says she needs to leave the room to get a product, she’s probably going to the bathroom. I once told a client I spilled oil on myself and went outside to throw up.”

“I’ve seen famous actresses come out of the steam room with long, black rivers of mascara running down their faces. I wish I could take a picture and get rich!”

“Yes, some men expose themselves to us, but I’ve never had anyone come right out and ask for a ‘happy ending.’ They might just ask us to ‘massage a little higher’ up their leg.”

Photo by iStockphoto

Take That, Cabbie: Seoul Offers Rewards for Ripped-Off Riders

taxi

Usually, your only chance at "revenge" against a shady cab driver is just denying him a tip—or, perhaps less satisfying, yelling a few choice words over your shoulder as the cab peels away.

Not anymore. The city of Seoul is now offering cash money—to the tune of about $450—to anyone who blows the whistle on cabbies who are bilking foreign tourists.

Government officials say that despite past efforts to rein them in, corrupt cabs are "still rampant" in the city; the most common offenses by drivers include tacking on extra charges, or getting creative with the cab fare calculator.

To report a bad apple, just call the city's English-speaking tourism hotline (02-1330), and they'll investigate. To avoid the worst situations, however, you can look for the city-run cabs marked as International Taxis, and whose drivers speak both English and Japanese. Meanwhile, in a contentious situation, we imagine that cheerfully asking the cabbie for his ID number might not butter him up—but it could pay off.

Photo © Park Jin Hee/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Empty Russian Cruise Ship (Sorta) Lost at Sea

Lyubov Orlova

Is it a bit like The Shining at sea?

The Russian cruise ship Lyubov Orlova is currently adrift in the North Atlantic—with no passengers, or even a crew, aboard. The 237-passenger ship—named after a Russian movie star from the 1930s and '40s—had languished in the harbor for two years at St. John's, NL, after a cancelled cruise and a lawsuit led to its falling into disrepair, and gradually becoming a Love Boat for rats. Perhaps as a result, the ship's new owners had decided to sell the ship for scrap in the Dominican Republic, but the trip to the D.R. was doomed by a series of tow boat snafus—the last being on Jan. 24 when the tow line broke in rough seas.

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Jailbird! Parrot Robs Tourist in New Zealand

Parrot Robs Tourist in New Zealand

Most travelers know to avoid gypsy airport cabs, or to be mindful of pickpockets in crowds—but most of us don’t think to be leery of local thieving birds.

But that’s pretty much what befell Peter Leach, a Scottish traveler in New Zealand who pulled over in his rented camper to soak up the views at Arthur’s Pass—and, to take a picture of a colorful kea parrot posing near his vehicle. Reportedly, while Leach was distracted, said parrot swooped into the camper’s open window and took Leach’s wallet—holding about $1,100.

Adding insult to injury, Leach filed a police report—so that he could recoup some losses through his travel insurance—and met with some resistance. “The officer was very serious for the first few questions,” Leach told reporters. “Then he said, ‘Do you mind if I just stop to laugh?’ I suppose I can’t blame him.”

Apparently, many locals are already aware that the large, olive-green kea parrots are known for being pretty sharp—and perhaps even being malicious, with a reputation for upending trash bins and vandalizing cars. (Perhaps pecking “Go Home Campers” on vehicle hoods?)

Photo by iStockphoto

Georgia Lures Tourists with Zombies

Zombies

Southern belles and the Duke boys? So 20th century. Georgia is hoping to lure visitors with a different kind of Deep South character: zombies.

In its new guidebook, the state tourism board is touting the town of Senoia, a miniature, sweet-tea-soaked Hollywood: it has been the filming site for Fried Green Tomatoes, Driving Miss Daisy, Sweet Home Alabama and, as we write, the AMC television series The Walking Dead. The town, about a half hour from Atlanta, has apparently played the part of Woodbury, which in the series is home to survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

While the studios in Senoia are not open to the public, we can’t deny that you might see some plain-clothes zombies tooling around the town of 3,300, which also boasts some charming-looking B&Bs and The Buggy Shop Museum. Given the show’s popularity, could zombie-phile shops and cafés be on the horizon for downtown Senoia? Would Miss Daisy approve?

Photo: © Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Corbis

One Reason Other Countries Welcome Us: We Stink at Math

change

We didn't need for scientists to tell us that a lot of us suffer from illusions when it comes to our money, but it turns out there's data to support it—and the problem gets worse when we travel overseas.

A recent study published in the Journal of Retailing—titled "Europoly Money: How Do Tourists Convert Foreign Currencies to Make Spending Decisions?"—showed that we do plenty of fuzzy math when we figure out exchange rates abroad. One culprit for the so-called "money illusion:" we tend to round down when doing calculations in our head. When in India, for instance, where $1 equals 54 rupees these days, a tourist will typically just use 50 for easier math, and as a result estimate that items will cost less than they really do. Meanwhile, blithely thinking that one euro is about the same as a dollar—they're always kinda close, right?—can make what seems to be a $400 bill top $500.

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New Titanic-Themed Floating Hotel in Liverpool Stirs up Controversy

Titanic Liverpool hotel

A new floating hotel in Liverpool, England, is already churning the waters of controversy even before it opens. The Titanic Liverpool boutique hotel, set to open this week, is designed to resemble the sinking stern section of the fated ship—complete with two mock smokestacks and a paint job that creates the illusion of a heavy slant.

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A Grouchy Cabbie is One Thing; Pestilence is Another

cab

You know you have a problem with your city taxis when NYC's cab system is lifted up as a role model.

Indeed, New York cabbies offer charming, sanitary and justice-based services, at least perhaps compared to the taxi drivers in San Francisco. According to a Bay Area publication, San Francisco's complaint line got 1,733 calls last year related to the city's cab drivers; it was a 13 percent uptick from the previous year, and almost double the 900-complaint goal put forward by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

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