Funny road signs

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When in a foreign country I’m always slightly baffled by the road signs and networks. You’ll often see strange signs you don’t understand and maybe even some that are slightly amusing. However I’ve started noticing more and more while driving round the UK that some signs are really quite strange, and quite funny because of it. I thought I’d have a look round the web and I have to say, I’ve found some real gems. The following are some of the most ludicrous road signs I think I’ve ever seen.

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Secret nuclear bunker to the right! Or is that what they want you to think? In fact if I was trying to find a secret nuclear bunker I’d be tempted to go the other way, after all, it’s not a secret if there’s a huge sign pointing to it is there?

Lane closed

Lane closed

Closing a lane and forcing everyone into the same lane doesn’t really ease congestion does it?

Sign not in use

Sign not in use

This sign creates a bit of a paradox. By saying it isn’t in use it is in fact being used, but is inaccurate. A little bit confusing and completely pointless.

Emergency only 174km away

Emergency only 174km away

No worries if you crash then.

SOTP!

SOTP!

If I saw this I think I’d just deliberately drive on without stopping. Really, how can someone misspell a fuor letter wrod?

Sharp edges, just so you know

Sharp edges, just so you know

Of course, if the sign didn’t exist there would be no sharp edge to touch and so there wouldn’t need to be a sign warning me of the sharp edges on the sign. Another one of those signs that exists to tell you about itself but quite amusing all the same.

Sidewalk ends

Sidewalk ends

So I see.

One way?

One way?

Well, it’s a 50/50 chance. Anyones guess as to which way ‘the way’ is here.

These are just some of my favourites, but there’s literally hundreds out there. Let me know if I’ve missed any really classic ones.

Weasel Coffee

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Weasel Coffee

Weasel Coffee

Yep the title is right, you can in fact buy weasel coffee! It’s not actually made from weasel like the title suggests, but made from the regurgitated coffee beans eaten by rare Vietnamese weasels. It would be quite easy at this stage to doubt my words, but unbelievably this is true. Once regurgitated by the furry scamps, eagle-eyed Vietnamese villagers collect the beans and market them directly to the manufacturers. 

 

Brave consumers have described this gastric-altered delight as smoother, stronger, more heady flavoured coffee that would appeal to serious java lovers.

I’m not sure if I’d try a drink which is ultimately made from weasel sick, but I am rather pleased that the widely hated weasel is finally getting some good publicity. The furry critters are frequently associated with treachery and deceit, and their name is also used to depict a sly, double-crossing person. Poor blighters. 

So if you’re thinking about trying something a little different to Starbucks or want to boost the weasels status in the animal kingdom, then purchase a bag of Weasel coffee. Word to the wise though, if you are going to invite your date in for a cup of coffee after a night out – best leave the Weasel coffee in the cupboard or they’ll be out of the door faster than you can say regurgitated coffee bean.

Five unsung holiday destinations

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After a few blogs about everyday travel and various Internet games I’ve been wasting time with the last couple of weeks I thought I’d make a return to form with today’s post.

I’m planning a round-the-world trip with some old university friends for next year and our philosophy for our trip is the somewhat tried and tested ‘off the beaten track’ approach. My genuine preference for holidays is to find the real country and to explore parts of the world where you won’t find the hordes of tourists. Nothing is worse to me than the haunts commonly frequented by British tourists. Sure they may be hot and sunny but I’m not interested in spending a holiday with people who just seem to want to get drunk and be loud the whole time. I could do that in Ashford.

So with this in mind I’ve been looking around and trying to do some research into some beautiful places to visit that aren’t typically travelled to. I’m looking for places of outstanding natural beauty or some really interesting culture mostly, and somewhere where you can lose yourself in the local ways. I’ve read lots and lots of travel blogs and diaries the last few days and these five places are where I’d like to visit and where I recommend going if you’re after the same kind of things that I am.

Full of stunning scenery and some of the most unique environments on Earth, Greenland is a really amazing place. It is a country dominated by the huge arctic ice sheet and is home to glaciers, icebergs and the breathtaking northern lights. Just take a look at these pictures of the landscapes you can expect in Greenland.

Lakes and fjords in Greenland

Lakes and fjords in Greenland

Icebergs in Greenland

Icebergs in Greenland

Parts of Greenland, especially the northern parts, experience the famous midnight Sun. In these parts of the country the Sun does not set at night and you can see it remain above the horizon for a little over four months. Perhaps one of the most awe inspiring sights in Greenland is the Aurora Borealis. Occurring all year round the lights are caused by particles from the Sun colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere. A truly unique sight it is just one of the many reasons for visiting Greenland. For a real arctic adventure and something a little different than that boring beach holiday I would definitely recommend Greenland.

Next up is Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Along with Krakow in Poland it was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978. It is the second highest capital city in the world and is surrounded by active volcanoes. The sights looking over the city are quite unique as you can see just how high it is as well as seeing the snowy topped volcanoes in the background.

Quito from a distance

Quito from a distance

A busy Quito street

A busy Quito street

The city has a beautifully preserved old town with many historic buildings intact. You can really gain a great insight into a busting South American capital by spending some time in Quito. Also situated not far from the city is the Mitad del Mundo or ‘Middle of the World’ museum. Here you can see a 30 foot high monument and stand on the equator itself. A really interesting place, I would certainly look to consider it if you’re planning on heading into South America.

For another place steeped in historical significance and natural beauty then Hanoi in Vietnam is another outstanding choice. Humans have been living in what is now Vietnam for around 500,000 years and Hanoi has been populated for around 10,000 years. It is one of the most significant settlements in Asia with a rich culture and history.

Pagoda in Hanoi

Pagoda in Hanoi

Hanoi overlooking the lakes

Hanoi overlooking the lakes

While the country will be remembered for the war with the USA and several bloody episodes in its recent history the country has now found its feet and is aiming for membership of the WTO. The city of Hanoi has more cultural sites than anywhere else in Vietnam, with over 600 pagodas and temples. For places dripping with culture you could try; The Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, Flag Tower of Hanoi and Bay Mau Lake. The lakes around Hanoi are some of the most beautiful places on Earth, with the West Lake being very popular as the largest lake in Hanoi.

Increasingly friendly for tourists the city of Hanoi is a spectacular place to visit on any trip through Asia.

Staying in Asia the next place that I recommend you give some thought to visiting is Bhutan. Largely isolated from the rest of the world until the 1960s the country has a rich culture and heritage that has gone mostly unspoiled. Despite the promise for tourists Bhutan has a tight control on the number of visitors to the country. The control is to ‘safeguard this rich natural environment and culture’. As one of the most remote areas in the world, it has certainly sparked my interest.

Keshav Pradhan in Bhutan

Keshav Pradhan in Bhutan

Some of the breathtaking scenery in Bhutan

Some of the breathtaking scenery in Bhutan

The country is nestled in between China, Tibet and India and maintains a rich Buddhist heritage. The citizens dress in a traditional dress that consists of robes and shawls to the knees and then ankle length socks and immaculately polished shoes. If you wish to visit one of the last places where the influence of the West hasn’t yet made itself known then Bhutan is the place to go.

The last place on my list is Beijing in China. While not as remote or unusual as my previous choices I think that China is often overlooked as a holiday destination. The city of Beijing is being revitalised as the youth of China are looking to embrace modern ideals and lifestyles. The city is an interesting mix of old and new and creates an interesting cultural backdrop for any holiday.

Beijing is in a strange position where it is simultaneously beautiful and heavily polluted. There are numerous world famous sights to see such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Both of these landmarks will give a rich insight into the history of China and give you a chance to soak up some of the culture.

A Beijing welcome

A Beijing welcome

Beijing station

Beijing station

Beijing experiences an interesting climate with extremely cold winters and very hot summers. If you’re looking for something a little more bearable then it is certainly recommended that you visit in the Autumn. Pollution during the Summer can become almost unbearable and temperatures during Winter can plummet.

Beijing is hosting the Olympic Games in 2008 and so will be much more used to tourists afterwards. I would certainly recommend visiting the capital city of one of the most interesting countries on Earth. If the sprawling metropolis isn’t for you then you can use it is a launchpad into the rest of the country.

Well that’s my list of places I think you should visit that you’d never considered. Certainly as I travel more I intend to visit them all and gain more experience of other cultures and climates. If you think I’ve missed something off here, I’d love to hear from you or if anyone has been to these places and can give more insight it’d be great to hear some opinions.

World of Wikipedia

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After blogging about Googlewhacking earlier in the week I got talking to some work colleagues about various voyages you can embark on while online we hit upon an interesting idea. Part of my job is to write a lot of articles about a range of subjects we find interesting in order to boost Google rankings of the Holiday Extras web pages. While researching for these articles I usually spend a fair amount of time on Wikipedia. During these research sessions it isn’t unknown for me to get somewhat sidetracked and go off on a tangent reading about related things.

This meandering of Wiki got me thinking when I was reading an article about six degrees of separation. I’d wandered onto the article while reading about something else and I thought, what if the same principle applied to websites? What if the same thing applied to Wiki pages? Could you get from any subject to anything else by just using internal Wiki links on the articles? Well there was only one way to find out…

Six degrees of separation

Six degrees of separation

The game was set. Get from one Wiki article to another in six or less steps without clicking back or working backwards. You were allowed to view the destination page to see the content, but other than that there was no help. Shouldn’t be too hard I thought.

First up was going from the planet Uranus to a page about digitaria, a type of grass. This seemed to be actually harder than I thought. I found the links quite easily but it took more steps than I anticipated. First time through I used this link chain;

Uranus and then, Voyager 2, NASA, Washington DC, United States, deciduous, plant, grasses, panicoideae and finally digitaria.

Seven intermediate steps, too many! I tried again using;

Uranus and then, weather, Earth’s atmosphere, photosynthesis, plant, grasses, panicoideae and then landing on digitaria. There it was, six intermediate steps.

To prove that this was no fluke I decided to do a couple more. Next up I chose the number one and the Fender Stratocaster guitar. This proved to be a little too easy and I did it in four steps; one and then, Germany, rock music, guitar, Fender Stratocaster. My next challenge was a little harder.

A colleague came up with the suggestion of getting from the Rialto Bridge in Venice to television presenter Anneka Rice. The challenge was set, this seemed much harder. Harder was certainly something it was. Information about Anneka was scarce and I went down many dead alleys and got lost many times. I was on the verge of giving up until I cracked it. Looking at Anneka’s wiki page I noticed that she was on the cooking programme, Hell’s Kitchen. Being more recent I thought that this would have a greater presence on Wikipedia. With this in mind I came up with this magical line;

Rialto bridge and then, Italy, United Kingdom, culture of the UK, Gordon Ramsey, Hell’s Kitchen before ending up with Anneka Rice.

Start at the Rialto Bridge

Start at the Rialto Bridge

One

One

Two

Two

Three

Three

Four

Four

Five

Five

Six

Six

So there we have it, six steps. It may even seem that it’s not just people that are separated by six degrees. It may actually be every single thing that exists. Well, if you’re bored at work then try it out, it can be fun to think of the most seemingly random things you possibly can and trying to find the link. If you get stumped then let me know what has defeated you and I guarantee I’ll find a way to work it.

Everyday travel – nightmare or pleasure?

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As this blog is all about travel I thought I’d look at an area of travel we haven’t covered yet. The kind of travel we all do every day, often without thinking. The journey to work. Ok, so it’s not as glamorous as travelling overseas on holiday but we all spend a significant period of our lives on the road on the way to work and back every day.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I see some quite frustrating things on the way to work. I’m even starting to understand some of the infamous road rage incidents. I’m sure in reality my journey isn’t all that bad and I expect getting a busy tube in London every day is worse but sometimes I get really annoyed at the other road users. My route to work takes me down a lot of small country lanes. It can be quite narrow and windy in sections, but if you know the road well you can zip through pretty quickly. However this is not often the case…

Does this look like a familiar sight?

Potholes

Potholes

I’m sure you’ve all seen them, but they seem especially bad on the road I drive. Mostly you can dodge them but if there’s something on the other side of the road then get ready for a bang. I’m sure my suspension is going to be shot by the time I come to sell my car. No matter how much road tax I pay these things never seem to go away either.

I’ll give you a few images now, think for a minute before reading on and see if you can guess what my next gripe is going to be about.

Berlingo

Berlingo

Micra

Micra

Daewoo

Daewoo

Thats right, the bane of my existence when driving to work. The old person, or more accurately, the slow driver. These people seem to think that the speed limit doesn’t matter, it’s 35mph all the way. 35 in a 30mph limit, 35mph on a 60 limit road it’s all the same to them. What is especially annoying when driving to work is that once I’m stuck behind one of these people is that there won’t be anywhere to overtake for the next twenty minutes. I’m not asking them to drive too fast but really, braking going round a corner at 20mph is just crazy. If anything, it’s more dangerous than driving too fast as they cause a huge tailback to occur behind them. I’ve been stuck in trails of 6-7 cars before, and the road I drive is generally pretty quiet.

I actually find it quite an arrogant way to drive. I always try to make progress, but I obey speed limits and drive sensibly. However, by driving at 20mph below the speed limit you’re forcing everyone else to drive at your pace on your terms. If I want to progress at a speed I feel comfortable at I’m forced to overtake, which is hardly an ideal situation to be in. Furthermore, by braking erratically you’re more likely to have people drive into the back of you, and because you’re driving so slowly people will be closer to you.

However, this is not the worst thing I see when driving to work. The following sight is worse.

Tractor

Tractor

Yep, a 15mph tractor with drivers behind that refuse to overtake. Rubbish. At least the saving grace here is that the tractors will pull over to let traffic through, or won’t stay on the road long.

My most hated thing when driving to work down the country lanes is this;

Lorry

Lorry

This picture is actually of a Czech driver who followed his sat-nav a little too closely and got his lorry stuck. While this hasn’t happened on my route there are certainly too many lorries driving down tiny lanes due to satellite navigation. They generally don’t slow down for you or make any kind of allowances. I’ve actually had one force me off the road at one point. Maybe there should be an option on your sat-nav to say you’re driving such a large vehicle and it would only take you down A-roads and motorways?

In any case, rant over. This is my daily travel experience, what’s yours like?

Finding a needle in a haystack – Googlewhacking.

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Have you ever been traveling and stuck for a few hours in an airport waiting for a connecting flight? Perhaps you’ve been at your hotel on your own for an hour or so while your holiday mates lie in? Maybe you’re bored at work, or at home?

Well in all these places there is bound to be some form of Internet access available. Every airport I’ve been to recently seems to have a little corner somewhere where you can log on to check email and things. A good proportion of people in the waiting lounge seem to be online on laptops, checking email and browsing the web. Well if you’re one of these and have some time to kill then I’ve found the ultimate pastime. Googlewhacking!

It is a craze that started several years ago and was made popular by Dave Gorman as he took a show round the world telling the story of his crazy Googlewhack adventure. For the uninitiated I should probably explain what a Googlewhack is.

A Googlewhack is when you put in two words in to Google and get back only one result. There are, of course, a number of rules as to which words you can use for a Googlewhack, otherwise you could just make it up! The words must appear in Google’s view of legitimate words, an easy way to tell is if they’re underlined on the top right after your search. You must see “Results 1 – 1” for the result to count. You may not use speech marks either, but + symbols are allowed. Also, you must view the page you’ve found. If it is a list of words then your result does not count.

So having had a look at Googlewhacking I thought I’d give it a try, after all it couldn’t be that hard could it?

I started out by picking random words from dictionary.com’s word of the day section. My first phrase, eleemosynary slugabed returned 351 results. Not bad I thought, and I carried on. The next few weren’t so good, eleemosynary numismatics with 1800 results, eleemosynary antediluvian returned 2200 and Whig antediluvian gave 6890. These are all real words, by the way.

I was getting a little disheartened, 351 results was by best, hardly something to boast about. All this, however, was about to change. Tchotchke conurbation – 57 results. This was more like it! I’d found a word that seemed so bizarre I was quite sure it would only turn up on word lists or on my ever elusive Googlewhack. A tchotchke is an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament according to the dictionary. This word would seem to be my key to my first Googlewhack.

I ploughed on looking for more words to pair with tchotchke, with varying degrees of success. Valetudinarian tchotchke – 43 results, chotchke oneiric – 64 results, tchotchke ukase – 76 results. I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere after my magnificent jump down to 50. To get less results I’d surely have to pull something special out of the bag.

My next search term was just that. Hyperrealistic tchotchke, 15 results. I was nearly there! I’d discovered that two random words was actually worse. You’re best off finding an obscure word and pairing it with an equally strange adjective or verb. I continued in this vein, getting results like; supermassive tchotchke – 20 results, abiological tchotchke with 19 and exobiological tchotchke with 12 results.

The next result was painful. Hyperspeed tchotchke, 2 results. Two! However on closer inspection I noticed that hyperspeed wasn’t in the Google dictionary and wouldn’t have counted. Disheartened, but not perturbed, I continued.

Biospheres tchotchke gave an interesting result.Look at this awful result for a Googlewhacker

It seems there are a huge amount of word lists out there on the web, making the life of a Googlewhacker all that more difficult. To dodge these I used + signs before my words, ensuring that I’d have to find the words together on one page.

My next result had me out of my chair.

So close!

There it was, one result. A Googlewhack surely? Sadly not. The word prebiotics isn’t in the Google list and doesn’t count. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I had it. Still, once you have come so close you can’t give up. I tried many more after this, spectrographic tchotchke, extrasolar tchotchke, extremophile tchotchke all have less than 20 but not that ever elusive one result. I managed one result with astrobiological tchotchke but it turned out to be a word list.

Cruddiness tchotchkes gave three and cruddiness tchotchke gave none. I could sense I was closing in.

And then it happened. Splashguards tchotchke!

I certainly didn’t mean ‘splash guards’ as you can see the word as one is permitted by Google and I have just the one result. If you’re interested the repeat result is actually the same document. This is one document I’ve found here and it certainly isn’t a word list.

Well this Internet adventure certainly used up a little too much time at work and it really is quite addictive. So next time you’re stuck waiting for that connecting flight, why not do a little travelling over the net. It’s amazing where you can end up.

Oh, and hopefully this blog will come up for splashguards tchotchke so you’ll have to find your own Googlewhacks now!