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From digital wizardry to quirky ideas, the downright brilliant and the totally bizarre, it’s a weird old world we live in, one that is best experienced first-hand.
The annual No Pants Subway Ride
It’ll get you arrested in Russia, there was an attempted ban in Latvia, in New York you'll be amongst 4,000 like-minded friends and in Australia, well at least your nether regions won't get cold. The Annual No Pants Subway Ride is exactly that; the one day commuters travel to work without pants. From its 2002 inception, when seven guy mates thought it would be comical to ride the subway without trousers, it’s now a hugely successful event. Organised by Improv Everywhere, a New York based comedy collective well-known for their unexpected public performances. Dozens of cities, from Tokyo to Jerusalem partake in this leg (and cheek) baring spectacle. Staged one day in winter, expect to see a fair few goose pimples gracing the limbs of its participants; pasty white pins are complemented with scarfs, gloves and a down jacket. As with all international events, there are strict rules. Aside from the obvious (willing to take pants off on subway), revellers must avoid all acknowledgement of fellow flashers, and they must be able to keep a straight face.
The International Festival of Worm Charming
As with most Great British oddities, this curious pastime started in the pub. Legend has it that festival creator (and worm charming master), Dave Kelland, was walking home after a night of ale and anecdotes, only to suddenly find himself in need of 'the john'. As he relieved himself (on the grass, possibly the neighbour’s lawn) Dave noted something quite peculiar was unravelling before him. Worms were rising in their droves, writhing and wriggling like Egyptian charmed snakes from the soil. Ah, thought David, there's a competition to be made out of this. And there was. Three decades later, the International Festival of Worm Charming is an annual all-day event held in Devon. When it’s time to‘worm up’, competitors grab a one metre patch of grass and spend the next 15 minutes doing all they can to entice the worms out of the ground, without the aid of digging or forking. Or urinating, we should add. That over, everyone piles into the pub to celebrate with a pint of beer and a bacon bap.
A colossal tomato fight
La Tomatina is the world's largest tomato fight. A festival held in the small Spanish town of Bunol, it’s been an annual event since 1945, but the reason behind its induction remains unknown. Some residents argue it was started by debaucherous teenage boys, others state it was the consequence of an overturned lorry. Either way, while the rest of Europe was in the midst of war, Bunol was enduring an epic battle of its own; a tomato one. The festival doesn’t officially start until a hock of ham has been successfully retrieved from the top of a two-storey wooden pole (yes you did read that correctly, and no we have no idea why) but by 11am the mayhem begins either way. Military style trucks dump 100,000 tonnes of ripened tomatoes into the narrow streets and water cannons signal the commencement of the fight. Then an hour of sloppy tomato throwing ensues - squelching, squashing, hurling and launching. The only rule is that you must squish before you throw. Scheduled for the last Wednesday of August, goggle-up and get lobbing.
Vomiting dim sum
Don’t play with your food! And stop flicking your peas around your plate. If you’re bored of killjoy dining etiquette, hop on a plane to Hong Kong. In this Asian city there’s a phenomenon called vomiting dim sum and it thoroughly encourages food play. Based on a character invented by Japanese company, Sanrio (creators of Hello Kitty) dim sum buns are crafted to resemble the face of Gudetama, a 'despondent egg yolk' who has lost his mojo for life. Gudemata’s official Twitter account explains that he goes through“trouble and murmur every day”, notably an unhealthy amount of puking and pooing. In Hong Kong, Gudetama-inspired dumplings are filled with custard cream and designed to be penetrated with chopsticks. Once a hole is made, the filling dribbles out, and depending on where you choose to probe your utensil, the dumpling will either vomit or poop. It might not be pretty, but it’s highly addictive; once you plop you just can’t stop.
Speakeasy with suds
There’s a laundromat in Manchester where you’re more likely to get a dirty martini than squeaky clean gruds. That’s because The Washhouse is not a laundromat. The Washhouse is a top secret drinking den - a modern day speakeasy, with a false shopfront and hidden doors. Submerged somewhere in Shudehill, a borough of Manchester, there exists a leather adorned bar with dim lights and a DJ spinning deep house beats. Punters pass through a giant washing machine door, complete with pink bra, but you won’t be admitted unless you book. Ring prior and leave an answer phone message claiming that you have items of clothing (people) you’d like to wash and a preferred time to visit. They’ll ring you back in the next day or so. Also, they might not. If you’re washing needs are met, you’ll walk into a tiny mock laundrette, past a solemn looking man who’s possibly the bouncer (he smells of fabric conditioner) and into a sneaky bar - with table service, cocktails and a very elite crowd.
The mother of all Swiss Army Knives
Since 1890, the Swiss Army Knife has been an inspired gadget in the lives of all travellers; that panicked realisation when your bottle of Shiraz is sealed with a cork, need we say more? Its point of difference is its nifty size and agile design, of which both manufacturers, Victorinox and Wenger, have perfected. But now Wenger have decided to up the ante - to absolute ginormous proportions. The Wenger 16999 Swiss Army Knife Giant is an 87 multi-tooled beast; a colossal 23cm wide and as tall as your average tramping boot. It weighs close to 1kg and boasts a repertoire similar to that of an aircraft mechanic. Forget extracting a splinter, this thing could extract an SAS soldier from behind enemy lines. With a shotgun choke tube, a micro scraper (curved as well as straight, obviously) and a shortix laboratory key (yup, we have no idea what that does either), the list of everyday essentials has grown somewhat since the 19th century. As has the price tag. Looking to sex-up your pocket tool? The Knife Giant will set you back a cool US$1300.
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