Asia

Luxury, Romance, Nature—and Pod Dinning

The Eco-Villa is made from locally sourced materials, is powered by renewable energy and features a private natural swimming pool that uses plants to clean the water.

Spot Cool Stuff has reviewed a pod bed, a pod ski resort and a pod treehouse hotel. But this is our first ever pod restaurant.

And what an amazing location our first pod restaurant is blessed with: on the grounds of the gorgeous “six star” Soneva Kiri beach resort located on Thai island of Ko Kood.

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Top 10 Destinations
For Rice Terrace Travel

After thousands of years of hindsight it seems maybe rice wasn’t the best choice for humanity’s most popular food staple. Yes, it tastes great with sushi. But growing rice is very water and labor intensive. And it requires a flat field that farmers can flood during the planting season.

Rice is particularly labor intensive in hilly areas where farmers must create their flat field by carving floodable terraces into hillsides. We find even a single terrace impressive when we contemplate all the work involved, work usually done by hand. The sight of multiple rice terraces, stacked atop each other as if to form a giant’s staircase, is truly awe inspiring.

Spot Cool Stuff has been a longtime fan of rice terraces. We once flew round trip between San Francisco and the Philippines specifically to spend a single day in Banaue, supposedly the site world’s most grand rice terraces. Supposedly. After nearly two decades of rice terrace travel we’ve formed our own opinion on such matters. Here’s our list of the top 10 rice terrace destinations:

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The World’s Best Hostels 2011
(Part I)

Hostelbookers is one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite websites for booking cheap hostels, inexpensive inns and budget hotels. In addition to offering a wide selection of accommodations (most of which aren’t available on sites like Travelocity or Hotels.com), what’s cool about Hostelbookers is their extensive database of customers reviews—they’re a huge help in separating out those hostels that are high value from those that are cheap for a reason.

Hostelbookers reviewers grade properties on eight criteria: atmosphere, location, facilities, fun, staff, cleanliness, safety and value.

Below is the first of our two part review of the budget lodgings that Hostelbookers users rated the best over the last year. Scroll down to read through them all. Or click on the region you are most interested in:

Part I Part II
Africa Europe
Asia Oceania
Canada South America
Caribbean/Mexico United States

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Meters Come To Thailand’s Motorcycle Taxis

This article is about Spot Cool Stuff second favorite way of getting around Bangkok.

Our preferred method of traversing the Thai capital is by boat and river taxi. Most travelers know about the ferries that ply up and down Bangkok’s major river, the Chao Phraya. Less well known are the boat services along the smaller rivers and canals that criss-cross the city. The problem is that the canal transport system is often confusing, sometimes slow and (obviously) limited to destinations near water.

So often we turn to that public transportation option that’s best for zipping through the notorious Bangkok traffic and that, by happy coincidence, is also among the least expensive: the motorcycle taxi.

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3 Obviously True Travel Facts That Are Wrong

Everything you know about travel is wrong . . . . . or, at least, it could be wrong. Anyone who travels often enough, and daringly enough, has surely already discovered this. Pre-travel, you might believe that herds of cows don’t roam cities, that money comes only in paper and metal form, that the health of one’s father is not connected to one’s choice of footwear. Then you travel to India and step into (and, occasionally, onto) its bovine urban environment, or go to Yap where purchases are made with large rock slabs, or visit Madagascar and discover fady. (Don’t know about fady? Read on).

This is one of the true joys of travel—to shatter expectations and expand the realm of what’s possible.

In many ways, the entire travel channel of Spot Cool Stuff is dedicated to the surprising aspects of travel. For some clear examples, look through our unusual hotel reviews.

In honor of the official Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong Day, March 15th, we bring you a special post about three travel destinations—one country, one city and one restaurant—where you’ll discover that what you were certain was right is, in fact, wrong.

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Come for the Golf. Stay for North Korea.

Sports have a way of transcending political and cultural differences. The 1995 Rugby World Cup (on which the excellent movie Invictus was based). The 1970s exchange of table tennis players between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. The 2005 “Cricket Summit” between India and Pakistan. The North Korean Amateur Open?

That last event hasn’t happened yet. But it will on April 29th, 2011. And if you are anything approximating a decent golfer can participate!

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Bangkok’s Robot Restaurant

The day may come when machines overthrow the human race and our robot overlords force us mortals to serve at their will. Until then, we can suggest going for a meal at the Hajime Robot Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand.

At the Hajime robots not only serve food to customers but also dance for them. (This makes the Hajime Robot Restaurant is the only establishment in Bangkok that has a tagline promising to “serve your every need” and that features dancing waiters and that’s also child-friendly).

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Dr. Sketchy’s School of Anti-Art

Imagine a drawing class and you probably conjure an image of a studious group of experienced artists silently sketching a bowl of fruit whilst a demanding teacher paces back and forth whispering criticism to students.

If you were to take that image and replace the studious group of experienced artists with a fun gaggle of drinkers who might not have drawn anything since kindergarten, and then were to substitute the whispering teacher with an gregerous social director, and then were to swap out the bowl of fruit for a corseted madam doing a dance routine inside a steel cage, then you’d have a vague picture of what it’s like taking a class at Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.

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