Superlative

The Shipping Container Starbucks

Most Starbucks are architecturally rather cookie cutter and bland. But the popular chain of coffee shops does have a handful of locations with a cool edge to them. Perhaps none more than the company’s drive-thru located in outside of Seattle in Tukwila, Washington. The Starbucks there is built out of used shipping containers!

Since Spot Cool Stuff’s first post about shipping container architecture, use of the eco-friendly building material has grown hugely in popularity. Sadly, it hasn’t grown as quickly as the surplus supply of used containers. But nearly every day work begins on at least one new shipping container house or office building somewhere on the planet.

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Bora Bora’s Best Budget Accommodations

Spot Cool Stuff recently published a review comparison of the best Bora Bora luxury resorts. As we mentioned in that review, each of the nine resorts would looked at was spectacular in its own way. Each featured amazing views and impeccable service. Each also had nightly rates somewhere between expensive and exorbitant. So what’s a budget traveler to do?

Contrary to image of Bora Bora as a destination only for the well healed, the tropical Pacific island can definitely be enjoyed on the cheap. There are a handful of B&Bs and small family-run pensions where couples can stay for under €100 (or even under €50). Among those, Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite is the wonderful little Sunset Hill Lodge.

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See Cirque du Soleil—For Free

Want to see Cirque du Soleil? A single ticket to a live performance of the impossibly acrobatic dancers will set you back as much as £85 in London. You’ll have to part with S$148 in Singapore. In Las Vegas, you’ll pay $359 for a center seat vaguely close to the front of the stage. But in Quebec City, Canada you’ll pay C$0. At current exchange rates, that works out to US$0, €0 or ¥0.

And there’s no gimmick. You don’t have to win a contest, hear a sales pitch for a timeshare or creatively acquire someone else’s ticket. Anyone can show up at a Cirque du Soleil performance in Quebec City and watch it—for free.

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Climbing the Tokyo Skytree

Since 2012, Japan has been the home to the world’s tallest tower. That’s when the top section was added to the Tokyo Skytree; it reaches up a breathtaking 634 meters (2,080 ft) above the Japanese capital. Visitors can now go up and check out the view.

How high is 634 meters? It’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower. On a clear day you can have lunch in the Skytree’s lower observation area and gaze out—way out—to Mt. Fuji on the horizon. From the upper observation deck you can distinctly see the curvature of the planet!

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The Hill of Crosses

The Kryziu Kalnas (“The Hill of Crosses”) in northern Lithuania might be the world’s most spontaneous unusual man-made attraction. No one owns it. No one runs it. No one even knows how it came to be.

What is known is this: For as long as anyone can remember, there’s been a 10-meter high mount of earth near the town of Šiauliai that’s been covered in crosses.

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The Most Luxurious Orlando Hotels with Free Wifi

One of Spot Cool Stuff’s biggest travel peeves: Hotels that charge for in-room wireless internet. We somewhat understand budget no-frills hotels adding an optional internet fee, but it is usually those very hotels that don’t. The hotels that typically charge the most for internet access are those that already charge the highest room rates. What sort of luxury experience is that? To Spot Cool Stuff it is the equivalent of a hotel putting an electricity meter outside every room and charging their guests extra for their power usage.

For whatever reason, hotels and resorts in Orlando are especially prone to charging for internet access. We’ve found hotels in Central Florida that charge up to $30 per day! Fortunately we’ve always found a few hotels that offer an upmarket experience, that are convenient to Orlando’s theme parks and attractions and that provide free wifi. Here are the three best:

Update: Amen! The Walt Disney World Resort has recently announced that it will start offering free wifi. Hopefully this means that other Orlando-area resorts will follow their lead.

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The Best Socks for Travel
(and the time between trips)

Travelers spend big money on upgraded airline tickets and medium money on upgraded luggage. Yet, for only a few extra dollars (or pounds or euros or yen or somoni) an upgraded experience can be had on an arguably more significant piece of travel gear: socks.

Travel (save for the armchair variety) tends to involve a lot of standing and walking and being outside. And a surprising percentage of one’s physical comfort starts with one’s feet.

For the previous few months Spot Cool Stuff has been trying out different socks; some were provided to us and others we purchased ourselves. The central take-away from this sock testing frenzy: Don’t purchase generic socks, or at least not exclusively. There’s an impressive variety of socks on the market, produced by several dozen small- and medium-sized manufacturers. Spending a bit more on their socks is worth it, especially for travel.

As for specific sock suggestions, here’s a review of some of our favorites:

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Indoor Caravan Camping

When you visit Berlin will you stay in an artsy boutique hotel? In a low cost hostel? In a trailer park?

The wonderfully cool thing about The Hüttenpalast is that the accommodations are all three of those—at once!

At Spot Cool Stuff we’ve reviewed more than our share of unusual hotels. But rarely have we found one that offers such an unconventional experience with such a relatively high level of comfort at such a relatively low price.

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