China

“The Restaurant Near the Sanyou Cave”

There are lots of blogs that repost photos of cool-looking places. Usually these websites give very little information even identifying the location shown in the photo, much less practical tips on how to travel there.

Spot Cool Stuff is a different in this way. We aren’t about spreading memes. Our travel blog is about discovering cool travel ideas. It’s about finding tips for getting out and exploring this amazing planet of ours. Because, a photogenic place is so much more than a piece digital eye candy. It’s a real life destination that anyone (appropriately equipped with a plane ticket, passport and credit card) can to go see.

It’s in that spirit that we previously wrote about visiting an impossibly secluded house in Iceland. And that we now write about the place made famous by the photo, below — a place usually described only as “The Restaurant Near the Sanyou Cave.”

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The Best View from a
Hotel Room in Hong Kong

You might have previously stayed in a hotel room with a five digit number, but how often did the first three digits represent the floor you were staying on?!

Take a scenic harbor, ring it with a series of eight high hills, liberally sprinkle the area with neon-lit sky scrappers and you’d correctly conclude that you have a recipe for world-class vistas. Yet there are few other cities more underrated for the quality of its urban views as is Hong Kong. Not only does the special administrative region of China host amazing views, it has a plethora of bars, restaurants and other spots from which to view them.

There are several Hong Kong hotels with incredible views too. Though if you want to take in the view without leaving your hotel room, there’s no better place to stay than the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.

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The Water Cube Gets Happy Magic

You may remember the Water Cube as the venue for the swimming events 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The exterior of “The Cube,” with its translucent walls that seemed as though they were made of giant living skin cells, became one of the iconic images of the games.

The Water Cube received a lot of press at the time of the Olympics. But what most reports (including Spot Cool Stuff’s own review) left out was that the building was not designed to permanently host of swimming competitions. From conception, its real intended purpose was to be a water park.

Recently the Water Cube’s original destiny was fulfilled with the opening of the Happy Magic Watercube. (Yes, somehow “water cube” got truncated to one word during the transition). In doing so, the place where Michael Phelps once set world records in swimming is today setting the record as the world’s largest indoor water park.

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5 Temples & Monasteries
on Perilous Cliff Sides

To monks, the monastery represents the victory of good over evil. To travelers, it represents the victory of architecture over gravity.

Spot Cool Stuff previously reviewed five towns on cliff sides—villages where drinking and driving . . . or drinking and walking . . . or simply walking could be especially perilous.

Following up on that, here are five religious buildings—a shrine, temple, church and two monasteries—built at a cliff’s edge. Gazing down the rocky drops from these structures, and out upon the magnificent vistas they offer, and perhaps one can’t help but believe in God.

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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 Toy Stores

There's a hand-carved (!) carousel, 18-hole mini golf course, Kool-Aid waterfall, gourmet fudge shop, vintage toy museum, huge children's book selection, llama petting zoo, puppet shows and, oh yeah, you can also buy toys.

It’s a tough job but someone has to take on the task of finding the world’s best toy stores. So Spot Cool Stuff assigned ourselves.

Here’s a look at our favorite shops for indulging your kids—and your inner child:

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China’s Amazing Snow & Ice Festival

Two phrases sum up Harbin China’s Snow & Ice Festival: Wow and I can’t feel my toes.

Each year the far northeast of China the city of Harbin holds this famous winter festival. Artisans from all over the globe come to carve gargantuan works of art out of blocks of ice and mountains of snow. The theme of the festival changes yearly but, no matter the theme, the sculptures will have you ohhing and awwing.

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The World’s 6 Coolest-Looking Bookstores

So how do you create a three-story bookstore in a cathedral when you can’t drill any holes into the building or attach anything load-bearing to its walls?

Usually a store is just a store. But a few stores are attractions in and of themselves. So it is with these six incredibly cool-looking bookstores. Next you are in Maastricht, Beijing, Porto, Buenos Aires, Paris or Mexico City, add these stores to your list of must-see attractions—even if you don’t plan on buying a book.

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