Japan

Monkey See, Monkey Spa

The monkeys wash themselves, kick back with their arms resting on the hot spring’s rim, and generally carry on like humans would

So, a man and a monkey are in a hot tub . . .

That’s usually the start of some bad joke. Unless you are in the Japanese village of Jigokudani.

It is there, outside of Nagano in the Japanese Alps, where travelers can stay at the Korakukan Inn, a wonderful little Japanese-style hostel. The inn has a rotemburo (outdoor hot springs) that is for guests only. Though, apparently, no one has informed the local primate population of this policy. Stay at the Korakukan, go for an early morning bath in the winter months, and you may well be sharing the tub with a monkey.

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The World’s Steepest Roller Coaster

Any self-respecting world-class roller coaster enthusiast has to visit the Fuji-Q High Land at least once. The amusement park—in Yamanashi, Japan, almost literally in the shadow of Mt. Fuji—is home to many of the planet’s best rides.

The self-assigned goal of the Fuji-Q High Land park: To build a roller coaster every five years worthy of a spot in The Guiness Book of World Records. Thus far, the amusement park has achieved that goal:

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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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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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The World’s Best Candy Stores

This store is as close as you can get to a real-life Willy Wonka experience without wrangling some umpa lumpas and opening a shop yourself

Travelers with a sweet tooth weakness, do not proceed any further in this post. What follows is Spot Cool Stuff’s selection of the 6 most interesting-looking, diabetes-inducing candy stores. A trip to any one for these shops (well, except for the last one) is likely to result in a sugar overdose. Ye be warned.

Note: These are all primarily candy stores. We’ve reviewed our favorite chocolate stores in a separate post.

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5 Delicious Foods
(That Can Kill You)

Sticking your nose in a portion of hakarl feels like being whacked in the face with the putrid carcass of a musk ox.

When you think of dangerous adventure travel you probably think of activities like bungee jumping, shark diving or sneaking into North Korea. But occasionally simply eating an exotic dish is death defying. That’s the case with the five foods featured below. Each of them can be tasty when eaten properly and fatal when not.

You are reading on — and trying any of these foods — at your own risk.

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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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8 Amazing Libraries (and One That’s Horrible)

One of Spot Cool Stuff’s most popular travel posts has been our review of World’s Best Bookstores. But what about those people looking to borrow, and not buy, a book? Fortunately our planet also has several incredible libraries. In fact, there’s a case to be made for libraries having more interesting architecture than any other building type except for religious houses of worship.

Here’s our look at eight architecturally amazing libraries (and one that’s not so much). It is the first in a series of Spot Cool Stuff’s tour of the world’s best looking libraries. To stay updated on all of our posts, including our cool library series, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS feed or check back with our newly opened Book and Literature Travel category page.

And if you know of a library you’d like us to check out leave us a comment any time. Late fees never apply.

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