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Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab - the world's most glamorous hotel

burj al arab

Long before Dubai began showing up at the bottom of fashion advertisements along with Paris, New York, and Tokyo, it was all sand and ambition. It was once simply desert and an idea. An "if you build it, they will come" on the most massive scale. Build it, they did.

As the years piled on, Dubai transformed. The skyscrapers grew like weeds in an untended lawn. Any doubt that the city was primed to be a world class destination was responded to with the sonic roar of hundreds of buildings rising from the ground almost overnight. Ready or not, here it comes.

Today, the hotels in Dubai have more stars than the milky way. The roads run smooth and are stocked with fluorescent hypercars and murdered out Mercedes Gelandewagens. Construction cranes sway in the gentle Arabian breeze next to impossibly tall buildings. The malls have ski slopes and aquariums with neat little Guinness World Record plaques. Man-made islands shaped like palm trees maximize beach front real estate just offshore. It is a place where the compendium of engineering knowledge has been plundered, nudging the limits of man-made extravagance into open space. Engineers come to Dubai to test the pliability of steel, the outrageous whims of architectural imagination, and the possibility of solving impossible problems.

And it all began with one building - the Burj Al Arab.

Graphing the deepest ocean to the highest peak

deepest ocean highest peak

The surface of the Earth plummets deeper than 35,000 feet in the Mariana Trench and reaches up to the lofty heights of the Himalaya mountain range. The rest of our planet exists somewhere in between. Every hill, coral reef, dance contest, and disappointing vacation takes place at some point between these two extremes. This amazing graph by NOAA and NASA details some of the more significant earthly markers in height and depth, such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the resting place of the RMS Titanic, and the highest peak - Mt. Everest.

A video of Bali's elegant details

Bali is like sand in a fist. It is tough to get a handle on. I always come back from the island dumbfounded with my inability to properly explain what makes it so special and extraordinary. The pervasive culture and feel is difficult to communicate with language; its character escapes the calculated classification of words. This video is a collection of the elegant details that make Bali such an enchanted place. I think Stephan Kot does an excellent job showcasing this beautiful "Island of the Gods" - far better than I could ever do with words.

The world's ten creepiest abandoned cities

Some cities die. The people leave, the streets go quiet, and the isolation takes on the macabre shape of a forlorn ghost-town - crumbling with haunting neglect and urban decay. From Taiwan to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, these abandoned cities lurk in the shadows of civilization. Their histories are carried in hushed whispers and futures stillborn from the day of their collapse. Some have fallen victim to catastrophe while others simply outlive their function. I think we can all agree on one thing - they are all very creepy.

  • Sanzhi in Taiwan
  • Pripyat in the Ukraine
  • Craco in Italy
  • Kolmanskop in Namibia
  • Hashima Island in Japan
  • Hashima Island - Stairway to hell

What its like to survive a plane crash - 3 things one passenger learned about life

Have you ever wondered what its like to be in a crashing airplane? The thoughts that would go through your head? While many of us have no doubt experienced troubling turbulence, sitting in your seat as the engines fail and the aircraft careens towards the earth is probably every traveler's worst nightmare.

In 2009, Us Airways flight 1549 experienced loss of both engines due to a collision with a flock of Canada geese. The crew had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson river. The story was covered extensively, and the heroics and decision making of the crew saved every life on board. Captain Sullenberger and the crew even received the keys to New York City.

This video from TED shows one passenger's account of the horrifying ordeal that took place in 2009. Narrator Ric Elias was seated in the first row of the flight. In this video, he candidly shares his thought process during the crash and how this moment of terror actually transformed into a gift. He talks about the three things he learned and what it is like to confront death in a plummeting airplane.

Video of super DIY Chinese street-sweeper

One of the coolest things about China is this street sweeper. Fashioned from dried plants or perhaps straw of some kind, it is the sort of thing that is conceived in the pockets of China where rural life and modernity intermingle to create interesting contraptions with a foot in each century. With the functionality of its modern counterparts and the charm of peasant ingenuity, the device appears to be plucked from Mao's cultural revolution but remixed considerably to serve its purpose in the 21st century.

Observe the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl searching for radioactive beasts with VBS

25 years ago today, a catastrophic nuclear disaster took place at the Chernobyl power plant in the city of Pripyat. Haunted by the specter of radiation, the one time city transformed into a spread of creepy abandoned buildings and one of the most poisonous places on the planet - the Red Forest. With humans gone, the town has been taken back by wildlife. Today, wolves wander abandoned schools with kitschy Soviet propaganda peeling from the wall and bears lumber through the overgrown amusement park that opened the day after the disaster, April 27, 1986.

In this video by the crew at Vice, Shane Smith goes on a tour of Pripyat to hunt for mutant beasts and explore derelict buildings. The abandoned radioactive town is an eerie ghost-scape, but many travelers have been making the 100km journey from Kiev to visit this strange example of an abandoned modern town. The video is an interesting and somewhat humorous look inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Latin America on a budget: Quito, Ecuador

budget quito Old cities are at their most pure and honest in the early morning. Before the crowds draw out to transform the peace with the trappings of modern existence, an old city seems frozen in time. Wandering through Quito in the morning feels like visiting an old stranger's house with no one home. I inspect the pictures and look in rooms, attempting to solve the riddles my mind creates. It is lonely and haunting. Morning clouds drift though the damp cobbled streets as Indian women in black felt hats and red scarves set up their hawking stations for the day - selling loteria tickets and cigarettes and gum. Footsteps of an unseen Ecuadorian echo out across a square, and a faint motorbike exhaust burns off towards the mountains that hold Quito like a bowl. Church Bells ring and just beyond their noise, dawn fades.

Quito is certainly an old city. Originally settled thousands of years ago, many speculate that Quito is the oldest city in the western hemisphere. The Quitu tribe of the Incan civilization settled this valley between towering mountain ranges and volcanoes thousands of years before conquistadors ever set foot in South America. They built a stronghold and the Quitu kingdom prospered. When the Spaniards arrived, the Quitu decided their city would be wasted on the invaders. Led by the Incan warrior Rumiñahui, the Quitu threw their treasures into a volcano, killed the temple virgins, and burned the city to the ground.

Skydiving never looked so peaceful

Depending on who you ask, skydiving is either exciting, terrifying, or both. This video of divers from the Melbourne Skydive Centre coasting through the sky like jellyfish makes skydiving look like a peaceful sort of transcendence, more flying than falling. Instead of an adrenaline packed plummet down gravity's vacuum, this video showcases the serenity of human flight. Filmed in February of 2011, world champions Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet from Soul Flyers visited Melbourne to provide 3D coaching to some of Australia's top skydivers. The result is this ethereal video. Check it out in full screen mode and tell me it does not make you want to jump out of a plane.

Hilarious wipeouts from "Bring your own Big Wheel" race in San Francisco

Last weekend, on Easter Sunday, San Franciscans took to the streets for the annual big wheel race. The BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel) race takes place annually on Easter at Potrero Hill in San Francisco. It is a hilariously splendid event. Full grown humans dress up as luchadors, superheros, chickens, and even Michael Jackson and take to the hill on a variety of wheeled contraptions, including the eponymous big wheel. This video is a collection of some of the epic fails and crashes from the 2011 race. For a gallery of the many strange entrants on their racing wheels, click here.

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