Wanderer

Panda Palace

Tucked away at the foot of Emei mountain in Emeishan, China, there is, quite frankly, a hotel that is the epitome of unrealised fears: The Haoduo Panda Inn. Personally, I love pandas, but if given the choice of staying in The Overlook hotel or this Inn, I think I’d choose room 237 (or 217 for those of you who have read the book) in The Overlook Hotel than this place. Actually, that’s probably going a bit far. But still, this hotel is just… terrifying. Even more so because it’s real.

It’s not the Panda decor and the multitude of cuddly, stuffed panda toys scattered everywhere that freaks me out – it’s the people dressed as pandas. I mean… is that the hotel’s uniform? In which case, to my lovely friends in America who were just the other day talking to me about your difficulty in gaining visas and experience to work in China… I think experience as a football mascot would suffice for this job. Sorry though, you’ll have to figure out how Chinese work visas work for yourself.

So… If the hotel hire people to dress as pandas… What are the duties of their job? Free panda hugs? Panda tea parties… How do you communicate with a person pretending to be a panda? Are they allowed to speak? Or do they just make… Panda noises?

The thirty-two rooms all all themed – yes, they’re all panda themed, but more specifically, they’re themed around anime, film, tea, cars… and paper cutting. Intermingled with the panda theme.

Perhaps the panda costumes are a complimentary compulsory part of a person’s stay at the hotel… breakfast included, bath towels available, panda suits supplied in a variety of sizes, along with little panda-shaped chocolates on your panda-shaped pillow.

If you were quirky enough to want to stay here, a ‘Mini Panda’ room starts at 688RMB a night, which is about £67, or 2388RMB for a European suite – about £233.

Crazy.

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Wanderer

Quirky Corners of the World: Cheval’s Palais Ideal

Photograph from Facteur Cheval

Wow. Just wow.

Photograph from Tangle’s Bones

This is the masterpiece of Ferdinand Cheval, a rural postman from a town just south of Lyon. He had no artistic or architectural background, he was just really, really talented! Apparently his idea began when he tripped over an unusually shaped pebble, and from there he began collecting small stones on his postal route, starting with filling his pockets, then baskets, and finally a wheelbarrow. Starting in April 1879, he spent the next 33 years building his amazing palace by hand, often at night by oil lamp.

His had hoped to be buried inside his palace, but when his wish was denied, he decided to build himself an equally extravagant mausoleum, and he was laid to rest there in 1924, aged 88.

Photograph from Wikipedia

This is definitely somewhere that I have to see for myself. The detail is incredible, and I love the dramatically different sources of inspiration. He claimed that the tutelary spirits of the place were Julius Caesar, Archimedes and Vercingétorix. Among the various detailed monuments scattered across the palace, there is a Hindu temple, a Swiss cottage, the Maison Carrée in Algiers, an Arab mosque, and Egyptian tomb, Oriental pagodas and a Medieval castle. The three giants have faces reminiscent of the Easter Island heads.

I have to go there this summer and see it for myself.

Information on visiting the Palais Ideal can be found here.

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Wanderer

Quirky Corners of the World: Setenil de las Bodegas

The narrow streets of Setenil de las Bodegas are set into a narrow gorge in the Province of Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain

Built along the narrow river gorge and into the gorge walls itself, Setenil de las Bodegas is an quirky little town in Spain, about 70 miles south-east of Seville. With a population of about 3000, people have been living in the narrow little ‘houses’ for years, though really they are nothing more than facades, the inner walls being those of the gorge rocks.

Ready made homes! Many of the houses are built into and under the walls of the gorge itself

This place is definitely on my ‘to see’ list. I think I’ll pop by on my way from Portugal to Morocco, apparently the restaurants are among the best in the region, famous for its olive oil, honey and jam.

Definitely on my ‘to visit’ list.

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