Tag: Made Us Smile

The Chicken Church

The Chicken Church

This has to be the most crazy place we have visited during the gap year. A hideous concrete building designed to look like a dove, that actually resembles a hen.

Google ‘Chicken Church’ and you’ll enter the world of Daniel Alamsjah from Jakarta, who claims he was inspired by God to build a prayer house through a dream he had in 1989.

Later, he was walking through the countryside, where his wife’s family live, when he caught sight of the exact same landscape he had seen in his dream. ‘I got a revelation that I must build the prayer house in that spot,’ he said.

Due to financial difficulties and local resistance, the construction was never finished, but ironically nearly two decades later the villagers are making a good living from its popularity as a ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ tourist destination.

After the steep hill to reach the Chicken Church, we climbed further up a tiny spiral staircase onto the chicken’s head. Borobudur Temple was close-by, across the valley. So, two religious buildings reborn as tourist destinations.


Happy melons

Happy melons

Seen as we walked down a street in Hangzhou, this presentation of melons certainly made us smile.

More seriously, fruit has kept us going this gap year. It’s been a lifesaver on long journeys and when we’ve been unable to stomach local food or find any open cafe or restaurant. Healthy, easy to carry around, and relatively cheap, fruit is the perfect food for travellers. And when we were both ill in Chile, avocados were the only thing we could eat for about five days.

Sadly, the days of very cheap fruit sellers offering their own produce by the roadside has disappeared from many of the countries we have visited. You can still find cheap fruit shops in many towns, but often we have had to go to supermarkets where fruit is over packaged, over chilled and over priced.

Japanese toilets

Japanese toilets

Since arriving in Japan, Hilary has been praising everything except the toilets. There’s never a sink to wash your hands, or if there is one, there’s no soap or towels. But they do have heated toilet seats, which seems ironic when the outside temperature is pushing forty degrees.

So it took a kindly woman student from Hong Kong to explain, without any embarrassment, how Japanese toilets really work:

“You shouldn’t need to wash your hands, because the toilet does everything for you. It washes your private parts for number one or two, like a French bidet, and even for women, it washes their vagina for hygiene.”

Also, if women are embarrassed about the noise they are making, there’s a music button to cover up the sound. On some advanced toilets, there is even a drier, to ensure no toilet paper has to be used at all and your hands remain impeccably clean.

We wonder how the Japanese survive foreign holidays!


The Hawaii State Flag

The Hawaii State Flag

We were intrigued to see the Hawaii flag had the Union Jack in the top right corner (the canton). Especially as we didn’t think Britain had much connection with Hawaii.

We were wrong.

Apparently, in 1793 Captain George Vancouver from Great Britain presented the Union Jack to the conquering King Kamehameha I, who was then uniting the islands into a single state.

It was only in 1816 that Western advisers to the king recommended the addition of red, white, and blue stripes to the Union Jack, thus creating a distinctive national flag for the country. After a brief British occupation of Hawaii in 1843, King Kamehameha III set the number of stripes on the national flag at eight, corresponding to the major islands.

And now today, even after the proclamation of Hawaii as a republic in 1894, the creation of the US territory in 1898, and then the 1959 admittance to the Union as the 50th US state, it’s that same flag you see flying here on all state building and many houses.

Claude Bell’s Dinosaur

Claude Bell’s Dinosaur

Believe it or not inside this giant Apatosaurus¬†is a gift shop. Inside we asked “Why is it here?”. The story of these giant dinosaurs is all about a restaurant that used to stand here in Cabazon.

Back in the 60s, what better way to get families to stop at your restaurant than to have two giant dinosaurs outside? “Dad, dad, let’s stop there to see the T-Rex”. So these dinos are a pretty impressive case study in point-of-sale merchandising.

The owner of the Wheel Inn restaurant was a former sculptor and theme park artist Claude Bell, who created the 46 m long Apatosaurus (Dinny) and the 20 m tall Tyrannosaurus Rex (Mr Rex) over a 22 year period.

His original vision for Dinny was for the dinosaur’s eyes to glow and mouth to spit fire at night, saying, “It’ll scare the dickens out of a lot of people driving up over the pass.” These two features, however, were not added.

Where the Wheel Inn used to be is now a Burger King.

Poets for hire

Poets for hire

Typewriters and young men – it’s an intriguing sight in the age of the smartphone. On getting closer we saw the handwritten sign Poets¬†for Hire.

We agreed four dollars and a missive on the theme of travel. Soon Calvin’s keys were hitting the scrappy bit of paper. The clacking noise of prose, the carriage return swish of each completed line.

Thank you Calvin Sinclair for the poem that acts as a great motivator to travel:

Leaving the nest of the worst monotony and stepping into a beautiful flow
Amazingly surrendering to the mystery of the beauty that surrounds us all – showing off its seductive sights that wrap us up and haunt our nights
For it’s never too late to say goodbye to fear and stress and the same tired days (which replay over and over in a daydream molasses stream)
And reinvent yourself by diving into the wonders and magic of the infinite.