Forget planes and trains; think reindeer sleds, hot-air balloon animals and more...
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What's the Weirdest Way You've Ever Traveled?
"I love to travel, but hate to arrive." -- Albert Einstein
So you've visited the Kii Peninsula on Japan's Honshu Island. But did you arrive there after travelling by melody-making highway? You've been to remote Alaska shore towns, but were you camping on the top deck of a ferry the previous evening, your dog lying next to you, tongue wagging?
We're clearly simplifying Einstein's comments (bodies are constantly moving, in motion ad infinitum), but it's often true that the emphasis in travel is placed on visiting sites -- the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Machu Picchu -- rather than the beasts of burden, trains or footpaths used to arrive there. However, in many cases there's truth in the old cliche: It's about the journey, not the destination. As we hope you'll agree, the world's modes of transport, from Pakistan's vibrant buses to Lapland's reindeer sleighs, span the horizon.
Below you'll find some less typical options for transport gathered from around the globe. Have a lasting memory of an odd means of arrival? Post your transportation stories on our message boards!
ON THE GROUND
Japan's Melody Roads
Located in the central and northern parts of the country, the Japanese prefectures Wakayama, Hokkaido and Gunma feature short stretches of road that play "music" when driven over. The sound is created through grooves in the pavement -- distance between grooves creates variation in pitch -- and a "song" (one is a Japanese pop song, the others difficult to recognize) buzzes as you proceed.
Signs warn drivers of the coming cacophony, and the music lasts about 30 seconds. The optimal speed is only 28 miles per hour, giving the interlude the dual function of confusing the driver and possibly deterring speeders. The idea is reminiscent of a Disney theme park idea floated years ago -- slow speed plays terrifying tune ("It's a Small World"), deters park racers -- but Disney scrapped the idea while the provincial Japanese government actually made reality out of a seemingly drug-fueled hypothetical.
Many of the buses, cabs and rickshaws used in Pakistan are adorned in a psychedelic rainbow, a mishmash of film stars, political heroes and Hindu gods; scenes from classical Greece; intricate Islamic patterns; dangling, jingling metallic "necklaces"; perched tin birds and butterflies; swaying flags and ruby-red flowers. An art snob might label such unrestrained opulence garish, but bus and cab owners call it necessity. In hopes of attracting customers, the drivers, or the companies that employ them, pay thousands for the work, which is completed over the course of weeks or even months by highly trained artisans.
The cabs and buses operate alongside a more traditional looking transport system, but given the option (and with costs being similar), why not go for the experience?
Reindeer Sledding in Lapland
Insert your own Christmas joke here. Reindeer sledding is part of the cultural wool of the Sami people, a Nordic group who've made the transition into the modern era by balancing traditional life with providing tours for well-off travelers. The one-deer open sleigh, along with its slightly better-known relative, the dogsled, is one of the ways to get around Northern Baltic regions such as Lapland. Reindeer sledding is often included as part of snowy treks across Sami lands, getting you to the next winter lodge or campsite in a highly unusual way.
Crystal chandeliers hang from ornately carved vaulted ceilings. Rows of thick marble columns span the length of vast tunnels. Striking bronze figures -- of everyman Soviet heroes with perfect posture -- sit proudly, gazing at fire-red mosaics depicting the siege of Leningrad. Moscow's enormous metro system is distinguished by several palatial stations, including Komsomolskaya (probably the most opulent), Kropotkinskaya and Mayakovskaya. They were built between the late 1930's and the 1950's as a testament to Soviet greatness, their construction coinciding with a decidedly turbulent above-ground reality (the Great Purge, the state-sponsored gulag, the violence of the Second World War, the Cold War). The system has been well maintained, with about seven million passengers a day experiencing its blend of utility and marble.