5 Prisons for Law-Abiding Citizens

visit prison - Eastern State Penitentiary
Flickr, Celine Aussourd

In this lull between fun summer TV like “True Blood” and the fall premieres of network television shows, many people have been binge watching the Netflix comedy, “Orange is the New Black.” Set at a women’s prison in Rockland County, New York, the series has generated new interest in jail. (From the outside, at least.) Here are five notable prison museums around the world with flexible visiting hours for an easy escape.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA
Built as an “inescapable” prison on an island off San Francisco, Alcatraz has had quite a few famous inmates, including Al Capone. The federal prison was closed in 1963 and has been a museum for several decades. In addition to the prison museum, it also has the country’s oldest lighthouse and a permanent exhibition on the historic Native American occupation. Tickets are a steep $30 and up per adult, but they include transportation, since you can’t make it off “the Rock” alive.Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA
Another stop on Al Capone’s “jail tour,” this Center City Philadelphia jail has been the set for several films including “Twelve Monkeys” and the Transformers sequel, and many TV shows about ghosts and jails. The self-guided audio tour (narrated by Steve Buscemi!) details the history of the prison, active from 1829 to 1969. Regular tickets are $14, and look out for special events; the Halloween Haunted House is especially popular.

Gestapo Headquarters and Pawiak Prison, Warsaw, Poland
Telling another part of the Holocaust, these two related historical sites in Warsaw show what it was like to be interrogated and imprisoned in the gruesome Nazi occupation. Part of the Polish city’s excellent collection of museums, they are free to visit and well-maintained, though very somber.

Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa
The isolation of the small island near Cape Town made it a fitting site for a leper colony, a military training station and a place for political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was the most famous of former inmates for 18 years; he was one of dozens imprisoned during apartheid. Tickets are about $22, including ferry transportation to and from the mainland, a bus tour of the island and “interaction” with a former prisoner. President Obama visited the island and museum this summer, and was “deeply humbled” by the experience.

Tuel Sleng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The secret prison of Pol Pot, dictator of Cambodia in the 1970s and leader of the Khmer Rouge, Tuel Sleng is now a museum cataloging the genocide perpetrated there. The museum contains the 6,000 detailed photographs and records of inmates left by prison staff, though as many as 30,000 were said to have been detained, tortured and murdered there. The museum is preserved as it was found in 1979, and is an important site, along with the “Killing Fields,” documenting and memorializing the victims of this dark regime.

Would you visit a prison?

Charity Saving Animals From Illegal Dog Meat Trade In Thailand

dog meat
Dog meat for sale in Hanoi (Wikipedia)

Thailand has a thriving illegal trade in dog meat. While authorities have been cracking down on it recently, the demand is such that many dogs are stolen off the streets to supply restaurants in Cambodia and China, where the consumption of dog is legal.

Now a charity in Phuket, Thailand, is trying to save these animals. The Soi Dog Foundation has taken in hundreds of dogs seized by Thai border police and is asking for sponsors and adoptive families. Dog lovers as far away as Scotland have taken in some of the pets, but there are many more stuck in the charity’s bursting facilities.

While stealing pets and smuggling them across the border is certainly wrong, not to mention illegal, is eating dog meat wrong? Different cultures have different standards as to what food is OK and what isn’t. Hindus will tell you that eating any meat is wrong, and that eating beef is the worst of all. In Slovenia, they eat horse burgers, and while I’ve always loved horses I did give them a try. Horses are no less intelligent, loving and loyal than dogs, so what’s the problem? Is it all a matter of perspective? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

Want to read about some more shocking foods? Check out our post on the weird things people eat around the world.

Railway Hackers In Cambodia Build ‘Bamboo Trains’ (VIDEO)

A decrepit railway line in Cambodia only sees about one scheduled train per week, but that doesn’t mean it goes unused the rest of the time. According to BoingBoing.net, entrepreneurial railway hackers have been building makeshift trains out of a slatted, bamboo platform set on two sets of wheels. The cart-like contraption is then power by a motor, which propels it at speeds up to 35 mph. It’s a cheap and efficient way to move both people and cargo around the countryside, although the structural integrity of the rig is questionable. A lack of safety concerns didn’t seem to stop a traveling couple from taking one of these trains for a ride, and they documented the process in the video above.

[via BoingBoing.net]

Lost City Uncovered In Cambodia

Ta Prohm Temple
saturn ♄, Flickr

A 1,200-year-old city has been uncovered by archaeologists in a thick, mountainous jungle in Cambodia, Australia’s Fairfax Media has reported. An international team of researchers using helicopter-mounted laser-imaging technology discovered dozens of temples connected by networks of roads, canals and dykes some 25 miles north of the famous Angkor Wat complex.

The city, Mahendraparvarta, predates Angkor Wat by 350 years. Archaeologists have been studying the area for some time, but only realized the extent of the city after mapping the area using lidar technology. Lidar is similar to radar, but uses laser pulses in lieu of sound waves to map terrain.

The researchers had to trek through dangerous landmine-ridden jungle to get to the city. Much of the medieval infrastructure is invisible behind a shroud of dense foliage. Promisingly, due to the difficulty of access, it appears some of the temples may have avoided being looted.

With further study, the team hopes to discover why the city was abandoned. According to Damian Evans, a co-leader of the expedition, deforestation and overpopulation may have resulted in the exodus.

Better Know A Holiday: Buddha’s Birthday

Laughing Buddha, Singapore
xcode, Flickr

AKA: Vesakha, Vesak, Wesak, Visak, Vixakha and many more derivatives.

When? The second Sunday in May OR the day of the full moon in May OR the Sunday nearest to the day of the full moon in May OR the eighth day of the fourth lunar month OR if you’ve decided all that calendric work is too much hassle, like the Japanese, April 8.

Public holiday in: Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bhutan, Laos.

Who died? Nobody.

Reason for celebration, then? The birth of the Buddha, of course. Though for many, the Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment are lumped together in one big holiday. So …

Who died? The Buddha.

Origins: Some 2,500 years ago, Queen Mahamaya of the Shakya Kingdom in modern-day Nepal gave birth in a grove of blossoming trees. As the blossoms fell around mother and child, they were cleansed by two streams of water from the sky. Then the baby stood up and walked seven steps, pointed up with one hand and down with the other – not unlike a Disco Fever John Travolta – and declared that he alone was “the World-Honored One.”

The rest is Buddhist history. The toddler, named Siddhartha Gautama, grew up to become the Buddha and the founder of one of the world’s major religions. He attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in what is now Bodhgaya, India. Later, after amassing many followers, he died, either of food poisoning or mesenteric infarction, depending who you ask, and reached Parinirvana, the final deathless state of Buddhism.

How is it celebrated now? Bathing little statues of the baby Buddha with tea or water, hanging lanterns, extended temple services.

Bathing Baby Buddha
Joint Base Lewis McChord, Flickr

Other ways to celebrate: Freeing caged birds, parades with dancers and illuminated lantern floats, temple offerings.

Concurrent festivals: The Flower Festival in Japan, the Bun Festival in Hong Kong.

Associated food: In many places, varieties of porridge, which commemorate the dish that Buddha received that ended his asceticism phase.

Associated commercialism: Certain companies like McDonald’s will even offer solely vegetarian options on Buddha’s birthday to stick with the spirit of the festival. Precious little, in fact. Though sales of lotus lanterns and baby Buddha statues rocket during this time, the celebrations are remarkably uncommercial.

Associated confusion: There is no reliable record for when the Buddha was actually born, thus the wide range of celebratory dates. This in no way puts a damper on festivities, but does result in a bit of awkwardness when there are two full moons in May, which happens regularly enough. Most recently it occurred in 2007, and Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia decided to celebrate during the first full moon of the month, while Singapore and Thailand celebrated at the end of May.

Best place to enjoy the festivities: Seoul really takes it up a notch, planning a week of events and celebrations in the lead-up. It kicks off with the Lotus Lantern Festival the weekend prior to Buddha’s birthday, when tens of thousands of Korean Buddhists parade through Seoul’s main roads under colorful lanterns, bringing the city to a standstill. The municipal government really pulls out all the stops, offering music, dance and theater performances in public places that are jammed with revelers. Take a look at the celebrations in Seoul and elsewhere around the world in this gallery:

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