Meet the durian, a tropical fruit you love or hate

The spiky, alien-looking durian is famous for its smell. The scent of this fruit, which can be larger than a football when mature, has earned comparisons to over-ripe onions, potent cheese and gym socks. In Singapore, a country where it is widely available, the durian's smell is strong enough to get it banned from some businesses, commercial buildings and public transport.

Needless to say, not everyone is a fan. Even celebrity foodie Andrew Zimmern, known for trying "bizarre foods" from all around the world, dislikes durian. For some, however, durians are the ideal food.

Read the full article on MNN

The story behind Iceland's volcanic elephant

Iceland is a land of volcanoes. Nowhere is this more evident than on the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands), an archipelago off the southern coast of Iceland. Here, centuries of volcanic eruptions formed sea cliffs that appear almost fairy-tale-like. Among these eye-catching formations, one stands out: A portion of the volcano-formed coast on Heimaey (which means "Home Island") looks almost exactly like the head of a large elephant sticking its trunk in the water.

The rock is elephantine enough that some people think that it must have been shaped with human intervention. That is not the case, however. The elephant's realistic appearance is, at least partially, due to the fact that the cliff consists of basalt rock. The rock gives the figure "skin" that looks wrinkled and grayish, just like a real elephant.


Visit the Arctic's most cosmopolitan city

For an increasing number of travelers, the Arctic has changed from a place to avoid into a desirable destination. Several cruise ships will be taking travelers around the Arctic Ocean in the coming years, and eco-resorts have been gaining popularity in places like Scandinavia and Greenland.

Actually, one Norwegian city has already been on the tourism radar for some time. Tromso, which sits at nearly 70 degrees north latitude, has historic wooden houses that date back to the 18th century and a recorded history that stretches for over a millennium. You might be surprised to see that the northernmost major city in Europe outside of Russia isn't a frontier outpost, but a cosmopolitan place defined by gastropubs, a vibrant music scene and an events calendar that includes everything from traditional indigenous festivals to the Arctic's largest pride celebration.

Rising seas are swallowing Scotland's Stone Age ruins

Scotland’s Orkney Islands contain some of the best remaining examples of structures from the Neolithic Period. These Stone Age buildings have drawn archaeologists and tourists because there are very few similar sites left in the world. Unfortunately, many of these 5,000-year-old remnants won’t be around for too much longer.

A recent report said that many of the sites on the Orkneys are under threat due to climate change. The report, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), highlighted these places because they are likely to soon fall victim to rising seas, increasingly powerful storms, coastal erosion and other events.

'Scattered hotels' are saving historic villages in Italy and beyond

Throughout the hills of Italy are scattered many villages, some of them nearly 1,000 years old. Unfortunately, many of these rural towns are in poor condition. Younger residents have moved on, and Italy's modern economy has left these remote outposts behind. Rural residents hang on to the traditional surroundings and slow pace of life, but investing in necessary renovations and upkeep can be challenging.

Residents in many of these small towns have found a way to preserve not only their buildings but also their way of life. It's called "scattered hotel," or albergo diffuso in Italian, and the concept has spread across rural Italy over the past three decades. The idea has worked so well here that it has spread to other places in Europe and as far away as Japan, which recently saw its first officially-certified albergo diffuso open its doors....

Urban foraging is on the upswing

Why do people still forage for edible plants? Is it a way to reawaken their hunter-gatherer instincts in the age of corporate farming and supermarkets? Are they attempting to eat healthy on a tight budget? Or is foraging merely a convenient excuse for spending time outdoors? Some media outlets have tagged the modern foraging trend as "strange," while others worry that it could cause environmental damage as its popularity grows.

The only thing the two sides have in common is an agreement that the practice is growing. According to a recent study by the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins, not only is foraging on the rise, but it's thriving in the last places you’d expect: major urban centers like Baltimore.

Full article on MNN

A splendid stroll is the way to go

The pleasure of a simple stroll often increases when you're walking through an unfamiliar place — as long as you're not lost. Walking tours are a popular option for travelers. Online mapping apps have made it easy enough for people to take an unguided sightseeing hike without having to go through the embarrassment of standing on a street corner with a map and a panicked expression. Not every city is walkable, but some are compact enough and have enough public transit options that tourists won’t miss anything without a car. Others, however, are so spread out that a car is necessary. These auto cities certainly might have attractions that are worth a road trip, but if you prefer to travel to shops, restaurants and tourist sites on foot, the following destinations are ideal.

Full article on MNN

Your retirement home could be a cruise ship

Cruising is one of the more convenient ways to travel. Yes, you're stuck on a boat between shore visits, but most modern vessels are a cross between a theme park and a Las Vegas resort. You can hardly compare them to a cramped car, an airplane cabin or even a fully stocked recreational vehicle.


Too much stress? Try yoga with an alpaca

Animals can be great stress relievers. The practice of using domesticated creatures to comfort people has gained mainstream acceptance in recent years. You'll see one example of this in airports, where volunteer programs and airline initiatives have brought therapy dogs to America’s most hectic hubs to interact with passengers.

The relationship between contact with animals and exercise for stress reduction has also been embraced. Animal yoga, for example, has become a popular trend. It might be tempting to file yoga class with free ranging pets or farm animals under “weird yoga fads” and forget about it. But the trend keeps growing and expanding to include new species of “yoga helpers.” Even some unexpected animals, such as goats and alpacas, are getting in on the action.


Why freezing Lapland is a tourism hot spot

A few curious travelers might decide on a vacation near, or even above, the Arctic Circle. In one Arctic region, though, more and more tourists are not only choosing to visit, they're opting to come during the coldest months of the year. Finnish Lapland, a region in the northernmost portion of Finland, has recently seen a significant uptick in the number of tourism arrivals.

Many of these travelers chose to visit during the winter. What is there to do in this chilly land when the mercury dips well below freezing (and often below 0 degrees Fahrenheit)?


Why airports are embracing renewable energy

The largest airports in the world have the land areas and populations of small cities. They operate around the clock and move tens of millions of passengers each year. They are constantly looking for ways to source the power needed to keep their energy-hungry operations on track.

For an increasing number of hubs, this means at least partially switching to renewable energy.


How the pineapple became a worldwide symbol of hospitality

Now available in every grocery store in every state in both fresh and canned varieties, pineapples were so sought-after in colonial times that people would actually rent them for a day to use as a party decoration.

Yes, at one point in history, the pineapple was literally too expensive to eat. Even today, fake pineapples are seen in centerpieces, while images and carvings of the fruit often appear in historic buildings.

Where did the main ingredient in upside-down cake get its prestige?


How sustainable will the Winter Olympics be?

Over the past decade, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has promoted environmental friendliness and sustainability. The Olympics host countries have made renewable energy, carbon offsets and conservation aspects of their hosting plan. PyeongChang, South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Games, is continuing that trend.


This Plant Can Live for More than 1,000 Years

The southern African nation of Namibia is dominated by the Namib Desert. One of most inhospitable sections in this remote land — Mongolia is the only country on Earth less populated than Namibia — is not as barren as it looks, though. The so-called Skeleton Coast, almost completely uninhabited, is actually rich in wildlife. Some of the plants here, such as the strange Welwitschia mirabilis, are unlike anything else on Earth.


Cruise Ship Goes Dark to Avoid Pirates

The passengers who were on Princess Cruises' Sea Princess will probably always remember the start of their three-and-a-half month round-the-world cruise, but not for the reasons you might expect. The early days of the trip weren't notable for the gourmet meals, five-star staterooms or sophisticated deck parties, but because the ship had to go dark for 10 straight nights out of fear of pirate attacks.


The incredible shrinking economy seat (and other ways flying has changed)

Air travel has changed a lot over the past decade. A la carte pricing and smaller economy class seats have become the norm in America. Airlines adopted these and other cost-saving practices during an industry-wide downturn that took hold a decade ago. Recently, though, some companies have begun to roll back a few of those measures. U.S. legacy carriers once again have even started serving drinks and snacks on domestic flights.

Luxury train sets sail in Japan

If you want to ride on Japan's Shiki-Shima Express, you are most likely out of luck. A trip on this brand new ultra-luxury train — its full name is Train Suite Shiki-Shima — is not cheap. Fares start at $2,200 and go north of $10,000. These prices are for two- to four-day journeys around eastern Japan. Those who can afford a ticket will still have to wait because the train is completely sold out until the middle of 2018. Tickets are only available by application.


Is Cambodia Poised to Become the Next Thailand?

Cambodia saw five million international tourists in 2016.

Still modest compared to neighboring Thailand’s 30 million international arrivals last year, the number is nonetheless impressive for a still-developing tourism industry.

Cambodia’s tourism growth has been steady. Both the number of international arrivals and overall tourism receipts have moved consistently upward over the past two decades. Yet, more international visitors fly into what is, in theory, the country’s secondary airport, Siem Reap, than fly into the capital, Phnom Penh. Cambodia has one main attraction, Angkor Wat, but it is now poised to capitalize on its growth by promoting places beyond the temple complex’s ancient walls.


10 of the world's most colorful cities

Travelers may say they visit a place because of its attractions, but sometimes the reason is based on something much simpler and much less tangible. Sometimes, visitors just like the looks of a place. Towns with bright buildings and structures with creative paint schemes are popular throughout the world. Tourists flock to photograph brightly painted streetscapes in Morocco (pictured), India, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and even the Arctic. If that's you, if you're drawn to places with colorful buildings, these 10 cities are calling.


Thailand Rebrands For Repeat Visitors

Thailand does not seem like a country that needs to change when it comes to tourism. It is outpacing its neighbors in terms of revenue and number of international arrivals. Still, the Southeast Asian nation used a recent high-profile event to promote an unexpected series of attractions and experiences. This “rebrand” even involves changes to the kind of cultural and nature attractions that people often associate with Thailand. Why alter something that is working well?


Universal Lounge Access Only the Start of Bangkok Airways Perks

Billing itself as “Asia’s boutique airline,” Bangkok Airways features organic in-flight meals and lounges that welcome all its passengers (even those in economy class). These traits set the Thai carrier apart from the competition. However, its most attractive attribute may be its routes to underserved destinations within Thailand.