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Weird, wild and wacky

In the tiger's mouth

Visitors to Dongbei Laohu Gongyuan - the world's largest Siberian tiger reserve - in Heilongjiang's provincial capital Harbin (less popular and visited for China tour deals) can buy chickens, sheep and even oxen to cast to ravenous big cats.

More than 800 of the endangered cats prowl the park's 10 districts, in addition to a handful of cheetahs, lions and ligers - none of them the least bit shy. Visitors board a rumbling bus that slaloms among the tigers as if they were big, orange, stripy traffic cones with claws and fangs.

Next, a SUV encased in black caging appears and also starts zooming to and fro among the tigers. The powerful predators know this is their dinner train and immediately give chase.

The SUV driver stops and whips open the door to volley a chicken above the vehicle. The roaring tigers pounce, intercepting the condemned cockerel mid-air. There's a flash of feathers, a blur of fur, and it's all over.

Guess your eats

Dark Restaurant's patrons dine in inky blackness while listening to ghost stories.

Every last photon of light has been sealed out of the dining chamber, so meals arrive courtesy of servers wearing night-vision goggles, who lead guests to their seats conga-line style.

The experience of eating without seeing involves searching for, groping for glasses and floundering to find the food.

Each set meal includes at least one mystery dish with prizes going to those who guess the ingredients.

One of the most popular offerings is the Lovers Set - oh so perfect for a blind date. This set requires couples to feed one another in the dark - management says the accuracy rate is about 30 percent - to the amusement of on-looking servers.

Two illuminated rooms in Dark Restaurant's new location in Haidian district are for smashing stuff. These are fully stocked with porcelain plates, glasses and beer bottles for hurling against the wall. Visitors can destroy anything else in the restaurant, too. But, of course, if you break it, you buy it.

Be a Peking penguin

chinatour.comWintertime visitors to Beijing which is the must-see for your best tours of China or northeastern China can join locals diving in icy lakes, clad only in pairs of Speedos that would make David Hasselhoff bashfully divert his eyes.

Peking's penguins flock to holes chiseled in the glacial crusts of ice pocking Houhai, the Summer Palace's Kunming Lake, the Kunyu Canal and the bodies of water in Yuyuantan and Longtanhu parks.

Beijing Winter Swimming Club (BWSC) chairman Li Ling says the activity boosts energy levels, improves circulation and prolongs longevity. But perhaps best of all, he insists taking a dip in icy waters reignites the fire in one's loins.

So much for the cold shower theory, eh?

BWSC estimates that in addition to its 3,000 members, another 3,000-plus Beijingers are winter swimmers.

The trick for newbies, it seems, is getting over cold feet and taking the plunge.

All hands on the trigger

Patrons of northern Beijing's China International Shooting Range can get behind the triggers of all kinds of military-grade weaponry, including AK-47 and M-16 automatic machine guns, mortars and even anti-aircraft cannons. The operators charge by the bullet, with larger ballistics costing more. So rather than getting more bang for your buck, they get more bucks for your bang.

The former military barracks in Changping district's Nankou town also feature displays of about 100 weapons from around the world and a paintball course.

Zen calm

Shaolin Temple is encouraging tourists to come to study the "wisdom and power" of Zen thought to cope with the distress of the global economic crisis. The temple's abbot and CPPCC National Committee member Shi Yongxin announced the initiative to media during this year's legislative session.

chinatour.comA marriage made in Hainan (most popular destination for its beaches included in the popular China travel package)

Tying the knot with a Li ethnic minority girl in Hainan province's Binglangyuan is perhaps the Chinese version of the marry-a-stranger-in-Vegas experience.

Upon entering the matrimonial hut, an emcee togs grooms-to-be with red vests and caps that incidentally resemble those traditionally worn by organ grinders' favorite performing pet.

But instead of a hurdy-gurdy, grooms get a shoulder pole with baskets dangling from both sides. The bride is armed with the same, and the couple takes positions at a balancing beam's opposite ends. They should pass each other without tumbling off or spilling the baskets.

After hoisting the bride to ring a bell hanging from the rafters, smooching beetle nuts and crooning love songs, the couple retreats to a more private room.

In this "honeymoon suite", husbands savor local candies with new brides and pay them 49 yuan ($7.2) - plus a tip, if they like. It can be thought of as alimony.

Feed your fantasies

The Shanghai Sex Museum at the end of the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel comprises 10 chambers featuring about 4,000 artifacts on sex. On display are "trunk bottoms" - no, not what you're thinking, but rather - small figurines of copulating couples Chinese parents once gave newlywed daughters to clue them in on the mechanics of intimacy. There are also items from old brothels, a photo of the world's biggest penis and collections of toys from around the world.

A stitch in time

Visitors to Jiangsu province's Jiangyin city can tour the Heilan Company Group's textile factory.

chinatour.comCamera-toting tourists for travel to China stroll along row upon row of workers sewing, ironing and cutting cloth into high-end attire.

Since Heilan opened to industrial tourism in 2001, about 20,000 guests have come through travel agencies every year. Headquarters estimate another 20,000 to 30,000 visit independently, and the 20-yuan-apiece ticket fees generate more than 1 million yuan ($146,000) annually.

The firm says its industrial tourism is geared more toward brand building than revenue generation.

That might explain why the factory's exterior resembles that of a public library more than a manufacturing base, with fluted columns, gothic wrought-iron window screens and stone statues of Greco-Roman guards standing near the main entrance.

This one's pretty much for people who don't like the beach - or really, really love sewing.

Chew on this!

Visitors to Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing can munch boiled testicles, nibble on skewered centipedes and gobble golf ball-sized pupa. Most agree the scorpions taste like a mouthful of toothpicks, seahorses like fishy sponges and snakes like, well, what you'd expect snakes to taste like. But the trip still provides a great taste of culinary exoticism.

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