Six wacky and bizarre travel experiences

This is what makes travel so great: those moments of complete bewilderment, of discombobulation, of being in a place and a situation so foreign and strange that you can only shake your head and think to yourself: "Where the heck am I?"

You can't plan these moments. They usually sneak up on you, catch you when your guard is down. You're having a normal old day exploring when suddenly you find yourself in the most bizarre, immersive experience possible.

These are some of my favourites from the last few years.

The Robot Restaurant, Tokyo

Any stay in Japan is just a string of strange happenings, but this is one of the strangest: Sitting in a dark room, picking at a fairly horrible bento box, drinking a beer and watching as a group of 10-foot-tall robots piloted by girls in spiky gold bikinis battle it out to the tune of Gangnam Style.

And then it gets weirder, as a rollerskating robot clown in an Afro wig starts dancing with a Kung-Fu Panda, more girls emerge hanging from a neon-lit army tank, there's hand-to-hand combat between a Transformer and a bikini-clad dancer, and then someone charges through the stage area piloting a robot dinosaur. Strangest. Thing. Ever.

Bubble Butt in Aspen

There's a back bowl over at Highlands, in Aspen, that provides some of the best skiing at the resort, and can only accessed by hiking. It's about a 45-minute climb up a steep ridge to finally reach the top of the bowl, a beautifully remote spot festooned with Buddhist prayer flags and a sense of peace.

I make it up there one fine winter's day and am immediately treated to a rich blend of two types of USA: one, the USA of natural beauty, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery; and two, the USA of frat boys and sorority girls, as I'm joined on the summit by a group of students carrying a huge portable speaker and an iPhone, who all crack open "tall boys" of beer and started dancing around in a circle to the tune of the song Bubble Butt. Only in America.

Mini wonders in Bangladesh

Theme parks can be pretty average sometimes, but Mini Bangladesh, in Chittagong, is not average. It's well below. I'm visiting on a typically hot Bangladeshi day, excited to view the wonders of this not-acclaimed theme park.

Basically, it's a collection of miniature versions of Bangladesh's most famous buildings. Except Bangladesh doesn't really have any famous buildings. And the reproductions aren't even that mini – they're big enough to walk inside. And there's a train to take people around the park, but it derailed weeks ago. It all seems hilariously typical of my stay. 

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Cowboy karaoke in Beatty, Nevada

It's a Saturday night in Beatty, Nevada, population: a couple of hundred or so. I'm having a beer in KC's Outpost Saloon, one of the only pubs in town, a place that tonight is playing host to a local crowd, the cowboys and their "floozies", rootin', tootin' folks who are dressed to the nines in cowboy attire, all leather tassles, big hats and six-shooters clipped to hips.

They're here for one reason: karaoke. Cowboy karaoke. There's a moustachioed guy on the microphone right now, a heavily armed horseman who's destroying a John Denver song. The floozies are cheering him on. And I'm just sitting at the bar, drinking a beer, wondering how I got myself into this.  

The man-child in Guatemala

There's livestock on the bus, somewhere. I can hear the cluck of chickens as our brightly painted bus trundles through the Guatemalan countryside, conking out regularly, stopping for passengers at random intervals. It's one of those old American school buses decorated with Central American verve, though some of that enthusiasm should probably have been applied to engine maintenance.

Today's journey is being managed by a kid I've dubbed the "man-child", a painfully serious fella who can't be more than about 14 and is manning the front seat, barking out orders to the bus driver, collecting money from the passengers, stalking the aisle to distribute change, supervising the engine repairs, keeping a careful eye on everything. The whole experience is Central America in a nutshell: a little bit dangerous, a little bit crazy, and a lot of fun.

Circumcision in Uganda

It's somewhere near Sipi Falls, a remote part of an already remote country. I'm travelling with a small group, and we're wandering around town when we see pretty much the entire population making their way out of the village and into the surrounding jungle. Snap decision: we decide to follow them.

We walk for about 15 minutes until we get to a clearing, where there are a few hundred people gathered in a circle. What they've come to watch, it turns out, is a sacred festival, as the local boys, 15- and 16-year-olds, are about to be circumcised and declared men. The deed is done in full view of everyone, the boys completely silent and unmoved as they go under the knife. We just watch on in shock and awe. Then make our way back to camp. 

What are the moments you've had overseas that have made you think, "Where the heck am I?"

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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