Funny "What the hell?" Travel Moments



An inevitable part of travel is culture shock and being surprised by what you see. But sometimes, these moments can be so unexpected that they are hilarious.

I was recently going back over some old photos of a 2015 trip to Budapest, and found this picture. My friends and I had stumbled upon a carnival of sorts near Vajdahunyad Castle, and some of the attractions included mechanical rides-- and evidently to help “sell” people on the rides, they had celebrities’ likenesses spray-painted on them. This was a portrait of Nicholas Cage on a ride that, I can assure you, had nothing to do with any of his films. It just seemed so odd; this was peak “meme-ability” for Cage, and this had no indication of irony. We found it incredibly funny.

I’m sure tons of people have better “What the hell?” travel moments, and I’d love to hear them!


I can’t define art, but I know it when I see it. And this is a masterpiece.


It’s no magic Nic Cage spotting, but I was also in Budapest last year reporting on the city’s odd statue of Columbo (for this very site!), and as I was taking pictures of the statue, this little kid ran up and hugged it like it was his best friend.

It was adorable, and also very weird that this tiny dude had such affection for a TV star he certainly had no idea about. I asked his mother why he liked it so much, but she was just as bewildered, saying he has to hug it whenever they pass by. He also liked the dog. We quickly became pals.


Seeing a ‘‘candy bra’’ for sale on my trip to Miami a few years ago, I regret not taking a picture of it. Surely never seen anything like it in my life.

Edit: Turns out I did photograph it:


Nothing beats Nic Cage and agreed it’s a little disconcerting to see your country’s celebrities out of context in another country. I encountered this sign in La Paz:

And I’ll never forget encountering a Christmas-themed Thriller funhouse on Christmas day in Paris:

I might have video of :point_up: . Lemme check.


Oh man. I’m gonna have to stew on this one for a while, but Nick Cage and Columbo are blowing my mind.


Welcome to Vienna. Classical music hub of the universe.


Welcome to the very first thing I saw after landing in New Orleans.


Welcome to Lima. And I feel I need to emphasize, this was not a touristy area. A pretty poor part of town en route between touristy places. This guy was just…there.


This is amazing.


@EricGrundhauser This is SO precious! I don’t know what it is about these Budapest statues and adorable children, but when I was there, we stopped by the statue of Reagan on a walking tour, and as the guide was talking about the statue, a little boy ran up and slapped Reagan’s butt. I wish I had had my phone out for a picture, it was so funny.


In Phnom Penh, in the main bar and club district, there are a number of street food vendors. Katie Perry Pizza is the very best of them, and serves woodfired pizza cooked in a rusty steel drum. This pie is exceptional, even to a New Yorker like me.

Down the street there is also Chuck Norris Dim Sum, where you can play Shumai roulette–the table gets a plate of Shumai with one per person, all but one are shrimp. The odd Shumai out is filled with wasabi.


@lukert33 This all sounds so delicious… I’m thinking Shumai roulette would make a great Gastro Obscura entry!


These type of moments are almost my favorite moments on trips. I know it’s subjective- but here are a few of our recent WTH moments.

This alligator is made entirely of fruit.

Fox tails

My daughter, curious what she could do with this “toy”.


Hahaha That panda looks… menacing.


I don’t know if this is quite a “what the hell” moment, but it sure captured the zeitgeist in rural Tennessee when I took this photo in the summer of 2002.

Alas, not being a terrorist, I had to pay $10. But it was one of the best haircuts I’ve ever gotten.


Oh dear god… That definitely qualifies as a “what the hell” moment! I’m from Tennessee and it makes me want to slap my forehead. Do you remember where it was exactly? I hope you enjoyed Tennessee nonetheless!
Also, did you get a sense of what the writing at the bottom of the sign was? I speak Arabic, and it actually looks like numbers as written in the Arabic script… weird!


It was Ocoee, in the far southeastern corner of the state.

Thanks for decoding the Arabic. I’ve been wondering all these years…


Yes, it’s literally “3474353339454…” So just a string of numbers, and it’s too long to be a phone number. Also there are some markings in between the numbers that I don’t understand… I’m really intrigued now, especially why Arabic numbers would be on a sign in Ocoee, Tennessee. It wouldn’t be out of place in Nashville, but this generally suprises me.1_CDvPgqTxv7kL5GmGgP1PDA


The name of this restaurant in Xining, China.