The world is a weird and a wacky place. And the more one travels, the more one begins to expect the unexpected. You may journey through a destination with a head full of presumptions as to what you’re going to see and do, only to be greeted by surprise at every turn. Getting knocked off your feet by such stereotype-challenging experiences is a huge part of why we travel, after all. Some regions pile on the surprises more thoroughly than others – Asia and Latin America are rather good at it – but it’s safe to say that every country in the world has its fair share of shock factor. In the spirit of the unexpected, here are a few of our favourite unexpected mini-countries that have popped up in other countries.
6. China in America
Whilst a slew of cities across the world have their own Chinatowns, which vary dramatically in size, New York certainly has the most impressive. With over 150,000 Chinese residents across a relatively crammed space of around two square miles, New York’s Chinatown houses the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. To the west, San Francisco plays host to what is arguably America’s second most impressive Chinatown, which spans lanes, alleyways and streets across 22 square blocks.
5. England in Sri Lanka
As far as town names go, Nuwarya Eliya sounds Sri Lankan enough. But this quaint spot, the primary town for tea production in the country, has a distinctly English feel about it. Founded by Samuel Baker, the explorer of the Nile in 1846, the area’s mild climate was more comfortable for the British colonialists than other parts of the country. Little England, as it was known, entertained such British pastimes as hunting, polo, golf and cricket and many of the buildings built by the colonialists remain. Whilst spending time here, it would be easy to forget you’re on the subcontinent at all were it not for all the locals!
4. Spain in Australia
At first glance, Western Australia is as far removed from any whiff of European culture as is imaginable. But if you look a little closer, specifically about 132km north of Perth, you’ll uncover a miniature slice of Spain. New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town, has been owned and operated by a group of Roman Catholic monks since they founded it in 1847. The Benedictine monks live, work and pray in the monastery and follow The Rule of St Benedict. Full of Spanish colonial architecture, the town has attracted many national and international tourists over the years.
3. Wales in Argentina/Patagonia
Much like the thought of Spaniards in Australia, the Welsh in Argentina seems another unlikely tale. And unlikely though it is, the Welsh colony known as Y Wladfa Gymreig (which literally translates to ‘The Welsh colony’), was founded in Patagonia’s Chubut Province back in 1865. Founded as part of a wider initiative to set up several distinctly Welsh settlements in the New World, of the 150,000 people living in the province of Chubut in 2013, around 20,000 of them are thought to be of Welsh descent. Many of these descendents speak Welsh naturally, and evidence of Welsh architectural and cultural heritage remains throughout the province – many areas still even adhere to Welsh holidays and traditions.
2. Holland, Sweden, Spain, Italy, America, Germany and England in China
In an attempt to decentralise Shanghai, their second most populous megacity, China thought it a good idea to create nine differently themed mini-cities in the surrounding provinces. The aim was for the nine new cities to relieve pressure from the Shanghai metropolitan area and for each to become a destination in itself and to accommodate future migration. Design issues and expensive pricing, however, has meant that only upper-middle class citizens can afford the themed properties, most of whom only use them for holiday homes – leaving the towns practically deserted for most of the time. Thames Town, the English incarnation, is a popular spot for Chinese wedding photos.
1. The World in Dubai
With what is easily the most ambitious attempt to incorporate numerous countries into their own, Dubai tops this list by attempting to develop a series of man-made islands, each of which represents a country of the world. The World, as it is affectionately known, is designed in the image of the world itself and the project was intended to attract the super-rich to snap up their own private islands, which unfortunately hasn’t happened. Since development began in 2003, it’s thought to have cost Dubai World, the company behind the initiative, around $26 billion USD. It was supposed to be completed in 2010, but delays and issues have plagued developers since work began. To date, the archipelago has used a total of 321 million cubic metres of sand and 31 million tons of rock over a space of six by nine kilometres.