Register Wednesday | May 25 | 2022

Inverted Vacations: Two Seasons for the Price of One

The decanter


Vacation and surgery may seem like strange bedfellows, but don't tell that to Plenitas. This Buenos Aires-based company allows guests to undergo cosmetic surgery procedures (from genital enhancement to brow lifts to liposuction) and then recover with any number of tourist activities. The most popular package includes silicone breast implants, Spanish tutorials and tango lessons. Armies of doctors and bilingual personal assistants are on hand to make sure clients take advantage of both aspects of their visit. Plenitas is presently offering a New You Holiday Makeover Package, which encourages people to take advantage of Argentina's weak currency and summer season (December through February).

Summer in Hyderabad can get oppressive, so Indian theme-park builder OPML invites you to beat the heat at Snow World-a 17,000 square-foot winter wonderland complete with real snow (made from mineral water), ice carvings, snow slides and snowmobile-style bumper cars. The venue also includes the Snow View Restaurant, which, according to Snow World's website, is better than eating in "a stale place like hotels, construction jungle or in the cow dung grass [sic]." Admission to the park is a steal at 250 rupees ($6.50 cdn) for an hour-long session. But be careful: with "extreme" temperatures kept between -5ºC and 0ºC, Snow World warns that pregnant women and those with heart conditions should get clearance from their doctors. (With exterior temperatures as high as 42ºC, it's hard to believe the doctors don't make them stay at Snow World indefinitely.)

Saparmurat Niyazov is one of the oddest leaders in the history of Turkmenistan, if not the world. This self-proclaimed president-for-life has seen his urge for grandeur enshrined in several large-scale building projects. No longer satisfied with commissioning one of the world's most enormous mosques or hanging out in the middling opulence of his official palaces, Niyazov has recently initiated plans to build a palace of ice "big and grand enough for 1,000 people." The only problem is that Turkmenistan is a desert country where summer temperatures average 29ºC. Although the government plans to build the structure atop the Copa Deg mountains (with a cable-car link to Ashgabat, the nearby capital), the palace will likely melt without some sort of monumental cooling device. Yet Niyazov remains enthusiastic. "Our children can learn to ski," he said in an address to his arid nation.

Finally, the British can rule over a tropical paradise without the expense and trouble of conquering it. Cornwall, in the United Kingdom's temperate southeast, is home to a plant sanctuary ambitiously named the Eden Project. The £100 million geodesic domes were constructed out of 230 miles of scaffolding, 831 panels of ETFE foil-strong, lightweight, highly transparent to UV light and more insulating than glass-and over 93,000 tons of composted soil (equivalent to the weight of 616 blue whales). This spring, the Eden Project is encouraging tourists to experience Bulb Mania 2005 and view the one million bulbs that visitors helped plant last autumn; each bulb was accompanied by a wish written on a small card. Organizers recommend that visitors bring sunscreen and hats: the Humid Tropics Biome, heated mainly by the sun, is kept as hot as a rainforest and temperatures inside can reach 28ºC.

Winter swimming is not unique to Polar Bear clubs-it is available right here in Maisonneuve's backyard. Spa Nature Le Scandinave, located in the Laurentian Mountains, is just a short drive from skiing mecca Mont Tremblant. The spa is open throughout the winter, so visitors can relax in the outdoor whirlpool, Finnish sauna, Norwegian steam baths and thermal waterfall while surrounded by a snowy forest and nippy Quebec breeze. Unwind from the stress of "economic constraints" and "troubled social milieus" just as the Vikings did after pillaging and plundering:
with $100 Swedish massages.

New York City is famous for its debauched New Year's parties, but one of its longest standing traditions isn't mentioned in conventional guidebooks or tourist pamphlets. Next January 1, you are invited to join the Coney Island Polar Bear Club as it celebrates its 102nd birthday with a dip in the frigid waters of the mid-Atlantic. Although New Year's Day is the traditional brisk-bath day for Polar Bear clubs worldwide, the Coney Island branch sets itself apart by swimming every Sunday from October through April and by being one of the oldest such clubs around. Water temperature during the winter-bathing season ranges from 0ºC to 17ºC.

Spring is the season of new life-and that's precisely the problem. Norwegian fishermen claim that the annual introduction of baby seals into Norway's North Sea causes a massive drop in fish stocks and an increase in marine parasites-and the fishermen have successfully lobbied their government to take action. Starting in 2005, Norway's seal cull will be expanded so dramatically that tourist companies are offering government-endorsed hunting expeditions. Amidst the furious protestations of animal rights activists, one company, NorSafari, is advertising a one-day, one-seal hunt for about $250 cdn. Four days with the promise of two seals costs about $1,500 cdn. Training is available for amateur sadists, as are refunds for those who don't slaughter the promised catch.