#4. A Real-Life Batman Begins Monastery
Think Ra's al Ghul's digs existed solely in some laudanum-addled comic book artist's brain? Lookalike monasteries can be found at the extreme altitudes of the Himalayas, such as India's picturesque Ki (or Key) Monastery, which sits at 13,668 feet above sea level.
Via Peter Krimbacher
We suppose it could also be Gondor ... if you're into that sort of thing.
Since the early 11th century, this monastery has been home to Buddhist monks occupied with their religious studies. Sadly, these are just ordinary monks, rather than a bunch of ninjas who inexplicably can't take down one damn rich kid with a chip on his shoulder.
However, nothing is stopping you from assembling a bunch of ninjas and taking it over.
#3. Chinese Doughnut Castles
Imagine living in a Panopticon with up to 800 neighbors -- that's what life is like in a tulou, or a type of fortified castle found in southeastern China.
The tulous have been around since the 15th century in China's Fujian province, and even today families still squeeze shoulder to shoulder inside the tulous' Bundt-cake-like layout.
Via Iwan Baan
We're assuming that the house in the middle is where they make assholes sleep for punishment.
Back in the day, the tulous defended communities from marauding bandits, who would have to go through hell to breach these strongholds. And in the 1980s, these structures made the news when American analysts poring over satellite images mistook them for nuclear launch sites. The United States even sent exasperated spies to investigate these totally-not-missile-silos, which are actually not the strangest 'hoods you'll find in the People's Republic ...
Honestly, even seeing them up close, we still would have thought the same thing.
#2. Chinese Cave Houses
Yup, the people of China's Shaanxi province have found an economical solution to housing: cave living. Residents carve their homes either into the sides of hills or directly into the ground. And this isn't a niche phenomenon -- over 30 million people live this way, and while the dwellings may look transplanted straight out of Land of the Lost, many have modern amenities, like television and Internet.
"Let's watch The Flintstones."
"Fuck you, Mom."
These cave dwellings are unique to what's known as China's loess soil region, an area encompassing 2,000 kilometers and several different provinces. This region is perfect for cave living because A) the soil lends itself well to a shovel and B) some (but not all) of these regions are out of the way of the mole person's natural predator, the earthquake.
Life underground may not sound ideal, but this layout yields many tangible benefits. Residents save money on the cost of building materials, they can farm the land above their ceiling, and their subterranean lairs are insulated during the winter and cool during the summer. Also, these homes really lend themselves to H. G. Wells-themed bedroom roleplaying. ("Hey baby, tonight you're the Eloi, I get to be the Morlock, and the 40-gallon drum of lube is our time machine.")
"Sounds good. But first, I have to go upstairs and mow the lawn."
#1. The World's First Skyscraper City (Is Made of Clay)
From afar, that may just look like any ol' modern city. But lean closer and you'll realize that those buildings are smack in the middle of the desert. Oh, and they're hundreds of years old. And made of clay.
Back in the 1500s, the merchant city of Shibam (which can be found in modern-day Yemen) grew weary of Bedouin raiders strolling into town and stealing their stuff. The elders of Shibam noticed that the Bedouin raiders had yet to evolve the power to levitate, so they built their city upward instead of outward for defense. These days, Shibam goes by the moniker "The Manhattan of the Desert" or -- as we at Cracked like to call it -- "A horrific collapse just waiting to happen."
Because we're talking about eight stories of unfired clay here. Whenever it rains, a fresh layer of clay must be added to the buildings' surface. Fortunately, downpours don't occur often, so this mini-metropolis doesn't melt away like Lord Licorice's condo on a July day. Hell, they must have done something right, since it's still standing half a millennium later.
Via Wikimedia Commons
Still, we're just going to stand back here and admire it from afar.
For more ridiculous architectural projects, check out The 5 Craziest Buildings Ever Proposed With a Straight Face and 6 Insane Early Drafts of Iconic Buildings.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Senator Who Wants You to Know He's Completely Insane.