The 5 Most Unusual Streets in the World

Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California

photography by: ars5017/ Wikimedia Commons

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Coming in all widths and lengths, streets are the backbone of any human settlement, a place where people of all backgrounds interact with each other in various ways. In the last couple of decades, though, social life has steadily gravitated towards the cybernetic space, somewhat overshadowing the outside world. It might come as an utter surprise, but some streets still manage to defy this very trend as evident by the following five protagonists, each of which offers its own fair share of surreal sights and oddities to wonder at.

#5 Train Street – Hanoi, Vietnam

As any commuter can testify, railway tracks are almost always a part of a heavily restricted zone, after all, tones of metal running at a high speed is not something to mess with. While this statement holds true invariably, a sole street in the Vietnamese capital proves that every rule has its exception.


As its moniker implies, Train Street (officially known as Ngõ 224 Lê Duẩn) is a narrow alleyway that serves as a full-fledged railroad, running through Hanoi Old Quarter. Several times a day, this street instantly metamorphoses from a vibrant place to a pedestrian-free area when a rumbling locomotive followed by a series of cars trundle their way forward, only few inches shy of the alley’s densely packed houses.


Moments after the train travels away and passersby are no longer in harm’s way, the tracks are once again brimming with locals, who sip their Pho, wash their dishes or play checkers as if it was yet another street.


Originally built in 1902 during the French colonial rule, Train Street has since become a coveted tourist attraction, awash with copious cafés, bars and restaurants. Following a couple of accidents involving overly plucky visitors, the local authorities decided to halt the entry of foreigners into the alleyway throughout most hours of day.

A locomotive passing through Hanoi’s Train Street

photography by: Radek Kucharski/ Flickr

#4 Canusa Street (Rue Canusa) – Vermont, United States and Quebec, Canada

To the untrained eye, Canusa Street in Beebe Plain might seem like any other North-American suburban road, but looks can be deceiving as this place is anything but usual. In a half-a-kilometer long segment of the street, something as simple as crossing the road entails a passport.


Since the US-Canada border runs exactly along the road’s yellow centerline, houses on the north of side of the street are situated in the Canadian province of Quebec while their southern counterparts are in the US state of Vermont, hence its apt name – Canusa.


According to the lore, this anomaly can trace its origins back to the early 1770’s, when a group of surveyors was entrusted with marking the international border between the United States and the British Empire along the 45th parallel. It is rumored that the cartographers were on a bender and thus mistakenly placed the markers on the wrong coordinates. Few decades later, the actual border turned out to be tens of meters south, making it on paper a fully British territory. While a joint boundary commission rectified few sections of the border in 1908, Canusa was left divided between the two countries.


In the years that followed, the peculiar circumstances had little to no effects on people living on both sides of the street as border control wasn’t thoroughly enforced. That all changed during the 21st century, with September 11th, Covid-19 and changes in immigration policies dictating a stricter border regime. As of today, walking across the street to the other side can result in a hefty fine or even prison time.


Nevertheless, roughly 3 kilometers (1.85 miles) east of the mid-street curiosity lies a Victorian-style edifice that straddles the Canada-US border. Haskell Free Library and Opera House was built in 1904 as tribute to the friendship between the two nations. While the main entrance is located within US territory, visitors can unrestrictedly access the premises from either side of the border.

Canusa St. during wintertime

photography by: Kether83/ Wikimedia Commons

#3 Snake Alley – Burlington, Iowa

If you were to ask a random person throughout the US what is the curviest street in the country, the most probable answer will be Lombard St. in San Francisco. Surprisingly though, this widespread assumption turns out to be wrong, instead, it is a relatively anonymous contender in Iowa that seems to be the gold medalist of the crooked streets.


Sandwiched between Columbia and Washington streets in Burlington IA, Snake Alley meanders its way across the steep slopes of Heritage Hill, featuring an elevation gain of 17.8 meters (58.3 feet) and a whopping 21% grade. With a total of 7 curves spanning over 83.8 meters (275 feet), the street definitely lives up to its proclaimed title as the world’s crookedest street, dethroning its more famous counterpart in California by an extra 100°.


Originally paved in 1894 to overcome the significant topographic gap between Burlington’s city center and the sprawling neighborhoods to the north, the hillside road was the brainchild of 3 immigrants from Germany who were inspired by rural pathways in their homeland. Initially, the curvy lane was considered as a seamless part of North Sixth Street. It thus owes its whimsical moniker to a local resident, who a couple of years down the line told his fellow neighbors that the street is reminiscent of a serpent crawling uphill.


In spite of its obscurity among globetrotters, Snake Alley managed to gain a glimmer of fame since its inauguration. It was featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as one of America’s oddest places to explore. The street also annually hosts a series of festivals and events, the most notable of which is probably the aptly dubbed “Snake Alley Criterium” race, where intrepid cyclists battle the sheer steepness on their way to the hilltop.

The insanely crooked road of Snake Alley

photography by: Coalfather/ Wikimedia Commons

#2 Chicken Dinner Road – Caldwell, Idaho

On first glance, this country lane on the rural outskirts of Caldwell ID might not seem particularly intriguing. That is, until one finds out its wacky name – “Chicken Dinner Road”. Apparently, the origins of this lexical oddity are equally eccentric as the name itself.


During the 1930’s, Lane 12, as it was originally called, was lined with expansive fields, where several houses dotted the otherwise empty landscape. One of these estates belonged to a local couple, Laura and Morris Lamb. Story has it that Laura and her husband were close friends of then governor C. Ben Ross.


One evening, the couple invited Ross for a dinner, during which Laura prepared her famous fried chicken along with apple pie and rolls. During that sumptuous feast, Laura informed the governor about the poor conditions of the adjacent road. Satisfied by Laura’s delicious meal, Ross promised to oil the unpaved lane if the county commissioners will first grade and gravel it.


And so, after the road was properly leveled, the governor kept his part of the bargain and shortly thereafter, oiled its surface as promised. The following day, Mrs. Lamb discovered that pranksters have painted the brand-new road with strikingly yellow letters saying “Lamb’s Chicken Dinner Avenue”. While Laura didn’t approve of this mischief, the playful name sticked, eventually becoming the road’s official appellation.

Chicken Dinner Road

#1 Bubblegum Alley - San Luis Obispo, California, United States

There aren’t many ubiquitous candies worldwide such as the bubblegum, with its popularity transcending ethnicity, race, age, gender and religion. We also know too well that wads of gum can be found in all sorts of undesirable places, whether they cling to a sidewalk or under the desk at school.


Be that as it may, one alleyway in California turned this distasteful habit into its main feature, making lemonade out of the lemons, or more precisely, a spectacular oddity out of discarded gums. Ensconced between 733 and 734 Higuera St. in the city of San Luis Obispo, Bubblegum Alley is a 21 meter long (70 feet) and 4.6-meter tall (15 feet) pedestrian passage, whose walls are covered with tens of thousands, if not millions, of chewed gums disposed by visitors.


While it is still debated how and why this place came into being, the prime theory is that following World War II, groups of students from California Polytechnic State University and San Luis Obispo High School left gum wads on the walls of this narrow alley as part of an ongoing competition between them.


When the quirky walkway became a citywide attraction in the 1970’s, local shopkeepers expressed their discontent over what they saw as repulsive and unhygienic phenomenon. As a result, the alley was stripped off its bubble gums twice during an extensive cleaning campaign. Despite the multiple attempts to eradicate its gum population, the alley rapidly managed to recover its chewy character. When another cleaning initiative was looming in 1996, local authorities opted to shelve it, leaving this odd tourist attraction to its own devices, once and for all.

The gum-infested walls of Bubblegum Alley

photography by: Coalfather/ Wikimedia Commons