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A royal stay at ParkRoyal Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar! Mohinga buffet, Bogyoke Aung San Market longyi.

burmese musical instruments xylophone patala

Long time no see… Yukiro and La Carmina are back!

At the end of 2016, we journeyed to Yangon, Myanmar — and it turned out to be one of our most meaningful trips to date.

There’s so much to share from this beautiful Buddhist country. We met creative locals, volunteered, and immersed ourselves in Burmese culture. (Above: Yukiro sits in front of a patala, or traditional xylophone, and I’m wearing the traditional longyi skirt and thanaka face paste).

monks Myanmar tourism

Until a year or two ago, Myanmar was difficult for tourists to access. Now, the country  has changed its government (with Aung San Suu Kyi in power) and opened its doors. Visitors can easily get an E-Visa: we filled out the government application online, paid $50 US, and were approved in a day.

More airlines have also launched routes to the newly-built Yangon Airport. We flew on my long-time favorites, HK Express: they have a direct, fast and inexpensive flight from Hong Kong to Yangon. In just over three hours, we were in the land of Buddhist monks.

parkroyal hotel myanmar rooms, suite

We were treated like queens at ParkRoyal Hotel Yangon, our home base for this trip. The hotel sent a BMW to pick us up from the airport, and later take us around the city. The staff greeted us at the door, and showed us to our rooms on the exclusive Orchid Club level. 

Yukiro and I loved the old-world charm of this luxury hotel. As you can see above, ParkRoyal gracefully incorporates Burmese art into the design. The location is also ideal: right by cultural attractions including the golden Shwedagon Pagoda.

parkroyal hotel bakery, desserts

As part of the Orchid Club privileges, we were spoiled with freshly-baked treats every day. Such a joy to come back from sightseeing, and find little sandwiches and sweets awaiting us.

parkroyal hotel resorts yangon room

It’s a relief to visit a country without any tourist trappings (such as fast food chains and tour buses). However, this also means Myanmar can be a challenging place for some travelers to navigate (for example, streets and numbers are not easy to find). We were glad we had the ParkRoyal staff to assist us, and these comfortable rooms to return to.

● You can book a room at ParkRoyal Yangon here, at a discounted rate.

● Here’s where you can get a black off-the-shoulder top like the one I’m wearing.

myanmar travel guide book

In our rooms, we found these cute primers on the local etiquette. The illustrations explain regional quirks that everyone should respect, such as not pointing to objects with one’s feet, or taking photos of pregnant women without permission. (I thought the above cartoon was common knowledge… until I saw someone grab a monk to “pose” him for a photo!)

burmese sculptures, burma art

Local art and music fills the hallways of ParkRoyal Yangon. We watched a lady play the saung (national string instrument) in the lobby, and admired these traditional Burmese carved wood panels.

The hotel staff even provided us with longyi, or long single cloth skirts that are tied at the waist, and worn by both men and women in Myanmar.

parkroyal hotels orchid club concierge

As Orchid Club guests, we were privy to additional benefits including a concierge desk right on our floor. Every day, the kind staff helped us coordinate our itinerary and car/driver. They were wonderful at answering our questions about local culture, and giving us off-the-beaten-path travel tips.

parkroyal club lounge buffet drinks

We also had access to the lounge, which is always stocked with complimentary drinks and snacks. During cocktail hour, we tried Red Mountain, a Myanmar wine that comes from the hills of the southern Shan State. Yukiro took a few bottles back as gifts for friends and family (very few people have tried Burmese wine!)

parkroyal yangon spa massage

On our first day, we relaxed at the hotel spa. I lay down on this inviting bed, and got a traditional Myanmar Thanaka massage that worked out all my knots.

swimming pool myanmar luxury hotel

It’s hot year-round in Yangon, and the ParkRoyal swimming pool beckoned us to dive in… but it was time to explore the city.

(Hotel photos by Sniper Chau, city photos by La Carmina. My black top is similar to this.)

rangoon burma market vendors

Our concierge suggested that we walk to the nearby Bogyoke Aung San Market. A staff member took us there by foot, and pointed out a few neighborhood attractions on the way.

overhead bridge to bogyoke market

There’s an overhead bridge leads to the market, with vendors selling fruits and dried seafood on the wooden planks.

Safety note: While some outskirt regions of Myanmar are in conflict, Yangon (the biggest city and former capital) is considered one of the safest cities in all of Asia, with very little crime. All the locals we met were friendly, and no touts approached us. It’s important to stay cautious wherever you travel, but let me assure you that Yangon is not a dangerous destination.

yangon railroad tracks walking

The bridge to Boygoke spans these railroad tracks. Locals walk right on them, balancing objects on their heads.

superman car decal customization

Yangon’s infrastructure and development were better than I expected. There are a lot of Japanese and Korean electronics here, including cars and smartphones.

It’s easy to spend an hour or more exploring what was originally known as Scott Market, established in 1926 during the British rule. Upon Burmese independence in 1948, the market was renamed after Bogyoke (General) Aung San.

yangon flower vendor

After the coup d’état of 1962, the country became a military dictatorship, ushering in years of violent suppression. In 2011, the junta was dissolved; in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority in both houses, and she is the democratic leader today.

(In 1989, the military government changed many official names — Rangoon became Yangon, and Burma became Myanmar. There’s some contention over the official name, but Aung San Suu Kyi stated in 2016 that foreigners could use either. J. Peterman from Seinfeld put it best: “You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me.”)

burmese street food market

You can find all sorts of local food at Bogyoke Aung San Market. However, be careful about eating street food, if you aren’t accustomed to it.

bogyoke aung san market

So many sights and smells to behold. Isn’t the Burmese alphabet beautiful? The written language dates back to the 11th century. (Myanmar is bordered by China, Laos, Thailand and India — hence some of these influences).

myanmar bazaar night markets

“Langorous” was our word of the day. In Myanmar, do as the locals do: slow down, hang out, enjoy the moment.

traditional burma hairstyle ponytail

The market has hundreds of vendors, lined up on cobblestone paths. You can find all types of antiques, jewelry, clothing, Burmese art, handicrafts, you name it.

Long, silky hair is a trademark of Burmese beauty. Yukiro and I loved this futuristic-looking hairstyle worn by “Aunty Mary.”

longyi skirts bogyoke market

Bogyoke market is the best place in Yangon to pick up a longyi, or Burmese long skirt. You can choose from the various embroidered silky fabrics, and get the garment custom-tailored to fit you like a glove. The ladies can also help you match it with a sleeveless top and sheer scarf.

yangon longyi market fashion

The shops are a rainbow of intricate, elegant fabrics. Longyis are worn by both men and women, and are a perfect mix of style and function. (The airy fabric keeps you from overheating, and protects you from mosquitoes).

burmese traditional skirts shop

As I mentioned, Burmese vendors aren’t aggressive — they don’t run up to you or try to rip you off. Shopping at this market was easygoing and enjoyable.

bogyoke market jewelry shops

We went indoors to look at the gems and jewels. This cyber disco Buddha greeted us at the entrance

burmese carved buddha statues

Myanmar is known as the world’s most Buddhist country. Close to 90% of the population practices Theravada Buddhism, which certainly contributes to the peaceful, welcoming, compassionate nature of the locals we encountered.

annabelle creepy doll antique

In a country that was formerly isolated, you’re bound to find some oddities. I did a double-take at this store window. Is that… Annabelle? (The haunted doll and horror movie star must have escaped from her locked case at the Warren’s Occult Museum!)

burmese comics, cartoons

These funky faces reminded me of Japanese daruma. Underneath, notice the Burmese comic strips, with speech balloons in the local script. 

aung san suu kyi poster painting

Many vendors put up images of The Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi. During the time of military rule, she was placed under house arrest and it was forbidden to publicly display her photo. Now that she’s the leader of the country, locals can have her smiling from their walls.

hotel lobby christmas tree

Since it was humid (even around Christmas), we tended to go out for a short period, and then return to our hotel to rest before heading out again. ParkRoyal’s central location and car/driver service made all this possible.

kawaii cute gingerbread house chocolates

One time, we came back to gingerbread houses and cute chocolates in our room! The pastry chef is a maestro; we gobbled everything up, like Hansel and Gretel.

parkroyal yangon restaurants

We dined with the General Manager at Shiki-Tei, an exquisite Japanese restaurant inside the hotel. We started with sake-tinis and warm sake…

Shiki-Tei japanese restaurant myanmar

… followed by the freshest sashimi, yakimono (fish and steak grilled right at the table), and nabemono (hot pot with fish and vegetables in a subtle yet complex broth). A meal to remember.

parkroyal yangon buffet, food

Every day, we looked forward to the breakfast / brunch buffet, which is one of the best in Yangon. There’s all types of international food, but I focused on the Burmese dishes, such as spiced salads, curries…

best mohinga myanmar yangon cafe

… and one or more bowls of the national dish of Myanmar, mohinga. This is a fish and rice noodle soup — but it’s so much more than that. Mohinga is heartwarming, with every flavor and texture (salty, sour, crunchy, sweet) in perfect balance.

At first, there may be a “fishy” smell, but once you get in a few spoonfuls, you won’t be able to stop. It’s a little like laksa and pho, but uniquely Burmese. I hope you can try mohinga for yourself, as it’s a game-changer.

yangon myanmar 5 star luxury hotel

We’ll miss the friendly staff of ParkRoyal Hotel Yangon, who always greeted us with a “Min Gā Lar Ba!” Without them, we wouldn’t have had such a magnificent time in Myanmar.

(Find out more about this hotel here.)

burmese writing, buddhist poster

Isn’t Myanmar a fascinating country? I hope this first post got you intrigued about Burmese history and culture.

There’s a lot more to come from this fascinating destination — including monks and punks. Let’s just say… you won’t be disappointed!

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Hipster Helsinki travel guide: steampunk bar Hell-Sinki! Kallio district, coffee shops, modern design stores.

spider goth print biker jacket

For those who love alternative subcultures… Helsinki is one “hell” of a travel destination!

In part one of my “Finlandia” journey, I took you to a mod furniture exhibit, and sauna / restaurant by the water. Now, I’ll show you around the coolest restaurants and shops in the hipster Kallio district. We’ll end up in a Steampunk bar that looks like an airship, complete with jets of steam.

(I’m wearing this Spider bomber coat. It’s one of my favorites, and currently on sale.)

best blog of year award, blogger awards

But first, some quick happy news: La Carmina is nominated for the Best Blog Award!

I was wondering if you’d be willing to take 10 seconds to vote for me? Every bit of support counts, and you can vote once a day.

Just click here to vote for La Carmina – I’m at the end of the check list. Thank you so much for believing in me, I really appreciate your kindness over the years!

gay friendly helsinki lgbt guide

Helsinki is one of the world’s most liberal and progressive cities — to the point where the pamphlets say, “We are not gay friendly. We are gay!”

My film team and I spent an afternoon in the Kallio district of Helsinki, where young artsy types tend to congregate.

hipster helsinki, kallio neighborhood

Quite a few readers recommended Good Life Coffee, in the heart of Kallio. I was sold by their motto:  “Avoid Bad Coffee.”

This coffeeshop chooses high grade beans, and takes a “no bull” approach to roasting and brewing (in their words). The result is simple, honest and delicious.

hipster cafe, coffee shop scandinavia

Good Life is a cozy spot for meeting up with friends, and flipping through design magazines. They also sell baked goods from local bakers; the restaurant / bar Sandro next door is also highly rated.

good life coffee helsinki finland

There’s a similar “Coffee Is Always a Good Idea” wood wall art available here.

I’m wearing the Joanie Mule shoe, which comes in black and marble white (like the exact ones I’m wearing).

If you’re digging my purse, you might like these Sanrio bags and platforms below:

black metal finland, heavy metal store

A city with “hell” in its name has to have a dark subculture, right? At the rock shop Hell-Sinki, we found Scandinavian death metal soundtracks that would be perfect for a Viking invasion.

steam hellsinki bar

Then, it was time for a drink at the Steampunk bar, Steam Hellsinki. 

The bar is a futuristic, fantasy vision of the Victorian era meets the Wild Wild West. Old fashioned steam technology is reimagined in creative ways, and displayed all throughout the space.

helsinki steampunk bar, club

It’s amazing to see how Steampunk has spread all over the world. (Remember when we went to a steam punk coffee shop in Cape Town, South Africa?)

The decor at Steam Hell Sinki is on point. We saw Gothic types hanging out on the retro couches, beneath vintage bicycles and lamps.

airship steampunk bar design

The piece de resistance… is a giant zeppelin airship that doubles as a bar! Colored lights dance over the blimp, giving the impression of movement. Every so often, fog spews out from the hull. 

victorian steampunk piano

Flowers, old pianos and vintage Victrolas add to the retro-fantasy Steampunk theme.

tea cocktails steam hell sinki

The resident dog is trained to put his paws up on the bar, upon command. Good boy.

Steam HellSinki has almost 100 types of gin available. The famous gin and tonics are garnished with berries and spices, and the special menu includes cocktails that come in teapots and cups.

world's weirdest coolest theme bars

We loved spending a relaxing evening under the chandeliers. Steampunk fans, don’t miss out on this “hell” of a bar.

artek furniture design store helsinki

No doubt, Finland is a world leader for interior design. I’m obsessed with Scandinavian and mid-century modern, so it was a joy to visit the Artek store. (They carry designs including the ones below).

kay bojesen monkey ape toy

I smiled when I saw this Ape by Kay Bojesen, which comes in small and medium size.

eero aarnio artek ball chair, trolley

I couldn’t resist sitting in Eero Aarnio’s iconic ball chair (available here). On the right is this Tea Trolley by Alvar Aalto, one of the founders of Artek and masters of Finnihs modern design.

If you’re as much of a design fangirl as I am, don’t miss out on the DesignMuseo (where I caught the Eero Aarnio retrospective) and nearby Design District Helsinki.

why join navy when you can be pirate cafe

Helsinki has innovative interiors everywhere, including restaurants. I had lunch at the wonderfully named cafe, Why join the navy when you can be a pirate. Good question, arr.

I love eating clean, and feasted on the fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies, juices, and healthy wraps. Since we’re pirates, we ordered a round of local gin (try Fevertree or Napue), garnished with rosemary and cranberries, and mixed with local tonic.

(My Spider bomber coat is fit for the captain of a pirate ship.)

southpark theme restaurant helsinki

We had dinner with a view at Southpark Restaurant. You might be thinking “Omg they killed Kenny” — but this is not actually a theme restaurant based on the South Park cartoon. It’s a “ravintola” named because it is in the south end of Helsinki’s Sinebrychoff park.

(Find my Joanie Mule sandals in black or marble white here.)

finland modern design restaurant

Southpark has a wonderful atmosphere filled with light, and walls decorated with modern art. The hashtags say it all: #HellaGoodFood, #SoCalSoCool.

A lot of regulars come here, which give the room a neighborhood vibe. We loved how the owners personally took care of us, and came by the tables to chat with their guests.

tom of finland gay art exhibit

All the cocktails get my top marks, especially the 1919 Sour. (They’re pictured with postcards of Tom of Finland, who pushed the boundaries of gay art in the mid 20th century.)

I know Californian food well, and Southpark nails it. The tacos were magnificent (and I’m picky), and their recipes fuse this style of cuisine with local catch and produce.

helsinki modern hip restaurants

For a meal that’s fresh and full of color, and served by a friendly staff — come to Southpark, “Mmm-kay?”

nudge rulla boutique helsinki

For a hip combination of fashion and food, visit Nudge (clothing shop) and Rulla (cafe), located side by side in the centre of Helsinki.

bird print kimono bathrobe

Both share a passion for sustainability and organic production. In Nudge, you’ll find one-of-a-kind clothing made by Finnish designers, like this dreamy bird kimono.

helsinki hipster fashion, jewelry

All the designs come from independent creators: you’ll find natural cosmetics, eco-friendly accessories, and Finnish children’s items. (The bat necklace was calling out to me.)

rulla cafe, rice paper rolls

Located in the same space is Rulla, where you can feast on hand-made healthy rice rolls with a Scandinavian twist. The options include salmon and shrimp with herbs, and side of tangy sauces.

scandic paasi hotel

Time to wind down at the hippest hotel in Helsinki, Scandic Paasi. The building overlooks the water, and is located next to a lovely park.

cool scandinavian design hotels

A picture is worth a thousand words… Scandic Paasi has outstanding modern design, in the lobby and spacious rooms.

We’re big fans of Scandic Hotels, which give great service and luxury at an affordable price point. (Remember our stay in Stockholm’s Grand Central by Scandic?)

scandic hotels helsinki finland paasi

The color-blocked bar was a mod dream. I encourage you to book a room Scandic Paasi if you’re going to Helsinki.

“Kiitos” (thank you in Finnish) to BorderlessMedia.tv for all the photography.

south park restaurant cafe

Helsinki is a city full of creativity — wouldn’t you agree?

● PS thank you for taking a few seconds to vote for me in the Best Blog Awards! It’ll make a huge difference in the final round (ending Jan 20), and I really appreciate your support over the years.

Click to VOTE now for La Carmina – Thank you!

12 things I love about Iceland! Travel guide to best Reykjavik restaurants, nature tours, art galleries.

iceland travel guide, tours

Iceland, you are magic. I’ve recently been reminiscing about my trip to the “land of fire and ice,” which turned out to be one of my favorite destinations of all time!

It’s now easier than ever for North Americans to fly to Iceland. WOW and Icelandair have increased the number of inexpensive, direct routes from major cities in the US/Canada to Reykjavik. If you’re on the East Coast, you can find tickets for under $300, and the flight time is only about 6 hours.

Recently, I’ve gotten quite a few requests for Reykjavik travel tips — so I thought I’d lay it all out on one page. Enjoy my “12 things I love about Iceland,” and check out all my detailed Iceland travel guides here.

(You can also check out my travel video about my Iceland adventures, above. It includes footage of the Blue Lagoon, food, nature, art and nightlife that we experienced.)

iceland game of thrones tour, film travel blog

1 – Get outdoors and discover Iceland’s unique nature

You can’t miss out on the sci-fi landscapes and mystical Northern lights. From Reykjavik, it’s easy to book a car or tour that lets you experience Iceland’s surrounding landscapes. I suggest that you do a day trip with a guide, such as a Northern lights tour package in Iceland.

Iceland’s intriguing black sand beaches were the perfect backdrop for a Gothic fashion photoshoot. My braided hair and bell-sleeves are inspired by Daenerys in Game of Thrones (the show films the “Wall” and “North” scenes on this island).

iceland horse selfie, icelandic horses

2 – Take a selfie with a horse

Icelandic horses are the definition of “kawaii” (cute). This breed developed in isolation, which gives them a short, plush appearance. The layers of fat and fur protect them from the cold, but also makes them extra warm and adorable! I stopped to say hi to a herd of Iceland horses: they gently nuzzled up and took a selfie with me.

Northern lights tour package in Iceland

3 – Search for elves

Many locals believe that they share their country with elves, or “Huldufólk”. According to the folklore, these little creatures hide in mossy rocks, caves and forests. I recommend stopping by Hafnarfjordur, the park where they supposedly reside. While I didn’t catch any glimpses of Huldufolk, I did enjoy the serene energy of the elf park.

secret waterfall iceland

4 – Witness Iceland’s waterfalls and geysers

Many travelers go on Iceland’s “Golden Circle” tour, which takes them to the most popular nature sights: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the erupting geyser Strokkur. However, I recommend going off the beaten path: you’ll find mesmerising waterfalls and sulphuric pools, without the tourists and gift shops. Above is Öxarárfoss, my personal favorite. Such an incredible feeling to get close to these powerful falls.

goth pentagram swimsuit, swimwear

5 – Dip into the Blue Lagoon 

The Blue Lagoon is a popular attraction, but it’s well worth the visit. The lagoon is man-made, with warm waters rich in sulphur and silica that come from a nearby power-plant. You can choose from a variety of passes, and I recommend booking well in advance for the best possible access times.

Unlike in hot tubs, which make me light-headed, I felt great in these soothing, mineral-rich waters. You can wade into different parts of the pool for varying heat levels, and dab a white, natural face mask on your skin. Don’t forget to tie up your hair and protect it from the steam, especially if it’s colored (I put mine in a bun and wore a shower cap, after Joey Wong took these photos).

(If you like my swimsuit, you can shop for similar designs with a click below!):

 

street art reykjavik, graffiti murals

6 – Smile at the street art

Street art is everywhere in Reykjavik, and it’s beautifully executed (case in point — this London Police x Above mural above, on Laugavegur street). From 2010-14, Reykjavik’s major was an offbeat comedian named Jon Gnarr. He encouraged people to create public art, which resulted in innovative large scale works all over the capital city.

dead gallery reykjavik iceland skulls

7 – Shop for skulls at Dead Gallery 

I noticed a Reykjavik art studio with a Buddhist mandala and skulls on the outside: how could I resist going in? This turned out to be Dead Gallery, the lair of musician and artist Jon Saemunder. Jon’s works — especially his paintings and watercolors of skeletons — are expressions of his mantra: “He who fears death cannot fully enjoy life.”

reykjavik iceland famous church hallgrímskirkja

8 – Feel uplifted at Hallgrims Church

I’ve long been fascinated by Hallgrímskirkja, a futuristic church on top of a hill in the center of Reykjavik. I was thrilled to see the Expressionist architecture in person: the alien-like curves are reminiscent of stark Icelandic landscapes under snow. Inside, there is a pipe organ that reminded me of Blade Runner, and windows that reflected coffin-shaped shadows over the white altar.

harpa music hall reykjavik windows




9 – Pose inside a prism at Harpa Music Hall

Reykjavik is a small city and easy to explore by foot. Make your way towards the waters, where you’ll find Harpa Concert Hall. The building’s ultra-modern facade flickers in the light, with 1000 prismatic panes that seem to change colors when viewed from different angles. At night, the glass and steel structure comes to life with light projections.

apotek restaurant reykjavik iceland

10 – Dine at Apotek

One of my favorite dinners in all of Europe came from Apotek. This comfortable yet upscale restaurant is located in a 19th century pharmacy, hence the name. I started with cocktails named after medicines, and then feasted on the freshest seafood inspired by both Icelandic and Argentinian cuisine. Beautifully presentation, lovely atmosphere: I’d say this is the best restaurant in Reykjavik.

icelandic fish and chips restaurant reykjavik

11 – Feast on fish and chips

I ate like a Viking at Icelandic Fish and Chips, an inexpensive eatery that delivers tremendous flavors. You can choose from a variety of fish such as pollock, and it comes with creative dips, roasted potatoes and vegetable sides such as cauliflower tempura. Leave room for the handmade desserts made with ingredients like coconut.

reykjavik gay bars nightlife

12 – Party hard in Reykjavik

The country that birthed Bjork has an exciting music/nightlife scene. I bar-hopped in Reykjavik, and was impressed by the live bands found in most of the venues. For those who love rock and alternative sounds, check out Dillon. Reykjavik has something for everyone: hip hop, LGBT, retro, and even RuPaul’s drag race performers.

I hope these “12 reasons to love Iceland” give you incentive to visit! You can see more of my Reykjavik travel tips here, as well as in my travel video.

(And you can pick up a Gothic swimsuit for the Blue Lagoon below!)

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I stayed at Tokyo’s Godzilla Hotel! Gracery Shinjuku, Japanese theme hotel review, Akihabara Washington.

godzilla hotel tokyo japan

Skreeeonk! Watch out, Tokyo. It looks like Godzilla is taking over the city once again.

Did you know you can stay at a Godzilla monster themed hotel: Hotel Gracery ShinjukuOnly in Japan, of course!

hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho

Let’s kick off 2017 with a roar. I’ll take you inside Gracery Shinjuku, a wonderfully idiosyncratic hotel in the best possible location. (Godzilla’s claw points over Kabuki-Cho, the host club and nightlife district where most of the Goth / alternative events take place.)

● You can book a discounted room at the Godzilla hotel here, using my special link.

godzilla hotel ホテルグレイスリー新宿

On the terrace of the hotel is a towering Godzilla statue — it doesn’t get more epic than this. The monster even moves and roars, with flashing eyes!




toho cinemas shinjuku tokyo movie theater

Where is this bizarre Japanese hotel located? From Shinjuku station’s East Exit, walk towards Kabukicho and go down the street near Don Quixote. Look up — you’ll see the Hotel Gracery sign, and Godzilla atop a skyscraper!

It makes sense that he’s towering over Toho Cinemas, which releases all the Japanese Godzilla movies. (Address: 1-19-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan.)

hotel gracery shinjuku rooms review

The hotel has 30 storeys, which meant I had these soaring views of Shinjuku from my window. Gracery’s rooms are simple yet spacious, which provides great value (prices are around $100 a night). I spent over an hour soaking in the large bathtub, using the free red bath salts that I got when I checked in.

godzilla theme room, gracery japan

For fans of “dai kaiju”… There’s a Godzilla room that you can rent. Keep reading to see photos of the “monstrous” interior.

long clothing skirt, tokyo fashion

Hotel Gracery only opened in 2015, but already, it has become a Shinjuku landmark — thanks to the Godzilla perched menacingly over its ledge.

I’m wearing a Long Clothing Infinity Clip skirt. See more from this designer below:

godzilla teeth roar sculpture

If you’re a guest of the hotel, you can access the terrace where Godzilla lives… that is, if you dare.

hotel gracery shinjuku cafe lounge

Hotel Gracery’s convenient location makes it a perfect hangout. John and I invited our friends to join us for drinks and snacks at “Café Terrace Bonjour,” located on the eighth floor.

life size godzilla statue tokyo

The cafe is guarded by a life-sized version of the monster, similar to this 1995 Godzilla statue that you can put in your home.

godzilla cake, theme menu, dessert

The relaxing lounge has an adjoining outdoor terrace, and large selection of snacks and cocktails. There’s even a Godzilla cake that you can bite into.

absinthe ghost marshmallows

However, my friend Caro (who runs a Gothic baking blog) brought her own homemade spooky sweets for us to share. These are marshmallow ghost cookies are made with white chocolate and absinthe, in colors that match her green liquid lipstick

goth scene tokyo japan

Everyone grabbed a ghoul to eat. By the end of the evening, they had vanished into thin air.

(Many of us are wearing Killstar, Long  Clothing and other Gothic styles that you can get on this site.)

roaring moving robot godzilla

In the evening, Godzilla awakens at the top of each hour (6pm, 7pm, etc). For a few minutes, he shakes his head and his eyes flash like lightning. The creature bares his pointed teeth and spits out fog — or rather, his secret weapon of “atomic breath.”

ゴジラ fans, shin-godzilla movie

We did our own impression of the scary beast. I think Goths and Godzillas get along rather well together.

godzilla themed hotel review tokyo japan

Beneath the behemoth, there are carvings of Godzilla from his films over the years. The monster’s design changes every time they release a movie, such as with the latest “Shin-Godzilla.”

strathberry scotland mini tote bag

Some of the depictions are more goofy-retro than frightening.

The sea-monster tries to take a bite out of my Strathberry of Scotland midi leather tote, which I decorated with a Devilish 666 bow.

giant godzilla monster sculpture

For those who aren’t familiar with “Gojira,” (ゴジラ), the monster first appeared in Ishirō Honda’s 1954 film, Godzilla (more info here). He’s a raging, gigantic prehistoric sea monster whose powers were awakened by nuclear radiation.

godzilla hotel gracery rooftop

Japan’s Godzilla quickly became a legend, and his name is now known all over the world. To this date, he’s the star of over 20 films, as well as video games, manga and spin-offs featuring his allies, rivals and juniors.

nu goth dark fashion blogger

John, Atsushi and I are fans of Godzilla, even though he’s destroyed Tokyo over and over. My skirt is a Long Clothing Infinity Clip design; find more from this label at:

godzilla store, merchandise tokyo

For super-fans, Hotel Gracery has two special suites dedicated to Godzilla! One gives you the perfect view of Godzilla’s head, from your window.

book godzilla theme hotel room

The other, called “Godzilla Room,” lets you get immersed in the monster’s universe. Everything is decorated playfully, such as trick walls that reveal art in black light, and a mega-statue that greets you when you enter.

mothra flying over tokyo

The suite’s windows have decals of his frenemies such as Mothra, who appears to be spreading his wings over Tokyo.

big hand godzilla hotel rooms gracery

High five to Gracery Shinjuku, for the creative Godzilla room decoration. Would you be able to sleep with his scaly hand on the wall, looking like it’s about to grab you?

shinjuku gracery hotel reviews, rooms

One of the walls is decorated with his movie posters, from the 1950s to today. I enjoyed seeing the concept evolution over time. (Photos by John S and me.)

space godzilla window

SpaceGodzilla came down from the stars. Such a creative window design — from this angle, it looks like he’s about to tear this skyscraper out from the ground. 

godzilla road sign kabuki cho

The Japanese love their home-grown monster, and even named this Godzilla road after him (leading from Meiji-doori to Hotel Gracery).

godzilla building shinjuku skyscraper

I always recommend that travelers stay in Shinjuku, since it’s close to everything. Hotel Gracery is in the best possible location: near Decabarz (the alternative Goth club), Golden Gai, host clubs, bizarre theme restaurants, cat cafes, and all types of delicious food. In the area underneath the hotel for example, there’s takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sushi, and Krispy Kreme.

godzilla roaring, mouth

Hotel Gracery did a spectacular job in executing the Godzilla theme. There’s impeccable attention to detail…

retro gojira posters, japanese godzilla movies

… and tributes to the “kaiju” all over the lobby, such as this mural leading up to the elevators. 

godzilla enemies, rivals

Fans of Godzilla, King Ghidara and Mothra — you’ve got to check out this unique hotel.

akihabara hotel washington tokyo

While in Tokyo, I got to rest my head at yet another theme hotel, Washington Akihabara. (Japan’s Washington Hotels are under the same umbrella as Gracery.)

Located in the “otaku” district of Japan, this is the only hotel in the world with a room dedicated to train aficionados. One of the walls contains a glass case, filled with miniature re-constructions of railway stations. (Above, can you spot No Face?)

train themed hotel, tokyo

Washington Hotel is once again in a convenient location: a 1-minute walk from JR Akihabara Station. (Address: 1-8-3 Kanda Sakumacho, Chiyoda, Tokyo)

Train fans can reserve Room 1304, which has a huge train track with professional levers. You can borrow one of the hotel’s model trains, put it on the rails, and use the gears to make it whizz around at different speeds. 

washington hotel akiba tokyo room

Above, you can see a blue and green train looping around on opposite tracks. The model set includes the city’s landmarks, including Tokyo Tower.

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Once again, the rooms are clean and spacious, and excellent value (book a room for under $90 here). Hotel Washington also has a terrific included breakfast: I ate my fill of hiyayakko (chilled soft tofu), pickled vegetables, tamago and miso soup every day.

tokyo godzilla tour

You can also find out more about Hotel Gracery Shinjuku and book a room here (you can request the Godzilla suite).

godzilla theme restaurant

Have you watched any of the Godzilla movies? Would you stay in this eccentric theme hotel?




Coming up – a travel video and more posts from my JR Rail Pass trip through Japan. If you’re planning to come in the spring for cherry blossom season, it’s a great idea to get one of these unlimited passes, which let you ride the rails at a fraction of the cost.

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