What will we humans wear, in the year 2100? My bet is on this Alien Botany dress, designed by my talented friend Zoetica Ebb!
I’m excited to reveal that her futuristic dress collection is back, in a limited quantity run. I’ve been wearing mine like a second skin — this truly is wearable art, designed with the body in mind.
Artist Zoetica Ebb and I have known each other for years, and I’ve long admired her multimedia work.
Her Alien Botany collection reflects her fascination with the cosmos and alternate history. Tentacles and alien flora slink over the fabric, creating a form-flattering effect.
The Alien Botany dresses are made with a breathable heavy spandex. Zoetica’s hyper-detailed drawings are custom printed in ornate, dazzling detail. A square collar and dip hem add to the elegance of the design.
I love the versatility of the garment: I’ve worn it at a crazy underground party, a family wedding, and a gathering with friends. Bonus for travelers: the fabric doesn’t crease, so it’s easy to pack in a suitcase.
I’m always looking for unique fashion that reflects my love of the future, technology and subcultures. Alien Botany’s “neon space punk” is unlike anything I’ve seen in stores.
(Joey Wong shot these photos of me in Brooklyn, NY. My hair is colored and styled by Stephanie Hoy of Vancouver, Canada).
With my purple hair, this dress seems to be made for me. Here’s a close-up of the stand-out detailing and colors.
Happy news: these Alien Botany dresses have re-launched today, in two styles! You can find out more on Zoetica Ebb’s web shop.
I have the Venenum (left), and it also comes in the Theca (monochrome).
On May 3rd, you’ll be able to see Zoetica’s editorial for the Spring 2016 issue of Auxiliary Magazine. She styled and art-directed a showcase of her Alien Botany dresses, for this alternative fashion magazine.
Zoetica is an independent designer, and her collections are released only in small batches. If you like what you see, I encourage you to act now — once pieces are gone, they may not be available again…
The Alien Botany dresses are available internationally at www.zoeticaebb.com, along with Zoetica’s original prints and art. Let me know what you think of my friend’s designs, and it would be fantastic if you can share this post to support her!
Since this post has to do with the future… it makes sense to continue our adventures in Hong Kong.
I still have photos to share with you, from my last trip to this tech-happy, pop culture city.
Hong Kong’s malls always have life-size displays for people to pose with. I came across these fighter robots and a special merchandise pop-up.
Outside iSquare mall, I found circus statues starring B. Duck, the rubber ducky.
I’ve photographed most of Hong Kong’s streetwear malls for you, but never got the chance to showcase The One in Tsim Sha Tsui until now.
Causeway Bay remains my favorite shopping district, but TST is a close second. It has several malls dedicated to Chinese streetstyle, all within walking distance of the subway.
I could easily spend several hours in The One, a mall with dozens of levels. (Address: 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon)
I walked in, and immediately saw rocker fashion featuring Hello Kitty! I’d wear that leather jacket and clothes with all-over graphics.
Malls like The One are in my “sweet spot” for price and quality. The designs are unique (found only in Asia) and well made, but not overly expensive.
Here’s my old favorite, Hyoma x Mini Cream. The sale prices are truly insane in Hong Kong. For example, I paid $26 US for a pair of metallic shoes from this brand — originally, they were over $200.
The label’s black devil cat with round googly-eyes is irresistible.
Other boutiques in The One had collaborations with characters popular in the 1980s and 90s. The streetwear shop Ginger teamed up with Mr Happy and friends.
This mall seems to be dedicated to mascots. Garfield and Rubber Ducky are the faces of the label B. Duck.
The One is also home to the Gudetama theme restaurant, which serves dim sum that looks like the Sanrio egg character.
And then, there’s the one who rules them all: Miffy the bunny! The purse with her crying face and plush dangling ears… yes.
I got a black and white graphic sweater at the Miffy x Two Percent store. She remains my favorite cute character.
Hong Kong’s TST district is home to another favorite shopping plaza: K11 Art Mall. As the name suggests, the boutiques all have an artistic bent.
As I walked in, I bowed to the smiling dog by Japanese artist Murakami. (More photos below after the jump…)
I still have a few tales to tell from mysterious Marrakesh. (Doesn’t it look like I am searching for Aladdin’s magic lamp?)
In this photo diary, I’ll share our photos from the Square of the Dead (Jemaa el-Fnaa), which has a dark history to match its name.
We’ll also take a stroll in Jardin Majorelle, the garden of French couture designer Yve Saint Laurent.
Anyone who comes to Marrakesh must see the ancient marketplace, the Square of the Dead (Gemaa el Fna). The name likely refers to the public executions that took place in this plaza, around the 11th century.
During the daytime, the Square of the Dead is not as crowded. Vendors begin to set up their food stalls in the afternoon.
Even during this less busy time, the Square of the Dead can feel overwhelming to the senses. You’ll encounter monkeys performing tricks, snake charmers sticking out their tongues at cobras, and water bearers in traditional Moroccan costumes.
(Be aware that if you take photos of them, they’ll ask for about a dollar, and won’t let you go until you pay up.)
You’ll come across rows of friendly orange juice vendors. The citrus fruits are extremely tasty in Morocco, and refreshing on a hot day. The price for a large, freshly squeezed cup is also a fraction of what you’d pay at an American juice shop.
Many readers asked me: is it safe in Marrakesh, especially for solo female travelers?
Yes. The medina is clean and well policed. Just exercise your usual caution (such as giving a firm no to touts, and keeping your belongings secure). Even if you cover up your limbs, you may encounter some cat-calls — simply move on, and don’t let it take away from your experience here.
The marketplace is a bit touristy, but still conveys the feeling of time standing still. Incredible that the medina has been the center of activity in Marrakesh, ever since the 11th century!
We couldn’t resist filming the snake charmers in action. They coaxed the reptiles with music, and put their faces close to cobras who reared their heads and hissed. (Photography by Borderless Media.)
This slithering snake is non-poisonous. This man draped the animal around our heads and shoulders, and encouraged us to stick out our tongues.
There’s a lot to see and shop in the medina. I loved these little tagines, or triangular clay pots that can hold spices or other belongings. Each is only $1 US , so I got some for my cat to use as food bowls!
One of these magic lanterns has a genie inside, I’m sure of it…
Night falls, and the Square of the Dead lives up to its spooky name. From a restaurant high up, we took in this fascinating view of the medina. The food stations are open, and smoke wafts over the hoards of people. (Here’s my Vine video of the action.)
The glowing tower is Koutoubia Mosque, which dates back to the 12th century. From the minaret, we heard the muezzin singing the call to prayer — and felt like we had time-traveled back into time.
The souk was filled with strange and mesmerizing sights. We saw locals gathered in a circle to play a game, which involves using tall fishing poles to grab a soda bottle. Like in amusement parks, very few participants succeeded.
As I explored, I felt like I was in a tale from 1001 Arabian nights. We passed Chleuh dancing-boys (who crossdress as women), storytellers, musicians, peddlers and magicians.
The energy levels are especially high in the food and drink areas. Vendors set up stations in closely-packed rows, and offer everything from mint tea…
… to snails and sheep brains. For the less adventurous eaters, there are grilled meats, dried fruit and nuts, and the ever-present orange juice carts.
The atmosphere can be a bit intense, especially for women traveling alone. Be prepared for stares, and for the vendors to approach you and yell out names (I got called Lady Gaga and Barbie).
Just ignore the words, keep on walking, and don’t let them grab you (as the more aggressive sellers might do).
It’s all part of the Marrakesh experience, and I never felt unsafe. (Watch our travel video to see these scenes in action.)
One of the best decisions we made was to travel with Plan-It Fez Tours. I spoke with friends who did Morocco on their own, and they told me they felt stressed by logistics such as public transportation. They told me about taxi drivers who tried to scam them, and touts who constantly approached them.
Thanks to our friendly driver and guides, we encountered none of these complications.
With a car, we got to visit off the beaten path places — such as Berber villages several miles from Marrakesh. Our Plan-It Fez guides introduced us to locals and translated Arabic, making immersive activities such as a henna workshop possible.
We visited Jardin Majorelle, which was designed by artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 30s. Our guide Mohammed told us about the fascinating history of Marrakesh, from its earliest days through the French protectorate and independence.
The red paths are surrounded by cacti plants and calm pools dotted with water lilies. Birds call out from under the palm canopies.
The winding garden pathways lead to the French artist’s house, built in Moorish and Art Deco styles. The bold cobalt blue color, which brightens up the entire property, is called Majorelle Blue.
Since 1980, Majorelle Garden was owned by fashion legend Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. I visited the gravestone of YSL, who died in 2008.
To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by Jardin Majorelle. There were a lot of tourists around, and I was more impressed with the lush landscapes at our Royal Mansour hotel. Nevertheless, I enjoyed spending time here with the jovial Mohammed, and seeing St Laurent’s illustrations in a special art display.
Sometimes, the best travel moments are not from visiting famous attractions — but merely sitting back and enjoying the ride. Nowhere but in Morocco can you see views like these: the High Atlas mountains and argan trees.
We originally came to North Africa by taking the ferry from Algeciras (southern tip of Spain) to Tangier (northernmost point of Morocco). Plan-It Fez picked us up, and we began a road trip along the coast.
From these first moments, we were fascinated by the contrast of ancient and modern. We saw glitzy nightclubs pumping with music and women in sequined headscarves on the boardwalk… and then turned into the Tangier medina, which looked like scene from Medieval times.
The sun set over the waters, turning the sky blood red.
As the hours on the road passed, we drifted into semi-sleep. The car zipped by this alien-esque Arabic poster, and I wondered if I was in a dream.
I leave you with this image of the lively Square of the Dead, at dusk.
Is Marrakesh what you expected it to be? I hope you enjoy our Morocco travel video – please take a minute to watch, and let us know what you think!
New Zealand local fashion boutiques: Britomart, Auckland! Cassia modern Indian restaurant & cocktails.
Kia ora… from Auckland, NZ!
If you’ve been following my social media (@lacarmina), you’ll already know that I’ve been travelling with Contiki — a tour company for 18-35 year olds — in New Zealand.
I joined about 30 young travellers on their Sun and Steam tour, and it felt like a big road trip with friends. We went all around the North Island, stopping to take in the spectacular nature, nightlife, and a daredevil activity or two.
My Contiki trip started and ended in Auckland, NZ. In this first post, I’ll take you to a hip fashion district, and one of the city’s top restaurants: Cassia!
It was my first trip “down under” and I flew 14 hours to get here (direct from Vancouver to Auckland). I was rewarded with the perfect sunny weather and a pristine view of the harbour, with the Sky Tower hovering over the central business district.
Why was I was excited to travel around New Zealand with Contiki? Let me count the ways…
– The tours are for millennial travellers. Everyone was my age, and the itinerary was tailored to our interests.
– There’s lots of “Me Time” and optional events, so you can explore at your own pace.
– Contiki takes care of all the logistics: transportation, hotels, activity bookings, most of the meals and entrance fees. I could just relax and pose in front of the bus!
I’ll introduce you to my Contiki crew in the next posts — but let’s begin in Auckland, where we had a free day to spend however we wished.
– I’m wearing a witchy dress and hosiery from Black Milk. They also make this dress in a Game of Thrones map print!
– My bag is from Japan, but you can get this similar blue faux fur purse here. Or this blue handbag, which also looks it has a face on it.
– My jacket is from Hong Kong. It’s very similar to this blue cropped leather jacket, or less expensive Elie Tahari one.
First stop: Britomart, the best area of Auckland to browse local, indie fashion.
Britomart, a former industrial area, underwent a transformation in the 1980s and 90s. Today, it’s a hip shopping district that mixes old (heritage buildings, Maori art) and new (mod green spaces).
You can find international clothing brands in Britomart, but I went straight to the local designers. New Zealand’s Karen Walker has been making a splash worldwide, particularly for her fabulous eyewear and bags. (I own a pair of her round sunglasses.)
Below are my favorite Karen Walker designs (click photos for more info.)
A local friend encouraged me to visit Taylor Boutique. Everything here is 100% designed and made in New Zealand.
Taylor uses leading-edge fabrics to make experimental, yet wearable garments. Love their oversized sleeves and peek-a-boo layers.
These NZ stores were advertising winter fashions, since the seasons are reversed down under!
Local designer Juliette Hogan is another must-visit. Her contemporary fashions are notable for their cut and craftsmanship.
(You’re probably noticing that Britomart is eco-design heaven… gorgeous greenery everywhere.)
For fabulous dressers, World is your destination. I could have spent an hour in this store, a treasure-trove of peacock taxidermy, exotic perfumes, dapper hats and other oddities.
In addition to Britomart, it’s well worth taking a stroll in Auckland’s Posonby district. You’ll find many of the same local designer stores here, as well as shops dedicated to home decor, coffee, raw food and more.
(Photography by Salima Remtulla and me.)
All this shopping worked up my appetite. I walked over to Cassia, a modern Indian restaurant that is racking up all the top dining awards in Auckland. (Address: No 5 Fort Lane, Auckland, NZ)
Inside, there’s a mural of the Hindu festival Holi — a perfect summary of how Cassia’s menu mixes creativity and tradition.
Chef Sid Sahrawat (famous for his fine dining establishment SidArt) wanted to break away from the stereotype of an Indian restaurant. At Cassia, he fuses the authentic flavors from his childhood with the seasonal, local produce of New Zealand.
Before we talk about the food… let’s start with a drink! Cassia has an exceptional gin and tonic menu that made me re-think the possibilities of this “basic” cocktail. Mixologist Prateek Arora made me a Tanqueray Tan with grapefruit and East Imperial Burma tonic — fine ingredients that elevated the flavors. On the right, he prepared The Herbalist, a perfect balance of Domaine Canton French ginger liquer, kaffir lime, cucumber, Angostura white rum and Benedictine.
I encourage you to chat with the friendly Prateek; I enjoyed hearing him talk about the inspiration for these drinks.
I’m a fan of anything ginger, and adored the Ginger Monkey (an infused whisky sour with egg white foam). The Kashmiri Dragon above is exceptional: a hit of chili powder, vodka, fresh lime, and Six Barrels feijoa syrup.
A quick aside… if you’re in New Zealand, you can’t leave without trying feijoa. This green fruit tastes a bit like guava, and is found only in NZ and parts of South America.
Cassia’s exposed bricks and lightbulbs create a hip dining space. The industrial design once again breaks away from one’s expectations of an Indian eatery.
Head chef Lesley Chandra prepared a selection of dishes designed for sharing. I recommend the starter of roasted carrot, cashew, leek, cavolo nero (kale) — the rich colors point to the careful choice of ingredients.
Next up: venison tartar, beetroot, cabbage. Once again, he prepared a vivid dish infused with authentic spices. I confess that I scraped up every morsel of the sauce!
One of the most popular main courses is the free-range pork with vindaloo, apple and ginger. Tender layers, perfectly cooked, in a spectacular balance of sweetness and heat.
Dessert was this deconstructed beauty: blackcurrent sorbet, raspberry and hazelnut. I was blown away the intensity of the berry flavors, which unfolded on your tongue. An outstanding, clean finish.
Cassia deserves its reputation as one of the best restaurants in Auckland. I encourage you to come by for an innovative meal and cocktails, which will change your perceptions of Indian cuisine.
I leave you with this night-time scene from Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, a reclaimed area by the waterfront with over a dozen international restaurants.
Coming up, I’ll show you more of Auckland and the North Island, on my Contiki journey. Their motto, #NoRegrets, is in line with my approach to travel: challenge yourself, see new places, meet people, and never look back.
On that note… Would you like to go on a Contiki trip to New Zealand, like mine? They’re offering my readers a discount code for 10% off all NZ trips, if you book with Contiki Asia by May 30! All details of the voucher are here; just be sure to reserve your place before it’s too late.
Call me Lara Croft, braided hair and all.
One of my favorite travel adventures was exploring the mysterious temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. If you watched the Tomb Raider movie, you’ll recognize this as the site of Angelina Jolie’s adventures.
My team and I came here thanks to HK Express, which flies multiple times a week between Hong Kong and Siem Reap, Cambodia (where these ancient ruins are situated). The flight was less than three hours, on a low-cost but comfortable and modern carrier.
For years, I’ve wanted to see this “lost world” for myself. Did it live up to my expectations? This photo diary says it all, from smiling Buddhas to Khmer pyramids.
Our dream-hotel, Le Meridien Angkor, arranged a private day-tour for us. We had an air-conditioned van with a driver and guide, who spoke about Khmer culture and allowed us to avoid the tourist-saturated sites. (Check out my full review and photoshoot at this Le Meridien hotel.)
It was an early start: 5am wakeup call! But it was worth it, to see the legendary sunrise over the towers of Angkor Wat. Our guide took us through the less-crowded east gate, and we walked to the best location for photos of the temple: the second (further out) reflective pool on the west side. While there will be a lot of tourists around, you can find and unblocked view and capture this iconic silhouette.
We sat in silence over this bank, observing the clouds and lotus flowers, and listening to the crickets. The sky gradually lightened and a burst of sun appeared over the rooftops. I felt at peace here, taking in the constantly changing view.
We were glad we were staying at Le Meridien Angkor, since it was less than a 10 minute drive from the main temple. It was easy to return to our hotel after the sunrise, to enjoy a big breakfast spread including Cambodian dishes and tropical fruits.
Tickets and admission info: You’ll need to buy a ticket in order to enter Angkor Wat and see all the temples (as you can see above, they take your photo). There are various checkpoints at different sites, and the papers get crumbled easily, so I recommend keeping them in a plastic bag or ticket pouch.
We got the 1-day pass for $20 US (bring American cash in Cambodia, instead of changing it to the local currency). However, you can also get 3-day or week long passes. If possible, go to the ticket booth at 5pm the day before you want to visit the temples. That way, there’s no lineup and you can go in to see the sunset for no extra charge.
We quickly realized how important it was to have an Angkor Wat guide: the archaeological park has over a thousand temples, within 1.5 million square meters!
Some people rent bicycles or hire a tuk tuk to go between locations. However, if you come all the way here and have limited time, it’s better to have someone to take care of these logistics. We were able to enjoy the sights and listen to the guide talk about Khmer history. And I admit l liked having an air conditioned car to go back to, between the sites.
For the fashion-travelers out there, let me warn you… it’s not easy being Lara Croft. Be prepared to trek for hours, over uneven jungle terrain in high humidity. Wearing good shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must.
Outfit Details: I’m wearing new Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses, which are actually prescription glasses that I outfitted with Transition lenses (so they turn dark under sunlight).
Angkor Wat was the passion project of Khmer king, Suryavarman II. It originally was built to be his mausoleum and religious complex for the Hindu god Vishnu. However, by the 12th century, it had become a Buddhist temple.
We walked through these “elephant gates,” which are large enough to let these gentle pachyderms pass through.
The gates are topped with smiling Buddha heads. You can’t help but smile back when you see this gentle face, merging into the moss and stones.
A closer look at my red Oliver Goldsmith cat-eye glasses. I have a hard time finding glasses I like, and tried on quite a few before finding this London designer. He makes luxury eyewear based on vintage icons: these ones are the Grace Kelly frames.
Oliver Goldsmith also has retro-styled eyewear inspired by Audrey Hepburn. Shop his designs below:
We wanted to see the most famous temples in Angkor Wat, but also avoid the crowds whenever possible. Our guide delivered. He took us to hidden jungle pathways and lesser-known structures.
This pyramid-like temple was a perfect example. It’s as impressive as anything else in this UNESCO heritage site — and yet, there was nobody around. We got to climb the steep stairs and shoot images without anyone photo-bombing us.
There’s a feeling of energy, in the towering trees and snaking roots found all over the park.
I was fascinated by the ancient Khmer spiritual architecture. These temples are made primarily from sandstone bricks, and harmonize beautifully with the surrounding nature.
Although some parts had crumbled, the structures still stood. The intricate carvings looked even more mysterious in the moss and ruins.
Most of Angkor Wat’s temples give you full access, meaning you can explore to your heart’s content without running into a “do not cross this rope” sign. We ducked into tunnels and climbed through the windows. Just look out for the tall, steep stairs!
(Photography by Sniper Chau and Ken Yuen)
I couldn’t believe how well the bas relief carvings stood the test of time. Our guide took us to a wall of meditating figures with beatific expressions.
Other carvings showed Buddhas and demons, and apsaras and devatas (Khmer nymphs, celestial dancing girls).
Our guide took us to Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed. This mesmerizing temple has trees growing right out of the ruins.
The thick roots have wrapped themselves around the doorways and sculptures. Nature has become part of the architecture, and in this case, rendered it even more mystifying. One trail of root covers an entire wall, except it parts around a carved deity’s face.
Our guide took us to a small space in Ta Prohm where if you stood in the right place and thumped your heart, you could hear it resonate throughout the room.
In a single picture, you can see how high Khmer civilization rose in the 12th century. Not long after, the Thai invasion changed the course of history…
For anyone fascinated with ancient civilizations, Angkor Wat will not disappoint. To get the most out of this adventure, I encourage you to hire a guide and driver, get the 5pm ticket, and prepare for the humidity and hiking.
This is not your last glimpse of Angkor Wat: I still have a travel video for you, and a tour of the main temple. Also check out my guide to Pub Street in Siem Reap, and fashion shoot at Le Meridien Angkor.
Are you familiar with this temple, maybe from seeing it in Tomb Raider? Is it on your list of destinations to see?
(Find glasses like mine below):