Category Archive for Art + Design

Park Hotel Tokyo: Japanese artist rooms & design hotel! Synthwave Japan parties, Office Goth meeting.

the reformation nellie black dress fashion blogger

Meet me in my fishbowl… So happy to be back in the uplifting Japanese art hotel, Park Hotel Tokyo!

As you’ll see in this photo diary, Park Hotel is full of inspiration. In addition to galleries, an entire level of consists of “Artist Rooms” decorated from floor to ceiling in breathtaking designs.

(I’m wearing this Nellie dress by The Reformation. Click the images below for more from the eco-designer:)

keroppy maeda tokyo japan body modifications

Plus, we brought back the “Corporate Goth Boardroom Meeting”! Read on for Tokyo Gothic shenanigans involving body modifications, scandalous Sailor Moon tattoos, and copious amounts of absinthe with yuzu.

park hotel tokyo blogger influencer window seat

You may remember that I stayed with Park Hotel Tokyo in 2016. I fell in love with this view, and was keen to return on my recent trip to Japan (where the Pirates were working on a German travel TV show, with me as host).

Park Hotel is well-located in Shiodome, not far from Ginza and Tokyo Tower. In 2013, the hotel underwent a revamp that put the focus on Japanese beauty and design.

geisha goldfish room park hotel

The team runs an “Artist in Hotel” residency, which invites Japanese artists to stay in a room and turn it into a work of art. They paint directly on the walls and fixtures; the space becomes a 3D canvas for expression. Although the artist rooms each have very different styles, they are linked by a Japanese sense of aesthetics, with themes like “Sumo” and “Zen”.

tokyo art hotels, luxury design hotels

Guests can request to stay in a specific artist room as long as its available (see the different interiors on Park Hotel’s website). This time, I wanted to be One with the puffy-cheeked fish in Aki Narita’s “Geisha Goldfish” queen room! 

While she was staying in this room, the artist felt as if she were in an aquarium. Over the course of seven months, Aki Narita covered the wallpaper and ceilings with vermilion goldfish, and traditionally dressed geishas. Lying on the bed and gazing at the art, I felt as if I were floating in water with them. 

ark hotel themed artist rooms japanese

Dreaming of goldfish was considered lucky in ancient Japan — and I certainly had happy, lucid dreams while staying in Park Hotel.

All of the Artist Rooms are on the 31th floor, along with this Gallery Lounge. Guests can sit by the big windows and enjoy pastries and drinks, while flipping through the wide selection of art books.

japanese theme hotels tokyo

We got to peek inside some of the other Artist in Hotel creations. It was astonishing to see the wide range of styles and works: there were rooms themed around nature, yokai (Japanese ghosts and monsters), cats, castles, and more.

Above is a detail from the Mount Fuji room by Shiki Taira. The entrance is fashioned like a red Shinto torii gate, with gods flying around the sky above the famous mountain. On the other wall, seven lucky gods relax on a treasure ship. The theme is linked to the panoramic view out the window; on a clear day, you can see the peak of Fuji-san in the distance.

tokyo park hotel artist residence residency

The works at Park Hotel are never static. One evening, I was delighted to see an artist painting Japanese women in Edo-style kimono, right outside the my door! This is Aki Narita, who also designed my Geisha Goldfish room.

She and Yoko Naito had a joint exhibition at the hotel, called “At the Bottom of a Well.” The two artists transformed the 25th-floor atrium into a well in the sky. (Park Hotel holds four art exhibitions a year, to complement the seasons.)

art exhibitions park hotel japan

As we walked around Park Hotel, we felt as if we were in a modern art museum. Sculptures fill the airy lobby, as well as the 31st floor and 34th top floor gallery.

space cats painting art collage

An Art Concierge helps guests learn about local exhibitions and the current displays at the hotel. (Cats in space – love it.)

breakfast buffet park hotel tokyo restaurants

Park Hotel Tokyo is designed by French architect Frederic Thomas. The building has a contemporary Zen feel, with plenty of greenery. In his words, the interiors aim to create “harmony between the culture and nature of the surroundings.”

Every morning, we devoured a Japanese buffet breakfast (grilled salmon, gobo, hijiki, chawanmushi) in this peaceful lounge, featuring dark woods and gold accents.

tokyo japan handicrafts purses

The lobby is located on the 25th floor. A glass atrium soars high above it, bringing in natural light and allowing guests to experience the passage of time.

japanese traditional dolls ningyo

I enjoyed browsing the cases filled with dolls, purses, handicrafts, sculptures and other works (available for sale) by the resident artists.

If you love Japanese aesthetics and culture, Park Hotel is the place to be. With five-star hospitality and inspiring art throughout, there’s no hotel as special as this in Tokyo.

killstar madelyn sun dress sundress

Now, down to serious business…. Your evil bosses held an Office Goth “team meeting” in the boardroom of Park Hotel! 

(My dress is Killstar, and my shoes are these platform sandals by Rocket Dog.)

yuzu liqueur tokyo japanese citrus alcohol

Park Hotel has a takeover-worthy board room, measuring 450 square feet. The space features a large table with chairs, soaring view, projector and screen (which we used to broadcast synthwave music and outrun projections!)

The hotel can provide refreshments, but we brought our own… Can you spot the yuzu citrus liqueur, and absinthe from Oregon? 

corporate goth office goth meeting

You may recall that we’ve hosted a few gatherings in meeting rooms, including our “corporate gothic” Shinjuku party.

In Tokyo, it’s expensive to rent out a restaurant or event space. However, business culture is big here, so there are a lot of boardrooms… Why not use one for a few hours, to discuss important Gothic matters?

tokyo goth tattoos, gothic tattoo

The “Office Goth” meeting started off with role call, and individual presentations. Atsushi displayed his new ouroboros snake tattoos. Yukiro held up his flyer for his regular Majyo (Witch) party with DJ Sisen, and Lauren told us about her upcoming performances with her band Rough Antique.

magnet implant body modification japan

Keroppy Maeda (who you may remember from our Bagelheads adventures) demonstrated his latest body modifications. He now has a magnet implanted in his hand, which lets him dangle a spoon from his palm, and move magnetic objects around like a Jedi master.

office goth clothes corporate gothic clothing

Yukiro and I reviewed our quarterly projections. Miffy and a pentagram soon appeared on the whiteboard (this is an Office Goth meeting, after all).

gothic culture academic conference

Becky and Naomi then staged a takeover, demonstrating their superior drawing skills.

business goth presentation workwear

The discussion got heated at times… Good thing we had refreshments and darksynth music to keep us going strong.

sailor moon dark moon crescent tattoo forehead

Love this view of Tokyo at night, from our perch high above the city. (My dark moon crescent sticker is by Capumon).

temporary tattoos face

Everyone joined the moon cult, and put these temporary tattoos on their foreheads. (Some forgot to wash the crescent off, and went to work the next day with it still attached!)

funny tattoos sailor moon

Certain team members found… more scandalous places to affix their Capumon black moon tattoos! They used ice to apply them for added pain and pleasure.

synthwave tokyo japan outrun retrowave

“Dark Moon crystal power, make up.” I think we’ve achieved Goth Sailor Moon squad goals.

japan crazy party

Thumbs up or down for the tattoo placement? I think the reaction is mixed!

goth culture conference meeting

Very happy to see old friends again, whenever I’m in Tokyo. Everyone is so creative — werking drag shows, performing in bands, illustrating web comics, writing books.

japanese goth hair side shaved undercut

I spy Joy Division, fetish collars, undercuts and pentagrams. Don’t stare into the eyes of the Medusa for too long…

tokyo japan board room rental

Let’s just say that things got pretty crazy by the end of the night… Our Office Goth boardroom parties are simply the best!

park hotel jomon room

When the meeting adjourned, the Park Hotel staff let us survey a few more Artist Rooms. Somehow, everyone fit on the bed in Daisuke Kagawa’s Jomon room.

We were awed by his paintings, which reflect the Japanese earthenware and people of this prehistoric period.

wabi sabi artist room park hotel japan

Time for a thoughtful pose in the Wabi-Sabi room by Conami Hara. She combined landscapes with sulfur-reacted silver foil, resulting in these shimmering rainbow colors on all the walls.

japanese art hotels rooms

How many Goths can you fit on a bed? As we demonstrate, the hotel rooms are quite spacious by Japanese standards.

tokyo design hip hotels

No matter how many times you return to Park Hotel Tokyo, your stay feels unique thanks to these stunning Artist Rooms. You can see more photos from inside these decorated rooms, in my review post from 2016.

tokyo tower night view park hotel

A massive thank you to Park Hotel Tokyofor welcoming us back to your sublime accommodations. I’ll certainly be booking a room here again — can’t get enough of this view of Tokyo Tower.

japanese doll figurine dolls

Have you stayed in an art hotel before? Isn’t the range of Japanese designs here inspiring?

goth slumber party gothic sleepover

Til our next Office Goth meeting, or slumber party… Tokyo spooks, see you again soon!


Luang Prabang, Laos day tour with private guide! Kuang Si waterfall, Buddhist temples with Tours By Locals.

travel blogger kuang si falls

Laos, you were lovely! After a grueling TV shoot in Japan and the madness of Bangkok, I was in dire need of R&R.

Luang Prabang, Laos was just the ticket to a peaceful getaway. It was a joy to get to know this Buddhist country with my friends and Tours By Locals. Read on for our journey involving temples and waterfalls and bears — oh my.

Outfit Details: I’m wearing a cut-out shirt by Michi, and hat by Bella Starr Hats. My heart-shaped Hope bag is by Lola Ramona; they also make a version that looks like a Sailor Moon bag. More tops like mine below…

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham temple Luang Prabang

My friends and I wanted an authentic experience in and around Luang Prabang, so we linked up with Tours By Locals. They connect travellers with trusted local guides around the world, who take them on private excursions off the beaten track.

Our Luang Prabang and waterfall tour was entirely customizable, and easy to arrange online. Unlike typical group tours, I loved how we got to see the culture of Laos through the eyes of a passionate local.

luang prabang buddhist stupa wat mai

Our guide Jay Asia and his driver picked us up from our hotel in an air-conditioned car. Jay has a bright, easy-going energy that was perfect for us, as we like to be flexible in our travels. He was glad to make last-minute adjustments for us (such as when we wanted to stop for ice cream and coffee), and always answered our questions thoughtfully.

Luang Prabang is a tiny capital, so it’s possible to visit many attractions in a single day. We began our morning at Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham temple. Jay explained that this Gothic black mound is a stupa, or Buddhist monument housing sacred relics or remains.

(I’m holding my Boy 1904 umbrella, and wearing skeleton bone leggings similar to these ones.)

gold buddha statue wat mai laos

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham is the largest and most ornate temple in Luang Prabang. The structure was built in 1780 by King Anurat, and the interior is shimmering with gold leaf and red lacquer. (All photos by Julie Hunter, Yukiro Dravarious and me.)

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham monastery gold pillars

We sat down in front of the giant Buddha with Jay. He told us his personal story of studying with Buddhist monks as a child, and then becoming one for several years.

Jay knowledgeably answered our questions about the differences between Buddhism in Laos, and other countries in Southeast Asia. He walked us through his daily life as a monk (involving very early rising, receiving alms from locals, eating twice a day, meditating for hours, and abiding by precepts). It was fascinating to learn about Laotian spirituality from his perspective. 

golden buddhas statues luang prabang

I asked Jay about the portrait next to the giant golden Buddha. He told us that it honors Phra Sangkharat, the highest dignitary who resided in Wat Mai temple at the end of the 19th century.

jay asia tours by locals luang prabang laos

We chatted under the calm gaze of the towering gilded Buddha, seated in the meditation position. He is surrounded by many smaller Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, positioned in various mudras. The shrine also houses an emerald Buddha.

Outside, the gilded façade has bas reliefs depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life, as well as daily life in Luang Prabang.

wat mai two gold buddhas

Jay suggested that we walk around to see a hidden second Buddha, awkwardly seated right behind the large one! Originally, this was the main image of Wat Mai — but the founder’s younger brother decided to one-up him, and place a bigger Buddha right in front.

Haw Pha Bang Buddhist temple, Luang Prabang

Inspired by the poses we saw in the artwork, we went on to Haw Pha Bang. The eaves and decor look classic, but this temple was actually finished in 2006.

The green, red and gold temple sits near the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang. It was built in 1904 (during the French colonial era) to house King Sisavang Vong and his family. Today, the Royal Palace is a museum that preserves the history and lineage of the kingdom.

Wat Xieng Thong temple roof laos

We ended our temple-hopping at Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most important in the country. The temple and monastery were built in 1560 by King Setthathirath. This remained the site where kings were crowned until the Communist takeover of Laos in 1975.

tours by locals luang prabang private tour guide

Jay bowed three times to the golden Buddha inside, draped in the orange robes of a monk.

Wat XiengThong gold ship

Finally, we entered the royal funerary chariot house, where we were greeted by a fierce funeral carriage standing 12 metres high! These growling creatures are nagas, the mythical serpents of the Buddhist cosmology.

golden famous temple luang prabang laos

The exterior of the Royal Funerary Chariot Hall is a sight to behold. Completed in 1962, these gilded wood carvings show flowery scenes from the Phra Lak Phra Lam, the Laotian version of the Hindu epic Ramayana.

gold temple wat xienthong

This building was built to house royal urns, and the dramatic funeral carriage of King Sisavang Vong. When he died in 1959, the barge was carried through the streets of Luang Prabang.

luang prabang library volunteering charity

Next door is Luang Prabang Library, an educational non-profit that I urge you to visit. They provide books and school supplies to children in rural areas, where such items are a rarity. To reach these remote villages, the library operates two boats and make stops along the Mekong River.

voluntourism laos children's library

In the community space, volunteers teach local children music, languages, and other skills. (These two shy girls are playing the lanat, or Laotian xylophone).

You can support the Luang Prabang Library by dropping off books or school supplies for the children. Alternately, you can purchase a souvenir or make a donation.

donations luang prabang library volunteers

I had a million extras pens and stationery lying around, as well as old calculators and other items. It was simple to gather and donate them to the library. What we consider “clutter” can be invaluable in other parts of the world. 

The Luang Prabang library is doing wonderful work, and we were happy to support them during our travels.

private car driver luang prabang

Time to sing “Welcome to the Jungle” as we made our way to Kuang Si Waterfall, located about 18 miles south of the capital. Our driver took us on a 45 minute ride that wound through lush forests and rice fields.

Laos was a welcome relief from the pollution and traffic of Bangkok (our previous destination). Here, there are no fast-food restaurants or tall buildings, and we didn’t see a single bus of tourists.

hike to kuang si waterfalls

Tours by Locals offers a one-hour trek to the famous waterfall, but in this humid weather, we opted to drive most of the way. From the entrance, we walked along the path for about 10 minutes. As you can see, “it’s a jungle out there”… Pirate-planks over water, and trees with twisting roots! 

Pro tip: don’t lean on the wood railings of the small bridges. Yukiro posed against one… and the rail fell right off! I shrieked in terror, but fortunately, he wasn’t injured.

kuangsi falls luang prabang

As we got closer, the flow picked up its pace. Kuangsi Falls is a multi-leveled cascade, so the water crashes down from different heights. There are areas where people can swim… but the current was quite fast, which dissuaded us from going in.

Yukiro is wearing a black and white striped sunhat by Bella Starr.

famous waterfalls laos

The path leads to the main falls, with a 60 metre drop. The mist over the limestone pools made Kuang Si look like something out of a fantasy.

kuang si waterfall tour

Jay took this photo of me while holding up a leaf to the lens. We were happy to have him as our guide, as he always found ways to make our tour special. For instance, Jay got us grilled bananas and potatoes for us to try, and ran after Yukiro’s sandal when he lost it in the stream!

(I’m wearing a black cutaway top by Michi, and heart shaped Hope purse by Lola Ramona. They also make the heart bag in red and blue. See more of their retro pin-up styles below…)

kuang xi waterfalls secret pool

If you’re in Luang Prabang, you’ve got to make an excursion to the dazzling Kuang Xi waterfalls. Since it’s located outside the city, booking a private trip with Tours By Locals is the easiest way to see the falls.

bear rescue center laos

As you trek through the jungle, don’t be afraid if you come across some grizzlies. This is the site of Free the Bears, or the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre!

luang prabang bear rescue

This organization works to protect Asian black bears. Tragically, many of these creatures are trapped and killed for their gallbladders, which are believed to have medicinal powers. These bears are also killed for food, or taken as pets in the black market.

tat kuang si bear rescue centre

At Tat Kuang Si Rescue Center, we were glad to see that they are now living the Winnie-the-Pooh lifestyle! The non-profit provides stimulating, open enclosures for the bears.

free the bears luang prabang

Visitors come to say hi to the cute mammals, and learn about them. Outside, there was a “bears of the world” display… Can you spot the odd one out?

Smiling stone cat statue Luang Prabang

Free the Bears Laos also helps other animals, and employs locals in meaningful work. With their efforts, the endangered Asiatic black bears will hopefully rebuild their populations.  

buffalo dairy luang prabang coffee cafe

On the way back, we made a pit-stop at Laos Buffalo Dairy. This sustainable farm produces fresh buffalo cheese and milk, which they serve with coffee. And they make delicious buffalo milk ice cream, which helped us cool down from the humid temperature. (Try the pumpkin pie, tamarind, and coconut flavors!)

bunny rabbit farm luang prabang

Susie Martin, one of founders, took us on a tour of the farm. So many happy bunnies to feed and hold.

Susie explained how Laos Buffalo Dairy works with local farmers and helps the community. They rent the females to milk them for dairy products (a non-traditional use of the buffalo in Laos), providing the villagers with a source of income. The farm also provides better healthcare for the animals, and cross-breeds them for greater milk yields.

buffalo milking feeding dairy laos

Buffalo milk is nutritious, and easier to digest than cow milk (as lactose intolerance is common in Asia). This farm takesexcellent care of the animals, and the products help feed Laotian children, 44 percent of whom are undernourished. Cheers to Laos Buffalo Dairy for their innovative work.

saffron coffee shop cafe luang prabang

After our tour with Jay, we spent time exploring Luang Prabang on our own. This is the type of place where you enjoy a leisurely breakfast, go out to see a sights or take a swim, and then relax for hours in a local cafe.

Not many places in Laos have air conditioning, so we were relieved to visit Saffron Coffee (they have an AC area upstairs). Laotian coffee is fantastic — I thoroughly enjoyed my cold brew — and Saffron makes a mean gluten and dairy-free brownie, along with other sweets.

novelty cafe luang prabang laos

We also enjoyed hanging out at Novelty Cafe in Luang Prabang. They have a great selection of fresh juices and healthy foods, and the chic environment is perfect for working on your laptop.

luang prabang shops shopping stores

Luang Prabang avoids the typical tourist-trinket stores. We browsed local boutiques that sold Laotian handicrafts, scarves, textiles, and art.

laos masks artwork luang prabang

Leave it to me to find a devilish mask and red star!

Luang Prabang is so tiny that it’s easy to walk around everywhere. If the heat gets too intense, you can flag down a local tuk tuk.

night market luang prabang laos

We ended up at the Luang Prabang night market, where you can find snake liquor, glowing lanterns and other inexpensive items. Be sure to bargain — Yukiro got long pants for $1.50 US!

Jay then took us on a night out, starting at Tamarind restaurant. We feasted on Laotian eggplant, the national dish of larb (minced buffalo), pumpkin ginger soup, and surprisingly tasty sticky rice. Next, we had drinks at the Lao Lao Garden, a verdant bar with a lively crowd and pool table. Cocktails are only about $2, and you can pay for items in Thai baht or Lao kip. (Try the dragonfruit coconut cocktail, a new creation.)

phousi mountain luang prabang gold stupa

Finally, Julie took a walk up Mount Phousi, which rises over the center of the old town. (Yukiro and I elected to go back to our villa and get massages!)

As you climb the 355 steps, you’ll encounter gold Buddha statues and shrines along the way. The golden Wat Chomsi stupa sits at the top of the mountain, built in 1804.

mount phousi view mekong river luang prabang

When you reach the summit of Mt. Phousi, you’re rewarded with a panoramic view of Luang Prabang: temples, deep green mountains, and the snaking Mekong River. Many travellers come here for a spectacular view of the sunset.

luang prabang laos tour guide jay asia

A big hug to our guide and new friend Jay Asia — he made our trip to Luang Prabang one to remember! We thoroughly enjoyed our Tours By Locals experience, as it let us learn about this destination with authenticity. Without a private tour and driver, we would never have been able to cover so much ground in a single day.

laos buddhist temples buddha

Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, Laos lacks a single landmark or attraction that drives visitors (contrast this to Angkor Wat for example). However to us, this is an enormous plus: we loved being in an unhurried, non-commercial city. Luang Prabang let us kick back, and simply take in the local nature and spirituality.

Keep Laos in mind for your next trip. There are residents doing excellent non-profit work here — bear rescue, children’s literacy, local development, nutrition. I hope you’ll have an opportunity to visit and support them.

One more post from Laos to come, so check back… and I’ll be posting about Bangkok, Tokyo, Naoshima and Hiroshima too!