Category Archive for Art + Design
I’ve been to Hong Kong over 20 times. Many of my relatives live here, and in recent years, jobs have taken me to HK at lest once a year. Despite my frequent visits, I’ve never visited one of the biggest landmarks: the giant Tian Tan Buddha statue, on Lantau Island.
On our last trip, my film friends and I had the perfect excuse to pay Buddha a visit. We were shooting a video for sáv Hong Kong, a new hotel in Hung Hom centered around the theme of love. What better place than Tian Tan to represent loving kindness?
First, here are instructions on how to get to Tian Tan, located on Lantau Island.
1. Ride the subway to Tung Chung station. Since this is the end of the line, give yourself time (from Hung Hom, it takes about 45 minutes). If you’re like Line Friends Moon and miss the train, don’t worry, they run every few minutes!
2. Walk out of Tung Chung station through exit B, and follow the signs to Ngong Ping cable car.
3. Purchase a ticket for the cable car: there are options for standard, private cabins, and glass bottom ones. We went for the standard ($19 round trip) and the three of us had the lift to ourselves anyway.
The ride takes about 30 minutes. We sat back and enjoyed the 360 degree view of the Lantau Island mountains, South China Sea, and praying big Buddha in the mist.
My sunglasses are these exact ones by House of Harlow 1960: Nicole. I’m carrying a bouquet of violet flowers to offer to the Buddha.
We arrived at Ngong Ping Village, which held traditional Chinese jewelry shops, tea houses and other cultural attractions.
The enlightened one is still a good 15-20 minute walk away. The Buddha is 34 meters tall, and constructed in 1993.
Since the cable car station was built not long ago, some of the attractions are quite touristy. There’s a live action Stage 360 that celebrates another Hong Kong hero, Bruce Lee. Here, you can watch stuntsmen perform martial arts sequences in front of your eyes.
However, the adjoining Po Lin monastery dates back to 1906. Anyone is welcome to visit the monks, and join them in the kitchen for a vegetarian meal.
Who else lives on Lantau Island? Wild cattle and buffalo!
I offered a cow a flower, and she chomped it down. Suddenly, I was surrounded by hungry cows trying to bite at my bouquet of flowers! They fenced me in and I had nowhere to escape. Somehow, I got out of this fiasco unscathed.
Filmmaker Melissa learns from my mistake, and keeps a safe distance from this cow and her feeding calf. (Photos in this post by La Carmina, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)
Buddhist deities pointed us towards Siddhartha. This funny one has a rooster on his head, and appears to be doing a Saturday Night Fever disco move.
Buddhism x Goths? Why not. How nice to run into two of my friends here, Lam and Hin Ng. (Remember them from my Upper House penthouse party?)
Here we are, at the base. Now we have 268 steps to climb, in the drenching humidity.
The Buddha sits on a lotus, and raises his right arm in blessing. Such a serene expression on his face.
On each side him, three Devas give offerings. I bowed to them and extended a flower (you’ll see how this all fits in with the video, once we release it.)
We saw some Buddhists circling the platform and kneeling in front of the statues.
We went inside the statue, and saw a collection of traditional Buddhist art. After giving away most of my flowers to strangers — as a symbol of bringing love into the world — I left the rest for the Buddha.
Landmarks can be cheesy, which is why I try to avoid them. However, the scenic Lantau Island and Tian Tan Buddha were a pleasure to visit.
On the ride back, we saw the sky turn pink as the sun set over the mountains, just like an ancient Chinese painting.
Hong Kong is known (and loved) for its fast-paced lifestyle and trendy shopping, which I’ve written a lot about. But if you want to see the serene side of the city, I encourage you to spend a half-day with Buddha and his Bodhisattvas. (Note that the last cable car descends at 6pm on most days, so try to go early.)
I leave you with my own big Buddha: Scottish Fold kitten, Basil Farrow! Cats are naturally Zen-creatures, aren’t they?
I survived a Korean robot attack! This photo captures the spirit of Seoul’s hippest neighborhood, Hongdae (pronounced “hong-day”). Many compare it to Tokyo’s Harajuku, since both are youth hubs with a quirky, colorful, indie vibe.
If you want to see the cool and cute side of Korea, then Hongdae is for you. I loved this area so much that I came back the next day.
Enjoy my tour of Hongdae’s best street art and cafes, including gourmet ice cream, a robot bar, camping-themed restaurant, Zombie coffee and graffiti galore!
I’m wearing a seahorse tank c/o Show Me Your MuMu, a free-spirit label with plenty of beach cover-ups and pastels. Wildfox also has a cute breezy top like mine, and here’s a similar silver metallic skirt.
Shop the Look (click the images below for details):
Remember when I visited YouTube stars Eat Your Kimchi in their Hongdae studio? Simon and Martina drew me this map of their favorite surrounding dessert shops and theme restaurants. On panda paper, no less. Naturally, I had to visit them all.
To get to this part of Seoul, take the subway to Hongik University Station (Hongdae is an abbreviation of the university’s name).
I was feeling weary and needed a caffeine fix. Fortunately, Hongdae is on a gourmet coffee kick, and I spotted at least two specialty coffee shops on each street.
(Eat Your Kimchi established their own cafe, You Are Here, in Hongdae! It wasn’t open when I was in Seoul, which is why I don’t have photos of it, but it’s at the top of my list for next time.)
Zombie Coffee Roasters are leading the pack. The name is also apt for the caffeine-deprived, and lets people pose like this in front of their awning.
Zombie takes pride in roasting its own beans, right in-store. Through a glass door, you can peek in on the process. The young and smartly dressed baristas have won awards for their latte art prowess, and demonstrates these skills in every milk pour.
In fact, the barista was such a perfectionist about his craft that he tossed out the first drink he made for me — saying the art wasn’t up to standards, when I thought it was a swirling masterpiece.
The cafe drinks are a bit expensive, averaging 4000 won, but that’s the price for Pirate perfection.
If you’re an early riser, Zombie has public “cuppings” or tastings at 7am each day, which lets you sample a variety of their roasts.
Dessert club, table of three: yes please. Martina (of Eat Your Kimchi) is a cupcake connoisseur, and says she can never resist stopping at Chikalicious. At night, the cafe makes a nice picture window. This part of Hongdae is especially charming, with winding streets lined with cute cafes and boutiques.
She’s right, this Seoul cupcake parlor is a winner. The Meyer lemon was bursting with real flavor. My photographers still had a sweet tooth, so we went nearby to…
Fell + Cole, purveyors of gastronomic ice cream. Everything is made with natural ingredients, in small batches.
We died over the makkoli ice cream, made from the milky Korean rice wine. Yoda says, “Ready are you to be amazed, hmm? Then to this shop, come.”
(All photos by Jacqueline Kwok / noircorner and Ken Yuen.)
I am doing robot-dance moves because I’m in front of the Robot Vinyl bar. Only in tech-crazy Korea, right?
The robot’s eyes flash, and beckon you in. The menu consists of standard cocktails (about 5000 won for my grapefruit rum mix). But unlike in regular bars, the drinks are served in a clear vinyl bag with a straw. How… future-pop!
Inside, the atmosphere is vintage-cozy, making Vinyl Robot a favorite spot for friends to catch up over a drink. Chances are, you might spot Eat Your Kimchi here.
You are allowed to take the drinks outside, and many patrons get cocktails to go. It’s funny to see young Koreans walking around with what appear to be a medical bags dangling from their lips.
There are a few Graffiti Streets in Hongdae. The art is diverse — note the cows and the music notes. It’s not what I expected of Korea.
There’s a off-kilter aesthetic in the street art here. It’s not as cutesy as Japan, but striking in its own weird way.
The next step in the evolution of mankind… is the Kpop girl! Joke, or not? Korea is certainly pulling ahead as the world’s most tech-progressive country.
In the late afternoon, vendors set up food and craft stalls at the Hongdae Free Market, which encircles the park.
Since this area is the site of Hongik University, there’s a youthful energy here. Unlike in Japan, Koreans rarely dress up in subculture fashion (such as Goth, Punk, or style tribes like the Diamond Gal-Circle). As Simon and Martina put it, a hardcore Korean metalhead might have hundreds of albums and go to obscure concerts, but on the surface, he looks like an “Average Kim.” I’ll show you the Kpop fashion in the next posts, since there is much more to say…
For now, let’s focus on food. I’m not fond of “roughing it” so I was excited to visit Outdoor Kitchen, a Korean BBQ joint that simulates camping in the woods.
Small touches, like a lantern and camp chairs, create the “campy” feeling of being in the great outdoors. There’s even a refreshing fine mist that sprays from the ceiling. Seems the puppy was glad to cool off.
The staff drops hot stones into the grill at your table, and it’s up to you to cook the high-quality beef, soup, and sealed package of hot dogs.
Unlike many theme restaurants (like the Hello Kitty Cafe), the meals are great here. A dinner set for four campers — including salad, kimchi, sides and meat — ranges from 30,000 to 70,000 won. Mosquitoes not included, thank goodness.
We ended the evening at Hongdae Playground, or Hongik Children’s Park. On the weekend, it’s more like a young adult playground. Everyone sat around, drinking and listening to bands perform. What a sight — you have to experience it for yourselves.
Thanks to Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi for this guide to Hongdae! For more, check out my visit to the EYK Studio.
Have you been to Hongdae, or heard of it? What do you think of the shopping and cute art?
PS: if you like what I wore in this post, details are below:
I’m thrilled to announce my next TV project: I’ll be a guest on the award-winning late night news program, ABC Nightline! We’ll be shooting a segment in San Francisco about concept cafes and J-pop culture. I can’t reveal all the details yet, but I’ll fill you in before the program airs so that you can watch.
And then, I’ll be in the city of vampires and voodoo: New Orleans! Anne Rice’s home has been on my wish list for a long time, and thanks to NOLA Tourism, I’ll be diving deep into the dark culture.
Speaking of dark fashion, Black Friday is one of the best times to pick up Goth, rock and edgy clothing at much lower prices. Above are some of my picks (click the black “+” sign in the top right corner to shop the look). These include a black Shakuhachi Tulip Dress and Blade Runner Shirt Dress.
You can also purchase clothing from my own wardrobe — including Japanese street style brands — at discount prices right here.
Since I’m off to San Francisco, it seems fitting to talk about one of my favorite stores in the city: Loved to Death. Like the name implies, this shop is a lovingly curated collection of morbid art and antiques. Expect to see taxidermy mice, baby coffins and other odds and ends.
Perhaps some of you recognize Loved to Death as the site of the TV show, Oddities San Francisco. It’s a spin-off of the Science / Discovery Channel hit series, Oddities New York. Remember when I appeared on the show, and bought a giant deer? (Here’s my Oddities video clip if you missed it.)
It’s easy to recognize the entrance of Loved to Death, from the swirling Gothic swirling sign. (Address: 1681 Haight St, San Francisco, 94117)
The posterboard invites passersby to come in and browse “creepy little things, as seen on Oddities SF.” (This show is sadly no longer running, but you can watch past episodes here.)
The store window features a two-headed skeleton, which you may have seen on the TV show .
When you enter, look up. There’s a Medusa chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Our friend Trevor put us in touch with Loved to Death owner, Audra Kunkle. She opened this store to share her love of dark, eccentric antiques.
Photography is usually forbidden in Loved to Death, but Audra kindly let us take photos, so that I can share this story with you.
The small store was packed with shoppers. Many are fans of Oddities, and make pilgrimages to San Francisco to see the staff and take home souvenirs like stuffed bats.
Not sure if these animals come with the Goth-Rococo black chandelier!
We loved meeting the staff, and chatting about their favorite creepy items.
I’m impressed by the number of rare items. These brown poison jugs are from the 1940s.
Here’s a hat fit for a Civil War military drummer boy, or a pirate in training.
Glass absinthe drips, vintage ouija boards, and skulls intricately carved with floral designs. This is my type of Goth home decor.
This is also a fun place to people-watch, and meet fellow spooks. Outside, we ran into these two ladies in beautiful sugar skull fairy makeup.
It goes without saying, we loved Loved to Death! If you aren’t familiar with this TV show (I appeared in the NY edition), you can watch Oddities NY here.
Loved to Death is on Haight Street, one of my favorite shopping areas in San Francisco. For more tips, check out my guide to SF shopping — including New People World Lolita dresses, future-tribe fashion, and hippie hangouts.
If you could take home one item from the Oddities San Fran shop, what would it be? Don’t forget to let me know your New Orleans, Louisiana suggestions and check out the Black Friday sales!
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scharf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?