Category Archive for Cape Town + Africa
I’m leaping in the air because our Cape Town video is out!
In this latest episode of my travel show — published on Business Insider Travel — I encounter lions, drag queens, penguins…
…street art, and color everywhere. (Above, I’m posing with the rainbow homes of the Bo-Kaap district – outfit details and more here.)
Please take a few minutes to watch our episode above and on Business Insider.
It was hard to edit all the fantastic footage into a short video. I could go on for hours about why I love this city — but I’ll boil it down to 10 things I love about Cape Town.
1. South African Wine Tastings
South Africa’s wines have been getting attention in recent years, especially those from the Stellenbosch region. I’m no wine expert, but I can tell you that these are some of the best I’ve tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot).
Our driver took us about an hour outside of Cape Town to Steenberg, a modern vineyard and farm. The staff poured us a selection of white and reds, including the smooth and complex Magna Carta. I wish I had a glass of it in my hand, as I’m typing this!
Outside, we ran into Pumbaa the warthog! This rotund creature really looks like the African pig in the Disney movie, The Lion King. Of course, filmmaker Melissa had to sing Hakuna Matata and pet his bristles.
Somehow, the Asian peace-sign pose is appropriate here. Pumbaa was the only animal who didn’t bite her during our journey. (Remember she got nipped by a peacock, penguin and dassie… and I got pecked by an ostrich.)
2. Cape Town Wine Bars
Another glass? Yes please. I got tipsy at Publik, a laid-back bar that serves local wines along with cheese, rye with quince, and smoked free-range meats. If you usually dislike a certain varietal, they might surprise you with a delicious version that makes you think twice. The goblets and high counters make this an easygoing experience — there’s no snobbery here.
3. Jazz Safari with Local Musicians
I love getting to know locals wherever I go. One night, we joined a Jazz Safari tour that took us inside the homes of local musicians. We ate dinner together, and then listened to a private home performance.
Musician Hilton Schilder’s wife prepared us a hearty curry with rice, and it was one of the best meals I had in Cape Town (along with Faldela Tolker’s Cape Malay cooking). Hilton plays multiple instruments, and performed experimental pieces on piano, guitar and this African mouth bow. I enjoyed hearing about his inspiration, such as how he composed a 15 minute song called “Rebirth” by visualizing a keyboard on the ceiling, as he was lying in bed recovering from an illness.
Next, our guide Michael drove us to one of the townships. We saw some metal shacks on the outskirts, but most of the residents lived in small houses. Not nearly as ominous as you might imagine.
TA Blaques performed energetic compositions on trumpet, with his friend on guitar. Cape Jazz is a local style that mixes Western and African influences, with plenty of improv. We tapped our feet along as they played a mix of “Pata Pata” and “In the Jungle.” What a memorable night.
4. Beefcakes Gay Bar & Drag Queen Show
Now, for a very different type of nightlife… What is the gay scene like in Cape Town? I must say, pink and fabulous! The gay bar Beefcakes has a double meaning: it serves burgers, and the waiters are all beefed-up studs!
Beefcakes has frequent “boogie nights” that bring in LGBT and alternative performers. The bar is a favorite destination for girls nights too. We saw a bachelorette doing a “body shot” off a waiter’s six pack.
But that evening, all eyes were on drag queen Champagne le Roux. She took the stage, and made snide but light-hearted comments about people in the audience. At one point, my cutesy lion backpack was the subject of her interrogation.
After some song-and-dance numbers, it was time for “Bitchy Bingo.” Champagne ordered a “ball boy” to come on stage and pick out bingo numbers.
Our friend Vicky won! She had to go onstage to dance with the queen, and then got awarded prizes like a Beefcakes calendar and a bottle of warm beer.
5. African Cuisine
Speaking of meat, Cape Town Tourism organized some outstanding meals for us. At Africa Cafe, I tried pap for the first time — a mushy, gluey staple carb made from ground maize. The menu offered African exotic meats, including springbok, impala, crocodile, and warthog (alas, poor Pumbaa!).
6. Drinking Cap Classique
Alcohol is a big part of my Top 10 list, isn’t it? At Hallelujah, I tasted a selection of Cap Classique “champagne,” a bubbly wine from South Africa. It was apparently a favorite of Marie Antoinette and European royalty.
Hallelujah also serves outstanding Asian street food at like prawns with hot steamed buns and coleslaw. Melt-in-your mouth dishes designed for sharing, inspired by dim sum and Asia comfort foods. I didn’t realize Cape Town had such hip restaurants and bars.
7. The House of Machines
A lot of locals recommended a bar called The House of Machines. Once we got there, we saw what all the buzz was about. This space is a mix of motorcycles, men’s fashion, art and cocktails.
They make a mean dark and stormy cocktail, and the music (indie rock, dance, local) is spot on. The next time I’m in Cape Town, I’ll be heading straight here.
8. Handmade Local Fashion
Missibaba is a women-run leather studio that stays true to its Cape Town origins. Many of the accessories take inspiration from African art, such as purses with tribal patterns.
A devotee of “slow fashion,” Missbaba employs local craftswomen who make almost all of the designs by hand.
Lead designer Chloe Townsend is passionate about “slow fashion” and supporting South African women. Her workshop employs craftswomen from an underprivileged township, and she donates a portion of proceeds to local empowerment programs.
9. Young Design Studios
Remember my trip to Woodstock Exchange, a modern art hub? You can’t leave Cape Town without exploring the cool studios inside.
I interviewed designer Atang Tshikare of Zabalazaa about his urban illustrations, which he custom-creates on skateboards and other surfaces.
He shares a space with Jasper Eales, a product designer who won awards for his eco-friendly design solutions, like a clever surfboard storage rack.
10. Powerful Political Art
Cape Town has a tumultuous history that is often contemplated in its local art. Ralph Ziman’s photos symbolize the devastation caused by arms trading. He photographed street vendors holding AK-47 guns, created out of African beads and wire.
His team showed us “Resistance”, a 100-meter long installation of a broken gun made from wheat paste. The weapon is wrapped in world currencies, symbolizing the international complicity in the arms trade.
I leave you with this smiling warthog from the vineyard. He seems to be humming Hakuna Matata.
Did this post open your eyes to South Africa’s wines, LGBT nightlife and restaurants? Please let us know your feedback on the video, and where you’d like us to see us travel next!
I’m glad you enjoyed the first half of my Year in Review! In this post, we’ll look back at the last six months of 2014, which took me to eight different countries for various work collaborations.
We’ll begin with this magic moment, in front of the glowing orange Tokyo Tower. I’ve lost count of how many times I have been to Japan, but each time, I fall in love with the country once again.
This year, I began working with Odigo.travel — a startup that lets travelers plan “exceptional journeys” to Japan, by creating trips and getting offbeat tips from insiders like me.
In June, Odigo flew me to Tokyo to give a speech in front of hundreds at PechaKucha. I spoke about my bizarre journey from blogging to TV presenting, writing and traveling worldwide. << Curious about my presentation? Watch my Pecha Kucha speech.
I’m excited for the official launch of Odigo early next year, and invite you to get a sneak peek here. Odigo lets you discover the coolest attractions in Japan — such as the adorable owl cafe — and put together a customized trip with all the addresses, maps, hours and info in one place. You can also contribute your own write-ups and images; take a look at Odigo, and I hope you’ll enjoy using the site.
As part of my mission to find Asia hotspots, I flew to Taipei for the first time. Here’s a Nanette Lepore outfit post from Taiwan’s Humble House boutique hotel.
Taipei’s cheeky, modern art scene impressed me. Looks like the resident caveman (at Le Meridien) is trying to apologize to me. Perhaps he tried to steal my cat… << All the photos and outfit details here.
Did you think “kawaii” cute culture was found only in Japan? In fact, Hello Kitty is possibly even more popular in Taiwan. She has a theme cafe in Taipei, and Sanrio had an interactive exhibition while I was there. (I haven’t blogged about this yet — I know, I’m always backlogged — but you can peer inside the Hong Kong Hello Kitty cafe.)
I keep busy with a variety of different projects. I was in Hong Kong for a big TV shoot with Pro Sieben (German television). Can’t say much about this yet, but I’ll show you the photos and clip when they air next spring.
I wrote a number of articles for magazines this year, like Sunday Times Travel UK. I also have my own column in each issue of Hong Kong Express Airways’ in-flight magazine (scans above).
As I mentioned in the last post, my focus is now on coverage I find meaningful — hence the stories about travel and underground culture worldwide. I’d feel empty if I followed the typical fashion blog format: outfit photos, consumption-oriented roundups, and little else of substance.
Nonetheless, I’m still passionate about style when I can express it on my own terms. I love to support designers who do things differently: slow fashion, alternative styles, eco materials, vintage. Moat House’s sunglasses are a perfect example, and I was honored to model their frames on a life-size poster in Paris.
I returned to Hong Kong, which remains one of my favorite cities thanks to my friends and relatives here. I organized an influencers dinner for Odigo, and took Yukiro around to my favorite boutiques and restaurants.
Things got Miffy-crazy in our Hong Kong penthouse, at the Upper House Hotel… You’ve got to see this epic blog and video, if you missed it!
My Pirates and I went to the new art center: PMQ in Central. At the time, there was an exhibition of 1600 panda bear statues. A powerful (and cute) way to get word out on the WWF, and their work in protecting endangered animals.
Oh, and the delicious food we ate in HK! Above was one of the best meals of the year, a melt-in-your-mouth sashimi salad by Harlan Goldstein at Sushi To. << Check out all my Hong Kong restaurant reviews.
My Asia journey didn’t end there. I went to Seoul for the first time in over a decade, and it’s changed so much. Fortunately, my friends Eat Your Kimchi gave me pointers on where to see the best of K-pop culture. << Wander inside the EYK YouTube studio.
… and got beamed up into the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Now that’s what I call space disco architecture!
This year, I realized more than ever: you only live once, and opportunities may never come again. So when Cape Town Tourism invited my film team and me to go to South Africa, we had to say yes — even though it was happening during an insane travel period. We weathered a sleepless schedule, trans-continental flights, lost luggage, and other fiascoes along the way.
But as soon as we stepped out onto the colorful streets of the Bo Kaap, I knew we made the right choice. We had so many wonderful moments on this trip — jazz in townships, Stellenbosch wines, street art, hanging out with local artists.
I also went on my first safari, and it was as magnificent as I imagined. We took photos of elephants, rhinos, zebras and this pride of lions.
Perhaps you’ve been wondering: who is “we”? Or rather, who goes on these trips with me? Since my jobs require high-quality photos and videos, I’m not a solo traveler.
For the most part, these comrades are Eric and Melissa, my close friends and seasoned filmmakers. With each project, we aim to improve the quality of everything we produce. I hope you’ve been enjoying the recent visuals and stories — we’ll keep on upping the ante in 2015.
In the late summer, I was honored to be the cover model for Kirameki Magazine, wearing a Moi-meme-Moitie dress. << See all the photos and credits from this shoot.
Also, fun fact: I found out I’m a direct descendant of 16th century Chinese military leader, Yuan Chonghuan (袁崇焕)! His story is rather heavy metal… In the Ming Dynasty, Yuen was a revered commander who twice defeated the Mongol army, but was later betrayed and killed via Death by a Thousand Cuts. His enemies in Beijing rushed to buy and eat his body parts, but his loyal friend She managed to rescue the head. For the past 300 years, She’s descendants have been guarding my ancestor’s decapitated head. I’m not sure where it is today, but my family still has an ancestral plot of land in Dongguan, his southern Chinese hometown…
After a bit of sunshine in Vancouver, I was back on the plane to a new Asian destination… Cebu in the Philippines! The streets were a jumble of colorful jeepneys.
… and we did a showcase of their gorgeous Pacific Cebu Resort (travel video to be released soon).
Jet lag, what’s that? The small annoyances are all worth it, when you get to experience a near-perfect day like this one. << Look back at my boating and beach adventure in Lapu Lapu.
We flew a few hours north, and wound up in what seemed like completely different universe: Shanghai, China. Here’s the glowing Bund, which captures how fast the city’s developed in recent years.
I went to the mainland a few times when I was growing up, and it never looked anything like this. I still have more to show you about Shanghai’s young design scene, hip restaurants, and French Quarter. << For now, here’s an outfit post from Cachet Boutique Hotel.
Before the end of the year, I made two final trips: to New Orleans, and San Francisco for a TV shoot with ABC Nightline. I haven’t had a chance to post about these adventures yet, but here’s a preview at my new hair color (a blue-purple-magenta ombre by Stephanie Hoy). You can look forward to these stories and several new travel videos, beginning in January.
Middle East, Africa, Asia… what’s next? I hope you’ll continue to join my journey in 2015, since I have big plans up my kimono-sleeves! Check out @lacarmina on Instagram for day-to-day images, and to hear announcements like reader meet-ups.
Thanks for being with me on my journey — I read all messages and comments, and am grateful for all the love you give. It’s amazing to connect with like-minded people who believe in what I do. See you next year. Let’s make it the best one yet!
Everyone knows you can go on safari in South Africa… but did you realize there’s a penguin beach colony and steampunk cafe here? No? Then waddle along with me as I discover these unexpected places… and get bitten by a few animals long the way.
From Cape Town, our driver took us for a 1.5 hour scenic drive to Cape Point, the southernmost tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. (Technically, the meeting spot fluctuates slightly, and Cape Agulhas is located furthest south on the continent — but let’s not nitpick.)
The winding road gave us incredible views of the mountains and fishing villages. We saw some hitchhikers, hanging out on the rails…
These red-bummed monkeys are native baboons! (More on them later.)
My team and I stopped briefly to take in this view of the mountain ranges and ocean. July is winter in South Africa, hence the slightly menacing weather. I kept warm with a Hakuna Matata cat hoodie from Artbox in Seoul.
My Gothic version of Baywatch “running on the beach.”
This little dog seemed to be sniffing for seafood. Photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.
Back to the road trip along the peninsula. It’s as good thing we didn’t stop to pick up a barrel of monkeys…
… since all the road signs warned us to steer clear of “Baboons!”
Another quick stop, this time at Cape Point ostrich farm. It was established in 1960s, as a breeding ground for these fluff-bodied, bald-headed birds.
Visitors can aww at the baby ostriches in the pen. If you are brave, you can purchase a bag of food to hand-feed the ostriches…
I gave it a try, and this angry-looking ostrich pecked my palm! Yes, I screamed.
Finally, we made it to Table Mountain National Park. The sign shows the coordinates of Cape Point. From there, it’s an easy 30 minute walk to the lighthouse.
We filmed so many incredible shots from up high — can’t wait to show you the video. After this mini-hike, we were ready to eat. A lot.
We dined like kings at Two Oceans restaurant: grilled local hake, langoustines and other sustainable seafood, washed it down with white South African wine. (Very impressed with the wines here, particularly from Stellenbosch.)
And then… it was time to see the African penguins! Wait, what? Yes, there’s a breed of black-footed Happy Feet, found only in these South African waters.
Boulders Beach is only a short drive from Cape Point, and it’s home to a large colony. These penguins flocked here in the 1980s and took over the beach.
Today, this is a popular attraction for visitors. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see hundreds of cute penguins?
There’s a small entrance fee, which lets you get up close and personal with the little guys. A sign warns, don’t pet the penguins.
But filmmaker Melissa didn’t listen, and found out the hard way. Cute as they look, these penguins bite! (Remember she also touched the Table Mountain dassie…)
The closer we got to the sandy beach, the more penguins we saw. Some of them clustered together and played.
Others were babies, still with their fluffy down overcoats. The park set up these little cave-homes for the penguin families to live and breed in.
How cute, this pair of penguins leaving webbed footprints in the sand.
At the end of the path, it was penguin-mania! This breed makes a funny braying noise, like a donkey. A few were waddling around, but most were resting on their stomachs.
A lone penguin dips his foot in the ocean. Isn’t the Cape Peninsula gorgeous?
As you can see from the shadows, Boulder Beach is a favorite destination. Coming here was one of my favorite moments in our South African press trip.
Another highlight was visiting Truth Coffee Roasting, a Steampunk cafe. (Address: 36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town)
These “pirates” are passionate about producing the best artisan, small batch coffee — ever. Truth’s steampunk decor captures this spirit of experimentation and adventure.
I’m drinking a “flat white,” a beverage similar to a cappuccino, but with less milk and a velvety foam.
(My fringe top is by Japan pop-punk brand Listen Flavor, from Shinjuku Closet Child.)
All around the cafe, I saw gears, brass, clockwork and old-time machine parts. The baristas even dressed in top hats and suspenders.
The food here is as excellent as the coffee, including the chocolate croissants, and “steampunk breakfast” of organic eggs, vegetables and flatbread.
The focal point of Truth is “Colossus,” a 1940s Probat roaster with a cast iron drum, tricked out with mad scientist parts.
Truth Coffee often has wild performances and events befit for airship pirates, such as burlesque shows and steampunk parties. How cool, to see how people around the world are inspired by this subculture.
Were you surprised to see penguins and steampunk in South Africa? The more I travel, the more I discover…
Life has not been crawling at a snail’s pace lately: I’ve been overwhelmed with dream jobs and trips this year. Bear with me, as I put together coverage from my trips to Africa and Asia. In this post, I’ll give you a tour of Cape Town’s colorful art in the Woodstock district.
But first, announcing my next destinations. I’m going back to Hong Kong, and for the first time, I’ll be in Cebu and Shanghai! I’m working on a number of travel projects, including a partnership with a new hotel group. I’m also doing a major network TV shoot in Hong Kong, appearing on-camera as host and also arranging the production.
Finally, whenever my filmmakers and I have a moment to breathe, we’ll capture stories about Asia subcultures for you. If you have tips for places to visit, especially in Shanghai and Cebu, please leave me a comment. (Above, I’m in front of the Cat’s Living cat cafe in Hongdae, Seoul.)
Now, let’s flash-back to my first time in Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu described post-apartheid South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation.” His words describe Cape Town’s Woodstock district particularly well. This neighborhood has developed from an inner-city slum into a colorful art haven. Locals live next to design studios, and in homes decorated by international artists.
Juma Mkwela took my team and me on a Woodstock art walking tour. He came to South Africa from Zimbabwe, and was a victim of the 2008 xenophobic attacks. Juma turned this tragedy into an impetus for change: he now uses art to educate children, and inspire social development in disadvantaged areas.
Not long ago, Woodstock was run-down with crime and drugs. In 2011, a local artist called Freddy Sam launched a revival project, aiming to bring pride and color back into the community. Today, Woodstock is a trendy hub with homes painted by dozens of international artists, mainly with messages of peace and love.
Using giant walls and buildings as canvases, these artists — coming from countries like Canada, UK, and China — created art in a mix of creative styles. We spotted what looks like an evil Bart Simpson. (Photography by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)
Many paid tribute to Africa, by depicting animals such as the ones we saw at Aquila Safari. An elephant eye stares out from this wall.
Pets are a popular motif. This dog painting integrates with the existing materials of exposed brick and cracked walls.
Some of the works are provocative. Argentinian artist JAZ made this “Not Eating” urban mural, showing a big cat devouring a man’s head.
Here’s another version by JAZ, with colors that match the rust of the pole in front. Juma told us that these murals revitalized the area, and created a sense of pride in the community.
The artists get permission to paint the walls, and work with residents to create a design. Many incorporate portraits of the homeowners, or elements that reflect their personalities. I suppose I’d live in this Victorian home with cute pastel elephants on the front.
Apartheid only ended in 1994, and locals still remember how it loomed over their lives. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, many chose to paint messages of tolerance. One of my favorites is this “One Heart, One Love” mural by Boamistura, a group of five Madrid artists.
I’m dressed rather internationally: a rainbow lion t-shirt from Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, leggings from Hong Kong’s Izzue, a fuzzy jacket from Peace Now Japan, and a scarf from San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The “most fabulous” award goes to New York’s Cern, who made this purple marvel starring the homeowner’s deceased white cat. I like how he used the curve of the gate to make an elephant’s forehead and trunk.
Juma walked with us all around Woodstock, pointing out hidden works and talking about their inspiration. Colors and cute faces peeked out from alleyways.
Andy Warhol would give a thumb’s up to this wall of product labels.
The Woodstock art initiative has truly uplifted the district. Children help out with the painting, and locals say they’re proud of their decorated homes.
What a coincidence: this segmented rainbow lion statue perfectly matches my Thailand t-shirt! Just by walking around and interacting with the designs, I felt uplifted. I’m a big supporter of using art as a means for positive change.
I could sense that the murals were made with passion. Some had important messages of anti-poaching; this one reminds us that hundreds of rhinos are still killed each year for their horns.
Some works were black and white, and abstract. This intricate design is by Yumanizumu of Japan.
Others encourage you to pose and have fun. Help, I’m being attacked by giant bees!
Quite a few hint at the tumultuous history of Cape Town. Woodstock is next to District 6, where 60,000 people of all ethnicities lived together until they were relocated by force in the 1970s. Today, District Six is razed and empty.
I thought the most successful works were the ones that were vivid, had a connection to Africa, and made you think. Interesni Kazki’s “Zebra Suit” is a great example, and leaves the meaning open to your interpretation.
When Juma told us to look up, we all grinned and did the “Carleton dance.” It’s Will Smith, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!
Time to explore Woodstock Exchange or WEX, a modern building that incubates young artists and creative shops. The open space is very Portlandia-hipster, isn’t it?
Woodstock Exchange features public installations, like this swing. I’ll later take you inside the creative studios, where artists work and play.
I’m a fan of this sleeping dog statue by Frank van Reenen. Next door, there are multiple design and fashion boutiques, and art galleries.
We had a healthy lunch at Superette. I could eat their veggie sandwiches and protein-salad plates every day; everything is prepared with locally-source seasonal ingredients. For a drink, it’s hard to decide between the fresh lemonade, ginger kombucha, local roast coffee, and craft beers.
On a different day, we ate fresh seafood at Ocean Jewels in WEX. $4 US for a plate of grilled angelfish and sweet potatoes. Once again, I could have this daily!
Leave room for a drink at Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, described as a “Purveyor of Magical Infusions and Tasty Curiosi-Teas.” I tried brewed buchu, a South African woody plant that has traditional medicinal properties, and is drunk to help digestion.
Lady Bonin also serves gluten-free and sugar-free snacks. We tried the matcha, and rooibos with mocha.
Isn’t the street art in Woodstock incredible? Gotta love this blue fellow with Bam Bam hair. Thanks Cape Town Tourism and Juma for the inspiring tour.
I leave you with multicolored works by two Spanish artists. Okuda…
… and Remed. Without doubt, South Africa is a Rainbow Nation.
PS: Don’t forget, I will be in the Philippines (Cebu), China (Shanghai) and Hong Kong soon! Let me know your travel suggestions, and follow along my trips in real-time on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked in the right sidebar).