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Tokyo Goth clubs & absinthe bars! Gothic party Midnight Mess, Decabar Z, Japanese tribal tattoos.

hibiya shrine tokyo

Greetings from the red torii gate of Hibiya Shrine! Ready for more alternative travel tips from Japan?

I haven’t posted any updates recently to my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, so keep reading for the latest party / nightclub information, as well as a peek inside an absinthe bar.

I’ll also take you to two Godzilla statues, and an exhibit of Japanese modern primitive tattoos with Keroppy Maeda (who did the infamous bagelheads for our TV shows).

japanese goth girl eyes contacts

I receive far too many emails from travelers, asking for information about Japanese Goth and Alternative parties / clubs. It’s impossible for me to look up specific information for everyone, so here’s what I encourage you to do:

1 – Consult my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, which highlights parties and events from over the years.

2 – If you’re reading this post in 2017, I suggest you check out the Facebook pages of Midnight Mess, Decabar Z and Department H. Upcoming parties will be announced there, usually about a month in advance. There are also smaller and less frequent alternative / Goth parties, but it’s impossible for me look up everything for each person, as I’m sure you can understand.

So again, please check out this club guide and research the party names I mention there, to see if they have any upcoming events. I hope you have a great time!

fox spirit shinto shrne

We’ll delve deeper into the nightlife further down in this post. But let’s start with a visit to Hibiya Jinja in Minato-ku, by Park Hotel Tokyo (where we stayed).

Outfit details: My sunglasses are these exact ones. I paired fishnet tights with my leopard print dress, which is Gladnews Japan (it’s available for sale on my Depop).

shinto water purification scoops

Although it’s now surrounded by busy streets, this peaceful Shinto shrine dates back 400 years. I smiled at the statues of fox spirits, and washed my hands in the running water of this purification fountain.

ringing bell shinto shrine

Ring my bell-el-el. I’m tugging a rope that leads to a “suzu” or Japanese Shinto bell that contains pellets. The ringing sound calls the kami, or spirits, which brings in good fortune and positive energy.

japanese fox altar temple

Kitsune (foxes) are prominent in Shinto folklore. They’re messenger spirits to Inari, as you’ll recall from my visit to the famous shrine of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto.

godzilla statue ginza

There’s another creature who has a big impact on the Japanese imagination… ‘Gojira’!

I walked to the Godzilla Statue in Ginza, which is located next to Toho Cinemas (as they release all the Godzilla films). (Address: 1 Chome-2-2 Yurakucho, Tokyo)

japanese shin godzilla poster

Shin-Godzilla or Godzilla Resurgence was still playing in the theater when we visited.

The nearby mall even had a Godzilla-themed cafe with food that was shaped like the monster’s paw! (For more about Tokyo theme restaurants, check out my book.)

ginza hibiya godzilla statue

I’m wearing these exact Vysen lavender sunglasses and this Shashi Tiffany choker necklace

This little Godzilla statue is based on one of the older movie designs, and doesn’t seem so frightening. But inside the mall…

shin godzilla movie statue

… there’s a much bigger and scarier Godzilla! This is the latest look for the “dai kaiju”, as seen in the new movie.

tokyo shin godzilla statue

We saw a lot of fans come to take photos with the towering Godzilla statue (he’s so popular here). This was only a temporary pop-up so I don’t think this statue is here any more.

His little eyes and pointy teeth are a bit goofy when seen from up close….

godzilla head tokyo japan

If you’re a fan of the Japanese monster, you’ve got to stay at the Godzilla head hotel in Shinjuku like we did. Don’t miss these photos of our stay in the Godzilla Gracery Hotel.

tav gallery tokyo japan

One evening, I supported my friends John and Keroppy at their panel discussion on Japanese tribal tattooing at TAV Gallery in Asagaya. This small but progressive space showcases artists who are involved in alternative culture. (Gallery address: 阿佐谷北1-31-2 Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan)

jomon tattoo keroppy maeda

John Skutlin, a cultural anthropologist who specialises in the study of Japanese tattooing and body modifications, speaks about the experience:

“On display at the TAV Gallery that night were photos from the Jōmon Tattoo Project, a collaboration between journalist and photographer Keroppy Maeda and black-work tattooist Taku Ōshima that attempts to recreate the tattoos of Japan’s Jōmon period (approx. 14,000~300 BCE) on modern human bodies.”

japan ancient tattoos jomon

“Although there is no physical evidence of tattooed bodies from the Jōmon era, the people of that period left behind clay figurines called dogū, which depict human forms engraved with various swirling and spiraling designs that archaeologists theorize to represent scarification and tattooing. Chinese accounts from the second and third centuries CE record extensive tattooing among the people of the Japanese archipelago, making it even more likely that the Jōmon people had a rich tradition of tattooing,” says John.

tattoo event conference tokyo

The discussion held that evening included Maeda and Ōshima, as well as the Miho Kawasaki (chief editor of Tattoo Burst magazine from 1999-2012), Professor of New Materials and Technologies Werner Lorke (HfG Offenbach, Germany), and cultural anthropologist John M. Skutlin (The Chinese University of Hong Kong).

Subjects included the inspiration behind the project and speculation as to what kind of role tattooing played among the Jōmon people. Maeda believes that the urge to alter one’s body is universal, saying that, in the course of our evolution, “the first step to becoming a human being is the choice to change our own bodies artificially.” 

taku oshima keroppy maeda tattoo exhibit

John continues: “According to the project’s manifesto, the Jōmon tattoos are “inscribed upon real human bodies as modern tattoo designs to show how the primitive spirit of humankind will become a new identity to survive the postmodern life of the 21st century.” Ōshima, who spent time studying tattooing in Goa, India before traveling the world to ply his trade, is a master of bold black-work designs, many of which cover entire arms, legs, and bodies.”

tokyo handpoke tattooing

Nearly all of the volunteers for the project had never been tattooed before, and the striking designs indicate natural phenomena that would have been important to the tribal peoples of ancient Japan. Waves, snake coils, and tree branches are all motifs that can be seen in the designs of dogū and now recreated on the bodies of the project participants. “You could say that Jōmon tattooing is the true traditional tattooing of Japan, and the designs everyone knows from the Edo period [1603-1868] were Japan’s modern tattooing,” said Ōshima.

primitive japanese tribal tattoos

For more about John Skutlin’s research, you can read his interview with The Diplomat and watch his presentation at the University of Pittsburgh about ink and body modifications in Japan.

If you’re in Frankfurt, Germany between June 3-18, you can see the Jomon Tribe exhibition at Robert Mayer Zeigt Galerie. I’m excited to see how the modern primitive movement in Japan will continue to develop, and question the country’s taboos about tattooing.

japan goth party

While in Tokyo, John and I were also guests at Midnight Mess, the longest-running Goth club — and our hangout for a decade now! How time flies…

If you’re coming to Japan, I highly recommend that you check out their Facebook group page for upcoming events. DJ Maya always creates a welcoming space (and she and many of the guests speak English).

tokyo japan disco discotheque

We gathered at Bar Shifty in Shibuya for the all-night party. Under the disco ball, Goths in black clothing danced to EBM, dark techno / electro, industrial, aggrotech and noise. 

tokyo clubbing shibuya

Posing with Athena, who often plays with Mistress Maya in shibari (rope-bondage) performances.

shibuya nightclub, clubbing

It was great to reunite with Maya and DJ Statik, the resident deejay who I’ve known for years.

tokyo japan club parties

As always, the party ran all night long (trains stop running in Japan after about midnight or 1am — so you have to keep on dancing til dawn!)

industrial gothic dj japan

Midnight Mess always brings in underground performers and guests from around the world. That evening, DJ Maschinenpriester from Germany pounded out a special set.

mistress maya dj japan

I also invite you to visit Mistress Maya at her Gothic/Fetish Bar, which takes place every Monday & Tuesday at Grenier (a small snack bar in the gay district of Shinjuku). She’ll play alternative music, and make sure you are well fed with homestyle cooking and drinks. Address: 東京都新宿区新宿2-18-10 新千鳥街二階 (2-18-10 Ni-Choome, Shinjuku, Tokyo), phone 0363801199.

otaku dj anime

DJ Sin performed with a hooded head. (All of these club photos are by fake-fantasy).

Thanks to Midnight Mess for having us as the guests of honor!

guinea pig bar shinjuku

My friends and I also stopped by one of our favorite Goth bars — Guinea Pig in Kabukicho, Shinjuku. I previously wrote about this bizarre horror bar here. The bondage baby and spine immediately set the dark (yet fun) mood of this tiny bar.

Address: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo. 1000 yen cover. Opening hours are generally 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455

japanese smoking in bars

There’s always an eccentric crowd of regulars sitting around the long, black bar. Yes, that’s a blood-splattered pole in the middle — and torture instruments in the back.

kabukicho weird strange bars

We love coming here to sit under the rotting flesh cross, and watch splatter-gore movies play on the big screen.

horror bar tokyo japan

Obviously, Guinea Pig is not a bar for everyone. But if you love strange, obscure, weird Japan — this spot is for you.

haunted bars japan weird

Chains and zombie hands and live snakes — yes please.

tokyo fetish crazy bars

Even though I am in Tokyo all the time, the city and subculture never grow old to me.

craziest theme bars tokyo

Guinea Pig caters to horror / experimental / slasher movie fans. When we visited, they were showing trailers from Herschell Gordon Lewis films (such as Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast), as he had died that week.

shinjuku kabuki-cho nightlife clubs

Cheers to Guinea Pig, which remains one of our regular drinking holes! If you’re interested in Tokyo Visual Kei and Jrock bars, a Suspiria themed bar, and other oddities, check out my Tokyo nightlife guide.

long spiked fangs ring

Close-up on Atsushi’s spiked fang ring and studded bracelets. Now, to the next party…

shinjuku buidings lights

There’s something about Shinjuku at night — lit up and buzzing — that fills me with joy, every single time I’m here.

pentagram men's shirt disturbia

Every time we’re in Tokyo, we stop to see our friends at Decabar Z (5F Shinko Building, 1-2-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Here’s a link to the map.)

John’s pentagram top is by Disturbia Clothing, makers of occult and Satanic fashion.

pokemon nail art, pokeball nails

Tokyo’s alternative DJs, performers and personalities grace the colorful mural at the entrance of Deca Bar Z. Here’s Maya as a cat, offering a cup of sake in a pink kimono.

ouija board devil tshirt

Devil horns to match this Satanic ouija board unisex shirt, by Disturbia

deca bar z tokyo decadance

Say hello to Preta Porco, who you’ll find behind the (Deca) bar! He’s easy to spot with his bright yellow foundation, contrasted with rosy red lips and cheeks.

halloween tokyo decadence party

Adrien le Danois, owner of Deca Bar Z, also runs the Tokyo Decadance parties. If you’re not in town during one of the decadence events, don’t fret — Decabar Z is open every evening, and there are always interesting theme nights such as “Addams Family.”

decabar z cosplay bar

Grab a glass of absinthe, and chill out on the comfortable couches. (Here are more photos of Deca Bar Shinjuku, from my last visit.)

gothic lolita dj music

We loved the music at the “I Am Electro” night, run by Migon. The DJs play Depeche Mode, Visage, Europe and other favorites — as well as obscure synthwave and 1980s Goth.

shinjuku absinthe bar alternative

As an absinthe aficionado, I’m always looking for the green fairy wherever I go.

Maya took me to Caribbean, an absinthe and rock bar in Kabukicho. (Address: Kabukicho 1-3-10 2F, Shinjuku Tokyo)

absinthe bars tokyo japan

I drank Mansinthe (Marilyn Manson’s absinthe) and we chatted with the owner. He let DJ Maya control the song selection, resulting in the perfect Goth playlist.

absinthe alternative bar kabukicho

The same owners also run the nearby Absinthe Bar Alternative (Address: 1-6-12-B1F, Kabukicho 歌舞伎町, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021). It’s a small basement bar, with several shelves of absinth from around the world — heavenly.

tokyo japanese absinthe

If you’re looking for more absinthe in Tokyo, check out Bar Tram in Ebisu.

Modern primitive tattoos, spatter-gore bars, Gothic club nights… isn’t Tokyo’s underground the best? For more coverage of Japanese alternative nightlife, come peruse my Tokyo Goth club guideHave fun!

Hipster Tallinn, Estonia! Contemporary art galleries, Telliskivi Creative City, Estonian design stores.

tallinn estonia cat mural

After the holidays and a much-needed catch up break, I’m thrilled to be on the road again!

I’m heading back to Europe this month, so I thought I’d do a final flash-back to my travels in Estonia.

Last summer,  I explored the hipster side of Tallinn — art factories, local fashion and design collectives. (Remember when I visited the Estonian Depeche Mode bar?)

goth punk miffy bunny statue

Next week, I’ll be back in the EU… this time, in the land of Miffy!

iAmsterdam is flying me to Amsterdam, where I’ll be covering the cool culture of the city. You may recall that I previously went to the Miffy / Nijntje museum in Utrecht, a kawaii dream come true. If you’re a fan of the Dutch bunny, check out these goodies below with a click:

I’m also heading to Athens, thanks to Marketing Greece! Get ready for the Acropolis, LGBT clubs and Greek island-hopping… Be sure to follow along on my Snapchat and Instagram (@lacarmina) for previews.

hipster tallinn estonia art

Now, let’s talk about Tallinn. As you can see from these photos alone, this is one hip city. My team and I encountered a burgeoning creative culture in Estonia, which is located south of Finland, north of Latvia, and west of Russia.

steampunk cybergoth building

Estonia was a “Soviet socialist republic” from 1940-1991 (gaining independence when the USSR collapsed). This era resulted in some intriguing cyberpunk relics such as this apocalyptic steam plant, which has been converted into a creative art hub. (More about this later in the post).

Telliskivi creative city

If you’re interested in Tallinn’s art scene, you’ve got to visit Telliskivi Creative City. This abandoned factory area has been reclaimed as an urban space, and is now home to the biggest artistic hub in the country.

dinosaur mural painting

Telliskivi spans 25,000 square meters, and contains over 200 independent businesses and non-profits. The crumbling structures have been converted into an artistic, alternative, public space. For example, the run-down walls by the railroad tracks are now covered in colorful murals.

Jaanus Juss Telliskivi artists

We met Jaanus Juss, the young founder and CEO of Telliskivi Loomelinnak. He talked about his vision of bringing together a wide variety of creatives, in an inspiring co-op space.

pop up shops restaurants tallinn

The “creative city” currently includes organic cafes, a printing shop, furniture makers, an antique book store, yoga studio, and childcare center. The residents also run regular dance evenings and flea markets.

hip cool tallinn estonia

The entire space is a canvas. As we walked around, we saw giant art installations and beautifully executed murals like the one above.

estonian model girl

Telliskivi has revolving pop-up stores, which give local designers a chance to showcase their handmade arts, crafts and fashion.

concrete planters, cactus pots

Love these geometric concrete cacti planters.

cute hip street art estonia

In Telliskivi, the possibilities for artistic expression are endless. We passed by ateliers, workshops, a theater, galleries…

Telliskivi factory studios

… and an architect’s studio (above). We also tasted the world’s best dark grain bread — no exaggeration — at Muhu Bakery (Muhu Pagarid). The brown rye loaves are baked fresh, with sunflower, hemp and flax seeds. Straight out of the oven, this hearty Estonian bread is a revelation!

abandoned buildings tallinn

Jaanus took us into one of the buildings that has yet to be restored. As we walked up the stairs, we glimpsed the scrawls of angels and demons. 

Telliskivi rooftop

We made it to the rooftop, where he pointed out the first graffiti in Estonia. (Street art was previously frowned upon in Tallinn.)

viewpoint tallinn estonia rooftops

We had a brilliant view of the entire collective, including the bordering train tracks and Old Town.

bicycles tallinn estonia

Back on the ground, we took a peek inside a bike shop. The skull art caught my eye.

weird cool art baltics

Telliskivi was established in 2009, but the Baltic Railway buildings date back to 1869. I’m eager to see how this vibrant, creative city will keep on evolving over time.

tallinn power plant chimney

The Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) currently have a thriving artistic scene — perhaps because these countries are now free from the USSR, and spreading their wings creatively. Cities like Tallinn are liberal, yet have a low cost of living: the perfect breeding ground for young artists.

tallinn creative hub

This is certainly the case at Tallinn Creative Hub, a center for cultural events in the heart of the city. Behind these big red doors, there are workshops, festivals, exhibits, seminars and other creative enterprises.

Tallinn City Central Power plant

This building was once the Tallinn City Central Power Station, which operated between 1913 and 1979. The current incarnation preserves the boiler room, gas reservoir and brick chimney — giving the venue a Steampunk meets Gothic vibe.

tallinn steam boiler cauldron hall

In 1977, director Andrei Tarkovsky used the power plant as the set for his cult film, “Stalker.” My jaw dropped when I walked into “Cauldron Hall” — a high-ceilinged room that looks straight out of Mad Max or Blade Runner! 

cyberpunk mad max building

These precarious, rusted ladders and balconies look like a post-apocalyptic set. It can be rented out for events — I’d have an epic “end of the world” party here.

art music studios estonia

Tallinn Creative Hub’s cavernous spaces include a Maker Lab (workshop with various machines), recording studio, and food lab (for experimenting with recipes). There’s also a community garden and cafe, free for locals to enjoy.

tallinn linnahall olympics stairs

Outside, I walked up the “stairway to nowhere” — Linnahall. It’s a large, grey, concrete staircase that doesn’t really lead to anything (how surreal and Soviet)! Linna Hall was a sports venue built for the 1980 Olympics, situated on the harbour, but it’s fallen into disuse today.

tali tallinn design shop

Back to Old Town, where we popped into the design store Tali. Everything here is made by local designers — jewelry, leather goods, clothing, and furniture.

baltic art boutique

I’m a fan of modern Estonian designs, which tend to have minimal, geometric forms (as characteristic of Northern Europe). The works are stylish, yet with a sense of humor.

wood wooden bow ties

The cute animal sleep masks and wooden bow ties were among my favorites, and are great souvenirs.

estonian design house

We also paid a visit to Estonian Design House, home to several studios and the headquarters of the Estonian Association of Designers.

hip clothing store tallinn

There’s an impressive selection of upcycled fashion, quirky lighting, hipster backpacks, sleek jewelry and posters.

Stella Soomlais studio leather fashion

Upstairs, I got a tour of Stella Soomlais studio. She makes custom leather accessories for men and women, such as the sleek black wallet I’m holding.

octopus head weird art

I love how Estonian art isn’t afraid to “keep it weird.” The octopus and rooster-headed photographs made me laugh.

crazy strange baltic art

Last stop: the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM). This non-profit initiative has a DIY feeling, with a cafe in the entrance hall, and an adorable flower garden in the back.

estonian painter Alice Kask

We saw the self-titled solo exhibition of Alice Kask, an Estonian painter. Her works use materials such as old wooden boards, which stand out against the stark, industrial walls.

estonian artists

Alice Kask’s works have elements of surrealism, which I love. They touch upon themes such as the body, media images, and symbolism vs reality.

tallin modern art museum

The Contemporary Art Museum of Tallinn brings in works both from Estonia and worldwide. Their rotating exhibitions always have a strong voice.

contemporary art Museum of Tallinn

Her painting style is striking and a bit unnerving. Alice depicts human bodies with realistic strokes, but then gives them a bizarre twist and surrounds them in abstract space.

estonia modern painters

Isn’t the art scene in Estonia intriguing? Thanks to Visit Tallinn for inviting us, and showing us around.

(All photos by Borderless Media.)

visit tallinn travel bloggers

For more, check out my post about Estonian cuisine and the Depeche Mode bar here.

And now, I’m off to Europe again… dancing with joy. Can’t wait to share travel stories from Amsterdam and Athens with you soon! 

A sunrise visit to Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar! Burma golden temple, Buddhist travel destinations.

Shwedagon pagoda gold temple

I’ve been to temples all over Southeast Asia, but none has been as extraordinary as Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. In this photo diary, Yukiro and I will show you why!

Before we begin our pilgrimage, I’m humbled and thrilled to announce that I won the Best Blog of the Year awardA zillion thank yous to everyone who voted in the Auxiliary Magazine awards. None of this would have been possible without your support throughout the years. Congrats to the other winners and fabulous nominees, and I am excited to keep on bringing alternative travel stories to you in 2017.

female buddhist monks pink robes

Yukiro and I are standing inside Shwedagon, with lovely locals. This huge golden Buddhist temple complex dominates the Yangon skyline, and is one of the most sacred sites in Myanmar (Burma). The name breaks down to “shwe” (gold in Burmese) and “Dagon” (the township where it is located).

That day, we met the kindest, gentlest Buddhist nuns, dressed in pink robes…

burmese children wearing thanaka face paint

… and children with thanaka (sun-protecting face paint) on their cheeks. (All photography by Sniper Chau.)

burmese makeup, burma style

Let’s begin our visit to Shwedagon Pagoda with a note on the dress code. Out of respect to those who come to the temple to worship, all visitors (male and female) should wear clothes that cover their legs and shoulders. Shorts aren’t permitted, but there are longyi that you can borrow at the front if you forget.

Despite the clothing restrictions, you can still glam it up — as we did! We wore long wrap skirts (mine is from Thailand), and lightweight tops that kept us from overheating in the humid weather. (Yukiro had the shawl over his arms except for this moment of posing!) Sunglasses are a must, as the golden glare hits hard once the sun rises. In addition to sunscreen, we painted some thanaka over our skin as well.

Shwedagon pagoda tickets, entry fee

We met our ParkRoyal Hotel Yangon driver in the lobby at 6am, as we wanted to catch the dawn. It’s worth waking up early, as sunrise and sunset are the best times to visti Shwedagon Pagoda. (You also avoid the crowds and the high noon-time heat this way).

The temple is open from 4am to 8pm, and the entrance fee for foreigners is $8 (about 8000 kyat — make sure you have the local Burmese currency). Everyone must remove his or her shoes at the entrance, and go barefoot inside the complex. If you’re a foreigner, there’s a special rack where you can store your shoes (otherwise, you’d have to carry them with you).




Shwedagon pagoda yangon myanmar

We walked down the long corridor, and bought a fragrant strand of white flowers. It opened up into this mesmerising plaza filled with gilded architecture and colorful Buddhist statues — we felt as if we’d entered a new universe.

buddhist children praying

Shwedagon is a feast for the eyes and senses. It’s filled with an energy of compassion and happiness — as personified by these praying, chanting Buddhist children.

The pagoda sits on Singuttara Hill, and holds the relics of four Buddhas. The first version was most likely built by the Mon people between theb Shwedagon Pagoda was pillaged many times, rebuilt and expanded, and struck by earthquakes — but has stood strong, and is grander than ever.

travel bloggers myanmar tourism

Could there be a destination more fabulous than this one?

Shwedagon is the largest stupa in the country, at 99 meter high. It’s plated with over 20,000 gold bars, with a tip decorated with thousands of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. The various buildings hold treasures of Burmese art, including the Tharrawaddy Min Bell that weighs 44 tons.

(In the 17th century, a Portuguese adventurer stole the 300-ton Great Bell of Dhammazedi — but it fell into the Bago River and was never recovered.)

smiling buddhist monks

Myanmar is the world’s most Buddhist country, with most locals identifying as Theravada Buddhists. It’s a regular sight to see monks and nuns of all ages in the city, and we encountered many smiling faces here.

Shwedagon golden temple burma

I think Yukiro and I fit in rather well with the decadent, golden art!

Visitors can spend hours wandering into the various buildings, where there are thousands of Buddha statues and relics to behold. 

reclining electric buddha statue

Although Shwedagon Pagoda is centuries-old, and has traditional architecture, you’ll also see modern incarnations. Such as this reclining Buddha with a flashing, electric cyber-disco halo around his head.

punk rocker buddhists

The spirituality is open and welcoming in Myanmar. We saw punk rockers praying, and monks with tattoos. Some locals choose to become monks or nuns for a short period of time (such as few weeks or months).

burmese sculpture, architecture

I wasn’t too familiar with Burmese sculpture / art until I visited, and was in awe. In this tradition, Buddhas are smiling and friendly, and draped in golden robes.

buddhist pilgrimage, sweeping floor

We had no issues walking around barefoot, as the tiles are kept clean by volunteers with mops. Locals have always pitched in to preserve Shwedagon, taking part in activities such as sweeping the floor, washing the statues, and repairing damaged areas.

buddhist asia tour group, travels

The stupa is a top Buddhist tourism destination. We saw a tour group of men and women in pink headwraps, travelling together on a spiritual pilgrimage.

buddhism spiritual destinations, tourism

I loved seeing the joy and tranquillity on everyone’s faces.

burmese rooftops, architecture

Burmese architecture ranges in styles. This reddish-brown spiky roof spoke to our Gothic aesthetics.

cyber goth rainbow gothic fashion

As the sun continues to rise, the tiles heat up. It’s good to go early (as we did) so that you can leave before high noon.

Shwedagon pagodas silhouette

As author Rudyard Kipling described it: “Then a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun.”

visit rangoon burma temples

Wearing cat-eye sunglasses by Moat House Eyewear, which match my pink hair and top.

myanmar temple tour, travelers

A lot of locals came up to us, and gently asked to take photos together. We got nothing but compliments on our outfits and style.




burmese women lonyi fashion skirts

We became fans of the elegant, traditional fashion — particularly these Burmese long skirts, or longyi. This group of women shows it’s possible to be chic while following the dress code.

buddhist kids girls shaved heads

Offerings of fruit and flowers for the Buddha, made by these young devotees.

indian beggar donation

Loved seeing the small moments of generosity all around Shwedagon Pagoda.

Shwedagon gold pagoda yangon

Myanmar has only recently opened to tourists, which means landmarks like these are still very locals-only. We saw only about 10 foreigners during this visit, and there weren’t any gift shops or touts.

burmese water purification ritual

Many Burmese also follow traditions that come from Hindu astrology. They pour water and perform purifications at their “planetary post,” which refers to the day of the week they are born on. For example, if you were born on “Wednesday Morning,” you would look for a basin with this signpost, and make offerings and wishes there.

leogryphs, cinthe

On the left, you can see the sign for “Tuesday Corner.”

We didn’t know which day of the week our birthdays fell on… but the giant leogryph (mythical lion creature) looked like our spirit animal.

burmese lion statues, cinthes

This protector lion being is a “chinthe”, often found at the entrances of pagodas and temples in Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Love the sideways-facing paws.

burma snake temple, snakes

Snakes are another guardian, depicted with vampire-like fangs. The precise carvings found all over Shwedagon are impressive.

travel tips visit myanmar temples

Photography is allowed in Shwedagon Pagoda. Anyone can respectfully ask monks or nuns if they’re willing to take a photo. However, as our guidebook counselled, one must not touch their robes (not even for a friendly pose).

young buddhist boy monk

As you can see — it’s ok to stand next to a monk after getting his consent to take a photo together. But langorous arm-draping is a no-no! 

burmese traditional makeup

Burmese children grow up learning the founding legend of this stupa. Once upon a time, two brothers were traveling when they met the Buddha beneath a tree. They offered him food, and as a thanks, the Buddha gave them eight hairs from his head!

Shwedagon buddhist temples pagodas

The brothers put the 8 hairs in a ruby casket and carried them back to Burma, where they started to build Shwedagon Pagoda with the help of their king.

blue leopard print top, skirt

There are other relics preserved in the temple complex, ranging from sacred robes to… an ancient water filter.

buddhist storyboard, illustrations

This sign illustrates the story of the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment. Love the rainbow colors, and the gorgeous Burmese script.

most buddhist country myanmar

It’s apparent how much meaning the Buddhist teachings have to locals here, through each stage of their lives.

longyi fashion southeast asia

We’re very glad we got to spend time in Myanmar, a travel destination that people often overlook.

red robe monks burma

Such an interesting contrast between monastic simplicity, and golden richness. 

lens flare morning sunrise southeast asia

When we saw these flares of light, we knew why “Shwedagon Zedi Daw” is also know as the Golden Pagoda.

myanmar bodhi tree Shwedagon

Don’t forget to walk around the edges of the complex, which tend to be quieter, and filled with surprses. Such as: a bodhi tree. 

buddha monk meditating bodhi tree

Siddartha Gautama meditated under a bodhi tree until he attained nirvana. Perhaps this monk, crouched under the canopy, will follow his path.

Shwedagon lion statues, protectors

We encountered this lion guardian on the outskirts as well. The pale pink claws are on point.

praying burmese monk

Shwedagon is heaven for people-watching and photography. (All images by Sniper Chau.)

burmese ladies dresses

The women we met were stylish and self-possessed. The Burmese are known for their welcoming nature, perhaps testament to the Buddhist culture.

happy buddhist children school

This nun smiled at us as we passed by, and her group of children followed suit. Moments like this remind me of why I travel.

buddhist travel, destination

I hope this photo diary conveyed the magic of Yangon’s Great Dagon stupa. Although the pagoda is not a household name, it now ranks among my favorite wonders of the world (and I’ve been to Petra, Angkor Wat, Hagia Sophia and more).

southeast asia travel blogger

Coming up: we’ll show you more of Yangon, including Sule Pagoda and art galleries. A big thank you to ParkRoyal Hotel for the driver and travel tips. (See our review of ParkRoyal Myanmar here.)

Have you heard of Shwedagon before? Isn’t this spiritual site inspiring? Thank you again to everyone who voted for me in the Best Blogger of the Year awards — none of these adventures would be possible without your love!

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Hipster Stockholm travel tips! SoFo Swedish fashion & music stores, Sodermalm, Fotografiska museum.

long clothing streetwear, dolls kill

I spy, with my giant eye… Stockholm!  (My eye-catching top is by Long Clothing and these leggings are Killstar.)

I have quite a few friends from Sweden, but didn’t make it to Scandinavia until last summer. I was curious about the young / artsy / subculture side of the city, so we spent the day exploring. I thought I’d share my findings in this hipster travel guide to Stockholm.

stockholm cathedral doorway triangle

Along the way, I found the perfect outfit post location: Stockholm Cathedral’s doorway, topped with a spooky black triangle. I’m wearing a Long Clothing x Mishka eyeball shirt, and these exact minimalist sandals.

Long Clothing’s designs are great for travel, as they’re stylish and easy to match, and also comfortable and lightweight. Below are some of my favorites from their collection.

stockholm bridges, walking tour

Since it’s still freezing in many parts of the world, I thought it would be nice to have a flashback to summer. Many tourists consider this the best time to visit Stockholm, as the weather is pleasingly warm.

My friends and I spent the entire day walking around the city — and it was perfection. From our Grand Central by Scandic hotel in Norrmalm (north of the city center), we walked south to Gamla Stan (the Old Town district, consisting of Stadsholmen island and a few islets).

gamla stan shopping, fashion

Gamla Stan dates back to the 13th century. The cobbled streets and classic architecture give it an old time charm. I loved walking around these streets and admiring the historical buildings.

Some of these streets are very touristy, but there are also fun stores such as “Science Fiction Bokhandeln” (a fantasy / sci-fo bookstore) and “Zapata,” a hippie counterculture shop where Yukiro buys some of his clothes.

long clothing mishka eyeball shirt

Close-up on my Long Clothing oversize and pentagram leggings by Killstar. More from this Gothic occult designer below (click to see details):

stockholm roof spires pointed

Stockholm Royal Palace, Parliament and other government buildings are also located in Old Town. How neat are the Gothic pointed spires that pierce the skyline? And these manicured shrubs look like they were pruned by Edward Scissorhands.

freemason triangle symbol door stockholm

I enjoyed the sweeping 18th century stairwells of Stockholm Palace — but this archway was a better fit for my style! The giant wooden doors lead into Stockholm Cathedral, which was built in 1279. The golden Medieval interior has hosted many a royal wedding.

This triangular symbol has a Freemason and occult vibe. However, it’s apparently a symbol of the Holy Trinity radiating golden light.

(I’m wearing street style by Long Clothing, who also make:)

moomin shop stockholm

We kept on strolling… until I saw these happy Moomin figures, and ran straight in. This is a shop that sells cute character goods and souvenirs.

stockholm cute kawaii stores

Moomin is the white, globular mascot created by illustrator Tove Jansson. (You may recall that I went to the Helsinki Moomin shop.)

Tove was born in Finland, but grew up speaking Swedish and studied art in Stockholm —  so both countries claim Moomin as their own. 

katarina hissen elevator viewpoint

We crossed yet another bridge (Stockholm has many) — this time from Gamla Stan to Södermalm. “Soder” was once the working class district, but now it’s gentrified and home to a bohemian and cultural scene. Many scenes in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” were set here.

There’s an incredble viewpoint here: “Katarinahissen” or Katarina Elevator. This steam-powered elevator was built in 1882 and powered by steam — very much ahead of its time, and steampunk to the max.

stockholm fashion blogger, sweden

Today, Katarina Hissen is no longer in operation, but you can climb the stairs to reach the top (and it’s open 24 hours). The cardio workout is worth it, for these incredible city views.

(All photography by Joey Wong.)

dollskill fashion blog outfit

Stockholm is actually situated on 14 islands, which you can see from up here. No wonder it’s often called he “Venice of the north.”

(I got this cute bag from Hong Kong, but there’s a similar Harajuku ghost backpack by Killstar.)

sofo grandpa clothing store

In my previous post, you’ll recall that we visited the hipster district of Hornstull.

There’s another hip haven in Södermalm: SoFo, short for “South of Folkungagatan.” These blocks are a collective of indie fashion, vintage shops, cute cafes and artsy bars.

hipster fashion stockholm so fo

The ironically named Grandpa is all about young fashion and interiors. The shop has a Kinfolk-worthy atmosphere, and all the brands are carefully chosen. You’ll find eco-friendly clothing, minimalist and subculture-inspired styles, and metallic Scandinavian home decor.

sweden street style stockholm

Behind me, I spy a rack of granny dresses, bicycles, and outdoor tables. (My leggings are Killstar; more pentagram witch fashion below:)

rainbow pastel vintage interior decor

I spotted pink flamingos int front of this SoFo store. Coctail is a rainbow of cute retro maximalist kitsch.

kawaii home decoration

I spotted a Miffy lamp, hovering on a cloud. This collection of colorful Mexican sugar skulls also drew my attention.

pet sounds records stockholm

Don’t miss out on SoFo’s Pet Sounds record store. Run by music buffs, the shop has a delectable selection of vinyl records, CDs and DVDs.

sofo hipster underground alternative

I’m looking at disco rarities, of course. Pet Sounds has albums for the most obscure of tastes, including collector’s items from around the world.

killstar leggings goth pants

(See more items from Kill Star below:)

nick brandt inherit dust exhibit

Last stop: the Fotografiska Museet, or Stockholm Photography Museum. I sometimes find photo exhibits to be hit-or-miss, but this museum had multiple floors filled with thought-provoking works.

The most compelling gallery was “Inherit the Dust” by Nick Brandt. In a “making of” video, I was amazed at the photographer’s process. Nick blew up prints of his earlier wildlife photos, turned them into life-sized panels, and placed them in the slums and quarries of East Africa. He found locations that matched up the mountain ranges and backgrounds seamlessly, making it seem as if elephants and leopards were roaming these industrial wastelands.

stockholm fotografiska photography museum

There’s no Photoshop in these black and white panoramas. The contrast between nature and uncontrolled development is startling. 

photography museum stockholm sweden

One of the most painful photos shows a drug squat, filled with addicts with glue bottles hanging from their noses, ignoring the giant elephant print looming next to them. If you’re intrigued, I encourage you to look up Nick Brandt’s photography about disappearing Africa.

All in all, I was very impressed by Stockholm’s museums. (I also saw and reviewed the Yayoi Kusama art show, at Moderna Museet.)

Katarinahissen stockholm best view

Isn’t Stockholm one sweet city? I hope this travel guide helps you plan a visit.

And if you’re looking for a hip hotel in Stockholm, here’s our review of Grand Central by Scandic.

stockholm street fashion

How do you like my Nu Goth outfit of the day? There’s more from these designers below!

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