Category Archive for Fashion

Lion dance & lanterns! Hong Kong Chinese New Year celebrations at Hotel sáv, Kowloon.

hong kong lion dance

What’s it like to celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? Loud and colorful, with fireworks and lions!

In February, Hotel sáv flew us in to ring in the Year of the Sheep (or Goat), and soft-launch their new hotel in Kowloon. We even got to decorate our own “La Carmina room” inside!

chinese new year lion dancing

Even though I’ve traveled to Hong Kong over 20 times, I’ve never been here for “Gung hay fat choi” festivities. Thanks to sáv, I saw the rituals up close… maybe too close, since I got attacked by a hungry purple lion! 

hotel sav, kowloon hong kong

The newly-opened hotel has a lifestyle philosophy that connects with me. They want guests to have an elevated stay: connecting them with local art / culture, and enriching the body / mind.  

(Hotel Sav address: 83 Wuhu Street, Hung Kom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. See map and Chinese directions.)

sav hong kong, boutique hotel

Sav’s modern lobby reflects the “Color Journey” approach. Each shade represents qualities such as creativity, peace and vitality. To give guests a personal experience, every room has a different color.

china lion dancers

Sav hotel brought in lion dancers, to celebrate the Year of the Sheep (or Goat – both are used interchangeably in Asia).

watch lion dance, hong kong

Color, energy, inspiration — these qualities make the hotel stand apart.

grand opening hong kong new hotel

I worked up the courage to pet the furry pink lion…

girl eaten by lion

Unfortunately, the purple lion got jealous. He raised himself on his hind legs… and swallowed me whole! 

(These Goth buckle shoes are by Steel Ground Shoes. I adore their alternative designs — check them out if you’re looking for edgy new footwear.)

chinese traditional musicians

When you see our video, you’ll know this was a raucous performance. Musicians banged on traditional drums and symbols, while the lions twirled and danced.

lion dance climb pole

The yellow dancer scurried up the bamboo pole, a feat that requires expert coordination. The music built up a crescendo… and finally, the lions released confetti and a scroll from their mouths. (The Chinese characters express the wish that “everything will be better than you expect.”)

chinese new year ritual offerings

Everyone cheered, and the Sav hospitality team cut the roast pig down the middle. This offering of food and incense is a classic good luck ritual, in China.

chuang's company, sav hospitality team

Cheers to the Hotel sáv team. We see them working long hours each day, ensuring that every detail is in place for the guests.

hong kong coolest hotel

Their hard work has paid off. The lobby design is remarkable: the lights and logos are constantly changing colors. 

sav hong kong review, lobby

Since it was Chinese New Year, I wanted to wear something with red (the lucky color). My dress is by Hong Kong designer Spider — it has a carnival, festive feeling that matches the occasion. The lace black cape is from Black Milk ClothingMy cat-ears hairstyle is by Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Salon, Vancouver.

kowloon hotel patio lounge

The hotel is now open to guests, but some of the amenities are still being finished. I can’t wait to see the completed patio and bar, equipped with an impressive sound system.

playing bongos guitar

The indoor lounge bar, Amplitude, will also open soon. The space will offer specially created cocktails, and can be rented for private events.

hong kong hotel bar

I don’t actually know how to play the bongos, but I did my best. (Photos by Naomiyaki and Melissa Rundle. In the next post, I’ll show you how Naomi made art for our custom room!)

palette restaurant, hong kong

We looked forward to eating at Palette Restaurant every day. Their motto is that “Food should do two things: it should taste completely delicious, and it should contain things that do your body good.”

sav hotel breakfast buffet

Palette’s chefs source local and seasonal ingredients, to make a global menu. No MSG or grease here. (I personally recommend the Singapore laksa, fish balls and vegetables soup, steamed shrimp dumplings, and Thai curry.)

Even if you’re not a guest at Hotel Sav, you can come to experience the daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Save room for desserts!

rainbow cocktails, colorful drinks

Decisions, decisions… Which drink to try first? Sav makes some of the healthiest cocktails around, using fresh fruit such as strawberries rolled up to resemble a rose.

rainbow colored cocktails

True to the theme, each hand-created fruit cocktail corresponds to a color. The lime/rum and orange/honey were my favorites.

goat rings, silver gothic jewelry

How else did we celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? John Skeleton dropped by, with his new goat-head rings.

hong kong chinese new year fireworks

Hong Kong puts on a stunning fireworks display every year. I don’t recommend going to the Tsim Sha Tsui harbor to watch, since you’ll get crushed by the crowds. My friends and I watched them from my uncle’s apartment on the Kowloon side. We also got lucky red pockets filled with money — one of the best rituals of the season!

year of the sheep lanterns

On a different night, we dropped by the TST waterfront to see the Chinese lantern displays. Above is more proof that cuteness reigns in Asia.

tsim sha tsui harbor lanterns display

Rows of gigantic lanterns, featured smiling and waving sheep.

petting lion, chinese celebrations

Are you familiar with Chinese New Year celebrations? Ever see a lion dance?

Next, I’ll take you inside our custom-decorated Hotel sáv room, and show you more of Hong Kong!

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Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson: Lobby Girl movie costume! Odigo Japan startup launch party.

grand budapest hotel costume, lobby girl

I’ve taken on a new job in the travel industry… located in the imagination of filmmaker Wes Anderson. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve become a Lobby Girl!

grand budapest hotel logo

My costume is inspired by the “Lobby Boy” character in The Grand Budapest Hotel,  which recently won four Oscar awards. Can you believe I’ve watched this movie about 10 times? It’s witty, charming, funny and stylish — Wes Anderson at his best.

moov magazine cover, wes anderson

I couldn’t resist doing a “Lobby Girl” cosplay, in tribute to the Grand Budapest Hotel. Shutterbug James photographed me in character… and it made the cover of Moov Magazine‘s “Best Of” issue!

Later in this post, I’ll share more photos from our shoot. But first, the Lobby Girl had a gala to host… in Tokyo, Japan. 

tokyo tech travel startup

Last month, I flew to Tokyo for the launch of travel start-up, Odigo. We threw a phenomenal party — thanks to my friends who celebrated with me!

japanese demon masks

What went down? Demon masks, an open bar, Italo Disco music, and a photobooth by ROMP.

jrock style fashion

Are we doing the “X Japan” Jrock sign, or “dame-ee” (which means forbidden, in Japanese)? Probably a bit of both.

tokyo party photobooth

I’m happy to officially unveil Odigo to you. The English-language site is for you guys: people who want to travel to Japan, and see all things offbeat and authentic. 

Readers tell me it’s hard to figure out Japanese addresses, and how to get around. With Odigo, you can easily plan a trip that’s tailored to your interests -- where it’s sushi or Sailor Moon.

keroppy maeda, bagelheads japan

Perhaps you’re intrigued by body modifications, such as bagelheads in Japan? Odigo can show you where to find them. (Hint: look for the man behind the bagel, Keroppy Maeda, above.)

japanese punks goths designers

Odigo also helps you discover underground designers like Ako of Blablahospital (far right). Remember I wore her punk fashions in New Orleans?

tokyo club party photos

It was wonderful to reunite with old friends, and meet new ones. We grooved to DJ Swiftt Edits’ Italo Disco playlist…

colorful hor d'oeuvres

… and nibbled on colorful hor d’oeuvres. Despite the rainy day, our party was packed!

odigo travel startup japan

Several attendees got prizes through the lucky draw. (My lace cape is from Black Milk Clothing.)

Streamer Coffee Company meguro

The event was at Streamers Meguro, a coffee house that brewed probably the best latte I’ve ever had in Japan.

Kilo Shop Tokyo meguro

Upstairs is Kilo Shop Tokyo, which has a large selection of vintage designs.

tokyo vintage dresses shop

Payment is by the kilo, rather than per item.

blue purple hair color

The whole team has been working day and night on the launch, and it’s paid off.

takamasa kawasaki, red horse, embracing diversity

How does my Lobby Girl outfit fit with the site’s mission? In my speech, I explained it represents Odigo’s personalized approach to helping travelers plan “an extraordinary journey” to Japan.

(Above, I’m with founder Takamasa Kawasaki, who wrote a book called “The Power of Embracing Diversity.”)

japan cross dress

Like the concierges of the Grand Budapest Hotel, we’re passionate about sharing the best spots and creating a seamless itinerary, which you can download to a mobile phone and simply follow along.

la carmina and friends

Anyone can contribute travel tips to the site, and build upon previous journeys. I encourage you to check out Odigo and add their Facebook to find out more.

lobby boy costume halloween

Now, let me share the photoshoot we did for Moov Magazine’s cover and spread! Funny enough, I actually stayed in a grand hotel in Budapest, in 2013. This setting, however, is the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver.

wes anderson oscars best costumes

This movie truly is a must see (here’s a link to the digital download). The cinematography, set design and costumes are outstanding: look at the colors! Those military buttons!

grand budapest hotel, hair makeup

We wanted to re-create this feeling, in our images. Huge kudos to my photographer Shutterbug James, assisted by Amy Kay. My crimped hair is the magnificent work of Stephanie Hoy, of Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada.

concierge, lobby boy outfit

The Lobby Boy’s hat is integral to his look. I DIY-ed a “Lobby Girl” version of the cap — using felt, fabric and letters, which I painted with gold sparkly nail polish.

lobby boy hat, clothing design

My dress is by Spider, the Hong Kong Gothic Lolita / alternative / cosplay fashion brand by Natalie Lam.
These gold-flecked tights are by Gal Stern.

crimped hairstyle

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver was the ideal setting, with its gilded interiors that date back to the early 20th century.

lobby boy hat, jacket

The interior is full of symmetry and decadent shapes, which would please Mr Anderson. I’ll gladly help guests plan a fun trip…

grand budapest hotel exterior car

… but I’ll let the lobby boys do the heavy lifting. (Above is the hotel exterior, in The Republic of Zubrowka.)

wes anderson halloween costumes

If you haven’t already, you must see the Grand Budapest Hotel (available online!). It’s become my favorite Wes Anderson movie.

lobby boy character costume

The soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is also wonderfully evocative. The CD is available here; it won the 2015 Oscar for best original score.

goth doll modeling shoot

Cheers to Shutterbug James for the fun photoshoot.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver lobby

Do you think we capture the feeling and aesthetics of the movie?

mendl's bakery box

I even made a Mendl’s Bakery box, and we shot this at a nearby patisserie!

wes anderson fans costumes

Thanks to Moov Magazine for putting this Lobby Girl on the cover.

odigo travel launch event

And gratitude to my friends who came to the Odigo launch event.

streamers coffee shop japan

Fashion One wrote an article about my “Tokyo takeover” — soon, you can watch my “day in the life” TV segment with this style network.

tokyo photo booth photographer

And there’s a lot more Japan coverage coming up, including an DecabarZ 80s club night, and a peek inside the Pokemon theme cafe.

trip planning japan tours

If you’re interested in traveling to Japan, check out Odigo. You can plan trips, submit your own spots, and be part of the fun.

What do you think of my Grand Budapest Hotel costume? Are you a Wes Anderson fan like I am?

Cebu, Philippines Travel Video! GoPro underwater filming & tropical yoga classes.

travel videos vlogs

Today’s a happy day… because our Philippines travel episode has been released!

Want to see me in tropical paradise, doing yoga with Filipino beauty queens? Then watch the 4-minute travel video above below and on Business Insider.

youtube travel show, series

A huge round of applause to sáv Hospitality for teaming up with us, and making this travel film possible. The photos speak for themselves — we loved every moment at Pacific Cebu Resort.

yoga school philippines

PCR is not your typical resort. There are endless activities you can take part in, which let you learn something new and experience Filipino culture. Case in point…

tropical yoga retreat

… I took part in an outdoor yoga lesson, with the Miss Scuba Philippines beauty pageant contestants! What a memory: stretching beneath the palm trees, while listening to the sounds of the ocean.

resort yoga lessons, meditation

Even during the more difficult poses, the ladies smiled and kept their poise.

miss scuba diving

Filmmaker Eric went scuba diving with the contestants. Again, it’s impressive how they can do pageant waves under water.

diving instructor sign

Pacific Cebu Resort has well-regarded scuba instructors (here’s more about the dive school).

tropical fish gopro underwater

Eric took the video and these photos with a GoPro camera — a tiny and affordable device that lets you film under water. We’re big fans of the Go Pro, since it’s easy to use and gets gorgeous shots like the school of fish above. If you’re going snorkeling or diving, take a look at these cameras.

pacific cebu resort, sav

On dry land, we shoot photos with the Sony alpha 7, a mirrorless camera (it’s full-frame quality, but half the size and weight of a regular DSLR).

travel video filming, youtube star

And this travel video was filmed with a Canon 5D Mark II, known as one of the best DSLRs on the market.

hippie fashion, white dress

We loved the philosophy of this hotel group, sáv.  They participate in community programs that aim to build a better future.

pretty filipino girls, Philippines women

The Miss Scuba Philippines contest, for example, raised awareness for marine conservation, safe diving practices and scuba tourism  — while celebrating the inner beauty and courage of today’s young women

miss scuba pageant winner

We listened to 2013 Miss Scuba first runner up, Christine Paula Love Bernasor, speak about the “Sea of Change” required to save marine life.

philippines models, beauty queens

This one-of-a-kind pageant fits perfectly with sáv’s theme of well-being for the body, soul, and environment. 

danggit fish heads philippines

Even the food reflected the Filipino culture. At each meal, we could order local favorites like adobo chicken, lumpia and lechon. Above — I tried danggit, or crispy fish heads dipped in vinegar. They were great!

calamansi juice

I also discovered a new favorite drink: calamansi (a tart citrus from Southeast Asia) with gin. Such a pleasure, to sip this cocktail while looking out at the beach.

cebu luxury resorts

Many resorts can get boring after a while… but not this one. Guests can get accredited in SCUBA right on location.

cebu diving sites

Cebu is diving paradise, with dozens of coral-rich reefs just off the islands.

travel video host, presenter

Other activities: banana boats, sunset cruises, para-sailing…  

youtube travelers series

You’ll recall that one of my favorite days of 2014 was this one — sailing around Lapu Lapu, and meeting the villagers.

travel vloggers

The three above photos are by K of Bright Production in Hong Kong. The other images are by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.

sav pacific cebu resort spa

And don’t forget the 24-hour spa service. The PCR staff can even send a masseuse to your room.

southeast asia yoga retreat

Travelers tend to overlook Cebu as a beach destination, but coming here opened my eyes. It’s not expensive to stay in the Philippines, and a roundtrip flight from Hong Kong is only around $200 US.

pacific cebu resort rooms

The islands aren’t overrun with tourists and chain restaurants. And I found the beaches, scuba and snorkel to be better here than in Phuket or Bali.

cebu honeymoon hotel

We can’t thank Pacific Cebu Resort enough for this beautiful experience. For more photos and stories, check out more of my Philippines travel stories.

travel yoga classes

And please watch our Cebu travel video here. Thanks for supporting my work!

Have you ever considered a yoga retreat? Did this series convince you to visit the Philippines?

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Join my Odigo travel blogging workshop! Tokyo’s weirdest bar, Guinea Pig Shinjuku.

harajuku crazy street fashion

Jump for joy — I’m heading back to Tokyo for the launch of Odigo! Wouldn’t you like to join me?

There’s a rare chance. On Feb 28, I’m hosting an exclusive travel blogging workshop in Tokyo. We’ll teach you all we know about travel blogs, journalism, TV, video, photography and more.

Read on the for details, and photos from the bloodiest, strangest, craziest theme bar ever!

odigo travel bloggers workshop

I’m excited to announce the official launch of Odigo, a site that lets you plan an exceptional journey to Japan. You can search for offbeat attractions — such as kawaii stores, theme restaurants — as well as more traditional spots. Odigo links everything together in an optimized itinerary, which lets you get from place to place with ease.

I invite you to sign up to be a contributor – anyone can share their finds on Odigo! And if you’re in Japan… come to my travel blogging workshop on 2/28. My professional photo/film team and I will give in-depth advice on travel writing, photography, TV and video production, social media, working with sponsors, finding a niche, and much more.

When: Saturday, February 28, 1:30-4pm (followed by a round-table and reception). Matador U is giving a workshop before us (see all details on the Facebook invite and MeetUp)
Where: Ryozan Park, 6F, 3-36-7 Otsuka, Tokyo (here’s a map. It’s a few minutes walk from Otsuka station on the Yamanote line).
Cost: Free if you sign up on Odigo and submit writeups for 10 spots. For everyone else, 5000 yen per person. Limited to 25 spaces, including lunch, resources and networking.

Curious about what else I’ll be doing, in Tokyo? Add Odigo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find out.

eyeballs in jars, horror bar

Thanks to Odigo, you can easily find info about the most bizarre and obscure places in Japan. For example, I did a writeup about Kabukicho bar, Guinea Pig. Look for a plain building with a winding staircase, and take the elevator up to a door with a barely visible sign.

guinea pig tokyo bar

This underground bar is for those with a bloody disposition. The decoration consists of such nightmares as chains, baby mannequins, and horror movie art.

(I’m wearing this Nanette Lepore: Runaway Stripe dress and a crown from my NY friend King Vulcanus Levi.)

asia horror movie bars

So, how do you get to Guinea Pig? The address is: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo (all this info is on Odigo!) 1000 yen cover. Opening hours vary; generally from 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455

weirdest tokyo theme bar

The bar’s decor is inspired by b-horror movies: zombie hands reach down from the ceiling, and a mannequin in chains sits at a table.

scary haunted shinjuku bar

The owner, a flamboyant fellow named Roxy, is hilarious and will make you special cocktails. He’ll also dare you to play with his live pet snake.

coolest cocktails tokyo

Our friends ordered Bloody Marys, while Yukiro and I got his specialty, a mix of grapefruit, rum, and maybe some voodoo potions.

japanese strange art

Strange art hangs on the walls. It’s a unique mix of dread and humor in this bar.

japan horror movie bar

Japan is well known for its weird theme bars, which I’ve written about extensively before. These include a visual kei bar, an absinthe Goth bar, and more.

guinea pig kabukicho

And here are all of my posts about bizarre theme restaurants, in Japan and elsewhere.

kabukicho bars

Some of these bars are one-act novelties, but I can go to Guinea Pig again and again. It’s a subculture hub — there are always interesting people drinking at the small counter.

goth bar japan

Yukiro was shooting a bad girl b-movie there, entitled ‘The Bloody Knockers.” I make a cameo in the bar scene! The movie is out now, and you can watch it here… if you dare.

japanese voodoo witch

If you’re a fan of Japanese horror films, and fetish is your idea of fun, then I have a feeling you’ll dig Guinea Pig too. You can look up more spots like this on Odigo.

japan club kids, street snaps night

All of these photos are by Tokyo-based photographer Said Karlsson. He took these candid snaps of Yukiro and me dominating the neon streets of Shinjuku.

shinjuku crosswalk, kabukicho lights

No, we’re not posing… we always cross the street like this!

maleficent cosplay, halloween costume

Every dark creature must stop to curtsy in front of evil queen Maleficent.

tokyo japan kids playground

We couldn’t resist climbing this Japanese kids playground equipment, and striking a pose. Funny, we did something similar in Berlin.

japanese convenience store interior

Antics in the convenience store. I’m not sure what we were doing in the magazine section…

haagen dazs sakura ice cream

We ended up getting special edition rose and sakura flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream. The pink looks nice against my Totoro nails.

feeding each other ice cream

In heaven, people feed each other rice with chopsticks. In hell, I suppose they survive on pink ice cream!

designer playground equipment

Have you been to any of Tokyo’s crazy theme bars? Which ones are your favorites?

I hope to see you at my Odigo travel bloggers workshop, on February 28 in Tokyo! Info is at the top of the post, and feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.