Category Archive for Fashion
Visiting the Taj Mahal in Style: Tips for taking photos at sunrise! Entry fees, tickets & best photography locations.
And… this is how you Taj Mahal in style!
Yukiro and I always travel fabulously, but I think we took it to the next level at the iconic mausoleum in Agra, India.
However, don’t expect to swing by at any time for photos like these. Visiting the Taj Mahal takes preparation, and a reputable local expert can help make the most of your visit.
Janu Private Tours, our brilliant guide throughout India, took care of all the arrangements for this perfect sunrise tour of the Taj.
Read on for travel tips on how to make the most of your visit to India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. We’ll share locations for taking the best photographs, and the story behind this romantic monument.
Be sure to read on to the end: there’s a bonus tour of Fatehpur Sikri palace, and Mad Max driving shenanigans in India!
Mr Janu and his team at Janu Private Tours have organized thousands of trips, and know how to help travelers get the best possible experience at the Taj Mahal.
Unlike most tour companies, Janu customizes all itineraries, and provides a private car, driver and fluent guide for their clients. We arrived in Agra in the evening, ate dinner at a delicious Indian restaurant, and got a good night’s sleep at our 4-5 star hotel.
The next morning, our local guide Deepak was waiting for us in the lobby at 5 am, as sunrise is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal. A lady at the hotel helped us put on these saris, using only three safety pins each — amazing.
Entrance fee, access and hours: The Taj Mahal is open daily from sunrise to sunset, except on Fridays.
We took a short walk from our hotel to the outer entrance of the Taj. Deepak helped us purchase our entry tickets for the Taj Mahal (1000 Indian rupees fee for foreigners, in cash). Then, we rode a golf cart-style shuttle to the entrance of the monument itself. (At sunrise, there are only a handful of visitors — not counting the monkeys!)
What to pack for visiting the Taj Mahal? I suggest that you bring mosquito spray, a bottle of water, a handheld fan, money in India rupees, and your phone / camera.
Do you know the love story behind the Taj Mahal?
Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, was devastated by the loss of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal (she died giving birth to their 14th child). He was determined to build a magnificent mausoleum in her loving memory, which was completed around 1653. Shah Jahan spared no cost: the project would have cost around $830 US million today.
As we walked through the gate and glimpsed the famous dome, Deepak told us about the Mughal architecture of the Taj. The complex is a masterpiece of refinement and symmetry, with perfectly proportioned lines radiating out in the four directions.
Pretty much everyone tries to get a photo in front of the long reflective pool. However, it’s impossible to get clear shots like these, unless you come at dawn.
It’s well worth waking up before sunrise to put on something special, and take unobstructed photos like these. After all, visiting the Taj Mahal is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience… you might as well “work it”!
As you can see, there are only a handful of visitors right when the doors open at sunrise. It also helps to come to India in the off season (we were here in early July, just after the high heat and before the monsoon rains).
I looked over at the meticulously arranged gardens, with the number of trees and partitions chosen according to numerology. For example, the division into four quarters symbolises the four flowing rivers of Jannah, or Paradise.
What should you wear to the Taj Mahal? It’s always a good idea to cover your shoulders and knees out of respect to the local culture. If you decide to enter the mosque, then you’ll have to cover your head as well.
Many women wear saris to the Taj. Our (third gender) hijra friends from Jaipur gave us these phenomenal saris from Rajasthan, as a gift. The bright colors and light, flowing fabrics were perfect for the weather and occasion.
As you walk closer to the white domed roof, you’ll come across this second reflective pool, with a white bench in front. This is “the” famous photo spot, with a southern view of the Taj Mahal.
Be prepared for local photographers to approach you, and offer their services. We responded with a polite “no thank you,” since our fantastic guide did double-duty as a photographer! Namaste Deepak for all these images.
Here’s another look at the architectural symmetry — isn’t the effect peaceful? The image of the Taj Mahal can be recognized worldwide: four minarets framing the tomb. The long pool perfectly reflects the mausoleum.
Shah Jahan commissioned the best artisans to build the Taj Mahal, sourcing fine materials from all over India and Asia. The beautiful white marble and gemstone facades are carefully maintained today, as you can see from the scaffolding.
I read about a travel Instagrammer who visited around the same time, and got in trouble for Photoshopping out the construction… Fierce poses require no editing!
Yukiro and I loved seeing the lovely saris and styles worn by Indian women at the Taj. Notice that the group of women have red henna in the part of their hair. Such a unique beauty statement, which reflects their regional customs.
When you reach the platform of the mausoleum, you’ll be asked to take off your shoes. You can wear socks inside, or put on shoe covers that are provided (that’s what we did).
From a distance, the white marble of the Taj Mahal looks plain. Up close, you can see the intricate decorative elements: Persian calligraphy, and floral motifs made from inlaid gems.
The designs are understated and minimal, yet bursting with detail. I ran my hands over the remarkable marble carvings, which are precisely inlaid with gemstones like jasper and jade.
Visitors aren’t allowed to take photos inside the mausoleum, which is designed in the shape of an octagon, and decorated with fine gems and lattices. You can walk around the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife.
The emperor wanted to build a matching Black Taj Mahal (how Gothic!) for himself. However, the spending had gotten out of hand — and after some family conflicts, his son Aurangzeb put him under house arrest at Agra Fort. When he died, Shah Jahan was buried next to his wife, forming the only non-symmetrical aspect of the monument (since her tomb was designed to be in the center).
Be sure to check out the two red sandstone buildings that flank the Taj Mahal. These are a mosque and guesthouse, designed for balance.
Even Yukiro looks tiny under one of the Taj’s four minarets. In the old days, the mu’adhin would climb up this tall tower five times a day, to give the call to prayer — quite the cardio workout!
Muslims come to the mosque on Fridays, as the complex is open for prayers between noon and 2pm.
Deepak pointed out a spot across the Yamuna River, where the emperor had planned to build his Black Taj Mahal (basically, a Goth version of the UNESCO site!)
We highly recommend that you come to the Taj Mahal with an expert guide, as we did with Janu Private Tours. You’ll get so much more out of the visit: Deepak answered all our questions about the history and design, took care of the logistics, and helped us take photos from all the best angles.
I developed a deeper appreciation of Indian architecture, after this trip. Just look at the harmonious detail above — the lines, arches, spires.
Such a joy to see this incredible work of devotion, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Sometimes, famous landmarks don’t live up to their reputation. This is not the case with the Taj Mahal. We both agreed that this was one of our favorite moments of our India journey.
Since we had so many great photos, I did some psychedelic edits for fun.
As you probably know, many Beatniks and Hippies were heavily inspired by Indian culture. In the 1950s to 70s, they traveled the “Hippie trail” overland from Europe through Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. Most had the goal of reaching India, or sometimes continuing all the way to Asia. With today’s political climate, this route is now impossible…
On the bright side, flight prices are historically lower than ever, and online resources (like travel blogs!) make it easy for travelers to find information about India.
If you’re an alternative or female traveler, be prepared for lots of curious (but good-natured) attention from locals. We usually say “no thank you” when people ask to take photos with us, but made an exception for the Indian Army Officers that guard the Taj Mahal.
Security levels were strong everywhere we visited in India. If you take regular precautions, you’ll have nothing to worry about when you come here.
Timeless, futuristic, the Taj Mahal is a work of genius. The translucent white marble even glows under moonlight!
Namaste Janu Private Tours for making this a visit we will never forget.
If you’re visiting Agra, there’s another palace you must check out: Fatehpur Sikri. This royal city was founded in 1569 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and was the capital of the Mughal Empire until 1585 (due to lack of water in the area and political conflicts).
We “royal ladies of Rajasthan” felt right at home here, since that was the purpose of the palace — to house the emperor’s three royal queens. One was Muslim, one was Hindu, and one was Christian. The Hindu consort, Jodha Bai, was his favorite since she was the only one who bore him a son.
Fatehpur Sikri has a playful vibe, as the emperor enjoyed playing games and living the high life. We toured the various buildings, decorated with carvings that reflect the religions of his three wives.
I leave you with some photos taken during our drives between cities in India. We enjoyed spending time with Mr Janu, and he was always happy to explain the unusual sights we saw on the road.
At one of the toll crossings, this female beggar and her child came to the window. (It’s advisable not to give money or food to beggars in India, as this exacerbates many problems including child abductions and abuse. Instead, I encourage you to donate to a reputable charity that helps those in greatest need.)
Indian driving is notorious for being a free-for-all. Mr Janu’s drivers are experts who never honk the horn or make risky moves. However, that can’t be said for everyone you’ll encounter… This looks like a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road!
Indian traffic and road conditions weren’t as crazy as I thought they might be. Still, sitting in a lotus position on top of a car takes nerve! (Yet he looks as relaxed as a Vipassana meditator.)
“Witness meee!” “I am awaited in Valhalla!”
When we saw this sight, we could only say one thing: “Holy cow.” Cows are sacred among India’s Hindus, and treated with great reverence.
This means that cattle are well cared for, and if they decide to sit in the middle of the road… all you can do is inch your way around them, or wait until they move along! (This one was our favorite since he appeared to have devil horns.)
We’re so grateful to Janu Private Tours for showing us the beauty of Agra, and for the unforgettable tour of the Taj Mahal.
Gothic punk alternative shopping in London, England! Camden Market Cyberdog, hipster Shoreditch fashion.
London calling! If you’re planning to travel to the English capital, this shopping guide is for you.
Read on for a comprehensive Goth / punk/ hipster tour of London’s most alternative districts, Shoreditch and Camden!
I was overjoyed to reunite with my long-time friend Kat Williams of Rock n Roll Bride (we went to Prague together years ago).
We spent the day exploring two of London’s “youth culture” neighborhoods: Camden Market (Gothic punk rave) and Shoreditch (hipster and artistic).
If you’re in a shopping mood, this post comes at a good time because…
It’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday! From Nov 24-27, there are major sales on Gothic / alternative / kawaii clothing online. If you love dark fashion, I’ve rounded up some of the best deals for you.
You can also find tons of discounts at the following sites. Just check out the URLs below:
Feel free to share / re-post this to let your friends know!
If you’re a fan of Killstar – there are lots of sale prices here…
Morph8ne – click for reductions.
Here’s another version of my outfit of the day (shot in my apartment; more photos of my home here.) My skull and roses Gothic sweater is by Jawbreaker Clothing. The light knit keeps me warm, and the Gothic embroidery design truly stands out!
Now, back to my alt shopping guide of London UK. Kat and I started in Camden Market, the long-time hangout of British punks, Goths, metalheads and other alt youths.
To get here, take the tube (subway) — Northern Line to Camden station — and walk outside. You’ll immediately come across all sorts of alternative stores (such as the Gothic Lolita boutique, Sai Sai) and Camdenlock (where I stopped for a shot of fresh orange juice).
The vibe reminds me of St Mark’s Place in NYC, but larger (there are over 1000 stores). I first visited Camden over 10 years ago, and was mesmerized by the scene. Today, this remains the go-to place for tattoo and piercing parlors, and dark fashion.
The storefronts are creatively decorated with giant shoes, elephant heads, dancing girls, and even a dragon that appears to be twisting around a building.
New Rock has a shop, with an entire wall displaying hardcore stomper boots and leather shoes.
London was one of the earliest centers of Goth and punk subculture, with bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned, Alien Sex Fiend, and the Sex Pistols. These influences live on in various parts of the cities, but especially Camden Lock.
Camden is also a wonderful place for food, with lots of small stands selling ethnic cuisine, sweets, and creative takeaway. Kat and I saw a man at a Chinese fast food station, joyously singing “I’m a Barbie girl!”
When I visited, I encountered the Stranger Things pop-up food truck, which doled out fresh waffles. The lineup was too long, so I went around the corner and got a fresh ginger-lemon-honey drink that hit the spot.
Camden’s alt stores differ in quality. The main streets mainly have inexpensive souvenirs, so we gravitated to the smaller, inner alleyways. Here, you’ll find beautiful handmade goods such as this peacock feather neckline. Many of the shops are run by the designers, giving you a chance to meet them and make a custom order.
The shops are constantly changing around, but there’s always a great mix of underground styles. I snapped these photos at Tainted Prince, a Victorian / steampunk / elegant Gothic aristocrat / kodona dressmaker. Kat and I also went inside a few K-pop streetwear and vaporwave / Tumblr aesthetic boutiques.
My favorite Camden store remains Cyberdog, which seems to contain an entire universe of futuristic fashion.
Cyberdog blasted off in the 1990s, and continues to innovate with rave clubwear and high-tech accessories. The mothership (and largest store) is this one in Camden Market, located in a building that was once the living / rehearsal space of punk band The Clash.
(Cyberdog address: 842 Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AH, UK)
Inside, you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from the Hackers movie. Two floors of clothing, jewelry, shoes and toys, lit up with neon lights and pumping with the sound of EDM.
The space was decorated with cobwebs and other Halloween elements for “Cyber-Ween.” I imagined I was being abducted by the UFO, and posted with the giant robot with flashing green eyes.
I was blown away by the staff’s attention to detail — their makeup and fashion skills were A++. The store goes all out to maintain an immersive sci-fi environment. Note the escalators with flashing rainbow lights and moving 8-bit characters!
True to its concept, many of Cyberdog’s designs creatively incorporate futuristic components. These include space-age fabrics (florescent, holographic) and tech (flashing lights, electronics, LEDs). On this wall, you can spot my light-up mini backpack.
The sweet staff illustrate two of the many looks you can put together at Cyberdog. Whether you’re into Goth, Industrial, rave clubwear, Burning Man, flower child… there’s something unique to be found.
(The store also has relatively “normal” shirts with the mecha-devil-alien logo, for those who are less experimental dressers!)
I first visited Cyberdog about 10 years ago (when it was in a smaller Camden location), and was delighted to see the brand maintain its subculture roots. The staff welcomed me enthusiastically, and I could tell they were truly passionate about underground music and lifestyles.
The Camdenlock store is immense — I felt like I was exploring an extraterrestrial city. One section is adults-only, and dedicated to Cyberdog’s “Futurelovers” brand. Launched in 2012, it sells sex toys and fetish clothing (displayed in what appear to be alien pods!)
It’s amazing to see how much Cyber Dog has spawned, from a small Camden Market stall in 1994. The founders, designer Terry Davy and business manager Spiros Vlahos, named the label after their pet chihuahua, “Chichi the Cyberdog.”
The rave days of the 90s are over, but electronic / club music continues to evolve and thrive. Today, EDM festivals like Ultra are held worldwide, and Burning Man attracts record numbers. I’m personally loving synthwave (future 80s synth sounds) — this devilish headpiece would be perfect for a Perturbator concert.
From goggles to vinyl skirts and O-ring necklaces, the company has a huge selection of items. You can shop for everything from Cyberdog’s website (I remember ordering from their site in the early 2000s!)
Cyberdog keeps a pulse on the latest beauty trends, such as glow in the dark makeup, and LED false eyelashes.
There’s a section for home goods too, and gifts from the year 3000.
I could see the Jetsons in these intergalactic dresses. And how about this fuzzy pink hat?
There were even live Industrial / club dancers in the store… and I wonder what those robotic arms can do.
If you’re in London, ride a rocketship to Cyberdog. Their Camden Market store is full of eye candy, and lets you dress (and feel) as if you’re in outerspace.
The shop is easy to find: just look for these two silver robots guarding the entrance!
Kat then took me to Shoreditch, which has become London’s “hipster neighborhood” in recent years. Quite a few alleyways are emblazoned with colorful murals.
To get here, take the overground to Shoreditch High Street, or take the London Tube to Aldgate, Bethnal Green or Liverpool Street and walk.
Shoreditch is the place to go if you’re into indie and vintage shopping. We admired minimal jewelry, and ducked into a Halloween charity shop. Kat and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of these spooky donuts by Dum Dums Donutterie (I spot a ghost, Frankenstein’s monster, spider, and zombie eye).
Be sure to stop by Boxpark, a retail complex made from shipping containers. There are lots of hip boutiques and pop-ups here, including The Ordinary (inexpensive science-based skincare). Kat’s holding a pink bag from Skinnydip, the London soft grunge / pastel cute brand (below is more info):
Located in the East End, Shoreditch has an eclectic, artsy feeling. You can find lots of ethnic food here, including a row of Indian curry houses that all claim to have won a “best of London” award.
I was impressed by the street art that runs through Shoreditch. Many of the works have an ear to politics, such as this S&M commentary on “Mistress May.”
“I am an Immigrant” sits next to the Queen of England.
Young Brits have been pondering “Brexit?” ever since the unexpected vote to leave the EU. It’s fascinating to see the notes and art, scrawled in response to these current topics.
I’ll have to come back soon to spend more time in this vibrant neighborhood. I left before a taste of Shoreditch nightlife, but noticed some original themed bars (a circus-themed one, and a Ballie Ballerson ball pit).
V-fingers for a fantastic day with Kat! (I paired my Jawbreaker Clothing skull and flowers wide-neck sweater with a leather biker jacket.)
If you haven’t heard of Kat’s website, Rock n Roll Bride, you’re missing out. She features alternative weddings from around the world, from Victorian to glam rock. It’s the ultimate resource for anyone planning an offbeat wedding (or simply looking for inspiration), and also features Kat’s travel, lifestyle and fashion adventures in different countries. Kat also publishes Rock n Roll Bride print magazine, which we spotted in WHSmith and other British newsstands!
More from London to come — for now, here’s my previous Goth guide to London.
Dance with the Dead: synthwave band tour review! Auxiliary Magazine cover model, Switzerland Chillon castle.
Now that I’m back from Europe, it’s time for one of those “catch up” posts… featuring a magazine cover, winter outfit ideas, and a synthwave show!
First, I’m honored to be on the cover of Auxiliary Magazine. Thank you to the brilliant team that made this “pink hair and panning for gold” look come to life. It’s fun to play around with dramatic styles for magazine modeling. (Photography by Patrick Parenteau, makeup by Jennifer Little, hair by Stephanie Hoy.)
Auxiliary Magazine’s Fall 2017 issue is available here now, in both print and digital publications. There’s a full editorial and interview with me inside, as well as plenty of alternative music, fashion and lifestyle stories that I think you’ll find inspiring.
Now, let’s chat about what to wear in winter. I have a few new cold-weather clothes that I’m excited about.
Sorel’s After Hours No-Tongue tall boots are made from supple yet waterproof leather. There’s a cute wedge heel that is comfortable for walking, and the sole has a strong tread.
(My silver geometric barrettes are Hair DesignAccess by Sylvain Le Hen, designer of luxury and avantgarde hair accessories.)
I’m wearing these dark red boots from Sorel Footwear’s latest collection. They have “no tongue” down the middle for a peek-a-boo effect; I like to emphasize the cut-outs with fishnets or patterned / colored stockings.
Sorel’s shoes are stylish and modern, yet made to withstand winter conditions. I’m a fan of the romantic lacing all the way up the front, for a ballerina or corset effect. (There’s also a zipper on the side, so you can easily slip the boots on or off without unlacing them.)
I paired them with a Joy Division skirt, black fishnets, and a sweatshirt by Akade Wear (many more photos further down).
I wore this outfit to see Dance with the Dead, one of my favorite retrowave / synthwave artists. They’re currently on tour in North American with GosT (another fav, who sadly didn’t make it to the Vancouver concert).
The show at The Venue began with two impressive opening acts. My friends and I found ourselves moving to the synthy melodies of Oceanside85, and DJ Black Ultra / Amduscia.
Headliners Dance with the Dead (DWTD) are known for incorporating spooky visuals in their shows. The background lit up with a slightly creepy clip of four women singing Mr Sandman (The Chordettes, from 1958).
Then, Justin Pointer and Tony Kim strutted on-stage and launched into deadly guitar riffs — accompanied by projections of ghouls with flickering eyes!
Dance with the Dead is synth-wave with a retro-horror bent. Think head-banging metal meets dance melodies, wrapped in the electronics of the 1980s… If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, then you’ll instantly recognize the sound of “outrun.”
The band performs with high energy, switching between guitars and synthesizers. The audience jumped around with DWTD, and even formed a moshpit in the front-center.
Dance with the Dead thrilled us with upbeat tracks from their albums, “Near Dark” and “The Shape.” The set list included remixed versions of “Andromeda” and “Invader,” and a cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
I put together a few video clips from the show, so you can see and hear the group for yourself.
Between songs, DWTD broadcast clips from old movies that influenced their sound and vision. I spotted Bride of Frankenstein, Psycho, Legend, and 1980s sci-fi and horror films.
As I mentioned in my Perturbator show review, synthwave has gotten me excited about concerts again. The “future-80s” sound is fresh, and the acts are spectacular live. Can’t wait to see more of these bands soon.
Here’s a second version of this “winter outfit of the day,” which I wore in Switzerland. This time, I paired my rocket-ship sweatshirt with leggings (both are by Akade Wear, a label inspired by synthwave — hence the pink-blue 80s vibe.) My black Goth beanie / skullcap is by Long Clothing.
I’m all about metallics right now, and love the look of a silver puffer jacket. I got mine in Romania (it’s by Cato, and not available outside the country) — but you can shop similar puffers below.
After my press trip with Experience Bucharest, photographer Joey Wong and I took a weekend jaunt to Switzerland. We flew to Geneva, then traveled by train on a First Class Swiss Travel Pass from Switzerland Tourism.
These passes let you take unlimited trains, buses and boats throughout the country, so we were keen to see as much as we could. We traveled about 1.5 hours to the fairy-tale Château de Chillon, located on an island in Lake Geneva between Montreux and Villeneuve.
I need to wear sunglasses (by Balenciaga) to look at my bag… because it lights up with LED rainbow patterns!
This rave-tastic backpack is by Cyberdog, the futuristic clubwear brand that I recently visited in London.
Cyberdog’s mini backpack features several light-up modes (you can display various colors and patterns at the click of a button inside). This little satchel is perfect for clubbing and festivals, and charges up with a USB cable. The backpack comes in three semi-sheer colors; I have the iridescent holographic one.
I posted an Instagram video of my Cyberdog backpack, and it went viral with over 550,000 views… talk about the future of fashion!
The backpack was ideal for a day-trip to Chillon Castle. We took the train from Geneva to Montreux, and then hopped on a bus for a quick ride to the chateau.
From the pier, you can take in the beauty of the Alps, the mountain range that crosses through Switzerland.
Europe is famous for its fairytale castles, and Chateau de Chillon is one of the most lovely. With our Swiss Travel Passes, we had access to hundreds of museums and historical sites — meaning we could walk straight in and explore.
So shiny, so chrome. I love the space-age look of a metallic puffer jacket! I’ve rounded up my favorite silver coats below; click the thumbnails to learn more.
Chateau de Chillon is an ancient fortress, with the first written record dating back to the year 1005. In the 16th century, the Savoy rulers used the castle to house prisoners. The dungeon inspired Lord Byron to write his famous poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon.”
Chillon Castle consists of 25 buildings and three courtyards, protected by two circular walls. If you’re a history buff, it’s well worth coming here for a day (and also enjoying Montreux, the nearby resort town.)
Mary Shelley was inspired to write “Frankenstein” during her stay at Chillon castle — so there’s a Goth horror side to it too!
Can’t get enough of the Swiss mountain landscapes, and Lake Geneva’s clear waters.
What do you think of my synthwave / retrowave inspired winter clothing? I hope these outfits give you some ideas for ways to stay warm while rocking a retro-future aesthetic.
Back to Geneva, and time to chill out at Hotel N’vY. Part of the Manotel group, N’vY is in a convenient central location (a quick walk from Geneva Station, which is only a seven min ride from the airport).
I always gravitate towards art / design boutique hotels, as they are local-run and have a quirky personality. You won’t find an inspiring room like this one in a standard chain brand.
Hotel N’vY hosted us in a special suite on the top floor, which required a private elevator with a key-card to access. We had a huge balcony with a view of the rooftops, and could even see the top triangle of the Jet D’Eau (Geneva’s high-spouting fountain).
The hotel staff spoiled us with gifts of Swiss chocolates and Sephora spa products. I made myself at home, cozying up with my laptop and fiddling with the Philips Hue color wheel (which changes the mood lighting).
The rooftop terrace gave us a chance to play around with long-exposure photography. I created a heart shape using my light-up Cyberdog backpack!
Hotel N’vY’s name is a play on “envy,” since your friends will be jealous once they see photos of this hip hotel. The lobby’s decor is a tribute to music with portraits of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, and a wall of electric guitars.
Walking around, you feel as if you’re in a pop-art exhibition. The sculptures add to the trendy, bold design of the bar and lounge area.
Ouch, that cactus-chair looks like it hurts! Hotel N’vY is a great fit for millennial and design-loving travelers.
My futuristic outfit matched David Cintract’s “Pop Libre” mannequins: women in helmets and heavy makeup, holding glowing synth-sticks.
Time for dinner at the hotel’s Restaurant Trilby, named after the fedora hat worn by many artists. I began with the limited-edition fall cocktail, a bowl of warm spices like cinnamon and cloves.
To start, we ate up every bite of the salmon tartar with mango, and scallops and leeks ravioli. The European fine-dining menu included steaks and sole meuniere, paired with outstanding French wines. We finished up with chocolate fondant and pear chocolate tart, two superbly made desserts.
We walked off the meal with a stroll around Lake Geneva. It’s impossible to miss the Jet d’Eau. First installed in 1886, the fountain launches 500 liters of water per second, to the height of 140 meters (460 feet).
Geneva is filled with stately fountains and classic architecture. We enjoyed strolling through this park on the way to St Pierre Cathedral.
I spoke at Experience Bucharest conference! Travel influencers Romania tourism event, Bellu Cemetery vampire fashion.
This little vampire had the best Halloween ever. I got to visit the ultimate Gothic destination… Bucharest, Romania!
Since I was a teen, I imagined myself haunting Romania’s cemeteries. This dream became reality, thanks to the hard-working team at Experience Bucharest — who invited me to speak at their October 2017 travel and tourism conference.
Over the course of several days, I got to meet dozens of fellow travel bloggers, influencers and industry professionals. We experienced the best of Bucharest through immersive activities (and some stayed on to see more parts of the country with Experience Romania).
Needless to say, I had the time of my life. I’m so excited to share these stories from the land of Transylvania –– starting with a waltz through Bellu Cemetery in my Japanese vampire cape. (All photography by Joey Wong.)
For a long time, Romania has been an overlooked destination. However, the tide is turning thanks to Experience Bucharest / Experience Romania, the largest independent project to promote tourism in this fascinating country. The passionate team of volunteers invited 100 top travel bloggers, vloggers, digital influencers and media to discover Bucharest’s many attractions, as well as take part in a day-long conference.
Above, I’m with Tudor Maxim (founder and one of the chief organizers) and Jeanette Ceja (travel TV reporter and expert), who spoke on the social media panel along with me.
The conference took place at the Novotel Hotel Bucharest, which also hosted my stay. It’s located by Old Town, with a balcony that had this lovely view of the city’s classic architecture.
Hair: My new purple/red/blue ombre haircolor is by Chad Evans at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada. He cut my bangs into a vampire V, and did a fishtail braid in the back. So happy with this new hairstyle!
Outfit details: I wore Gal Stern tights with a silver skull pattern, Alex Streeter pearl necklace, Sleevey Wonders sheer sleeves, and a Moi-meme-Moitie graveyard dress (designed by Japan’s Elegant Goth Lolita icon, Mana of the bands Moi-dix-Mois and Malice Mizer).
I spoke at the “The Future of Tourism in Romania” conference, which brought together travel professionals from all around the world. This Eastern European country has modernized and opened up to visitors especially since 2007, when it joined the EU.
The local tourism organizers first shared success stories of tourism in Romania, highlighting the increasing interest of travelers in Sibiu (historical city in Transylvania), Mamaia (beach and resort destination on the Black Sea), Bucovina (scenic historic region on the slopes of the Carpathian mountains) and other areas.
Next, I stepped onto the Experience Romania stage to speak about “Best international practices in tourism and social media.” I was a speaker on this social media panel along with leading travel Instagrammers Altug Galip and Laiza Souza, and Jeanette Ceja who comes from a journalism background.
For about an hour, we answered questions from the audience and shared personal advice on topics related to travel, digital media, press trips, sponsorships and tourism trends. It was fantastic to hear everyone’s perspectives from their various backgrounds, and have a conversation with an audience of hundreds who are passionate about traveling.
I put together a few clips of my Q&A answers during the travel blogger panel. You can see the video above and here.
Many thanks to the Travel Massive Romania volunteers and local businesses for welcoming us bloggers, and showing us the best of Bucharest!
We got to go on walking tours of the city, try various restaurants… I’ll be showing you much more of my explorations soon.
More photos of this look at the end of this post, but first…
Is there any better place to wear a vampire cape… than in the land of Dracula?
I transformed into a bat and flew to Bellu Cemetery (part of the Bucharest Urban Adventures “Darkside Tour”). This graveyard, officially known as Șerban Vodă, is the largest and most celebrated one in the city.
Bellu Cemetery was particularly atmospheric during Halloween season, with autumn leaves on the dramatic coffins.
Address and access: Șoseaua Olteniței 3-5, București, Romania. If you’re traveling by subway, get off at the Eroii Revolutiei metro stop (two stops from Universitate Station in Old Town). Entry is free, and the graveyard is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm.
I got to live out my Dracula fantasies in this photoshoot, surrounded by wooden stakes and dark tombstones.
Outfit details: I’m wearing my Black Peace Now designer cape from Japan, and a Moi-même-Moitié dress.
The cemetery is located on a 54-acre plot of land, donated by Baron Barbu Bellu (hence the name). Many of the graves date back to the 1850s, when the Romanian graveyard was founded.
My friends and I enjoyed strolling through the many rows of tombstones, some with interesting and eerie statues.
We came across a memorial to someone named Putin, featuring two Sphinx-women carrying a globe on their backs. (Edit – actually, this actually translates to ‘a little’ and has a spiritism spooky story associated with it… see the first comment at the bottom for the history.) On the right, I half-expected a vampire to rise out of this thorny black coffin!
Many famous Romanians lie beneath the soil including writers, gymnasts and astronomers. Two of the most famous residents are the national poet Mihai Eminescu, and playwright / humorist Ion Luca Caragiale.
Count Dracula may have been imagined by Ireland’s Bram Stoker, but Romanians have long-established legends about the dead rising from the grave. According to the local folklore, these “strigoi” crave fresh blood and can transform into other animals, as well as turn humans into ghouls.
Nosferatu vibes… When you’re standing in Bellu Cemetery, it’s easy to understand why Romanian vampire legends have captured the imagination of millions worldwide.
I love seeing how nature enhances the beauty of the chains and crosses. The leaves add a splash of blood-red to these resting grounds.
When night falls, who knows what might rise from these coffins?
(Of course, I also visited Bran Castle in Transylvania, associated with Vlad the Impaler… there’s a giant article to come out soon about it.)
Even if you aren’t captivated by vampire stories, you should spend time wandering in Bellu Cemetery. The local history, art and architecture are fascinating to behold here.
My V-bangs haircut and Black Peace Now cape helped me get into the spooky spirit. Bucharest’s graveyard is truly a Goth dream.
We saw several cats living among the dead. (Dracula’s fellow creatures of the night.)
Vampira vibes, in front of one of the largest and most elaborate mausoleums in Bellu graveyard. It belongs to Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, a 19th century Romanian politician and lawyer.
Such a pleasure to tour this necropolis with my Romanian Gothic friends, Beatrice and Alex.
In love with the historic architecture and dark decay of the mausoleums.
Most of the burial ground is Eastern Orthodox, with well-tended graves topped with crucifixes and angel statues.
“Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell / But every night I see the rubbery things / Black, horned, and slender, with membraneous wings / And tails that bear the bifid barb of hell.” – H.P. Lovecraft, “Night-Gaunts.”
This photospeaks for itself… Bucharest’s Bellu Cemetery is one of the most beautiful I’ve visited.
You can come here on your own, or join the Bucharest Urban Adventures Dark Side walking tour. It also takes you to other eerie parts of the city, including a serial killer’s alleyway and bloody buildings from the Communist era.
“To walk with me you must die to your breathing life and be reborn to mine.” – Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel
Bellu Graveyard is tended by citizens, rather than the government. Many locals come here to leave flowers and offerings, and maintain the tombs in good condition.
Although this is a huge plot of land at 54 acres, the graveyard has been filled up over the past century and half. The paths between the rows are narrow, which make you feel close to the dead (or undead?)
As you can see, Bucharest was everything this Goth girl imagined it to be… and far more.
I’m very grateful to the Experience Bucharest family for bringing me to their hometown, and having me take part in the conference’s 2nd Edition! (Above, with the lovely Anda Maxim who worked hard on the program, along with the other team members.)
Some of the invited bloggers stayed for an extra two weeks, and toured all around the country with Experience Romania. I’ll have to return soon to see more.
One my favorite parts of Experience Bucharest? Meeting dozens of fabulous travel storytellers, each with a unique niche and medium. (Facebook Live, LGBT, comedy videos, history blogs, desserts, you name it).
We hit it off with our shared love of travel; it’s such a joy to connect with others who walk a similar path. I left feeling inspired, and am sure I’ll meet up with many of these new friends somewhere in the world.
I leave you with some close-ups of my jewelry. My Morbid Debutante white skull and pearls necklace is by Alex Streeter (who created the pentagram Angel Heart ring, most recently worn by Marilyn Manson on the cover of several music magazines).
My vampire nails were bloody perfect for the occasion. Dripping blood, bats, Dracula, fangs, coffins and skulls, rendered by hand in unbelievable detail.
As always, these gel nails are the work of Keiko Matsui at Glam Nail Studio in Vancouver. You can see a close-up of the nail art here on my Instagram, and I’ll post more images soon. (My bracelet cuff is vintage Yohji Yamamoto.)
So thankful to Experience Romania / Bucharest for having me come to give a talk on the social media panel, and capture these stories and photos for you. (All photography by Joey Wong.)
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” – Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”
This is only the first bite of Bucharest. Many more travel tales to come, including a visit to Bran Castle, and alternative street art tour.
What are your impressions of Romania so far? Have you ever thought of visiting? If there was a land for Goths… I think it would be here!