Category Archive for Fashion
Bali’s spiritual culture & temples! Elephant Cave, Pura Saraswati Ubud, Tirta Empul Temple sacred springs.
It’s true what travel bloggers say about Southeast Asia: you’ll find the warmest, most generous and welcoming locals here.
So far, I’ve been to Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines (click these country names to see the stories). These were some of my favorite trips ever, and I’m excited to announce I’ll be adding one more to the list… Keep reading to see where I’m journeying!
In this spirit, I’ve decided to finally release Part 2 of my Bali, Indonesia temple tour (see part one here). I put on my Indian robes and pink-tinted glasses, and visited some of Bali’s most sacred spots — including the Pura Sawaswati water temple…
The Elephant Cave temple in Ubud…
… and Tirta Empul, where Hindu devotees bathe under a row of fountains, sourced from the sacred springs.
This month, I’ll be back in S.E. Asia… I’m thrilled to announce that I’m going to Myanmar (Burma) with Yukiro! HK Express, the airline I’ve worked with since its launch, has added a route to Yangon — a destination that was basically closed off to tourists until a few years ago.
I can’t wait to discover this Buddhist country, and hang out with monks and punks. That’s right: Yangon has an old school punk scene, with studded and Mohawked bands like Rebel Riot (above). They rock hard, but also run charities that help the local homeless and children. We’re excited to find out more about this subculture, and take part.
Also, you may have seen on my social media that I’m currently in Hong Kong, filming with Stakk Factory! I’m honored to be working with this new media site, which produces original videos about style tips, travel, food and more. We’ll be shooting nail art tutorials, fashion lookbooks and more that I can’t wait to share with you.
Now, back to my Ubud, Bali temple story. The locations are quite spread out, so I was glad to have Destination Services take me around on a custom tour.
They provided a car, driver and guide for the day, and brought me to all the temples on my wishlist. I’m a big fan of hiring local experts, as they’re versed in the history and culture, and can answer questions about anything you encounter.
Destination Services planned an efficient route that started early to avoided traffic. We got to the Goa Gajah Elephant Cave in Ubud before the crush of tourists (it’s about 30 km from Denpasar).
This has been a holy ground for both Buddhist and Hindu practitioners, for over a thousand years.
Water from these stone statues is used in religious ceremonies. Look closely, and you’ll see large fish swimming in the pond.
(Photos by my friends Cohica Travel, who offer a worldwide guide to sustainable and socially responsible travel.)
There are six of these female water-bearing fountains in total. An endless stream flows out of their pots.
And there it was, the famous entrance! I felt like I was being swallowed up by the iconic “Elephant Cave”. (The demon-like figure was once thought to be an elephant, hence the name.)
Blown away by these intricate Balinese stone carvings of creatures and nature motifs.
Inside the cave, there are three stone idols wrapped in cloth (known as a trimutri of Shiva-lingams). In the past, monks came to meditate inside these dark passages.
Hindu statues like this are found all over Bali. I often drove through intersections that had deities standing right n the middle. Such energy in the poses and expressions.
Outside the rock entrance, a fierce protector raises a sword against negative spirits.
Next, we went to the beautiful purification temple Tirta Empul (or Tampak Siring Temple) around 20 minutes north of Ubud. I could have spent hours taking in the details of the Balinese temple architecture.
The temple pond is considered to be holy, as it was supposedly created by the god Indra.
Bathers come here to purify themselves in the holy springs.
In addition to the purification baths, the Tirta Empul temple has areas for giving offerings and making prayers.
As with any cultural site, it’s important to be respectful to the pilgrims who come here as a spiritual journey. Tourists are welcome as long as they wear the sarongs provided (I didn’t need one because I was already covered), and don’t interrupt the bathers. Photos are allowed, but to be safe, check before taking images.
The inner courtyards are for worshippers only, in order to give them some peace and privacy from the tourists.
Our guide spoke about the mythological stories associated with the water temple.
I exited through this tiny gate guarded by a barong (lion-like protector spirit).
We drove past the famous Ubud rice paddies, or Tegalalang Rice Terrace. The distinctive layered steps are called subak, and make up a traditional Balinese irrigation system.
(There is a entrance fee to walk inside, so we didn’t stop.)
After a scenic twisting drive (past farms, collectives and yoga retreats), we stopped in Ubud city center for lunch and a walk around.
The main Ubud streets are jammed with traffic, and you’ll see a number of touristy gift shops. However, you’ll also see gorgeous puras and other artistic details like these.
Megan and Ryan of Cohica Travel showed me Pura Saraswati, a temple with a long dramatic path bordered by blooming lotus flowers.
The pond and flowering trees make this one of the region’s most beloved temples.
Pura Taman honors Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and arts. She certainly looks over Ubud, which is considered the cultural capital of the island.
At night, there are dances and performances in this area that surrounds the water gardens.
The Hindu water temple is relatively new — built for the royal family in 1950, by artist and architect Gusti Nyoman Lempad.
Lempad was an accomplished stone carver, and brought these creatures to life.
Many travellers describe Bali as a place of peace and joy. It’s hard not to agree.
Spirituality is a huge part of the Balinese consciousness, and the ritual offerings are unique to the island. Religion is also expressed here an inclusive way (you’ll often see homes with statues of both Ganesha and Buddha).
I hope you are able to spend at least half a day in Ubud, seeing the temples and culture for yourself. Here are all Indonesia travel posts, including a video of traditional dances, to help you plan a trip to Bali.
Finally — I’m glad you found my Black Friday / Cyber Monday discount codes helpful, for finding the best shopping deals! I’ve just come across a new site, Woznow, which lets you easily search for fashion (by brand or category), and access sales in over 200 stores. For example, the site let me compare leather jackets, see how much they were discounted, and shop them with a tap.
Thanks, everyone, for supporting my fashion and travel adventures over the years! Here’s to finishing 2016 strong, and keeping the momentum going into the New Year.
It’s Black Friday — the best time of year to get discounted Gothic fashion. Case in point: all the Goth clothes at Dollskill are all 30% off now!
(And here are many more discount deals, all on one page. These include Killstar, Disturbia, Tripp NYC, Long Clothing, Morph8ne, Sourpuss, YRU, Demonia etc).
Since I’m often asked where I buy my clothes, I did a handy round-up of my favorite retailers. You might have noticed I’ve been wearing less Japanese and Lolita clothing these days. While I still love the style, I’m enjoying a more minimal Gothic look recently.
Above is one of my current favorites: Morph8ne, an independent designer based in Thailand. They produce dark dolly fashion, with unique details like ribbon corset lacing. In the above right photo, I’m wearing this exact sweater, which is now on sale.
Below are more discounted items from Morph8ne.
I’ve been wearing Long Clothing a lot on my travels. Their oversized streetwear is comfortable yet eye-catching (get it?).
Click to get the Long Clothing eyeball shirt that I’m wearing above.
Long Clothing did a fantastic collaboration with Grace Neutral (the hand-poke tattoo artist, model and body modification aficionado) — including this mandala shirt. I also have several pieces from their Long Clothing x Mishka clothing line.
I’ve selected my favorite designs below; toggle the arrows to browse:
Killstar needs no introduction. This leading “Nu Goth” brand is known for dark, occult designs that incorporate Satanic symbols and runes (like in my outfit).
Killstar recently released a Marilyn Manson collection, which rocks. They have a range of styles for both men and women: I’m coveting this Wednesday Addams dress, and pentagram harness. I’m also tempted to get Killstar’s coffin shaped wallet… And basically everything in the images below!
Some of my favorite wardrobe pieces are by Disturbia, who consistently produce edgy, Gothic designs.
Disturbia is also all about occult and wiccan symbology. Some of their designs pay homage to horror writer Lovecraft. Take, for example, this triangle seeing eye backpack, and skull sweatshirt with extra long sleeves.
And then, there is my beloved Miffy. Chinti and Parker did a beautiful collaboration with the cute bunny: their adult tops are made with luxury fabrics like cashmere.
Finally, don’t miss the Shopbop Thanksgiving sale: with the code “GOBIG16”, you get 15% off orders of over $200. The percentage rises if you purchase more, so come take a look.
I hope this helps answer the question of where I get my Goth Alternative clothes! It’s a great time to order items online, as there are tons of sales and you don’t have to battle the crowds.
I also compiled discount codes for all my favorite brands, all on one page. These include Killstar, Disturbia, Tripp NYC, Long Clothing, Morph8ne, Sourpuss, YRU, Demonia and many more alternative labels! There are also coupon and promo discounts for general clothing, makeup (Sephora, MAC etc), travel, hotels and home goods.
See ALL my promo / gift codes here — feel free to share! Just click on the link to the retailer, and it’ll automatically apply the best possible discounts.
For more shopping inspiration, I’ll share some photos I recently took in Shinjuku, Tokyo. In this district, the cuteness factor is always through the roof.
This was a big year for Pokemon. At the department store Studio Alta, Pikachu and his compadres had a pop up boutique. (Alta is located right across from Shinjuku East Exit.)
Pokemon Go fans went cray for these kawaii pins, keychains and other cute character goods.
My Pokemon Go ghost-character nail art fit in with these plush Pikachus.
How amazing is this adult skeleton onesie (available here)? Inside Studio Alta, you’ll find “spoopy” accessories any time of the year, like zombie eyeball knee highs.
Gyaru, decora and ganguro girls would go nuts for the rainbow striped and leopard print socks.
These plush toy frogs look like they’re into the fetish scene.
At Algonquins, a pumpkin-headed gentleman greeted visitors. The store carries Goth Punk Aristocrat and Lolita styles (I have a few Algonquins items for sale, email me if you can’t find the listings.)
Cut out heels are everything. (YRU has platform shoes with star and moon cutouts!)
Monsters, Inc? Beautiful faux fur, with a gloomy eye and vampire teeth.
Disney products are popular in various Tokyo stores. I encourage you to visit Studio Alta and walk around; there are always new, trendy items on the racks.
One of the boutiques had Junie Moon and Blythe dolls, in sweet Lolita doll garments.
Lots of Lolita, royal and pirate influences. Which of these outfits do you like best?
Don’t forget the basement / lower levels of Studio Alta. You can buy yuzu drinks from the 7-Eleven, and pick up a smiling bear or cat cake from Swimmer.
Love the creative decoration: chocolate cookie ears, raspberry bow ties. These Japanese animal desserts are too cute to eat!
Shinjuku is one of the best neighborhoods to find cute accessories and gifts. These kitty-faced bags are similar to this Lulu Guinness glittery cat coin purse.
At Odakaya, you can find special effects / movie makeup, latex, wigs, eyelashes, feathers, fabrics… It’s essentially like a drag queen’s closet.
Japanese makeup is always fun and slightly bizarre, such as these “color eyebrow” mascaras modeled by anime elves.
(Browse my favorite fashion with a click below — most items are heavily discounted right now.)
I leave you some Jrock and Visual Kei posters (you can find CDs and merchandise in Shinjuku). V-kei band Daizy Stripper is looking fresh as a daisy, for their 10th anniversary.
Kyoto Fushimi Inari shrine: famous red-orange Japanese temple gates! Hotel Gracery Sanjo, kabuki themed room.
Kyoto! Hello! Even though I’m frequently in Tokyo, I haven’t been to the city of temples in years.
I had the perfect opportunity to visit Kyoto with my Japan Rail Pass, which gave me unlimited access to Japanese trains, buses and ferries for a week. In less than 3 hours, I arrived by bullet train and made it to the famous gates of Fushimi Inari shrine.
I have a feeling you might be seeking a sense of peace… so in this post, I’ll show you some of Kyoto’s magnificent temples. This was the Imperial capital for over 1000 years, and is still considered the cultural and spiritual center of Japan.
Kyoto was spared from the WWII bombings, which makes it one of the best preserved cities in the country. With nearly 2000 Buddhist temples, 500 Shinto shrines and world class art museums, this is a culture-lover’s dream destination.
If you only have a brief time in Kyoto, I urge you not to stress about seeing all the temples. Go with the flow, wander into small shrines and graveyards, eat the seasonal and local cuisine, browse artisan shops — that’s the magic of Kyoto, Japan.
I wanted every aspect of this trip to be immersive — so we stayed at Hotel Gracery Sanjo Kyoto, which has a special kabuki themed room!
This hotel is affordable, and in an ideal location: right in Teramachi Shopping Arcade, which is filled with antiques, cute goods, kimono shops, you name it.
You can request to stay in their unique kabuki room, which is inspired by the classical Japanese drama. Kabuki performances date back to the Edo period, and are characterized by stylized movements, elaborate makeup and traditional tales.
I was impressed by how Hotel Gracery captured the ambiance of Kyoto’s theater culture. The room is gracefully decorated with cherry blossoms, glowing red lanterns, and silky red floral prints that match the kimono in the painting. Even the ceilings are painted with elegant panels.
(I’m wearing a circular metallic choker similar to this necklace.)
All of the hotel’s rooms are comfortable, with modern toilets and giant bathtubs. There’s a fantastic spread of international and Japanese food at breakfast: every morning, I ate my fill of soft tofu, matcha, seaweed, and rice with tiny fish.
Hotel Gracery Kyoto Sanjo has my thumbs up. You can book a stay and find out more here, including room prices and options.
Our hotel was a quick walk to Gion (the geisha district) and the major attractions in Kyoto. Many tourists rush around trying to see everything, and end up getting “templed out.” I preferred to explore at a leisurely place, an approach that jived with the peaceful atmosphere of the city.
We walked to Heian Jingu, one of the most famous Shinto shrines. Built in 1895, this shrine is dedicated to the Imperial family, and commemorates the first and last emperors to live in Kyoto.
Let’s talk about the rituals and objects you’ll usually encounter, and their special meanings.
Outside many Shinto shrines, you’ll see a stack of empty sake barrels. These are “kazaridaru,” or decoration barrels marked with brewery labels. Sake represents the spiritual connection between humans, brewers and gods, who drink and rejoice during festivals.
In the courtyard of Heian Shrine, I made my way to the chozura or temizuya — a Shinto water pavilion found at the entrance of shrines. Before entering, visitors perform a purification rite: they scoop up some of the water to wash their left hand, right hand, mouth, and handle of the ladle.
A Japanese dragon watches over the water ablutions. To the right, a closeup on the ema: Shinto worshipers write their wishes and intentions on these wooden plaques.
Both Shinto and Buddhist shrines often have wire racks or tree branches covered in strips of paper. These o-mikuji are fortunes that you randomly choose from a box. If the news is good, you can keep it or tie it up. If it’s bad, you’ll want to tie the paper securely so that it doesn’t go home with you.
Finally, these zigzag paper streamers are called shide. They’re often attached to a wand and shaken, as a Shinto blessing. These ones hang from a prayer rope called a shimenawa, warding off evil and delineating a sacred space.
While it’s nice to see the biggest and most popular sights in Kyoto, they have their downsides. Some places, like Nijo Castle, have entrance fees and hoards of tour buses, which can spoil the mood.
I highly encourage you to wander around and visit the smaller, local temples. My friends and I came across this one (we don’t even know the name of it) on a walk, and it turned out to be one of my favorites.
The dark wood architecture was beautiful and rather Gothic. There was also nobody else there, which let me pause and take in the surroundings in peace.
Another bonus: we discovered a traditional graveyard in the back! These tall wood tablets or sticks are sotoba. They’re carved with the Buddhist names that practitioners receive after they die. (Photos by John S.)
Kyoto is one of my favorite destinations for architecture. So many forms, natural materials and textures in a single photo.
Kyoto is home to Ryoan-ji, the most famous Zen rock garden. However, in the little temples, you’ll find unexpected and lovely gardens such as this. Don’t miss out on these little-known gems.
On the other hand, I encourage you to see one of the most famous sights in all of Japan: Fushimi Inari Taisha. I’m sure you have seen photos of this unmistakable shrine, with a path lined with thousands of orange torii gates.
You’ll likely to take a taxi or subway to Fushimi Inari, which is about 20 minutes from Gion. This is the head shrine of Inari, a Shinto god with thousands of dedicated shrines (as well as Buddhist temples) all over Japan. These fox statues (kitsune) are the messengers of Inari, bearing symbolic objects in their mouths or paws.
We saw Shinto priests performing a ceremony, clad in white robes and black hats.
Founded in the year 711, the shrine sits at the base of Inari mountain, and has trails that go up several kilometers. If you walk the entire pathway, lined with vermilion torii gates, it’ll take you about two hours. (We only went up part of the way.)
The gates are arranged so that everyone walks upward in the same direction, and down on the opposite side. If you want a photo without anyone else in the shot, walk further up and be patient, since the path can be quite crowded.
There are about 5000 red-orange gates in total. Walking through these seemingly endless arches turns into a type of meditation; you feel protected by the warm tunnel, and can peer through the posts into the trees and sky.
(The engraved Japanese characters, or kanji, represent the names of donors.)
The kami Inari is the god of foxes, fertility, agriculture, and general prosperity. We couldn’t resist buying one of these blank wooden boards shaped like a fox for 500 yen. Fushimi Inari provides black marker pens for you to draw a face on the front, and write down your name and wishes on the back.
Who else but La Carmina and friends would decorate it with a Miffy X-mouth, Satanic pentagram, decadent eyelashes, and kawaii cheeks?
When the ema is complete, you hang it up with the others. How fun to see the creativity of everyone’s drawings.
Fushimi Inari is rich with history, and the gates are magnificent to see in person. There’s no entrance fee, so you have no excuse for missing it!
Now, how about lunch? I could spend weeks in Kyoto simply trying all the fantastic food.
On the recommendation of DJ Mistress Maya, we ate at Daruman Kyoto (8-4 Okazaki Saishojicho, Sakyo Ward). This is a vegetarian obanzai restaurant, which means everything is cooked in the traditional style, and at least half the ingredients are produced locally. Obanzai cooking is simple, healthy and focuses on avoiding waste — and yet, the dishes are imaginative and incredibly tasty.
I love homey, local restaurants such as Daruman. The interior is filled with adorable touches such as this owl toothpick pot, and a chopstick holder shaped like a daruma (round dharma doll). (My Pokemon Go nail art is by Glam Nail Studio.)
The owner is an electro/techno musician, and he came by the table to personally greet us and offer suggestions. We chose the hot sake that he recommended, and at the end, he brought out a special green tea and red bean dessert — on the house.
How enticing is this vegetarian “moriawase” spread? Obanzai cooking relies on seasonal produce: I was happy to see kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, for the fall. The matcha (green tea) tofu is a local specialty, made by monks at a nearby Zen temple. We also got to choose between hot or cold soba, perfectly prepared with a side of crispy tempura.
You’ll find fantastic vegetarian or vegan food in Kyoto, and Daruman is proof of how well it can be executed.
On the non-veg side, I am still salivating over the spicy miso ramen I had at Sen no kaze, a counter-style restaurant run by women wearing hats. It’s quite possibly the best ramen I’ve ever had — and I’ve had a lot.
Later, I stopped by Cafe Dong, located inside the modern Sfera design building. I slowly sipped at a whisked matcha and took in the surroundings — such a change from fast-paced, go-go-go Tokyo.
The Sfera building also houses a design shop and museum with changing exhibitions. The minimal, Zen interior decor gave me inspiration for my apartment.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the temple culture of Kyoto. Coming up, I’ll post photos of the vintage and artistic boutiques I found during my stay, as well as another cute shrine.
Have you heard of Fushimi Inari shrine before? If you’ve visited Kyoto, what did you love best about your experience? I hope this post brings you a sense of tranquility, in these crazy times…
Grand Central by Scandic, Stockholm’s hippest hotel! Cocktail bar & restaurant review, Long Clothing hexagram skirt.
I’ve got Stockholm on my mind. Let’s flashback to Scandinavia, where I spent a few weeks in the late summer!
It was my first time in Sweden, and my team got a warm welcome at Grand Central by Scandic. This is the hippest hotel in the city, with a visual identity inspired by New York’s theatre scene. Every aspect of our stay was infused with music — from band posters in the bar, to live DJ parties and stage shows in a late 19th century theater.
(Find out more about Grand Central Stockholm and book a hotel room here.)
My junior suite even had a vinyl record player, with a selection of LPs including Madonna. One of the walls opened into a picture window, which let me watch these otherworldly pink sunsets every night.
Directions: It was convenient to roll our suitcases to Grand Central by Scandic (address: Kungsgatan 70) as it was only a few blocks from the central train station (we took the 30-minute direct Arlanda Express line from Stockholm airport). The hotel is located in Norrmalm, which made it easy for us to walk south to Gamla Stan and Sodermalm, home to the trendy SoFo area.
Grand Central turned out to be the perfect place to unwind between stretches of sightseeing. (I’m wearing a Long Clothing x Grace Neutral top. The same mandala design is also on this label’s black jacket.)
The hotel’s modern design matched with my outfit of the day. Clean and geometric, that’s how I like it.
♥ I’m wearing a Long Clothing hexagram skirt (they also make a dress). This brand uses the same print and fabric in their Infinity Clip pants version of my maxi skirt.
For more about the clothes I’m wearing, click the thumbnails below:
Grand Central by Scandic has various types of rooms, but I love the Junior Suite. Every evening, I perched on the windowsill and watched the skies change color.
My room was decorated with paintings of musicians, to fit with the vibe of the hotel.
Close-up on my silver cuff bracelet and ouroboros ring, by Alex Streeter. A perfect match for the hotel: Alex is the legendary NYC downtown silversmith whose devilish designs are worn by rock stars around the world (like Marilyn Manson and Hyde).
The glass windows by the elevator made me feel like I was about to blast off into a space fantasy. (I love Michi, the indie designer that makes my cutaway top. More from them below:)
The rooftops of Stockholm made me want to sing: Chim-Chimney, Chim Chim Cher-ee.
Can you see Miffy peeking from my thumbnail?
I adore Long Clothing’s hexagram fashion. Their streetwear is eye-catching and alternative Gothic, yet can be worn on all types of occasions. The black and white geometry is also easy to style.
My team and I got a backstage tour of Vasa Theatre, which dates back to 1886 and adjoins the hotel. While we were there, workers were still working hard to restore the space to its former glory.
The opulent theater is open now at Grand Central by Scandic, and hosts all types of contemporary stage shows as well as private events. The hotel is doing a great job of bringing in both Swedish and international artists to Vasa, for public performances.
We crept into a dressing room that was supposedly haunted by the ghost of an old actor. If a male enters the room, nothing happens. But if females walk in, the phantom gets enraged — and supposedly starts shaking the chandeliers!
Maybe there are also ghosts haunting this gilded and mirrored theater bar. It reminds me of one in The Shining…
Time for a drink at Teaterbaren, Grand Central’s hip cocktail bar. We chatted with the expert mixologists, who let us examine local spirits such as O.P. Anderson aquavit.
The cocktails were magnificent, with colors that matched the Swedish sunset. (In the summer, daylight lasts until 11pm!)
The bar brings in live DJs for late night electro parties. Grand Central also has rotating photographic art / design exhibitions. During my stay, there was a showcase of alternative street fashion portraits.
We sat down for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Teaterbrasseriet. This relaxed space has plush leather couches, and offers a Scandinavian menu inspired by modern cuisine. Of course, we started with Swedish red caviar — the above photo says it all!
When you’re in Sweden, order fish and seafood, as it’s some of the best in the world. Look at the color of the smoked salmon starter, with lemon and dill to taste. My friends also enjoyed a Toast Skagen appetizer with shrimps and horseradish.
Swedish meatballs are legendary, and something you must try. At Teaterbrasseriet, they’re made with Viking heartiness: paired with potato purée, lingonberries and pickled cucumber.
Eat all the berries when you’re in Scandinavia. We ate up this antioxidant-rich ice cream sundae. I’ll agree with the restaurant menu, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”
“Tak” (thanks) to Grand Central by Scandic for the inspiring stay. I loved how the hotel pays homage to theater, starting from the moment we stepped into the lobby lit by stage lights.
If you want to stay in a hip Stockholm design hotel, this is where it’s all happening. Find out more about Grand Central by Scandic, and book a room here.
(Photography by Joey Wong.)
There’s still more from my Scandinavian journey to come. If you missed my first post about the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, you can see it here.
Curious to learn more about my clothes in these photos, including prices and sizes? Just click below for all the details. Arigato!