Category Archive for Fims + Videos
No Instagram filters needed, when you’re traveling in Ha Long Bay. The humidity naturally gives you a blurred vignette effect.
Vietnam remains one of my favorite destinations of 2015. I got to live my dreams of being a Pirate… by taking a boat trip through Halong Bay, with Vietnam Food Tour!
We had our very own private ship, thanks to Hoa Binh Cruises. Keep on reading to see how we climbed the mast, dined on seafood, and drifed through Vietnam’s misty mountains.
I’m sure you have seen photos of Ha Long Bay before. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its green, funny-shaped islands.
The name Halong translates to “descending dragon bay” because legend says it was created by a charging dragon.
Shop more Gothic fashion by clicking below:
If you’re in Hanoi, going east to Halong Bay is a must (it’s a 3-4 hour drive away).
We recommend hiring a reputable driver and guide, as we did with Vietnam Food Tour. They arranged everything for us — the car, hotel, boat tour, activities. It’s absolutely worth it. We could sit back and soak everything in, without having to haggle or stress about logistics.
Since we were on a food-centric tour, we began by visiting the local outdoor market. Like on our Hanoi tour, we saw vendors selling all sorts of fresh seafood that came straight out of Halong’s waters.
A colorful group of vendors. Our guide, Bao, told us about the special squid pie sold here. She picked up a few specialties for us to try during our cooking boat cruise.
Motorcycles zipped around us, as we took in all the colors and action.
The wet market section was full of live oddities from the sea. Locals come here to pick up the catch of the day.
This view is even more majestic in person. Ha Long Bay is dotted with thousands of limestone islands like these.
We saw Vietnamese boat people refilling their supplies of water. They live and work in these floating homes.
We learned that according to another legend, a family of dragons spat out jewels, which formed these islets and protected Vietnam from invaders.
My mate John Skeleton and I took photos non-stop — Ha Long Bay is the definition of photogenic!
(This skull print scarf protected me from the mosquitoes.)
We were looking forward to the boat tour of the bay, on a Hoa Binh cruise. However, we were amazed to find… that we had the entire Pirate boat to ourselves!
Vietnam Food Tour is all about custom, personal experiences — so they book their clients on private boat tours. Now that’s the life for a Pirate.
Spreading my arms wide as we sailed, I felt like Captain Carmina. The only other people onboard were Long John Skeleton, our first mate Bao, and a few cabin members who served food and drink. (And actually steered the ship.)
“Yo ho, there be a pirate’s cove of treasure ahead!”
John climbed the mast, all the way to the top — as you can see in our fun travel video!
Before long, our boat was nearing these jewel islands. We prepared for plunder.
(My tank top is by Rat Baby Clothing — more picks below.)
Most of these islands are uninhabited, and lush with tropical vegetation. I imagined them to be hidden with secrets and chests of gold. We docked on Driftwood Island, climbed up the path…
.. and found ourselves in the famous Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes Cave).
The humongous grotto is filled with hanging stalactites. The shapes seemed like something from a sci-fi movie, reminding us of bones and Giger’s Alien.
Different parts of the cave are dramatically lit so that visitors can admire the details. Or in this case, “Hail Miffy!”
That’s me at the bottom, arms raised. Like a bat in a cave.
My tiny scale of the photo conveys how grand it feels to be inside this grotto, which dates back to the Pleistocene era around 2 million years ago.
Doesn’t this look like the set from an alien horror movie?
Vietnam Food Tour organized our visit so that we came during a less busy hour– so we were able to avoid the tourists.
I flew our flag, upon exiting. I hereby claim these caves for my crew!
A hook for a hand. Arr, there’s nothing like the Pirate’s life.
We continued to explore Halong Bay. Our boating adventure is among my favorite memories of the entire year.
Time to plunder the ship’s seafood. Our crew helped us to grill fresh clams, prawns, sea snails and other delicacies of the ocean.
What a treat, to dine on fresh seafood while taking in these grandiose views of Halong Bay.
For a closer look at the grottoes, we piled into a kayak.
What can I say? It’s an absolute dream to paddle right up to these mysterious islets, and duck through hidden tunnels that open into lagoons.
But let’s give credit where it’s due… John did pretty much all of the rowing work!
(Watch our Pirate cooking cruise in action, above and here in this video.)
Some visitors choose to stay overnight on a boat cruise. We chose to only do a day tour, and spend the night at the top-rated Halong Plaza Hotel.
I was glad to sleep on a stable surface, and in a spacious room. We also enjoyed hanging out at the hotel’s lobby bar, which offers a nice selection of cocktails.
Halong Plaza also had an impressive buffet breakfast, which was included with our stay. I tried the steamed rice noodles, a traditional way to start the day.
The restaurant also hangs garlic to keep vampires away!
John took a dip in the outdoor swimming pool. The large hotel also has a sauna and gym.
Our room had a magnificent view of the bay and bridge, which lights up with rainbow lights at night.
The manager took us to the rooftop — what a view!
For dinner, our guide took us to a classic seafood restaurant. As always, Vietnamese food was full of fresh, healthy flavors. We had soup with ginger and this small fish found only in Ha Long Bay.
Then, we went to the Halong Bay night market to shop. The night market has a new location, with a modern setup.
The vendors sell everything from Vietnamese loose tea, to beaded Hello Kitty purses…
… to a stuffed goat head! Mr Skeleton shows his appreciation for the horned one.
The goat was a bit too large to take home, so he decided on this green skull. Pop the top, and there’s a space to keep treasures.
Thanks to Halong Plaza Hotel for the excellent service and big rooms. They’re one of highest rated hotels in Ha Long Bay for a reason.
And of course, to our guides Vietnam Food Tour. Their Savor Vietnam package, which includes sailing around Halong Bay, let us see the best of Northern Vietnam.
Have my Vietnam travel stories convinced you to come here yet? If you have questions about traveling, or anything at all, please let me know in the comments!
Inside with Palina Rojinski: hosting a Hong Kong travel TV show for Pro7! Farfetch Style Reinvention.
At last, I can show you footage from my latest Hong Kong travel TV show shoot! (I’ve filmed two more times in Asia since then, but it takes forever for shows to come out… hence the old hair color.)
If you live in Germany, perhaps you saw me on the new ProSieben series, “Inside – Unterwegs mit Palina.” I was the fixer and on-camera host for this new TV show, which takes Palina Rojinski around the world in search of local experiences.
But fist, I want to share with you a new Style Reinvention project with Farfetch, where I reinterpret boy-style for a female wardrobe.
It’s always fun to film TV shows in Asia, since this lets me see the latest fashion and trends up close.
Right now, Kpop style is everywhere. I’m particularly keen on the sleek, black, rocker clothing worn by Korean boy bands such as Excite (above).
Kpop male idols have always leaned towards an androgynous look — so why not mix up your wardrobe with some menswear pieces? I teamed up with Farfetch to create a “Style Reinvention” moodboard. I had fun breaking out of my usual zone, and browsing the men’s section for ideas.
Clockwork from left, I created a K-pop rock star look with:
– Issey Miyake black studded backpack
– Off-White top (this type of black/white contrast is very Kpop)
– Rick Owens blazer with shawl collar, stud cuff, and zip leather boots
– Raf Simons black skinny jeans
Now, I feel like I can fit in with the Korean boys of the band 24K!
How would you reinvent your style? Farfetch is inviting you to build your own moodboard (like I did), and share it on your blog and social media with the hashtag #myfarfetch. The best outfit, chosen by Farfetch, will receive a £250 voucher to spend on their site. The competition ends Oct 31 — Halloween — so get to it. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.
And now, back to the travel TV shoot in Hong Kong.
It was a pleasure to work once again with Pro7, the biggest German TV network. I previously filmed with them for Joko vs Klaas in Vancouver (where we sewed Joko’s lips together), and Tokyo (where we gave Klaas a bagelhead).
While I can’t release the whole episode, I put together some of my TV clips in the video above and on YouTube. I also have behind the scenes photos and stories to share — so read on for martial arts, horse racing and snake soup!
I was Palina’s on-camera guide to Hong Kong, in this episode of “Inside.” For the first scene, I met her at Hong Kong airport.
(My company, La Carmina & The Pirates, did the fixing for this TV program, meaning we arranged all the permits, casting, story ideas and more.)
If you’re from Germany, I am sure you’re familiar with Palina Rojinski. She’s a DJ and popular TV host, and we hit it off straight away.
The concept of the show is that Palina wants to get offline, and travel around the globe without the help of cell phones, computers, or money. As her Hong Kong local insider, I was excited to show her the city’s wildest nightlife and food.
We filmed a thrilling scene at the Hong Kong Jockey Club race course, in Sha Tin. People placed bets on horses, and cheered like maniacs when their favorites galloped by.
This photo gives you a sense of the excitement in the grandstands, as betters cheered for their favorite horses and jockeys. Horse racing is a popular attraction in Hong Kong, a former British colony.
My friend John Skeleton and I were the odd Goths out, in this racecourse filled with older men! John was my fixing partner for this German TV show, and led all the scouting and first day’s shoot.
On this turf, jockeys paraded their horses for the spectators.
I’ve only been to the Hong Kong horse races once when I was a child, as it’s not exactly my scene. However, it was fun to film here with the TV show. Palina placed a bet on a horse — and with the magic of TV, she won!
After the races, we paid a visit to our X-mouthed friend Miffy. (Or as we call her, “Miffeeehhhh!”)
Oh Miffeh, always getting into shenanigans. (The TV crew filmed the balloon, and you can see it in this video.)
This was a very special scene… because it starred my cousins, uncle and aunt! As you probably know, I have many relatives in Hong Kong, and they generously opened up their apartment to Palina and the TV crew.
Palina and my family chatted about growing up in Hong Kong, and all the cultural quirks. They offered her local snacks, and let her sleep in my cousin’s bed… surrounded by cute stuffed animals.
The B-roll camera did a time lapse of the sunset. My uncle’s apartment has a marvelous view of the harbor.
Can you imagine looking outside, and having this as your view? Palina loved meeting my family members and learning about their cosmopolitan lifestyle in Hong Kong.
Palina Rojinski insisted on taking selfies with all of us, and left adorable notes for them, written in Chinese.
On another day, I arranged for Palina to visit a villian hitter. These women set up stalls beneath the overpass of Causeway Bay, around Hennessey Road. They offer a menu of spiritual rituals that drive out negative feng shui.
This lady set up an altar with incense and statues of the Chinese folk gods, including the red-faced warrior Guan Yu.
My aunt appeared in the TV program, as Palina’s Cantonese translator and guide for this scene. She introduced her to the villain hitter, who performed a dramatic ritual that stamps out bad luck.
She burned papers and beat an effigy, to vanquish Palina’s enemies. It’s quite the ritual, and worth witnessing if you’re in Causeway Bay.
Talk about bad timing… We ran into a traffic jam, near the Hong Kong government buildings. A huge crowd had gathered there. What was going on?
Later that evening, we looked up at a TV screen… and couldn’t believe our eyes. The Hong Kong protests had broken out into chaos, with police firing gas into the crowds. This was the start of “Occupy Central,” and we had missed it by a hair.
Regardless, the show must go on. Palina was up for a food challenge, so I set her up at Sher Wong Yip New Snake Restaurant.
Look who else has eaten snake soup here… My friend Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods (Travel Channel)! Remember when I took him around to Tokyo restaurants for his TV show?
At the entrance, there was a big glass case filled with writhing snakes. This cat sat right next to the snakes, and didn’t seem at all scared.
The owners held up snakes, for a teaser shot. In Hong Kong, people traditionally ate snake soup to “warm up the body” and for its supposed medical benefits.
The taste of snake soup? Just like chicken with herbs. I bet you wouldn’t even know you were eating a serpent.
We ended the Offline TV shoot with a bang. Palina had to fight one-on-one with martial arts expert and filmmaker, Sam Leong.
He taught her some killer moves at his Kowloon fighting studio.
Then, we drove to this epic location overlooking Hong Kong, for a kung fu death match!
Take a moment to watch my German travel TV show appearance, and let me know what you think. Thanks to all my friends and family for making this episode a success. We couldn’t have done it without you.
PS: We were so busy running around that it was hard to take photos. Here is a clearer head-to-toe of the outfit I wore on this travel TV show. These were shot at Pacific Cebu Resort (more photos here.)
A few of my friends have been to Vietnam, and encouraged me to visit. They gushed: “The food is out of this world, and everyone is so nice.”
After spending time in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, I must wholeheartedly concur. “Hat’s off to Vietnam!”
I wanted to have an immersive, authentic experience (as always) — so I went on a custom journey with Vietnam Food Tour.
Thanks to our bilingual local guide, we were able to travel to small villages where we talked to locals, and learned how to cook Vietnamese food!
Read on to see how I made spring rolls, Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, and other delicious dishes…
Watch our Vietnam video, above and on YouTube.
My friend John Skeleton and I flew to Hanoi from Hong Kong — an easy and inexpensive two-hour flight.
Vietnam Food Tour arranged for a car to take us from Noi Bai Airport to our hotel in the Old Quarter. Along the way, we saw throngs of motorcycles zipping between cars – Mad Max style!
It rained a little that night, which gave us the chance to take bokeh photos from the car window. (This is the fabulous DSLR camera that we use.)
Vietnam is humid and has mosquitoes, so I devised a stylish way to stay covered. I wore a lightweight cotton tank top and leggings, and a sheer lace maxi black dress on top.
If you’re going to a destination with high humidity, such as southeast Asia, I recommend finding a long lace dress like mine, or a short sleeves version to keep cool yet protected. More of my picks below:
On the first day of our journey, Vietnam Food Tour took us to a village about an hour from Hanoi, along the Red River Delta.
Thanks to them, we were able to see charming parts of North Vietnam that we wouldn’t have gleamed on our own.
We stopped at Van Giang Village’s morning market. It’s true that the Vietnamese people have kind hearts. Everyone waved and smiled at us, and gave compliments as we walked by.
John and I were the only foreigners in sight, since not many travel out to this village. (Vietnam Food Tour specializes in small, custom excursions — meaning that we were the only ones on the tour, with a guide and driver.)
Our sweet guide, Bao, explained that the villagers grow fresh vegetables in their gardens. They bring their produce to the market, where they greet their neighbors and exchange food in a friendly atmosphere.
Many villagers wore Vietnamese pointed hats (get one here!). This conical straw hat is made from natural materials, and provides protection against both sun and rain.
Who wore it best, La Carmina or John Skeleton?
I think this little girl on a motorbike, with a “not impressed” face, wins first prize!
We walked through the wet market, where vendors sold fresh seafood. Some of the ladies prepared Vietnamese dishes for you right on the spot.
John left his bloody heart on this tray.
As fans of The Walking Dead, these chicken-zombies caught our attention.
Tropical fruits, fresh flowers, Vietnamese conversations… What a joy to experience the sights and sounds of this local market!
Our driver took us from the colorful village center, criss-crossed by electrical wires, to a more rural area nearby.
Even the cows are laid-back in wonderful Vietnam. They were hanging out on the roads, and didn’t blink an eye as the cars weaved around them.
Our guide Bao went out of her way to show us the culture and beauty of her country. She stopped to pick up a yellow apricot blossom, or hoa mai, and gave it to us. This noble flower is integral to Vietnam’s new years celebrations, called Tet.
The countryside pond and trees look like something from an ancient painting.
Our guide, Bao, took us to the 300 year old house of Mr. An. He graciously invited us to meet his family, and learn how to make Vietnamese dishes.
We were in awe at his beautiful garden and open-air traditional house. We stopped to admire the family altar, which honors Mr. An’s ancestors as well as the Buddha (since much of Vietnam is Buddhist, followed by Taoist).
Mr. An has some of the most impressive Bonsai trees in the entire region, which he displays along the winding path to his home.
Mr An served us green tea, prepared in the traditional way (by pouring it several times back and forth, and then serving it in small cups). Although he only spoke Vietnamese, we could feel the warmth of his hospitality.
We were curious about the bullet holes that marked the outside of his home.
Mr An revealed that before 1946, his ancestral house has three separate buildings. However, when the French occupied northern Vietnam, they set up camp nearby. During an attack on the Communists, the two front buildings burned down, and a gunfight left traces in the remaining walls.
The Indochina Wars (and American Vietnam War) caused hardships during the mid-20th century. However today, the country is at peace, and very safe for tourists. And despite these conflicts, the Vietnamese people are remarkably open and kind to visitors.
Even though Mr and Mrs An didn’t speak a word of English or French, I was able to connect with them through the universal language of humor!
(The rice paper that we used to make spring rolls reminded me of a moustache, hence this funny moment.)
Mrs An kindly walked me through each step of making Vietnamese spring rolls. I learned how to prepare and mix the ingredients, and roll them up. She gave me and John thumbs up, as we got better at the process. (See this cute moment here!)
Perhaps not every spring roll is as tightly packed as it could be… but we had such fun, working under the tutelage of Mrs An.
John noticed a shelf of spooky liqueurs, flavored with dead snakes and quails. We had never seen alcohol made with birds before.
John wanted to try the snake potion, but Mr An warned him that it was only for those aged 50 and up!
Mrs. An took us into her family kitchen, to cook the spring rolls and stir-fry green vegetables. We put together a Nuoc Cham dipping sauce to accompany our feast.
(We made a vlog about our cooking class. I hope the video makes you smile.)
She brought out a salad made with seaweed and vegetables, as well as a seafood soup and other side dishes.
And then, it was time to sit down and eat until we were ready to explode! The spring rolls were so delicious — better than any we had ever had — that John said he could eat about 20 of them. (And proceeded to do so.)
In classic “village generosity,” as our guide put it, Mr An freely poured us the herbal-infused liqueur that he brewed himself. Before leaving, he insisted that we take a bottle back with us!
This turned out to be one of the most memorable meals of the entire year, and gave me a new appreciation of Vietnamese cuisine. We were grateful to get to know Mr and Mrs An, and hear their personal stories of the wars.
Vietnam Food Tour also arranged for us to have dinner at one of Hanoi’s top restaurants, Com Viet.
We walked across a bridge surrounded by leaves, and past a display of Asian art.
On the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, I said hello to a little bird.
(My off the shoulder black silk top is another way to stay covered without getting overheated, in humid South East Asia.)
The female staff wore traditional silk tunics and pants, known as the Vietnamese aoi dai.
(All photos by John, Bao of Vietnam Food Tour, and me.)
Com Viet felt like a walk through Vietnam’s elegant past. As we ate, we listened to classic songs played on this string instrument called a dan tranh.
We tasted several courses of traditional cuisine, starting with bun thang soup and fresh rolls with prawns and vermicelli.
Loved the fresh flavors and presentation of the dishes, including appetizers in two baskets on a pole (a miniature version of what street vendors carry).
By now, I understood why my friends raved about Vietnamese food. It’s light, healthy, and never over-seasoned or spiced.
Vietnam is often an overlooked Asian destination, which is unfortunate. My local food tour turned out to be one of my favorites of the entire year — I wouldn’t have had these experiences if I came here on my own.
(You can check out Vietnam Food Tour’s various Hanoi excursions here — we did the Savour four-day package, and I recommend it with all my heart.)
Much more to come, including our Pirate boat trip through Halong Bay… For a sneak peak, take a few minutes to watch our Vietnam travel video.
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, then I have a feeling you will like these Iceland photos… inspired by the fantasy fashion and northern landscapes!
I’m also happy to announce that our Iceland travel video is now out — and you can watch it here.
(It would be amazing if you can share this post with friends who are fans of the HBO series. I’d love to hear what they think.)
Above: I’m honored to have one of these Icelandic images on the cover of Love Japan magazine. Inside, you’ll find an exclusive interview with me, and a spread of photos taken both in Reykjavik and worldwide.
Love Japan is a publication that I believe in: it’s dedicated to Japanese culture, lifestyle, food and fashion. You can find this issue in various stockists around London, or order it online through their site (the first 20 customers get special gifts). It’s also free to read online here.
During our time in Iceland, Joey and I also shot an atmospheric film of our travels. It’s quite different from my usual episodes, and has more of a music video feeling. What do you think? Watch our video above, or on my LaCarmina YouTube.
A big round of applause for my team:
I’m a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is partially shot in Iceland (standing in for the Wall and North of the Wall). What better place to do a photoshoot inspired by the characters?
I channeled Daenerys Targaryen with my braided and curled hair.
Iceland is a photographer’s paradise, thanks to the clear light and dramatic landscapes. Photographer Joey couldn’t resist crossing the road to capture this mountain range.
We got access to these hidden nature areas, thanks to Thor and Anna of Salty Tours. They were excited about our photoshoot concept, and brought us to the perfect settings, far away from other tourists.
Since we were on a private Jeep tour, we could go wherever we wanted and work at our own pace. We couldn’t have asked for a more magical location, at this elf park.
I’m channeling the dragon queen and King’s Landing fashion, with my wide-sleeved top (by Japanese brand Ozz On, found at Closet Child.
Salty Tours took us to sulfur hot springs, Icelandic horse farms and other hidden spots throughout our day journey. We were grateful for this customized 4×4 experience, which went above and beyond a regular Golden Circle tour.
We even stopped by a bizarre rack of dried fish, and tried fermented shark! For the full story of my Salty Tours adventure in Iceland, check out this post.
When Joey and I researched Iceland, we were in awe of the black sand beaches. We asked Salty Tours to take us to one, and they delivered by bringing us to this epic, deserted beach.
How Gothic is this location? Joey set up lights, and Thor and Anna kindly assisted us with the equipment.
We were grateful for their help — we wouldn’t have been able to capture images like this, without Salty Tours!
The image above should have you humming the Game of Thrones theme song…
My stylist, Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Hair Salon in Vancouver, put my hair in princess braids. We looked at photos of Daenerys and Cersei, and she created her own look inspired by their hairstyles.
Stephanie also does all my vivid hair colors, which never fade out. Give her a ring if you want rainbow hair like mine!
Waiting for my dragons to come back to me…
Finally, Salty Tours took us to a little-known waterfall, Öxarárfoss. We got to go right up against the crashing falls, and get the best possible photos.
Yes, there’s an Asian dragon on my Ozz On top — how appropriate!
The mist from the waterfall resulted in a mystical effect.
It’s pretty obvious that I fell in love with Iceland! The energy here is remarkable, and unlike anywhere else in the world I’ve visited.
Humongous thanks to Salty Tours for making our dream photoshoot a reality. If you come to Reykjavik, shoot them a email — there’s no better way to experience Iceland than on one of their private, bespoke Jeep tours.
See the rest of my Icelandic nature tour, including the cute horses we met on the way!
If you enjoyed this post, we’d appreciate any shares! And please take a few minutes to watch our Iceland travel video — there are RuPaul’s drag queens in there.