Category Archive for Hong Kong + Macau
Happy New Year! Before we jump into 2016, let’s wrap up the second half of my “Year in Review” — which included journeys to Morocco, Cambodia, Vietnam and Portugal.
This year, I was fortunate to work with a number of travel partners that made these trips possible. I’ll give you a deeper look at how these blogging projects come together (case studies, if you will). Hopefully this sheds some light into the way we team up on projects around the world.
The downside of being a road warrior is that you can’t spend as much time with your pets…
But my Scottish Fold cat had his own adventure this summer. He went on a stuffed toy tour of Poland, with Panda Tours. (Here’s the full story.)
Meanwhile, my film team and I went on a long and slightly grueling trip throughout Spain, Morocco and Portugal.
Since we aren’t on the road full time, we try to combine as many destinations, partners and projects into a two or three-week leg. This way, we can keep flights to a minimum and capture a lot of content, in a limited amount of time. Then, we can go home and work on this material for you, in various formats (videos, travel stories, photos).
For our Southern Europe journey, we partnered with Spain Tourism Board, Portugal Tourism, and Eurail (riding between the cities on their rail passes). We also stayed with hotels like the art nouveau El Palauet Barcelona (here are all the photos).
We’ll only ever team up with partners that are a natural fit with our niche (artistic, creative, offbeat travels). It’s a delicate balance, and we turn down a lot of offers. At the end of the day, our primary mission is to capture worldwide stories that otherwise wouldn’t get a voice — such as punk rock artists in Iceland, and women running collective businesses in Morocco.
A perfect example: We worked with Plan-It Fez Tours for our Morocco journey (driving from Tangier to Fez, Marrakesh, Essaouira). Thanks to their translation and expertise, we were able to stay in Berber villages and interview locals.
We were happy to get the word out Plan-It Fez, since their approach was exactly in line with ours (and we wholeheartedly recommend their tours for travelers to Morocco). With their support, we were able to dive right into the culture — such as by taking a henna workshop with ladies of all generations.
- If you’re interested in more, enjoy all my Morocco posts here.
As I mentioned, we try to visit multiple destinations in one go. From Marrakesh, we flew to Lisbon and took the train to Porto.
When tourism boards assist us (with a driver, accommodations, meals etc), we can cover more ground in a short period, without stressing about the logistics of getting around. Keep in mind that we aren’t traveling as tourists for leisure, but have work responsibilities — so we can’t just show up somewhere and “wing it.”
I haven’t gotten around to sharing all my stories from Portugal yet, but they’re coming up… and this country is now one of my favorites in all of Europe!
I also frequently travel for television hosting jobs, especially in Asia. In spring, I was in Tokyo for a Travel Channel shoot. Later that summer, I was flown to Hong Kong for a major US network TV project. As usual, I must keep mum until it comes out… and it can take a while.
For example, I filmed with German TV in Hong Kong last year, and didn’t get to post the clip until recently (watch me on Inside TV with Palina Rojinski).
While in Hong Kong, I also did a dark fashion photoshoot with my friends. I also collaborated with a new pet supplies company called Pet Sensei, which has Basil as its mascot! (All the details and modeling images here).
When I have time off in Hong Kong, I take the opportunity to find cute shops and cafes to share with you. One of my most popular articles last year was about the Hello Kitty Chinese dim sum restaurant, and it’s no surprise why.
Hanoi is only a two-hour flight from Hong Kong… say yes to an adventure, always! This time, I collaborated with Vietnam Food Tour. Similar to Morocco, I was able to have an immersive, foodie experience thanks to the help of these local experts.
From making spring rolls with a village grandma, to interviewing tattoo artists in Hanoi, Vietnam surpassed all my expectations. (Read all my Vietnam travel posts here.)
We made a casual video about these Vietnamese adventures — watch it above, for pirate shenanigans!
You’ve probably noticed that I travel with different people (who help me with the photography and videos). Who accompanies me?
It depends on the job, location and availability, but I’m always around friends — which makes these trips all the more fun.
I wrapped up 2015 with a journey to Cambodia, thanks to my long-time flight colleagues HK Express.
I felt at peace in Siem Reap as soon as I arrived. One of my favorite outfit shoots of the year was this one, at Le Meridien hotel (another partner that shares our artistic leanings). Soon, I’ll share a video from our Cambodian travels.
It was unthinkable — even a few years ago — that I’d be able to see such incredible places around the world, with my own eyes. The sunrise at Angkor Wat temple was one of the magic moments of 2015, and I’m excited for what 2016 holds.
If my 2015 was all about travel, then what will be the word for 2016? Technology. I have to keep my current project secret for now, but it’s happening — and I’ll share the news with you as it unfolds.
Sending you all the best for 2016. Be bold, take a leap, live life according your terms… and let this be the most extraordinary year yet!
2015 is drawing to a close… Time for my annual blog ritual of looking back at the highlights of the year!
In my 2014 recap (see part 1 and part 2), I was determined to dedicate more of this site to travel and subculture stories. I feel like this goal came into fruition: my work took me to 14 different countries in 2015, where I covered alternative topics ranging from British Goth festivals to Moroccan beauty workshops.
In this post, I’ll share how these projects came together, and reminisce on my favorite memories of the first six months (above is my Giuseppina Magazine cover – here is the whole shoot). I’ve also embedded my travel videos from each destination, in case you missed them when they first came out.
And the year’s not quite done yet… Two more destinations ahead. Find out what they are at the end of this post, and on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked below). Thanks for being part of my journey, and here’s to a meaningful 2016!
My travel filmmakers and I started the year in Hong Kong, where we were working with the new Hotel Sav. I always love coming back to this city, where I have many friends and relatives.
It was an incredible honor to have my own hotel room at Sav, which I decorated with artist Naomiyaki! This “Floor of Love” project appealed to us because it had the goal of elevating a traveller’s stay through art, and giving back to charity.
Check out all my Hong Kong articles here for the behind-the-scenes story of how we made a “La Carmina” room, and what these paintings represent.
We also celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time, in Hong Kong.
Dragon dances, fireworks and food… take a moment to watch the travel video above, to see it all in action.
Next, my film team and I flew to Tokyo, Japan. We were working once again with trip-planning startup Odigo. I had the time of my life at the Odigo launch party with my friends.
We also did stories and videos about the bizarre, kawaii attractions found only in Japan. From the Pompompurin puppy cafe (above) to the mecha Gundam robot, you can see the latest pop culture oddities in all my Tokyo posts.
And above is the Tokyo travel video — Pokemon cafe, Suspiria horror pubs, game centers and more madness.
In the spring, I finally visited one of my top dream destinations: Iceland. The country is like nowhere else, with science fiction buildings and an otherworldly landscape.
My Reykjavik memories include exploring the street art and prismatic architecture, eating insanely fresh seafood, and meeting the RuPaul drag queens (they were randomly performing while we were there).
You absolutely must take a nature tour in Iceland. Our wonderful guides Salty Tours took us to secret spots including black sand beaches, waterfalls and elf caves, instead of the usual Golden Circle. (Here are all my Iceland photos and posts, to help you plan a trip here.)
Enjoy the ethereal video of my Iceland adventures above and on YouTube @lacarmina. There’s footage of me dipping into the Blue Lagoon and taking selfies with plump Icelandic horses!
My white rabbit (Miffy) and I went onward to Manchester UK, where we were working on stories with support from the tourism board. These British adventures included Alice in Wonderland high tea…
… and a pilgrimmage to Manchester music landmarks, including Salford and Sons. (Enjoy the full story about my The Smiths and Joy Division music tour.)
After a train ride through the Yorkshire countryside, I arrived at the seaside town of Whitby. We did a magazine cover shoot at the Dracula abbey that inspired the Bram Stoker novel.
Such fun to finally experience Whitby Goth Weekend, where Andi Sex Gang and other Gothic greats performed. For more photos of the event, take a gander at all my England posts.
I then went back to Tokyo, Japan for a Travel Channel TV shoot. I can’t reveal anything about this TV hosting gig yet, but when it airs next year, I’ll be sure to let you know.
I also got to see the Japanese cat temples, Gotokuji and Imado shrines (featuring thousand of lucky cat statues). I haven’t had a chance to blog about this yet… still so many posts from 2015 that need to go up…
In May, I traveled to Singapore for the first time (it was a year of many firsts). We got insider access at Marina Bay Sands, and ate our way around the city — from high end molecular gastronomy, to hawker center street food.
I still have a Little India and Chinatown post to share with you, but until I get around to it, you can see all my Singapore travel tips so far.
And then, there was Bali — land of temples and spirituality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here with my friends Cohica Travel, and think back fondly at our temple tour around Ubud.
We also had far too much fun taking a Bali cooking class at the Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua, with these jolly chefs!
I invite you to check out my Indonesia posts here, for a visual diary of my time on the island.
That takes us up to June! Next up, I’ll look back at memories from the second half of the year.
And what’s next? Off to New York City and Mexico — with partner in crime Yukiro! We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve, and kicking back at the new Karisma El Dorado resort in Riviera Maya / Tulum.
How about you — what were your favorite moments of 2015? Did you achieve any goals that you set, or experience something extraordinary?
Hotel Sav Hong Kong: Floor of Love art exhibition for charity! Pop-up design shop, Goth holiday gift guide.
Hello from my colorful home in Hong Kong — Hotel sáv!
As you might recall from this story, I have a “La Carmina room” at this award-winning boutique hotel. Artist Naomi Rubin and I took part in their “Floor of Love” project, which dedicates the entire 22nd floor to art and charity.
I’m excited to share that the Floor of Love is officially launching in December — and hope you will stay in our room at Hotel Sav!
In this post, I’ll show you the new, original art that Naomi created for the opening exhibit.
I’ll also take you inside Sav’s new Pop-Up store, rainbow afternoon tea set… and end with a Gothic gift guide, highlighting holiday presents under $20.
Let’s begin in my “La Carmina hotel room” at Hotel Sav. (My address: Room 2219, 83 Wuhu St, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Last February, my team and I went to support the hotel opening, and created this travel video about decorating this space to represent “Love the Dream.”
Now, Sav Hospitality is celebrating the launch with a big Floor of Love event. The Sonic Garden space will feature new works by the artists — including Naomi! — and the 19 decorated rooms will be open for viewing.
Our art will be paired with wines that match the themes (Love the Planet, Community, Dream, Memory). There will also be food tastings, a graffiti car display, and music. Best of all, you can buy the works, and proceeds will go to the Disabled Association and Make a Wish Hong Kong.
You can peek inside the various Floor of Love artist rooms in this photo diary, as well as see more of the La Carmina works (such as these sketches featuring scenes from Hong Kong).
Keep scrolling to see the three new pieces that Naomi made… they feature my Scottish Fold cat Basil, and mouth-sewing!
I always feel at home when I stay in my Hotel Sav room, and wind up with the most vivd, lucid dreams.
(I’m wearing a Sailor Moon jacket that I got in The One – Tsim Sha Tshi mall. This fashion collection features clothes with Sailor Moon symbols and patterns. My black Very Metal dress is Gladnews, and the Unknown Pleasures tights have a Joy Division print.)
On the first floor lobby, anyone can shop the “Pop Up At SAV” — a collection of local designs that celebrate art and lifestyle.
This space has an eye-catching selection of jewelry, purses, watches and more. There’s a rainbow rack of sáv Beach Wear, and all types of stationery branded by the hotel.
I’m wearing a Korean bracelet and squeezing a “towel bear,” which I’ll give to my baby niece as a present.
The wall of paintings is by local artist Mark Lui. You can shop for his Design Works cell phone cases, which come in carved wood and rainbow prints. I’m carrying one of Mark Lui’s Botkier tote bags, which are among the most popular items.
I hope you’ll stop by the Pop Up at Sav, to check out these artistic goods!
And now, let me share with you the three pieces Naomi Rubin made for the Floor of Love opening party. Below are her titles and “a short bit of story that takes the viewer a little closer to the memories she drew from when painting.” Let’s start with two inspired by Basil Farrow the Scottish Fold cat!
Pencil and acrylic on paper
“It’s a rare joy when you get to meet the family of someone close and feel the realization that you already know them. Then, you can draw them some more.”
Pencil and acrylic on paper
“The first time we shot photos on that trip, it was on the way to meet some unlikely co-workers. We stopped in a back-alley that made for unusual lighting but fantastic poses and composition. Most of this city is real, but the parts have been taken from all over — kind of like a real city indeed.”
Acrylic on paper
“The posters were made on the train ride up, and pasted guerrilla-style around town as we filmed. We checked out the venue space only the evening before, and even that changed around on us. We were ready though, because we had been practicing.” (Hint: if you’ve followed our TV-fixing work over the years, you may recognize this scene from the Joko vs Klaas lip-sewing episode!)
It’s wonderful to see how Naomi’s art continues to evolve. She is currently working on a mystery project; you can watch her Naomiyaki site for changes.
While staying with Hotel Sav, I also got to try the new “Floral with Colors” Afternoon Tea Set. It’s a rainbow delight of sweet and savory treats, decorated to look like a blossoming garden — complete with chocolate soil and a twirling butterfly.
The bite-sized delights sit next to flowers by Hahahflorist. I had fun eating the mousse with a miniature garden shovel, and skewers of mozzarella with tomato and caviar.
Anyone who orders the Floral Tea Set receives a packet of flower seeds and a Casetify screen protector for free. And if you wear a floral dress or accessories to high tea, you might get a special tote bag too.
The hotel also has a new “Patisserie by sáv” on the ground floor, serving fresh cakes and pastries every day.
I think you can see why I love staying at Hotel Sav! It’s less than a year old, and has already racked up awards for best design, branding, marketing and more.
My friends and I enjoyed hanging out at Amplitude bar, which has a music theme. We snacked on fresh fruit cocktails (there’s a whole rainbow of them) and snacks such as oven baked pizza.
I hope you’ll stop by Hotel Sav to see the Pop Up shop, and try their Floral Afternoon Tea. And don’t forget — you can request to stay in the La Carmina room, when you travel to Hong Kong!
And now… my Gothic Alternative gift guide! It’s “Nightmare before Christmas” time, and I’m sure you’re scrambling to pick up holiday presents. It’s always a challenge to find something unique and useful, especially for someone of a Gothic disposition.
To help you out, I’ve rounded up my favorite Goth gifts, most of which are under $20 US. I hope you find these shopping tips helpful!
A mobile phone case is a thoughtful present, since these tend to have high turnover (people use smartphones constantly, and eventually break the covers). These iPhone and Android cases are fun and stylish, and not too heavy. Of course, make sure you know what type of phone your friend uses so that you purchase the right model.
During the winter months, your friends will need a knit cap to keep warm — or tuque, as we Canadians call these things. Instead of a boring basic beanie, why not give them something fun?
Killstar has the most eye-catching Gothic accessories on the market. I had a hard time deciding between (from left) the aliens with upside down cross beanie, pentacle and moon winter cap with a pom pom, “So Goth I’m Dead” hat, and pyramid Killstar tuque. (These links lead to where you can directly get them.)
I’m fond of giving and receiving high-quality makeup, especially if it’s by brands that are not usually found in stores. All of these picks are under $20 too.
Anastasia is the queen of eyebrows, and makes a brow powder palette that looks very natural. The self-sharpening Anastasia eyebrow pencil is beloved by makeup addicts worldwide. (All of these come in different shades.)
Matte, long-lasting lip glosses are currently all the rage. Jeffree Star has a fabulous collection that includes shades like dark blue and purple gloss. Recently, I’ve been wearing this exact shade of Urban Decay lip gloss, and can vouch that it stays on.
If someone has recently moved to a new apartment or dorm, a home decor gift is a nice gesture. Try to avoid “Halloween party” products, and look for items made with better materials.
On the top left, I’d welcome this a set of Mercury colored glass skull bottles. They’d look great on a shelf or mantle, and can hold a fresh flower. Below these are are two versions of a cardboard 3D skull, which also comes in black and other colors. This unique skull can serve many purposes, from a paperweight to a scratching station for your cat!
A skull-shaped planter adds character to the home. In addition to plants, the vase can hold various objects such as candy or pens. Finally, this purple Day of the Dead glitter skull can hang on a door, wall, or Christmas tree.
False eyelashes are an excellent stocking stuffer, especially if you find Japanese ones with cute packaging. I love the Wicked Hippie eyelashes with rainbow accents and colors.
Finally, since you never know what Santa might bring you… I’ll share my dark dream wishlist! These are the height of Gothic haute couture — designs to die for.
And above is my Technicolor dreamcoat. This anime pink faux fur coat by A.W.A.K.E is kawaii done right! It’s available here, in case one of you feels the urge to pick it up for me… anyone? Anyone?
I hope you found my Goth / alt gift suggestions to be helpful, as you shop for friends and family this Christmas season. Have fun, and let me know if you have other suggestions for presents.
Animal-lovers, you will love this story. Above, as you can see… my Scottish Fold cat has become a life-size mascot!
We’re thrilled to support a new Hong Kong pets service — Pet Sensei. This online store sells healthy products for dogs and cats, and supports animal charities.
Basil gladly “lent a paw” to the company, knowing that they only sell the best brands of food, litter and more — at affordable prices. Plus, Pet Sensei donates funds from every item sold to animals in need.
(Read on for more, as well as a Chinese Gothic Lolita modeling shoot!)
These days, having a pet is like having a family member. We want to provide our furry friends with the best possible food and care. (What a baby — Basil Farrow loves to be carried!)
However, in China and Hong Kong, it’s expensive and difficult to purchase high-quality pet food. Respected international labels (such as Orijen and Wellness) aren’t found in most local pet stores, and online prices are astronomical. Locals told me they feel stuck and frustrated by the situation.
Basil to the rescue! My plump cat is the face of Pet Sensei, a site that makes these top-quality products easily available in Hong Kong. The company imports pet foods and supplies directly, and sell them at lower prices than other sources. They’ll also deliver right to you.
Pet Sensei has created an entire community around their mission of helping animals. On their Facebook page (Pet 師父), you can share cute stories about your pets, learn about animal care, and play games to win prizes.
In Hong Kong, it’s hard to find pet foods without by-products and potentially toxic ingredients. Pet Sensei, on the other hand, sells top-rated international brands including Orijen, Wellness, Oven Baked, Natural Balance, Artemis.
The staff illustrator does a fantastic job at turning Basil (the maoo) and Tiny (the dog) into cartoon characters. Above is a comic from Halloween — you can see the latest ones on the Petsshk Facebook page.
In addition to donating funds to charities, the staff of Pet Sensei takes direct action to help animals in need.
Recently, they rescued Pi — a dog who was constantly being mistreated, underfed, and thrown into the sea. When the owner found out Pi had cancer and needed urgent surgery, he abandoned him. Pet Sensei stepped in and paid for the surgery. They are giving updates on the Facebook page: “Pi is now recovering slowly. We will continue to fund the clinic expenses until we can find someone who can take good care of him and love him for the last stage of his life.”
Not all pets are as lucky as Basil… That’s why we wanted to lend our support to Pet Sensei and their animal rescue work.
We hope Hong Kong pet owners can feel great about buying quality goods from a company that cherishes animals, and helps them speak out.
And to top it off — the prices are pretty fabulous. Right now, they are holding a week-long Pet Carnival that is offering discounts, lucky draws, games and more fun.
The site is available in both Chinese and English. Customer service is very responsive and fluent in English, so if you’re an ex-pat in Hong Kong, you won’t have any trouble ordering from them.
I hope you’ll check out Pet Sensei — and please tell your Hong Kong friends who have pets! Basil sends a snuggle in return.
What else have I been up to in Hong Kong?
I recently did a photoshoot with my friends. Above, I’m modeling with Natalie Lam, designer of the local Gothic Lolita brand Spider. These enigmatic photos are by Thomas Sandfield, who shoots fashion editorials and music videos in Hong Kong and worldwide.
We snuck up onto a rooftop to shoot these images. Thomas has a magnificent eye for capturing the mood of the city.
Above, I’m with my rainbow-haired friend — Mim Lai Sandfield of Sandfield Productions, a talented illustrator who also edited these photos. We’re all wearing Spider Gothic & Lolita fashion.
Natalie and I look pleased with the shots Thomas took!
We are obsessed with Miffy the X-mouthed bunny. I got this purse from the Miffy store in Shanghai (there are branches in Hong Kong too).
Hong Kong’s gritty buildings formed the perfect backdrop for a squad of Goths.
A peek at what goes on behind the lens. Thanks also to photographer Arthur Rash (far right) who joined our adventure.
Good thing I’m not afraid of heights… as we were up high on the roof, without a barrier!
Thanks to my Hong Kong friends for the fun shoot.
Finally, on the topic of Gothic fashion… thought I’d give you a head’s up. Shopbop is having a big sale here until Nov 30 — a great time to pick up winter items, or presents for friends. I’m personally loving this silk kimono robe, top with collar and bow, and fuzzy black gloves.
What do you think of my Scottish Fold being a pet mascot? Enjoy more cat cuteness on the Pet Sensei site.