Category Archive for Nightcrawling

Japanese Goth clubs: DecabarZ Tokyo & Suspiria horror bar! Odigo travel blogging class, Wave Gotik Treffen 2015.

One of the most frequent questions I get is: “Where are the Goth clubs and parties in Tokyo?” Over the years, I’ve covered events and compiled all the best ones in my Japan Gothic nightlife guide.

However, there are always new places popping up. Let me take you into the recently-opened DecabarZ in Kabukicho, a Suspiria-themed horror bar, and more!

My friend Jen also shares her recommendations for Wave Gotik Treffen 2015, at the end of this post. (Sadly I won’t be there, but above is a memory from WGT a few years ago.)

dj sisen, cyber japanese hair

Japan’s alternative fashion crowd still gathers at Decadance Bar, which used to be located above Christon Cafe in Shinjuku. Now, owner Adrien le Danois has opened up his own place, not far away in the heart of Kabukicho.

How to get to the new DecabarZ? The address is 5F Shinko Building, 1-2-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Here’s a link to the map.

To get to Decabar z, go out Shinjuku Station east exit, and walk straight until you hit the main road Yasukuni Doori. Turn and walk down the street with the Mr Donut on the corner. Stay on the right side (across from Shinjuku Ward). It’s on the 5th floor of the Shinko Building.

decabar z, shinjuku goth party

You can’t miss the entrance — there’s a huge, neon-colored mural in the style of Dragonball-Z, which is where the new club takes its name from. All of the regular DJs and performers have their faces immortalized here: Chihiro, DJ Sisen, Maya, Selia.

gothic punk bar, club tokyo

On most weekends, DecabarZ has special themed events. We were there for the 1980s Visage tribute, hence Yukiro’s retro-Goth look.

ghostbusters costume, cosplay

The new Decabar Z is more spacious, and illuminated in cyber colors. Some people dress casual, while others go all-out. Cosplay, Victorian, Ghostbusters… you’ll see it all here.

ganguro girl makeup, hair

The staff is always rocking underground fashion. This lady wears ganguro makeup, the tanned and white-highlighted look popular in Shibuya in the 90s.

polka dot face makeup

I’m digging this bartender’s bowler hat with a polka dot veil, and military jacket with shoulder pads. (More amazing Goth fashion below – click to shop!)

american horror story tshirt

On the dance floor, a TV broadcast cartoon episodes of Jem and the Holograms. (Love the American Horror Story shirt.)

japanese djs, tokyo goths

DJ Ray Trak and Zin-Francois Angelique spun the best synth-80s tracks. We went wild for Real Life “Send Me An Angel“, Berlin “The Metro” and Europe “The Final Countdown.”

decabar z club, kabukicho

There was also a mix of post-punk, rock and other underground sounds from the past decades. When the DJs played the Ghostbusters theme, this cosplayer stood on a ledge and waved around his proton pack! 

dj chihiro, decabar mural

This bar is open most nights – so what are you waiting for? For upcoming DecabarZ theme nights, check out their Facebook event listings.

cambiare, suspiria theme bar shinjuku

Now, for more horror and darkness. On the recommendation of John Skeleton, we visited Cambiare — a Shinjuku drinking hole inspired by the Dario Argento B-horror film, Suspiria! 

Address: 1-1-7 2F Kabukicho, Shinjuku. This is located in Golden Gai, the cluster of tiny bars that line several streets. It may be hard to find, so look up to see the Cambiare sign in spooky writing.

suspiria bar, golden gai tokyo

The interior is full of references to the 70s cult film, such as the stained glass window where the girl falls through (below), and the evil-eyed cat. Even the wallpaper mimics the one in the movie (which has one of the coolest sets of all time).

suspiria stained glass window

We drank the homemade sangria and watched the slasher movie on the TV screen. The bartender has seen it over 100 times, and we chatted about the bloodiest scenes.

If you’re a fan of Dario Argento’s works, then a visit to this Suspiria themed bar is a must. (More info on the Cambiare Facebook.)

tsudoi, mistress maya snack bar

Time to check out yet another Gothic hangout. Also in this same Kabukicho district is Mistress Maya’s new snack bar, TsudoiFor a “nomihoudai” all-you-can drink price, she’ll serve you sake and beer, and feed you her homestyle Japanese cooking.

Address: 3F Chipupura Plaza, 2-23-7 Kabukicho, Shinjuku

small local japanese bars

Tsudoi is the perfect place to get to know others in the Japanese underground scene. Maya speaks fluent English, and will introduce you to her colorful friends who are regulars at her bar. She’ll spin Goth and EBM music (she takes requests), and play movies like David Bowie’s Labyrinth in the back.

teaching travel writing workshop

I love discovering alternative spots like these, and sharing them with you on my La Carmina blog. Can you believe I’ve been doing this since 2007?

While I was in Japan, I shared what I learned in a travel blogging / writing workshop with Odigo. My team and I taught about 30 students how to start and grow a blog, get your name out, interact on social media, apply SEO and much more.

travel blogging course, lessons

I spoke for about three hours, and loved teaching students about every aspect of blogging. My site may only seem to be a collection of photos and words, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. I spoke about backend matters like CSS, loading speeds, cloudfront, hosting providers, design and image-tagging – to name a few. (My top is by Black Milk.)

travel photography class, teachers

Filmmakers Eric and Melissa, who travel with me on most of my projects, also spoke expertly about camera equipment, settings, video production and other technical aspects. We also talked about travel TV hosting and production. Again, there’s a lot of work that goes into the videos and visuals you see here.

how to be travel blogger lessons, workshops

One of the students, Lori of the Spendy Pencil, wrote a review of our travel blog workshop that you can read here. She says “They were friendly, extremely organized, and direct about their experiences. I’ve been to a lot of different classes and this was the best presentation I’ve attended about blogging and social media.”

Thanks to Odigo – a Japan travel planning site – for inviting us to teach this special class. We’re so happy that our attendees found our course helpful, and want to keep offering it all around the world! Stay tuned for announcements, and how you can join our next travel blogging, video and photography lessons.

tokyo police cute mascots

Time to celebrate a successful day, with dinner in Roppongi. Can you believe these kawaii mascots… are for the Tokyo Police Station? Truly, everything is cute in Japan.

roppongi hills spider statue

We moseyed around the Roppongi Hills courtyard, inhabited by the giant “Mother” spider sculpture. I don’t usually hang out in this district, but there are some cool spots like the Mori Museum gift shop (selling toys by Nara, Murikami and Kusama) and Moomin theme cafe.

roppongi top japanese restaurant, fine dining

There are some incredible dining options near Roppongi station. We can’t stop raving about Hassan (八山 六本木), a shabu shabu and sushi restaurant. This fine-dining establishment first opened in 1979, but the interior was recently renovated with elegant Edo-meets-modern craftsmanship. 

(Address: B1F Denki Building, 6-1-20 Roppongi, Tokyo)

hassan shabu shabu restaurant

Hassan’s ambiance was the perfect complement to its authentic, lovingly presented cuisine. Although you can order a la carte, most diners choose one of the all-you-can-eat menus, which include Wagyu or Kobe beef shabu shabu, tempura, sushi, drinks and dessert. We dipped the thin cuts into the boiling hot pot, and they melted in our mouths.

personal sushi chef, japan

And what a treat: we had our own personal sushi chef, who set up station in our private dining room! He prepared sea bream, tuna, sea urchin, mackerel and other delicacies — paired with real wasabi and homemade sauces. I washed it down with the highest quality yuzu and umeshu (plum liquor with real pulp in it), and finished with green tea mochi and gelatin. 

I’ve eaten at a lot of phenomenal Japanese restaurants, but this ranks among the best experiences I’ve ever had. Hassan in Roppongi is a meal you’ll never forget.

tokyo travel instagram to follow

I’ve experienced so many marvels in Tokyo… it’s impossible to blog them all. However, you can see my daily inspirations on @lacarmina Instagram — such as a lucky cat tile mural in Shibuya, Sanrio cafe pancakes, a rainbow dreamcoat in Harajuku, and smiling Murakami flowers.

And now, I’ll turn it over to my friend Jen Hoffert. She goes to Wave Gotik Treffen (the world’s biggest Goth festival) every year in Leipzig, Germany. (Remember when I went with Yukiro and our Japanese friends?) The events start this Friday, so if you’re going, I hope you’ll enjoy her top recommendations for WGT 2015.

wave gotik treffen victorian picnic

Jen writes: It’s nearly Wave-Gotik-Treffen time again. In less than a week, over 20,000 goths, rivet-heads, lolitas and other dark souls will arrive, turning the streets of Leipzig Germany into a shimmering sea of black.

With over 150 bands playing in 30 venues over 4 days, WGT is recognized as the largest international music festival for wave and gothic music. It’s not just about the music. Treffen means “meeting” in German and that’s a vital part of this festival. In addition to all of the concerts, parties and official cultural offerings at Leipzig’s museums, opera and symphony hall, many visitors arrange their own meetings with friends in the city’s parks, cafes, and nightclubs.

One of the largest of those events is the “Victorian Picnic”, started in 2008 by Viona Ilgens. The first few years attracted a few hundred costumed visitors, but since 2010, the picnic has been held at a central city park and become an enormous event which draws in plenty of curious onlookers. Although the picnic is so well loved by so many, it will go on without Viona this year because she is organizing a Viona’s Victorian Village including a Victorian Market,  “Thé Dansant” and exclusive concerts in a more secluded location. Our good friend Courtney of Atropos Threads, a talented seamstress and jewelry maker, will be vending her wares there.

For those who would rather continue the picnic tradition there are several options, the newly re-christened Neo-Romantic Picnic at Clara Zetkin Park on Friday, the Steampunk Picnic at the Palmengarten or the Blaue Stunde picnic at Parkschloesschen on Saturday. “Die Blaue Stunde” also hosts one of the most intimate and incredible farewell parties on the last evening of WGT, the traditional “Romantischen Tanznacht”. Their site is only available in German, but the hosts and party-goers are an international mix and everyone is welcome.

wave gotik treffen goth style, clothing

Another offering of interest to visitors of the festival is the IMAGO Camera, a mobile large format camera currently located at the Spinnerei in Leipzig. Holger and I had a portrait made (see above left image). This is a unique opportunity to capture a one of kind image of your beautiful dark self. You can contact Susanne directly at s.kraus@imagocamera.com to book a session. (All other WGT photos in this post by Seventh Sin.)

combichrist, front 242 bands singer

WGT includes a broad range of music beyond “gothic” and “wave”. (Above: Mera Luna photos of Front 242 and Combichrist.) The big names playing this year span from EBM (Front242, DAF, Combichrist) to classic dark rock (Fields of the Nephilim) to neo-classic (Deine Lakaien) and neo-folk (Sol Invictus, King Dude).

Some of lesser known, but promising acts include Harm Joy, an EBM/synth-pop band fronted by our friend Dan Von Hoyel, The Essence (Holland’s answer to The Cure), Evi Vine (Post Rock, Ethereal), Orphx (cult Technoid-Industrial), Last Dominion Lost, a project from former members of the Industrial pioneers SPK, lauded as “guaranteed 101% glow stick free!” and a special ritual performance by Zeena Schreck.

gothic festival clothing, dolls kill, killstar

PS – What to wear to a Goth festival? Here are some devilish picks to get you started, including this sigil jacket, Ancient Egypt dress, and studded vegan leather jacket. Below are links to more places to shop.

Are you coming to Leipzig this week? Got questions about Wave Gotik Treffen? Let us know in the comments, and Jen hopes to see you there!

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon: Gothic swimwear & metallic tattoos! Reykjavik hip restaurants, RuPaul Battle of the Seasons.

Iceland’s peculiar culture and apocalyptic landscapes have always stirred my imagination. I was curious to know — what is the island of Bjork really like?

Last month, I spent a few days in Reykjavik and found out for myself. Let’s start by dipping into the Blue Lagoon, eating Icelandic cuisine

… and mingling with RuPaul’s Drag Race queens? That’s right — I saw Pandora Boxx, Alaska 5000, Sharon Needles and others perform in this most unexpected of places.

We’ll open with a few words from photographer Joey Wong, who went on this adventure with me.

“Iceland always felt like a far-flung destination … it’s a place that everyone has heard about but very few people have been. However, now is the time to go because it’s actually not that far, expensive or inconvenient (less than 6 hours from NYC, and 7 hours from Seattle).”

We traveled on Iceland Air, which offers a free stopover (in Reykjavik, before continuing on to Europe) for up to seven days. The airline will soon offer more direct flights from US cities, including Vancouver and Portland, making this a great deal.

We were hosted by the CenterHotel Thingholt or “Þingholt,” a stylish boutique hotel with decor inspired by the surrounding nature. Loved the contemporary lobby — I’m standing in front of a stone wall with water flowing down, reminiscent of Iceland’s many waterfalls.

Pretty Attitude sent me this fabulous astrology tank top, and Goth swimsuit with pentagram-like straps! They have an enticing selection of edgy, romantic fashion in both black and white — including cut-out bikinis, fringe jackets, and doll dresses. Check it out on the Pretty Attitude online shop.

I glammed up my look with silver and gold metallic butterflies, from Tattoo You. This indie company carries designer temporary tattoos by famous artists like Dan Smith, BJ Betts, and Myra Oh. All the designs are of the highest quality — they stay on for a week, even if you go into the Blue Lagoon! — and the “ink” ones look 100% real. I had a hard time choosing from the many designs on the Tattoo You site.

Now that my outfit is ready, it’s spa time! How to get to the Blue Lagoon?

Visit Reykjavik arranged for a FlyBus to pick us up from our hotel, and take us to the Lagoon. It’s located in Grindavík (near Keflavik airport), just under a hour from the capital city, so this is most cost-effective option unless you have a rental car. (More info about how to get here is on their site).

The Blue Lagoon has different types of passes, ranging from standard to luxury. They recommend booking in advance through their site, since during busy times, only a limited number of visitors are allowed in. The Blue Lagoon provided us with a towel, bathrobe, locker access (with a wristband to secure your goods), and free drink. If you get the most basic option, be sure to bring your own towel and robe, or you’ll turn into a Popsicle after coming out of the water!

When I stepped outside, the windchill hit me — but as soon I got into the steaming pastel blue bath, the feeling was heavenly. The lagoon is man-made, and the warm water comes from a nearby geothermal power plant. Underground layers make the Blue Lagoon rich in sulfur and silica, minerals known to soothe the skin.

(Shop for Gothic / Alternative one-piece swimsuits and bikinis below!)

Unlike hot tubs (which I despise), the waist-deep water feels soft and natural. The temperature is not so hot that you’ll feel lightheaded or overwhelmed; my friends and I waded around for 1-2 hours before taking a break.

I gave my Tattoo You temporary tats the ultimate soak-test… and they stayed on perfectly, the whole day! The golden rose is from the Myra Oh metallic pack, available here.

How do you like my Gothic swimsuit from Pretty Attitude? My dark purple lip gloss is from Anastasia Beverly Hills.

A lot of locals come to the Blue Lagoon with yearly passes, so this isn’t only a a tourist destination. The venue does a great job at keeping everything hygienic and not over-crowded.

An important note about hair! I read that the Blue Lagoon’s sulfuric waters will mess with hair color and texture. So as soon as we finished taking these photos, I tied back my hair and put it in a shower cap. It was worth covering up my hair, since the steam will seep in even if you tie it up. If you have brightly colored hairstyles like us, we recommend bringing a sturdy plastic shower cap, even if you end up looking a bit goofy!

The Blue Lagoon also provided us with in-water massages. My friends were bundled up onto floating boards and rocked back and forth, like alien babies in a womb… It’s not for everyone, but apparently quite the experience! As for me, I didn’t want to put my head in the water, so I opted for a seated massage in the corner of the pool.

After several hours in the restorativewaters, we were ready to eat. The Blue Lagoon is home to LAVA Restaurant, run by a top Nordic chef. The second floor has a viewing area of the Lagoon.

LAVA is known for its contemporary dishes, made from local Icelandic ingredients. The restaurant served us a four-course tasting menu that began with arctic char.

I’ll let the photo speak for itself: cod and roasted langoustines, with fennel, pear, and dill. I’ll show you more of Iceland’s tasty food later in this post, but first…

… let’s dive into the fabulous side of the city! I’m posing at the rainbow entrance of Kiki’s Queer Bar. 

Joey writes, “There really is no LGBT ‘scene’ or gay bar hopping in Reykjavik, but the approach that I’d use is that it’s because gays are widely accepted in Iceland so there is no need.”

“But there still are alternative events that will surprise and excite people: like RuPaul’s Battle of the Seasons.” Our favorite drag queens from the TV show were on a world tour — and had a show in Reykjavik while we were there.

Above — I’m chatting with the drag queen of Halloween, Sharon Needles! I met her and other fan-favorites during the VIP meet and greet before the performance.

Pandora Boxx wore the most beautiful, customized skull and roses corset. She has such a sweet and gentle energy, which comes across both in person and on the LOGO TV show.

Jinkz Monsoon gives her best snarl. She’s dressed as Debbie Jellinsky, the evil wife from the Addams Family.

I’ve seen a lot of drag shows around the world, and  the Battle of the Seasons takes the cake, in terms of pure “extravaganza.” Competitors from various seasons of the reality show took the stage, one after the other, and lip-synched for their lives. Judge Michelle Visage introduced the acts and took part in them too.

Some sang their own songs, like the sassy Alaska 5000 who brought the house down with her hit, Your Makeup is Terrible.” Nobody can strut and give attitude like her!

My Goth friends and I cheered on Sharon Needles during her RuPaul’s Drag Race season, and were overjoyed when she won. She didn’t disappoint with her first act, where she popped out of a vampire coffin. (Watch this in my video compilation of the show.)

Her dark, surprising acts are a welcome departure from typical drag artists. Sharon Needles did a moving rendition of “Everyday is Halloween (a Ministry cover from her PG-13 album), while wearing a mask that transformed her into an old hag. For anyone who grew up relating to the spooky side of life, this was a performance that gave goosebumps.

I was in awe at the talent of all the queens. Ivy Winters did a quick-change act, and flew above the crowd as a butterfly on stilts. Pandora Boxx made us laugh with her frenetic ditz-girl comedy, and everyone cheered when she burst into Iceland native Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet“.

The drag queens also performed numbers together, and did a “Snatch Game” while impersonating celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith and Liza Minelli. The costumes were out of this world, like this tutu that lights up when you press on the “buttons.”

For footage from the Reykjavik battle of the seasons, check out my video compilation above and here.

I can’t wait for the next “condragulations” tour! The Ru Paul BOTS site has info about tickets and upcoming tour stops.

And now, as promised, a food tour of the best restaurants in Iceland. One of the benefits of being an isolated, northern country is that you have the freshest air and waters, and hands-on farming where animals are raised ethically. All this makes a difference in the quality of the food.

We can’t stop raving about dinner at Apotek, where the cuisine is influenced both by Icelandic ingredients and Argentinian preparations. The phenomenal cocktails pay tribute to the building’s former incarnation – a 19th century pharmacy – with categories like  painkillers, stimulants and even placebos.

I couldn’t believe the fresh, crisp flavors of this Arctic char on a pink Himalayan salt block, sprinkled with poppy seeds.

Beautiful presentation and creative ingredients, without fuss — I can vouch that Apotek is one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik.

For a more casual but equally delicious experience, we are huge fans of Icelandic Fish and Chips. We were treated to this Viking-worth array of salads, three kinds of battered fish, cauliflower and broccoli “tempura,” and nine dips including tahini and avocado flavors.

Joey says, “The light batter and the variety of dips are what set it apart, showing that Iceland can succeed by elevating “normal” foods with their own Icelandic twist.”

The bistro put its heart into preparing organic, healthy, fresh fare. These desserts are handmade with ingredients like coconut shavings and nuts. (On a side note, I’m obsessed with Skyr, the high-protein thick yogurt that is an Icelandic specialty.)

Matur og Drykkur is a new restaurant is led by a young chef, who wants to preserve the cuisine of the past while making it accessible to today’s diners.

The ever-changing seasonal menu and small plates are ideal for sharing with a group of friends. We tasted homey lobster soup, and tried unusual fare like goose hearts and cod chips with butter (above).

Joey writes, “Despite the increased popularity of fusion in many world cities, you can still enjoy unique and traditional Icelandic food at Matur og Drykkur – such as horse, which was amazing.” We encourage you to come with an open mind, and experience food and drink that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

There’s still a lot more to share from my Iceland journey. I hope this post gives you a glimpse of the colorful, fascinating, unexpected culture — and encourages you to visit!

Are you surprised by Reykjavik’s food and gay scene? Would you visit the Blue Lagoon?

(Below – here’s where you can find a Goth swimsuit like mine.)

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Whitby Goth Weekend: Travel Tips & Accommodations! Steampunk Gothic fashion, Andi Sex Gang.

kato steamgirl, steampunk band abney park

Thousands of Goths came out to play… at Whitby Goth Weekend 2015! (Above — ran into steampunk designer/model Kato Steamgirl, and Derek Brown of the band Abney Park.)

WGW began as a small gathering in 1994, and is now one of the world’s biggest celebrations of Gothic music, fashion and culture. Twice a year, the festival brings alternative types together, in the charming seaside town of Whitby, England.

furry costume, animal mascot

It’s quite the sight… Locals mixing with Victorian gentlemen, steampunk ladies, and even furries! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the travel basics, followed by style snaps and a performance by Andi Sex Gang.

First, how do you get to Whitby Goth Weekend? Most people first travel to a nearby city, such as Liverpool or even London. I was already in Manchester with my crew, so we easily rode the train and changed tracks at Darlington or Middlesbrough. Our ride was about 5 hours long, and gave us a gorgeous view of the English countryside. However if you have a car, driving is usually the most direct way to get to Whitby. The festival also runs a “late bus” to nearby Scarborough, which is where some people stay.

captain cook cottages, whitby uk

Now, how can you find accommodations during Whitby Goth Weekend? Let me warn you: on these festival dates, Whitby hotels and rentals get booked up months in advance! Plan ahead, and don’t expect to “wing it” or you’ll be in trouble.

I stayed in a Sykes Cottages rental with my friends, and it was the perfect solution. We got a cute cottage to ourselves, within walking distance of the city center. The location (Captain Cook haven) was picture-perfect, as you can see above. We even saw bunnies in our yard!

sykes cottages vacation rental

We rented this Sykes Sunnybrae cottage, which mixed countryside charm with modern appliances. I did my best to haunt the kitchen. (Perhaps that explains the mystery of the disappearing cookies?)

whitby goth weekend accommodation, sykes holiday rentals

Sykes makes it easy for you to search and book cottages all over the UK, via their siteOur cottage had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a spacious living room and kitchen — what a deal, especially when shared between a few friends. Sykes even provided us with snacks and everything we needed for English afternoon tea! (I’ll show you more in the next post.)

larpool viaduct, whitby

We were a stone’s throw away from the Larpool Viaduct, which was built in the late 19th century and spans the River Esk.

da vinci corset, dracula clothing model

My friends and I walked on the viaduct, and it led us straight to Whitby town center. I’m wearing a Victorian dress and Da Vinci print corset from Dracula Clothing.

(Shop corsets and steam punk clothing below)

whitby gothic weekend travel guide

How gorgeous is Yorkshire, Northern England? This was my first time in this county, and it’s so different from London: lush landscapes, friendly folk.

Tip: wear good walking shoes (I wore “trainers” and carried my heels in a bag). While this is a pleasant walk, it’s a long one and there are some steep areas. Bring a coat too, since the weather can get chilly especially near the ocean.

whitby boats, seaside

At the end of the path, we descended a steep set of stairs and arrived at this adorable row of boats. While Whitby is a small resort town, there are a good number of shops and restaurants, so you’ll have plenty to see and do.

british fishing nets

Seagulls chirped and circled though the air. Whitby is known as a prime fishing port, and their fish and chips are considered the best in Britain.

la carmina whitby goth weekend

Why is Whitby the location of a Goth festival? Because Bram Stoker wrote Dracula while staying in this fishing town. Whitby Abbey (to my left) provided dark inspiration for his vampire novel.

whitby gothic landscape, sea

The ruins of the Abbey called to me… We went there later, to shoot a magazine cover. Stay tuned, and I’ll take you up there. (All photos by Joey Wong)

elder goths, whitby gothic festival

Everywhere we walked, there was a Goth! We saw people of all ages in alternative fashion, ranging from Steampunk to Fairy to Cyber to Horror. (I’ll show you more snaps of festival-goers in the next post.)

magpie cafe, best whitby restaurants, fish chips

The walk worked up our appetite. We stopped for lunch at the Magpie Cafe, one of the top-rated restaurants in Whitby. They’re famed for their fish & chips, and have a extensive menu featuring fresh seafood. (Tip: go during off-hours. We went on a Friday afternoon, and were lucky to get a table. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, the lineup will snake around the block).

I posed at the Magpie Cafe entrance with my friends Nyx and Truls, who is the designer of Dracula Clothing. We’re all wearing his dark designs.

yorkshire beaches, whitby

The “Bizarre Bazaar” and concerts are all held at “The Spa” Pavilion. Where is this venue exactly? On the cliff, not far from the whale bones sculpture. (Address: West Cliff, Whitby, North Yorkshire)

Below the Spa is a long stretch of beach. Some cheeky Goths drew a giant pentagram in the sand.

dracula clothing, steampunk top hat

It was wonderful to see so many “creatures of the night” gathered in one place. I loved how people dressed and expressed themselves in their own ways, like this steampunk lad playing a ukelele. My friends found a Dracula store that matched their aesthetic!

purple blue colored hair, steampunk goggles

Dracula Clothing also designed the brass goggles that I’m wearing as a necklace. My purple-blue hair is the work of Stephanie Hoy at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver.

goth car, gothic license plate

We passed by a row of decorated Goth cars. This license plate says it all.

goth decorated cars

Now that’s “Dead-ication” to the spooky lifestyle.

whitby goth photography, costumes

There were a lot of photographers asking to take images. Some have complained that “looky-loos” are turning the weekend into too much a “circus attraction,” but aside for a few moments on the busiest streets, I didn’t feel hounded or on display.

goth dog costume, victorian goths

21 years after the first Whitby Gothic Weekend, the scene retains an inclusive, genuine atmosphere. Many of the attendees have been part of the lifestyle for decades, and still going strong.

andi sex gang singer

During the day, anyone is welcome to browse the shopping “bazaars” (there are three locations) and attend free events, like a pool and golf tournament. However, when night falls, only wristband-wearers are allowed into the Spa pavilion, where the bands perform.

This year, WGW performers included Cruxshadows, The Birthday Massacre and Abney Park. I only attended Friday and Saturday night, so I didn’t see all the shows. However, I was front and center for Andi Sex Gang (above).

justin minister, andi sex gang bassist

My friend Justin Minister was playing bass in Andi Sex Gang. (Remember I saw him play with Amy’s Arms in Toronto?)

sex gang children performing

Oh, Andi. The founder and singer of Sex Gang Children (seminal 1980s Goth band) is powerful as ever, in his solo incarnation. He crouched and splayed his hands, moving like a Japanese butoh artist. Paint divided his face in two halves, which shone in different colors as the lights changed.

whitby goth weekend 2015 bands

The group played tracks from the past, and from their new album Achilles In The Eurozone. The latest songs are as evocative at ever, pulsing with a modern sound — Andi is always stepping up his game.

(We had press passes, so Joey got to shoot these dramatic photos from the foot of the stage.)

andi whitby goth band concert

He’s a study in stage presence: scuttling across the stage like a spider, and hitting every note with intensity. Between songs, Andi wished Whitby Goth Weekend a happy birthday, in his best horror-film voice.

goth bands, whitby lineup

The band grounded the tracks with dark, pulsing rhythms. The background showed eccentric film clips, like a Hindu god spreading a multitude of arms.

famous goth band singer

If Uncle Fester could sing… Bravo to Andi Sex Gang for a magnificent headlining performance. They’re currently on tour in Europe; check out their Facebook for upcoming show dates.

I filmed some clips of Whitby bands performing — I hope these give you a sense of the energy on stage. Watch the compilation video above and on VideofyMe.

whitby festival goth girl

Attending Whitby Goth Weekend was a dream come true! I have a lot more to share with you — please take a moment to bookmark this site and add me on Facebook, to make sure you won’t miss it.

yorkshire ocean, resort town

The next Whitby Goth Weekend takes place October 30 to November 1 (Halloween 2015!) More info about tickets, performers etc can be found on their website.

Have you heard of WGW? What’s your impression of this Gothic festival so far?

(Shop my favorite Steampunk fashion, shoes and accessories below)

Taipei has a Barbie Cafe! Weird Taiwan theme restaurants, hip cocktail bars & art shops.

barbie cafe logo taiwan

Where can you find the world’s most bizarre theme restaurants? Japan still has the most madcap ones, but Taiwan is coming in at a close second.

While in Taipei, I visited some of these quirky theme cafes — which include a Barbie dream house, and a fake European castle. Let’s start with the blonde plastic doll, shall we?

barbie themed restaurant taipei

She’s a Barbie girl, and this theme cafe is her world. The glowing staircase is a prelude to the spacious, neon-pink restaurant upstairs. (Address: 2F, #128 Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an, Taipei)

barbie home decor, interior design

If your friends are late, you can sit on the plush handbag-shaped sofa and relax on poodle pillows.

barbie pink house, chairs

Mattel opened this “dream house” in 2013, and it is the first officially licensed Barbie cafe in the world.

barbie cakes, desserts

A glass case displays cakes and other sweets stamped with Barbie’s ponytailed profile. Other pastries are topped with hearts and bows (colored pink, what else?)

mattel barbie museum exhibit

In the back, there are Mattel dolls for sale. I saw Barbie, Ken and friends in various outfits.

rare barbie doll display

Here’s a princess Barbie, wearing what looks like a cake dress with swirls of icing. (All photos by Ken Yuen and noircorner).

barbie cafe costume, waitress uniforms

The waitresses even get in the spirit by wearing hot pink skirts and tops, topped with tiaras. None of them had blonde hair, however.

barbie purse shaped sofa, poodle pillows

As typical in theme restaurants, the food is nothing special and on the pricey side: a set lunch with salad, curry and cake costs $15-20 US.

barbie cafe taipei taiwan

Still, it’s a unique venue for a girly-girl bonding session. The Barbie cafe is not far from Zhongxiao Fuxing station exit 2, and next to the SOGO department store — in case you suddenly get the urge to dress in pink ruffles.

(Personally, I will stick to Gothic dresses! Purchase a skull dress like mine here.)

soma tea mocktails

Walking around this district, you’ll come across cute shops and unique eateries. My film team and I stopped by Soma, a “tea and mocktail” parlor.

taiwanese tea boba shop

I had a grapefruit mix, which had chewy, gelatinous basil seeds in it. Such a bizarre texture, like a mouthful of little eyeballs.

jay chou deja vu restaurant

While I’ve visited plenty of theme restaurants, I haven’t seen anything quite like Deja Vu. It’s located in Huashan Creative Park (Address: No.1, Section 1, Bade Road, Taipei).

castle themed restaurant

The velvet curtains open into what looks like a tall European castle, with royal portraits and gargoyles staring down from the high stone walls.

jay chou piano, taipei

This restaurant is the brainchild of Jay Chou, Taiwan’s most popular singer-actor-idol. Fans love to take photos of the personalized decor, which includes his Batmobile and an aristocratic piano.

jay chou's deja vu restaurant

The food, however, is nothing to sing about: mediocre and over-priced Italian (around $12-15 US a plate). I suggest coming just for a coffee and to pose in the grand space.

taipei secret bar, alchemy cocktails

How about Taipei’s nightlife? My friend Boris took me to several laid-back, artsy bars in the Xinyi district (by Taipei 101). For those in the know, there’s a secret bar inside the popular nightclub, Barcode. (Address: 22 Songshou Rd, Taipei)

Walk in and to the right, and look for an unmarked door. It leads to a narrow staircase, which ends at a bookshelf. But if you slide the shelf open, you’ll find yourself in Alchemy. The speakeasy theme matches the “insiders only” cozy feel, featuring a fireplace and dark leather seats.

barcode, alchemy bar taipei

Try a signature Prohibition cocktail, made with whisky and wrapped in an American newspaper announcing the 1920s ban on alcohol. The Miso-Tini comes in a miso soup bowl, and smells like bonito flakes — but when you take a sip, it’s sake and wasabi with a light, pleasant sweetness. Cocktails are around $12-15 US each.

taipei cocktails, mod bar

Boris also took me to Mod bar, and his favorite MonoMono, which has architectural photographs on the walls. We ended our final night at “F-king Place”  (above) — yes, that is the actual name — and drank cocktails while listening to a retro-rock playlist!

Go on a pub crawl to all these Taipei bars, and you’re guaranteed a fun night.

Huashan Creative Park entrance

During the daytime, I encourage you to check out Taipei’s contemporary art scene. Many of these exhibits are free, and found in the unique Huashan 1914 Creative Park.

In 1997, a group of young actors discovered an abandoned factory that used to produce wines and breed moths. They took it over and started putting on experimental performances. More artists set up workspaces, and today, Huashan is a protected center for art.

Huashan creative art park taipei

When I visited, there was an exhibit dedicated to the Japanese manga One Piece, and a shop for the Korean Line characters. I loved poking my head into the local design shops, which sold creative goods like the “color-me” robot toy above. Have a look at Huashan 1914’s website for upcoming event listings; the hands-on art workshops are excellent for children of all ages.

shima risu bookstore taipei

Where else can you find cute character goods in Taipei? At Shima Risu picture books store. “Shimarisu” means “chipmunk” in Japanese, so this children’s shop is designed like a fairytale forest hideaway.

children's toys bookstore asia

The books are in Chinese and English; I found my childhood favorites like Miffy, Tintin, Babar, Moomin, Peter Rabbit. The shelves also stock gorgeously bound and illustrated works by new authors, especially from Taiwan. There are miniature seats all around, and parents are encouraged to read to their children right in the bookstore.

kawaii toys, cute taipei

The little ones, however, might be more interested in the plush toys and mascot accessories placed all around Shima Risu. I picked up a small stuffed Miffy bunny for $320 TWD, or $11 US.

robot hello kitty, toy store taipei

Toys aren’t just for children. Taipei has many anime collectible stores, like Hot Dog Toyz in Da’an. A Robot Hello Kitty beckoned us to enter.

doraemon collectible statues

All your favorite Japanese mascots are here, including collectible figures of Doraemon the earless robot cat.

stayreal clothing taipei disney

As you can see, “kawaii” is big in every part of Asia. The subway had a poster for StayReal’s Disney clothing collaboration.

songshan park eslite mall

Songshan Park is another creative art destintaion, and home to the Eslite Spectrum mall. Be prepared to spend hours inside, mesmerized by the selection of cute gifts like these cat-in-hat notebooks. The bottom floor is a cluster of speciality cafes, including a stall for Ice Man shaved ice.

cute panda bear art

Upstairs is a seemingly endless hall of hip design: I spotted panda bear soap, owl pillows, plants in beakers, oversized fringe pillows and more, mostly by local designers.

taiwan character mascots shops

The top floor is an Eslite bookstore with an immense collection of photography and art books. Look for the traditional tea house hidden among the racks, which go well with the sun biscuits also sold in the mall.

taipei night market entrance

I leave you with a shot from the entrance of the Raohe Street Night Market. So many bizarre street foods inside…

Taipei has more strange theme restaurants, including Modern Toilet, Sky Kitchen (which looks like an Airbus A380), and DS Music (hospital themed). There’s also a Hello Kitty Sweets Restaurant! However, since I went to the one in Seoul, and John covered the Hello Kitty pop-up in Hong Kong, I decided not to visit it. (I did, however, go to the Sanrio exhibition in Taipei’s Songshan Design Park, which I’ll show you soon…)

Have you tried Taiwanese food? Would you eat at any of these theme cafes?