Category Archive for Nightcrawling
New Orleans is one of the world’s most haunted places… so a Goth girl like me fit right in!
Let me be your guide to the spooky side of NOLA. In this post, I’ll take you to a Jack Skellington burlesque show, Krampus devil party, and boudoir bar. I’ll also tell you about the time I ate alligator, and discovered a new appreciation of grits.
Put on your devil horns, and walk this way.
My friend Molly and I were invited to an underground costume party at Siberia (2227 Saint Claude Avenue). This neighborhood, St Roch, is outside the quarter and home to quite a few artist abodes.
To match the evil theme of the night, I wore a Kill Star dress with trailing fringe sleeves. My pointy black hat is handmade by Blablahospital. Run by my friend Ako, the brand makes deconstructed, eccentric “medical punk” fashion.
At the door, we were greeted by a colorful, alternative bunch. The Candy Girl was a sweetheart!
Why is everyone so “horn-y”? Because this is a Krampus party, held in honor of the holiday folklore devil. St Nicholas rewarded good children with presents, while the Krampus gave the naughty ones a good old spanking.
When I took the photo above, I thought to myself, “New Orleans surpassed my expectations.” I wasn’t able to come here for Halloween, but I didn’t feel like I missed out. The city is always up for a crazy costume party.
(But I would certainly come back for All Hallow’s Eve. I’d love to attend the famous annual events, including the Anne Rice Vampire Ball and Witches’ Ball.)
Music is everywhere in the city. That night, we saw several indie and rock performers…
… and a painful sideshow act. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Above, the man has Christmas lights staple-gunned to his skin, and the woman is stringing wire from her nose to her mouth.
Molly puns, “People went whole hog or whole hoof on their outfits. Amazing. This town can do costumes like nobody’s business, and for that, it has my eternal devotion.”
She’s right — the partygoers wore impressive handmade costumes, which represented the horned and hooved Krampus. Several went on stage for the costume contest, and this scary lady won.
… like a Nightmare Before Christmas burlesque show! Jack Skellington never looked so good. I love seeing local, niche theater like this. (Remember when I saw the Tim Burton musical in Portland?)
New Orleans could certainly be nicknamed Halloween-Town. In the French Quarter, outside the dive bar Molly’s, I stepped on this smiling pumpkin-face.
I’ll say it again: avoid Bourbon Street, which reminds me of a sticky beer-coated frat party.
Goths and alternative types like to hang out in the less raucous streets of the French Quarter. When I asked for recommendations, quite a few of you suggested Pirate’s Alley Cafe, purveyors of dark spicy rum and absinthe (two of my favorite drinks), and decorated like a scurvy ship.
Aunt Tiki’s (1207 Decatur Street) is another favorite hangout for Gothic and metal music fans.
Death haunts the entrance of Aunt Tiki’s. Go ahead and ask the bartenders for local recommendations — they’ll steer you the right way.
Frenchman Street is all about live jazz clubs. Our favorite was the The Spotted Cat (623 Frenchman – try to come on weekdays, since it gets crowded on weekends).
Molly muses, “I think bad dancing is contagious, but here, I couldn’t sit still. I felt like we stumbled into another world or era or something that was close to magic. How can that level of talent just be playing jazz in a tiny place with no cover?! The music made me want to dance all of the way home that night.”
Between dancing with devils and jazzmen, we rested at the hip Hotel Modern (936 St Charles Ave). It’s our kind of place: we received a cocktail upon check-in, saw several film stars in the lobby, and said hello to Miss Scarlet the Eclectus Parrot.
Since The Hotel Modern is located at Lee Circle (about a 5 minute taxi ride from the French Quarter), we were close to the action, yet got a quiet rest at night. Molly says, “The staff was really good about answering all of my questions, and the bird seemed to have a good life too. Even though the rooms were simple, I really liked how the hotel felt like you were staying with people you could be friends with.”
We made new pals at Tivoli & Lee, which doesn’t feel like a typical “restaurant in a hotel.” Chef Marcus Woodham was a culinary artist, whipping up creations on the spot to suit our tastes. Molly ate here several times, and calls this her favorite restaurant in New Orleans, hands down.
I didn’t realize I was a fan of Louisiana food, until I came to Tivoli and Lee. We dove into a “new Southern” catfish roulade, beet salad, and the creamiest crème brûlée. Molly says, “Our waiters were super cool. It made me feel like I was having dinner in a friend’s home that happened to make some of the best food I’ve eaten in quite a while.”
Bellocq cocktail bar also resides in the Hotel Modern. Molly reminisces, “I want to paint a room in a future home that shade of red… probably a bedroom. That bar was straight up sexy.”
I’m not kidding you — if I could teleport to any bar right now, it would be this one. The roomy, boudoir atmosphere is my type of hangout. And the drinks! The bartenders made me an absinthe cocktail, and a rum daiquiri that fit my tastebuds to a T (I love dark spicy rum, citrus, bitters). It’s probably the best drink I had all year.
Molly and I also enjoyed the bar’s historical connection. The concept is inspired by E. Q. Bellocq, a 19th century photographer who took images of red light district workers.
Let’s wrap this up with a few more Southern food recommendations. I ate jambalaya, gumbo, grits and more comfort favorites during jazz brunch, at the Court of Two Sisters. It felt like a scene out of a novel, dining under the canopy of trees, in an elegant Louisiana courtyard.
Molly says, “Again, like all things in NOLA, this should have felt douchey and Disneyworld-ish, but it was delicious food in a beautiful place. Our waiters were attentive and the live jazz was fantastic. All brunch should be like this, particularly including grits.”
Kingfish Restaurant took a modern spin on casual Southern cuisine, and succeeded. I sipped a strong Sazerac (a New Orleans cocktail) and we dined to the sounds of live piano.
Look, we ate grits… and alligator wings! It tastes like chicken, perhaps with a milder and sweeter flavor. I’m not kidding you, I’d eat this regularly if I had the chance.
Sobou at the W Hotel has a hip vibe – we saw a lot of younger people hanging out here. The entrance plays with light, mirrors and rows of bottles.
The Creole cuisine gets experimental at times, such as duck beignets topped with powdered sugar, and tuna ice cream cone appetizers. Molly says, “I want one of those now. This place surpassed my expectations, in that it was as good as the food was elegantly displayed. I was also wow-ed by how they helped us celebrate my friend’s birthday so smoothly, with a chocolate flourless cake decorated with her name.”
Finally, one can’t leave NOLA without sampling the famous beignets (donut-like fritters) and cafe au laits, at Cafe Du Monde. After walking for hours, we were relieved to sit down for a snack, and people-watch (Jackson Square is across the road).
Modern Southern cuisine, and an eccentric Goth scene… Now you know why New Orleans stole our hearts! More stories coming up, featuring vampires and graveyards. (All my NOLA coverage is located here.)
PS: Thanks to Qantas Airlines magazine for the Travel Insider interview! The article calls me “one of the best-known names in the blogging world, having authored three books and hosting travel segments for international television networks….”
I’m leaping in the air because our Cape Town video is out!
In this latest episode of my travel show – published on Business Insider Travel — I encounter lions, drag queens, penguins…
…street art, and color everywhere. (Above, I’m posing with the rainbow homes of the Bo-Kaap district – outfit details and more here.)
Please take a few minutes to watch our episode above and on Business Insider.
It was hard to edit all the fantastic footage into a short video. I could go on for hours about why I love this city — but I’ll boil it down to 10 things I love about Cape Town.
1. South African Wine Tastings
South Africa’s wines have been getting attention in recent years, especially those from the Stellenbosch region. I’m no wine expert, but I can tell you that these are some of the best I’ve tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot).
Our driver took us about an hour outside of Cape Town to Steenberg, a modern vineyard and farm. The staff poured us a selection of white and reds, including the smooth and complex Magna Carta. I wish I had a glass of it in my hand, as I’m typing this!
Outside, we ran into Pumbaa the warthog! This rotund creature really looks like the African pig in the Disney movie, The Lion King. Of course, filmmaker Melissa had to sing Hakuna Matata and pet his bristles.
Somehow, the Asian peace-sign pose is appropriate here. Pumbaa was the only animal who didn’t bite her during our journey. (Remember she got nipped by a peacock, penguin and dassie… and I got pecked by an ostrich.)
2. Cape Town Wine Bars
Another glass? Yes please. I got tipsy at Publik, a laid-back bar that serves local wines along with cheese, rye with quince, and smoked free-range meats. If you usually dislike a certain varietal, they might surprise you with a delicious version that makes you think twice. The goblets and high counters make this an easygoing experience — there’s no snobbery here.
3. Jazz Safari with Local Musicians
I love getting to know locals wherever I go. One night, we joined a Jazz Safari tour that took us inside the homes of local musicians. We ate dinner together, and then listened to a private home performance.
Musician Hilton Schilder’s wife prepared us a hearty curry with rice, and it was one of the best meals I had in Cape Town (along with Faldela Tolker’s Cape Malay cooking). Hilton plays multiple instruments, and performed experimental pieces on piano, guitar and this African mouth bow. I enjoyed hearing about his inspiration, such as how he composed a 15 minute song called “Rebirth” by visualizing a keyboard on the ceiling, as he was lying in bed recovering from an illness.
Next, our guide Michael drove us to one of the townships. We saw some metal shacks on the outskirts, but most of the residents lived in small houses. Not nearly as ominous as you might imagine.
TA Blaques performed energetic compositions on trumpet, with his friend on guitar. Cape Jazz is a local style that mixes Western and African influences, with plenty of improv. We tapped our feet along as they played a mix of “Pata Pata” and “In the Jungle.” What a memorable night.
4. Beefcakes Gay Bar & Drag Queen Show
Now, for a very different type of nightlife… What is the gay scene like in Cape Town? I must say, pink and fabulous! The gay bar Beefcakes has a double meaning: it serves burgers, and the waiters are all beefed-up studs!
Beefcakes has frequent “boogie nights” that bring in LGBT and alternative performers. The bar is a favorite destination for girls nights too. We saw a bachelorette doing a “body shot” off a waiter’s six pack.
But that evening, all eyes were on drag queen Champagne le Roux. She took the stage, and made snide but light-hearted comments about people in the audience. At one point, my cutesy lion backpack was the subject of her interrogation.
After some song-and-dance numbers, it was time for “Bitchy Bingo.” Champagne ordered a “ball boy” to come on stage and pick out bingo numbers.
Our friend Vicky won! She had to go onstage to dance with the queen, and then got awarded prizes like a Beefcakes calendar and a bottle of warm beer.
5. African Cuisine
Speaking of meat, Cape Town Tourism organized some outstanding meals for us. At Africa Cafe, I tried pap for the first time — a mushy, gluey staple carb made from ground maize. The menu offered African exotic meats, including springbok, impala, crocodile, and warthog (alas, poor Pumbaa!).
6. Drinking Cap Classique
Alcohol is a big part of my Top 10 list, isn’t it? At Hallelujah, I tasted a selection of Cap Classique “champagne,” a bubbly wine from South Africa. It was apparently a favorite of Marie Antoinette and European royalty.
Hallelujah also serves outstanding Asian street food at like prawns with hot steamed buns and coleslaw. Melt-in-your mouth dishes designed for sharing, inspired by dim sum and Asia comfort foods. I didn’t realize Cape Town had such hip restaurants and bars.
7. The House of Machines
A lot of locals recommended a bar called The House of Machines. Once we got there, we saw what all the buzz was about. This space is a mix of motorcycles, men’s fashion, art and cocktails.
They make a mean dark and stormy cocktail, and the music (indie rock, dance, local) is spot on. The next time I’m in Cape Town, I’ll be heading straight here.
8. Handmade Local Fashion
Missibaba is a women-run leather studio that stays true to its Cape Town origins. Many of the accessories take inspiration from African art, such as purses with tribal patterns.
A devotee of “slow fashion,” Missbaba employs local craftswomen who make almost all of the designs by hand.
Lead designer Chloe Townsend is passionate about “slow fashion” and supporting South African women. Her workshop employs craftswomen from an underprivileged township, and she donates a portion of proceeds to local empowerment programs.
9. Young Design Studios
Remember my trip to Woodstock Exchange, a modern art hub? You can’t leave Cape Town without exploring the cool studios inside.
I interviewed designer Atang Tshikare of Zabalazaa about his urban illustrations, which he custom-creates on skateboards and other surfaces.
He shares a space with Jasper Eales, a product designer who won awards for his eco-friendly design solutions, like a clever surfboard storage rack.
10. Powerful Political Art
Cape Town has a tumultuous history that is often contemplated in its local art. Ralph Ziman’s photos symbolize the devastation caused by arms trading. He photographed street vendors holding AK-47 guns, created out of African beads and wire.
His team showed us “Resistance”, a 100-meter long installation of a broken gun made from wheat paste. The weapon is wrapped in world currencies, symbolizing the international complicity in the arms trade.
I leave you with this smiling warthog from the vineyard. He seems to be humming Hakuna Matata.
Did this post open your eyes to South Africa’s wines, LGBT nightlife and restaurants? Please let us know your feedback on the video, and where you’d like us to see us travel next!
It’s almost the end of 2014! So much has happened this year, especially behind-the-scenes. New friends, wild times, and a renewed focus on the type of work that (I feel) truly matters.
In 2015, I’m committed to keep focusing on this bigger picture. So you’ll keep on seeing first-hand stories about alternative beauty, innovators pushing boundaries, underground travel and subcultures all around the globe. I think my work makes the biggest difference when it encourages people to challenge preconceptions (about topics like body modifications or drag queens), and express themselves as they wish to be — without fear.
In terms of meeting these goals, 2014 was a Very Metal Year indeed. Let’s get retrospective, and highlight some of my favorite destinations and stories from the first six months. I also have some bonus material from Jordan, which I never got around to posting until now. (Above, I’m with Tel Aviv fashion blogger Korin Avraham.)
At the start of the year, my travel filmmakers and I went to Israel, by invitation of the tourism board. We’ve been eager to come here for a long time. I’m fascinated by ancient destinations that have a surprisingly modern and creative culture.
Talk about reversing expectations: I imagined a Moses-like landscape of sand dunes. But from my hotel room at the Dan Tel Aviv, I had a perfect view of the beach. I sat by the window and watched the waves glowing at sunset.
One of the highlights was going on a Tel Aviv style tour (see all the photos in part 1 and part 2). Galit (right) took us to meet designers whose work perfectly matched my interests, such as upcycled vintage and unicorn wedding dresses. It felt like going shopping with a friend, and I still stay in touch with all the designers she introduced.
Since some of you requested a summary of outfits from 2014, here are a few more photos of what I wore in Israel. (Details of what I’m wearing here).
One of my favorite days of all of 2014 was exploring Jerusalem. I did a very special photo diary about our day in the Holy City, and why I feel travel is so important.
Perhaps you’re wondering… whatever happened to our Israel video? Around the time we completed it, the country was unfortunately experiencing conflict. My editors felt it would be most respectful to wait until later to run this upbeat travel episode. Hopefully, we can share it with you soon — stay tuned.
I take thousands of photos in each trip, and not all the stories make it onto this site. It seems wrong to deprive you of Miffy-ness, so here’s an outfit photo from our Jordan journey with Ya’lla Tours.
Our private driver took us to Pella, one of the country’s most impressive archaeological sites. These ancient ruins date back 8000 years, and were part of the Decapolis (the 10 centers of Greco-Roman civilization in this region).
One of the benefits of traveling with Ya’lla: we had our own driver and guide, who told us about the history as we journeyed. In Jordan, there wouldn’t have been any easy way to get around on our own, especially with the ruin sites located far apart.
On this 3-day road trip, we crossed through Amman. Through the window, I saw Roman columns, sunsets, children running towards us from Bedouin villages… and a whole lot of rocks.
The tour included unique experiences, like a cooking class at Petra Kitchen in Wadi Musa. The friendly chefs came by each table, shook their heads in mock-frustration, and demonstrated how the vegetables were supposed to be cut (ours were too big, or misshaped)…
We learned how to prepare a number of Jordanian dishes, including baba ghanoush and fattoush. At the end, all the Petra Kitchen students sat together and shared the meal. I love activities like this, which let you put your hands into the local food culture, and would come back again.
The next day was a dream come true: visiting the lost city of Petra. << All the photos here.
Here’s the Treasury of Petra, which you may recognize as the site of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I never expected I’d be able to visit places like this.
The next months were also spent traveling, but on more familiar terrain. I stopped by LA to attend Oscars parties. My Mickey Mouse two-buns hairstyle got quite a bit of attention.
Then I went to Toronto for meetings, and caught up with friends in the Goth alternative scene. I finally got to see Amy’s Arms perform at Lee’s Palace, where Scott Pilgrim had an epic battle or two.
The girls and I did a photoshoot wearing Gloomth, the Gothic Lolita Victorian label by my friend Taeden. (All photos from this shoot here).
Growing up, I was fascinated with 1960s hippie culture and took university classes about Buddhism. It was a joy to stay at the San Francisco Zen Center, especially after hearing so much about it. I particularly loved the courtyard with a fountain and hidden Buddha statues.
My friends and I had a reunion in San Francisco, and held a performance event at Wicked Grounds. Thanks to everyone who came out to meet us! If you’re visiting the city soon, you might enjoy my San Francisco Goth clubbing and bar guide.
Off to another much-loved US destination: New York City. Even though I lived here for years (while in school), I discover new places each time. This time, I did a shoot at the Paper Factory Hotel. I couldn’t help but smile as I gazed at the Manhattan skyline, from the graffiti-marked rooftop.
I was in NYC for a secret filming project, which will all make sense soon (fingers crossed that I can spill the beans in early 2015!)
For one lively scene, I judged a cosplay competition at Maid Cafe NY << Check out the impressive handmade costumes, and see who won the contest.
I also hosted an alternative club night with King Vulcanus Levi and NYC friends. He crowned me with one of his feathered creations. << Peek into the madness.
That’s already a lot for one post, so I’ll end this here. Next, I’ll summarize the second half of the year, where I went all around Asia and to Africa for the first time…
How do you feel when you look back upon 2014? What are you aiming to achieve in 2015?
I survived a Korean robot attack! This photo captures the spirit of Seoul’s hippest neighborhood, Hongdae (pronounced “hong-day”). Many compare it to Tokyo’s Harajuku, since both are youth hubs with a quirky, colorful, indie vibe.
If you want to see the cool and cute side of Korea, then Hongdae is for you. I loved this area so much that I came back the next day.
Enjoy my tour of Hongdae’s best street art and cafes, including gourmet ice cream, a robot bar, camping-themed restaurant, Zombie coffee and graffiti galore!
I’m wearing a seahorse tank c/o Show Me Your MuMu, a free-spirit label with plenty of beach cover-ups and pastels. Wildfox also has a cute breezy top like mine, and here’s a similar silver metallic skirt.
Shop the Look (click the images below for details):
Remember when I visited YouTube stars Eat Your Kimchi in their Hongdae studio? Simon and Martina drew me this map of their favorite surrounding dessert shops and theme restaurants. On panda paper, no less. Naturally, I had to visit them all.
To get to this part of Seoul, take the subway to Hongik University Station (Hongdae is an abbreviation of the university’s name).
I was feeling weary and needed a caffeine fix. Fortunately, Hongdae is on a gourmet coffee kick, and I spotted at least two specialty coffee shops on each street.
(Eat Your Kimchi established their own cafe, You Are Here, in Hongdae! It wasn’t open when I was in Seoul, which is why I don’t have photos of it, but it’s at the top of my list for next time.)
Zombie Coffee Roasters are leading the pack. The name is also apt for the caffeine-deprived, and lets people pose like this in front of their awning.
Zombie takes pride in roasting its own beans, right in-store. Through a glass door, you can peek in on the process. The young and smartly dressed baristas have won awards for their latte art prowess, and demonstrates these skills in every milk pour.
In fact, the barista was such a perfectionist about his craft that he tossed out the first drink he made for me — saying the art wasn’t up to standards, when I thought it was a swirling masterpiece.
The cafe drinks are a bit expensive, averaging 4000 won, but that’s the price for Pirate perfection.
If you’re an early riser, Zombie has public “cuppings” or tastings at 7am each day, which lets you sample a variety of their roasts.
Dessert club, table of three: yes please. Martina (of Eat Your Kimchi) is a cupcake connoisseur, and says she can never resist stopping at Chikalicious. At night, the cafe makes a nice picture window. This part of Hongdae is especially charming, with winding streets lined with cute cafes and boutiques.
She’s right, this Seoul cupcake parlor is a winner. The Meyer lemon was bursting with real flavor. My photographers still had a sweet tooth, so we went nearby to…
Fell + Cole, purveyors of gastronomic ice cream. Everything is made with natural ingredients, in small batches.
We died over the makkoli ice cream, made from the milky Korean rice wine. Yoda says, “Ready are you to be amazed, hmm? Then to this shop, come.”
(All photos by Jacqueline Kwok / noircorner and Ken Yuen.)
I am doing robot-dance moves because I’m in front of the Robot Vinyl bar. Only in tech-crazy Korea, right?
The robot’s eyes flash, and beckon you in. The menu consists of standard cocktails (about 5000 won for my grapefruit rum mix). But unlike in regular bars, the drinks are served in a clear vinyl bag with a straw. How… future-pop!
Inside, the atmosphere is vintage-cozy, making Vinyl Robot a favorite spot for friends to catch up over a drink. Chances are, you might spot Eat Your Kimchi here.
You are allowed to take the drinks outside, and many patrons get cocktails to go. It’s funny to see young Koreans walking around with what appear to be a medical bags dangling from their lips.
There are a few Graffiti Streets in Hongdae. The art is diverse — note the cows and the music notes. It’s not what I expected of Korea.
There’s a off-kilter aesthetic in the street art here. It’s not as cutesy as Japan, but striking in its own weird way.
The next step in the evolution of mankind… is the Kpop girl! Joke, or not? Korea is certainly pulling ahead as the world’s most tech-progressive country.
In the late afternoon, vendors set up food and craft stalls at the Hongdae Free Market, which encircles the park.
Since this area is the site of Hongik University, there’s a youthful energy here. Unlike in Japan, Koreans rarely dress up in subculture fashion (such as Goth, Punk, or style tribes like the Diamond Gal-Circle). As Simon and Martina put it, a hardcore Korean metalhead might have hundreds of albums and go to obscure concerts, but on the surface, he looks like an “Average Kim.” I’ll show you the Kpop fashion in the next posts, since there is much more to say…
For now, let’s focus on food. I’m not fond of “roughing it” so I was excited to visit Outdoor Kitchen, a Korean BBQ joint that simulates camping in the woods.
Small touches, like a lantern and camp chairs, create the “campy” feeling of being in the great outdoors. There’s even a refreshing fine mist that sprays from the ceiling. Seems the puppy was glad to cool off.
The staff drops hot stones into the grill at your table, and it’s up to you to cook the high-quality beef, soup, and sealed package of hot dogs.
Unlike many theme restaurants (like the Hello Kitty Cafe), the meals are great here. A dinner set for four campers — including salad, kimchi, sides and meat — ranges from 30,000 to 70,000 won. Mosquitoes not included, thank goodness.
We ended the evening at Hongdae Playground, or Hongik Children’s Park. On the weekend, it’s more like a young adult playground. Everyone sat around, drinking and listening to bands perform. What a sight — you have to experience it for yourselves.
Thanks to Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi for this guide to Hongdae! For more, check out my visit to the EYK Studio.
Have you been to Hongdae, or heard of it? What do you think of the shopping and cute art?
PS: if you like what I wore in this post, details are below: