Category Archive for Nightcrawling
Cambodia was one of the most inspiring countries I’ve visited.
I’ve long been fascinated by Angkor Wat — and the mysterious temple more than lived up to my expectations.
However, there’s more to see in Siem Reap than just the archaeological ruins. I’ll give you a glimpse of the nightlife of Pub Street, where you’ll find bars like “Angkor What?” (Couldn’t resist taking this photo!)
You also must stop by my favorite craft cocktail bar, innovative restaurant and Phare, the Cambodian circus… read on to find out why!
I’m not a morning person, but it’s worth it to wake up at 5am to see the sunrise over the reflective pool at Angkor Wat. (I’ll show you more photos in an upcoming post.)
After the sun rises, many tourists go on to explore the main buildings of Angkor Wat. However, to avoid the crush, I recommend seeing other temples in the morning and early afternoon — and coming back later, when it’s less busy.
Angkor Wat’s lighting conditions are also better in the afternoon. You can capture dramatic light and shadow-play such as above (in this long hallway that feels like an infinite portal).
We loved incorporating the ancient architecture of Angkor Wat into our photography. This image is by Ken Yuen, who didn’t realize until too late that Sniper Chau was in the frame!
Angkor Wat is one of the world’s most mysterious archaeological sites. There were rumors of a great Khmer stone city, but the West was unaware of its existence until the late 19th century.
Shop more nu-Goth fashion below:
Can you imagine how French explorer Henri Mouhot must have felt in 1860, when he stumbled upon this view? There are over a thousand temples here, filled with images from Hindu mythology and Cambodian legends.
The unusual architecture made my imagination run wild. I imagined that this thin, rectangular door was a portal into an alien universe.
Inside the central sanctuary, we saw a monk offering blessings to visitors.
The 12th century temple design reflects Hindu conceptions of the universe. We were glad to have our guide (provided by Le Meridien Hotel) with us, to answer questions about this fascinating place.
Visitors are free to climb and explore most of the temples. I went up this stepped terrace in the main Angkor Wat hall.
We walked down the long covered galleries, which were decorated with exquisite bas-reliefs. Most of these carvings depict the Hindu epic tales, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Our guide also pointed out depictions of hell tortures, elephant warriors, martial artists, and much more.
An outside view of one of the long galleries, which surrounds the central sanctuary. My pose was inspired by the carvings of apsaras (celestial dancers).
Of course, there is much more to see at Angkor Wat. We wished we had more time to see the outer-lying temples, such as Banteay Srei (dedicated to the god Shiva).
On the way to an elephant gate topped by a Buddha, we saw this row of Buddha and demon statues. Some had been restored, hence the different conditions of the faces.
In the previous post, I showed you the famous “tree roots Tomb Raider” temple, Ta Prohm.
We also stopped by Bayon, the richly decorated structure that is famous for its serene, smiling rock faces.
These depict the Buddha, or King Jayavarman VII — or perhaps both.
Similar to the temples in Bali, there is a lot of flow between Buddhism and Hinduism. Angkor Wat was originally dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu, but later became a Buddhist holy ground.
An ancient civilization, hiding in the jungle… Angkor Wat truly captured my imagination.
A closeup of my Disturbia UK long sleeve shirt with mesh cut outs. The symbol is the Necronomicon gate symbol, from the Lovecraft mythology.
There’s more to see in Siem Reap, Cambodia than the legendary temple. At night, the city center comes alive with night markets, street food and bars.
We crossed this bridge, lit up with X-lights, and John found a stuffed crocodile to take home.
Pub Street is the center of the nightlife (including the Angkor What? pub that you saw above). It’s a cacophony of tuk tuks, partiers and bars, many of which are geared towards foreigners.
So many bars, so little time…
Pub Street was fun to walk through, but these tourist-oriented bars and shops aren’t our type of scene.
Fortunately, we found a place where we felt we belonged: Miss Wong. This retro Shanghai-themed bar is located a little off the main roads, tucked away from the crowds. Look for these glowing red lanterns at the entrance.
(Address: The-Lane, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Inside, the decor is ravishing: elegant red walls and vintage Chinese art. Dean (the owner who is originally from New Zealand) gave us the warmest welcome. We could sense that he runs Miss Wong with passion, always taking the time to make his visitors feel at home.
Miss Wong is known as the best cocktail bar in Siem Reap. It deserves this accolade: the rose petal and mocha martinis were as amazing as they sound, and look.
We were impressed by how Miss Wong infuses spirits with Asian flavors. The Lemongrass Collins, made from vodka heated with fresh lemongrass, was one of the best drinks I’ve had all year. We were also wowed by the black pepper infused vodka, delightful on its own or as a Bloody Mary.
Miss Wong also serves Chinese dim sum bites, and has a top selection of liqueurs from around the world.
If you’re all about handcrafted cocktails and a classic, relaxing atmosphere, Miss Wong Siem Reap is a gem. You can’t miss out on this bar; tell Dean that we sent you, when you visit!
We had a wonderful set-menu dinner at Cuisine Wat Damnak, a restaurant that merges Cambodian flavors with French culinary techniques. It is on my cousin’s list of top 50 restaurants in Asia (we are trying to go to each one).
(Address: Wat Damnak village, Sala Kamreuk Commune, Siem Reap 17000)
The open kitchen and lush dining area set the mood for this special meal. Chef Joannès Rivière changes his six-course menu every week, focusing on seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms and foragers.
The unusual ingredients and creative preparations — like frog legs with Cambodian spices — were magnificent. The chef does an outstanding job of balancing modern and traditional, French and Khmer.
Six sophisticated plates for under $30 US — only in Cambodia! Be sure to make a reservation in advance for Cuisine Wat Damnak, since this restaurant is often booked up.
Finally, you can’t leave Siem Reap without seeing the Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Inside a big top, we saw young Cambodian performers tumble, leap, juggle, balance, dance and clown — while wearing the biggest smiles on their faces.
The show drew upon Cambodian folk storytelling, and pushed it forward with avantgarde antics and sky-high acrobatics. We watched these young performers tell a narrative that took us from primordial times to colonial conquest and beyond.
Phare is more than just entertainment: it has the social mission of educating Cambodian youth (through their NGO school), helping them find employment, and furthering the Cambodian arts.
The crowd could sense the passion and determination of the young artists, who all overcame difficult socio-economic backgrounds.
Phare, the Cambodian Circus has performances daily; you can find out more on their site. We loved watching these young talents, especially knowing that it was in support of Phare’s meaningful programs.
Cheers to Cambodia! From Angkor Wat to the bars, restaurants and circus, I had a blast here.
I leave you with a sunset shot. Cambodians are known as some of the friendliest people, and I’d have to agree. (Photography by Sniper Chau and Ken Yuen)
Are you as fascinated by the “Tomb Raider” temples as I am? Coming up soon — I’ll unveil the photoshoot we did amidst the archaeological ruins!
I’m pleased you enjoyed my first report from Whitby Goth Weekend 2015! It was my first time at this massive British alt music and culture festival, and the entire town was filled with dark inspiration.
Let’s continue this WGW series with style snaps of attendees, a browse through the fashion bazaars…
(Find Goth corsets, boots and more below)
… and a review of the Goth and Glam musical performances.
Whitby is a seaside town in Yorkshire (northern England). At first, this seems to be a bizarre location for a Goth music and culture festival.
However, when you witness the dramatic skies, crashing waves and Dracula abbey on the horizon, it all makes sense.
Photographer Joey Wong spotted this appropriately black cat, giving us the evil eye.
We were glad to have a quaint, comfortable place to relax between the various Goth concerts and activities.
Staying with Sykes Cottages meant we got to experience “country living,” yet stay within walking distance to the center of Whitby. And we weren’t at all “roughing it” — the cottage rental had several bathrooms and a fully stocked modern kitchen.
I recommending finding accommodations through their site, if you’re coming to Whitby Goth Weekend. If only my ghost could linger here longer!
We spent most of our time at the Spa Pavilion, where the live music takes place. The Spa also has a cafeteria and multiple halls filled with vendors.
As I noted before, you’ll have to climb a steep flight of stairs to reach the Spa, so wear appropriate footwear…
The Spa is also the best place to people-watch. We were stunned by this gentleman’s DIY steampunk suit. Those clockwork gears and details!
He even rigged the outfit so that at the press of a button, steam emanated from the top of his headpiece.
We saw an enormous variety of fashion at WGW — carnival, cyber, Goth, deathrock, Victorian, pin-up.
Many attendees wore elaborate clothing that they made themselves, out of materials like feathers.
We recommend getting passes in advance via the Whitby Goth Weekend website, since early birds get discounts. The next event is in October, so you can plan ahead.
The organizers graciously gave us press passes. All of the staff was knowledgeable and well-prepared, and happy to answer questions.
Bring British pounds with you, as there are at least three different locations for vendor markets. These independent sellers set up booth, and sell one-of-a-kind alternative accessories, sweets, clothing, you name it.
This is what the scene looked like, in just one of the halls… As you can imagine, it gets overwhelming! I suggest briskly looking through everything first, and then coming back to narrow down what you want to purchase.
Steampunk is one of the most popular aesthetics at Whitby Goth Weekend. You can complete your outfit with a top hat or brass pocket-watch.
I’m loving this Goth wedding cake, which looks like a weathered book.
It was Whitby Goth Weekend’s 21st anniversary, so they prepared a chocolate skull cake! There were also bat lollies and absinthe chocolates for sale.
The bazaar had lots of spooky-cute designs, like these coffin earrings and Victorian cameo necklaces.
(Below are some Steampunk items for sale.)
I gave the giant stuffed bat a squeeze. There are gifts for all ages, from kawaii-Goth pillows to toddler t-shirts.
Now, let’s take a closer look at people’s personal style at the festival. There was no set dress code — you’ll come across all ages, all aesthetics.
The only overall link was “dark creativity,” as exemplified in this apocalyptic gasmask and steampunk explorer.
My friend Nyx wears Dracula Clothing — love her vampiric collar and collection of silver rings.
We saw a fair number of baby-Goths and children at the event. This one loved posing for photos, and rocked her pink cyber locks.
Very cool to see how Goths from the 80s and 90s now have families, who all take part in the lifestyle.
The Spa also holds the “Bring and Buy,” where you can sell and purchase used clothing at discount prices.
Be sure to arrive early, since all the vending bazaars close around 5pm. After, only wristband-wearers (who bought passes) are allowed into the venue to watch the concerts.
Joey and I got to see the bands from the photography area, just inches from the performers. We began the evening with The Last Dance, a Goth rock band that has been releasing consistently strong albums since they formed in California in 1990.
Vocalist Jeff Diehm sang a few songs with female guest Velvet Shadow. The band’s category-defying dark synth sound, coupled with a joyous stage presence, made for one of the most enjoyable performances of WGW.
The Last Dance ended with a raucous cover of “Dead Man’s Banter.” You couldn’t help but smile when Jeff and guest Ed Banshee linked arms and swayed together on stage.
Whitby Goth Weekend’s concert hall has impressive acoustics. The space has an intimate feeling, perhaps since everyone in the audience traveled a long way to come to this festival.
For every band, there were fans leaning over the railing, singing along to every song.
Next, it was glitter-punk decadence with Sigue Sigue Sputnik! Mohawks, sequined tops, horse tails, and codpieces took over the stage, and we knew we were in for a wild ride.
The band tore through glam rock numbers from the 1980s to the recent “Electronic” incarnation. The outfits and shenanigans took center stage, but each members had the musical chops to back up this visual candy.
Martin Degville looked like a dystopian punk, with his fishnet mask and salacious gestures. Near the end of the set, he launched into a cover of David Bowie’s “Jean Genie,” to the delight of the crowd.
Last but not least, we have Bella Morte. Joey’s image captures the pure, visceral energy from frontman Andy Deane. He leapt all over the stage — sometimes veering dangerously close to the equipment and ledge — and kept everyone in rapt attention.
The group’s name means “beautiful death,” and it fits their music: sometimes hard and dark, but always beautiful. Bella Morte’s latest album, “Exorcisms,” encapsulates the feeling of watching them raw and live on stage.
After the last set, the Spa turned into the ultimate Goth party! The DJs’ playlist veered towards old school Gothic, New Wave and post-punk tracks, which I personally love to hear.
The dancefloor looked like a coven of witches, swaying in their long black gowns.
See these bands and dancers in action, in the video above and on VideofyMe.
I leave you with the ominous Whitby Abbey… Later, I’ll show you an editorial magazine cover photoshoot that we did right against the church ruins.
Isn’t it wonderful to see dark, alternative bands and fashion thriving, at Whitby Goth Weekend? Perhaps you’ll make the trip out for the next WGW during Halloween 2015!
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.)
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.
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.
On most weekends, DecabarZ has special themed events. We were there for the 1980s Visage tribute, hence Yukiro’s retro-Goth look.
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.
The staff is always rocking underground fashion. This lady wears ganguro makeup, the tanned and white-highlighted look popular in Shibuya in the 90s.
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!)
On the dance floor, a TV broadcast cartoon episodes of Jem and the Holograms. (Love the American Horror Story shirt.)
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!
This bar is open most nights – so what are you waiting for? For upcoming DecabarZ theme nights, check out their Facebook event listings.
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.
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).
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.)
Time to check out yet another Gothic hangout. Also in this same Kabukicho district is Mistress Maya’s new snack bar, Tsudoi (now Dalkima). For 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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com to book a session. (All other WGT photos in this post by Seventh Sin.)
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.
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.
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-worthy 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.)