Category Archive for Nightcrawling

Hipster Hongdae! Seoul’s coolest neighborhood: graffiti walls, robot bar, Zombie cafe.

hongdae graffiti wall robot

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.

hongdae graffiti street mural

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!

korean street style, kpop fashion blogger

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):

hongdae shopping map

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).

zombie coffee seoul

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.)

hongdae specialty coffeeshop

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.

seoul coffee roasters

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.

hongdae zombie lattes

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.

pirate espresso cup

The cafe drinks are a bit expensive, averaging 4000 won, but that’s the price for Pirate perfection.

electric fan korea

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.

chikalicious cupcakes hongdae

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.

cupcake bakery seoul

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 and cole gastronomic ice cream

Fell + Cole, purveyors of gastronomic ice cream. Everything is made with natural ingredients, in small batches.

seoul handmade ice cream shop

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.)

vinyl bar hongdae

I am doing robot-dance moves because I’m in front of the Robot Vinyl bar. Only in tech-crazy Korea, right?

seoul weird strange bar

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!

vintage retro korea bars

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.

music notes kpop graffiti

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.

avantgarde korean modern art

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.

evolution of man painting

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.

hongdae free market, 홍대앞

In the late afternoon, vendors set up food and craft stalls at the Hongdae Free Market, which encircles the park.

Hongik University Street students

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…

outdoor factory camping bbq

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.

korea camp themed barbeque restaurant

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.

hongdae korean bbq grill

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.

outdoor factory hongdae

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.

hongdae park performers

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.

eat your kimchi, you are here cafe

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:

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Heavy Pop, Harajuku fashion club night! Tokyo Japan Halloween Goth parties.

types of harajuku fashion, style

Halloween 2014 is creeping closer… do you have your costume ready yet? How will you be celebrating?

If you’re in Tokyo, Japan for Halloween, there are a number of dark and alternative events this year. These include Midnight Mess’s 12th anniversary Goth dance party on Oct 25, and Tokyo Dark Castle Zombie Halloween on the same day. In OsakaFarplane Night is having a cabaret festival on Nov 1st.

But for Japanese spooky kids, Halloween is every day of the year! So every month, they congregate at Heavy Pop (へびぽ), a club night that celebrates cyber, Goth, Lolita, drag and other alt fashion tribes. As you can see from the group photo, it’s one colorful party.

tokyo club fashion, makeup

Heavy Pop changes its location and exact date each time, so check their Facebook for the next event (I’m not sure yet if they’re having a Halloween extravaganza). I went to the anniversary celebration at Hell’s Bar in Sangenjaya. The tiny space was packed, hence the face-fanning.

cute japanese costume girls, cosplayers

“Hebipo” generally takes place on the last Sunday of the month, around 3pm to 11pm (so that partygoers can take the last train home, as it stops running around midnight). Come here if you want to dance to Jpop while surrounded by youths, dressed in experimental-kawaii fashion.

japanese maid idols dancing, jpop singing

Each event features a roster of DJs and performers. I watched these two cute Japanese girls dressed as French maids, singing and dancing a frenetic “para-para” on stage.

へびぽ hebipo

One of the regular artists is… Yukiro, in his evil guise as drag queen Die Schwarze Frau! That’s reason enough to check out the club night, don’t you think?

crazy monster costumes japan

Most of the guests dressed in some sort of alternative street style like kawaii, fairy kei, or Gothic. I saw some wild makeup and hair in the crowd. This lizard-monster, made of full body rubber, gets my medal for “craziest costume.”

heavy pop, hell's bar

As you can see, there isn’t much room to make giant hand motions. Wear layers so that you can take something off if the room gets too hot. (Even the reptile took off his head at one point.)

harajuku club, nightlife

Everyone’s welcome at Heavy Pop, but I suggest you join the Jpop spirit of the party, and dress up. Wigs, crowns and hats add a fun touch.

japan photographer dj ray ochiai

Don’t forget to take a picture at the photobooth, and say hi to Die Schwarze Frau (she won’t bite) and organizer / DJ Ray Ochiai. He started this party a few years ago, and it’s built up quite the following.

cute japanese girl singing

You can’t help but smile at the theatrical performances on stage. The event alternates between DJ sets and performers.

independent stores tokyo fashion

The side of the room has a line-up of vendor booths, run by independent designers. Shop here for neon face masks and other oddities.

japanese living dolls

Light colors, lace and living-dolls abound.

funny famous japanese dj

Can you feel the energy of the music? All these images are by Said Karlsson — give him a shout if you need a photographer in Tokyo.

goth dancing

The drag theatrics of Die Schwarze Frau always get attention. Stand too close to the front, and you might get whipped by her flailing skirts.

harajuku eye makeup, horns hairstyle

Love the hair-horns, pink eyebrows and layers of eyelashes on this girl.

tokyo drag queen dancer

The queen in motion. DSF performs drag at other events in Tokyo, which you can see on her Facebook.

nanette lepore striped dress

I’m wearing a feathered crown from my friend King Vulcanus Levi (remember when we teamed up in NYC?) and a Nanette Lepore striped dress (here’s where you can purchase it.)

cross dress performer japan

Don’t you want to be at this fabulous club night too? Keep track of the next Heavy Pop party on their Facebook page. Entry fee varies; it’s generally 1500 yen and a drink if you RSVP on Facebook.

cute blonde asian girl

How do you like the Harajuku fashion and makeup featured in this post? Do you have Halloween plans yet?

If you’re in Tokyo in late October, be sure to check out the Gothic nightclubs and bars, listed here and at the top of this post.

A Goth in Hot Weather: Philippines! West LA Boutique outfit, Wong Kar Wai neon lights.

ksubi sunglasses, multicolored hair

Goth Tropicana, here we go! I had a wonderful time in the Philippines. Fell in love with the people, beaches, food, and spectacular Pacific Cebu Resort.

What was I doing here? And how do Goths dress in hot weather? Read on for an electric outfit post featuring West LA Boutique. 

wong kar wai photoshoot

Perhaps you note a change in the image quality. I now have a Sony Alpha 7 (A7), a mirrorless DSLR camera. The full-frame sensor rocks, yet the body is half the size of a normal DSLR. Perfect for bringing on my travels.

For Love & Lemons Corset Mini Dress

sáv Hospitality brought my 2 filmmakers and me to the Philippines, to experience and showcase their newly-renovated Pacific Cebu Resort. I was also a judge in the Miss Scuba Philippines beauty pageant, which raises awareness about marine conservation.

steelground shoes, goth platforms

On Day 1, I danced around the pool in my fabulous Gothic lace-up heels, from Steelground Shoes. They’re a Portuguese alternative footwear brand, and I’m super impressed by the quality of their materials. You can check out their range of men’s and women’s shoes — creepers, furry pink boots and more — on Steelground’s site and Facebook.

tropical goth, philippines style

How can one pull off a darker look, in hot and humid weather? West L.A. Boutique came to the rescue, with round Ksubi sunglasses and a For Love or Lemons mini dress.

west la boutique fashion blogger

The dress has a corset-like boned top, but the lace material is light and airy, making it perfect for a South East Asian climate. The sunglasses have a retro-Goth feel. I completed the look with cross-top tights and the platform buckle heels.

Can’t wait to show you more of my outfits from West LA Boutique. They have a store in Dubai, and you can easily place orders internationally, from their site (brands include Boy London, Unif, Lazy Oaf.)

cebu city cars, traffic

On our first day in Mactan, we had to run to a store for an errand. Pacific Cebu Resort got us a driver, and he took us through the chaotic streets of Mandaue (one of the urban centers). So much to see, outside my window! Driving in the Philippines is an “anything goes” adventure, filled with the honks of horns.

philippines streets, jeepneys

Sidecars, jeepneys and motorcycles criss-crossed our path. Families of six piled into the back of a truck. Schoolgirls in long uniforms walked by, wearing pink backpacks. The words “authentic randomness” came to mind when we saw people barbecuing by the side of the road, and playing basketball with a hoop made from a tree.

cool round black sunglasses

Inspired by Cebu’s energy and color, we wanted to take images with a Wong Kar Wai night-time feel. 

ksubi bellatrix circular frame sunglasses

A lighting store created an interesting mood.

modern gothic clothing, model

(Photography by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)

philippines sidecar, Auto rickshaws

As the sun set, we drove to the Mandaue city center. I wonder what type of street food they are selling here.

filipino cars, motorized tricycle

In the Philippines, traffic can get congested, so people travel on two or three-wheelers. These “motorized tricycles” or auto rickshaws are everywhere.

jeepney public transportation

Locals ride “jeepneys” as public transportation. These were originally converted from American military jeeps after the end of World War II. Today, these tricked-out, kitschy rides are a symbol of the Philippines. We saw a pink one with a demented Hello Kitty on the side. If a jeepney is filled to capacity, riders will stand on the back platform and hang on for dear life.

philippines driving motorcycles

Despite the “free for all” streets, we felt safe driving through Cebu. There’s a laid-back attitude here. No road rage.

colorful lights modeling

We passed by a “Ferrari” building, lit up with these neon lights. We couldn’t resist stopping here for an impromptu photoshoot.

wong kar wai lighting, composition

A perfect match for our Wong Kar Wai mood. Ever-changing neon lights, in saturated colors.

crazy lights architecture cebu

This is one of the best aspects of travel: even if you do research up to your nose, you’ll never really get a sense of a place until you’re actually there. As you explore, you’ll be hit by unexpected scenes and inspirations. Before coming to Cebu, I never thought we’d come across a sight like this.

bright nightclub wall

If you’re liking this outfit, you can check out more inspiration on West LA Boutique’s website (they’re constantly listing the latest arrivals — I’m eyeing their leather mini skirt).

ksubi bellatrix sunglasses

Florescent lights, Asia comes alive at night.

ferrari club, Philippines

The name and logo say “Ferrari”… but is this actually a luxury car dealership?

love or lemons corset dress

Not quite. This Wanted sign reveals what actually lies inside — a girlie nightclub. I wonder if I qualify as a “pleasing person?”

mandaue, jollibee

Onward to the city center, which has a church, park and a Jollibee — the fast food chain of the Philippines, with a big bee as the mascot.

tanduay white rum, calamansi

And finally, back to our home base, Pacific Cebu Resort. The staff went all out to welcome us, beginning with a green drink made from pandan leaves at check-in. Later, we had a tasty dinner that included adobo chicken and unlimited drinks. I’m a fan of trying local flavors, and adored the gin with calamansi (a local tart citrus), and fresh mango smoothie with Tanduay rum.

welcome dessert

For dessert, the waiter served this cute surprise! Pear, ice cream, caramelized cake —  it was delicious.

pacific cebu resort sav

Can’t wait to show you more from this Cebu paradise, including scuba, snorkeling and beach time.

purple green blue hairdye

Thanks to Stephanie Hoy at Vancouver’s Avantgarde Salon for this “oil slick” hair, a gradient of purples, greens and blues!

sav hospitality hotels cebu

For previews of my South East Asian travels and outfits, you can peek at my @lacarmina Instagram.

Have you ever been to the Philippines? How do you like my “Goths in Hot Weather” outfit of the day?

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New York club kids party! King Vulcanus Levi at Friday Factory, Library Hotel.

King Vulcanus Levi, new york club personality

Every time I go back to New York, it feels like a homecoming. I lived in NYC for years, and the city kindled my passion for nightlife, alt cultures and fashion.

One New Yorker who inspired me over the years is King Vulcanus Levi, club promoter and nightlife royalty. It was an honor to be his Queen for the night, and host an underground party together.

ny club kids, party promoters

I was here for a TV shoot, and we wanted to celebrate the city’s flamboyant underground nightlife. Reserved Consulting was launching a new club event, called Friday Factory, and it fit the bill perfectly. Their parties shine the spotlight on NYC’s underground through performances and personalities.

friday factory ny underground party

Vulcanus and I held court at this giant gold table, which was reserved for us and friends. Thanks to everyone who joined the fun, and to Reserved for the generous bottles of spiced rum!

ny androgynous club dancer

The scene at Friday Factory was like a “21st century vaudeville.” Most of the guests dressed up to the nines, in styles as diverse as Gothic, retro, leather, lace. Lots of dancing and shenanigans — that’s the New York club kid spirit.

new york club performance art

I particularly enjoyed the performance art: burlesque, whips, urban singers. The highlight was my friend Lauren. She covered her body in liquid glue, stood in a corner to let it dry, and then peeled it off and gave bits of the dried “skin” the crowd. Their reactions were priceless.

blue feather crown

I’m wearing a Moi-meme-Moitie dress and lace top (the brand is by Mana sama, of Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois). The blue feathered crown was bestowed upon me, by King Vulcanus Levi, who designed it himself! I urge you to add his Facebook page, to see more designs and inspiration.

(All above photos by Alex E. Houston)

peacock feather hats crowns

Before Friday Factory, Vulcanus had a pre-party at his Lower East Side apartment. He showed me his collection of handmade crowns and accessories, a pleasure-palace of peacock feathers, playing cards, Gothic crosses, jewels, and other luxuries.

The Baroness latex designer

He showed me some of signature looks from over the years. A majestic combination of bird on head, feathered collar, cinched corset (standing next to his friend, latex designer The Baroness).

king vulcanus levi, new york clubbing

Vulcanus showed me how he put on his distinctive makeup, with a pure white face, and black V-shaped lips. When I first saw him at NY clubs ages ago, I was blown away by this vision — he seemed like a royal from another planet!

gold bracelets, rings on hand

He puts thought into every aesthetic detail, down to the gloves and rings. I’m in awe at his creativity.

ny club kids makeup

All around the room, our friends were doing makeup touchups, pouring cocktails and dancing.

ny club kids partying

I’ll never get tired of the NY’s nightlife energy. So many friendly and welcoming creatures here.

white facepaint club makeup

Living here sparked my love of subcultures and alternative beauty, which continues strong to this day. In New York, you can express who you want to be, and find other like-minded creatives.

taking selfies party

And the nightlife can’t be beat! If you want to join the fun, you can check Reserved Consulting’s site for announcements about their next Friday Factory events. And add King Vulcanus Levi on Facebook to see where he’s appearing next.

library hotel manhattan room

At dawn, I was happy to lay my weary head at The Library Hotel. In my hazy state, I couldn’t remember my room number: but thankfully, each door has a unique plate that follows the Dewey Decimal System. I was on the Languages floor, so the rooms were called Romance, Asian, Germanic…

yru platform shoes, clear heel

It’s the perfect place for me to stay: a hotel dedicated to book-lovers! I love to read at night to wind down, so this put me in instant relaxation mode. Unlike some theme hotels, there is no cheesiness here: it’s 5 star luxury, with seamless service and cozy design.

Here’s a close-up of my white platform sandals, sent by YRU — here’s the link to purchase them. So cool, the clear heel with a cloud print.

monkey see no evil statue

The Library Hotel has an ideal location, near Central Park in midtown Manhattan. They have a unique “Writer in Residence” program that aims to give authors inspiration and sanctuary. If you qualify, you get a complimentary stay at their properties, and enjoy perks like the lounge and free Wifi.

elizabeth wurtzel, author of prozac nation

My friend, author Elizabeth Wurtzel, joined me for tea. The lounge serves tea, coffee, sweets and fruit all day long “to keep the creative juices flowing.”

teale coco hooded vest

There must have been over a thousand titles on the shelves, from a variety of authors. I wonder if the collection includes Elizabeth Wurtzel’s books, Prozac Nation and Bitch.

My sleeveless jacket with a hood is a gift from Teale Coco. She makes devilish harnesses too, including a full body Lucifer harness.

ny library hotel lobby

The lobby has a Great Gatsby feel. (Are you currently reading any good books? I’d love to hear your reading recommendations; leave me a note in the comments!)

bookmarks bar library hotel rooftop

Take the elevator to the top floor, and you’ll walk into Bookmarks Bar and Lounge. My friends and I drank literary-inspired cocktails — like a Hemingway made with rum, mint and champagne — on the rooftop terrace, which has a lovely view of the Empire State Building.

new york city breakfast berries

Can’t go wrong with a free breakfast that includes berries, lattes and grapefruit juice. Thanks to the Library Hotel for treating us writers like VIPs!

totoro nail art, sprites nails

Finally, a closeup of my mint-colored Totoro nail art by Glam Nail Studio. More of their kawaii Japanese nails on their Twitter.

statue of liberty, burlesque cruise

Here are some Instagram snaps from the Dances of Vice burlesque cruise, which sailed from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty. New York, I’ll never grow tired of you.

Do you you prefer dancing at clubs and holing up with a good book? Or are you fond of both, as I am?

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