Poor panda. Looks like he’s crying because I’m hugging him too hard!
Hong Kong’s contemporary design scene used to be scattered around the city. But now, there’s a massive glass building – PMQ in Central – that puts over 100 artists, fashion designers and chefs under one roof.
PMQ’s industrial architecture and pop art mural (by artist D*face) are easy to find. The address: No.35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
PMQ’s aim is to nurture young designers. Rent is high in Hong Kong, but this building gives them an affordable space to showcase their works. In return, the artists have an “open-door” policy to the public, meaning anyone is welcome to come in and even take photos.
PMQ opened in spring 2014, and already, most of the studios are occupied. My team and I love this creative hub so much that we visited three times.
Set aside at least a few hours to explore all the little shops and studios. If you’re short on time, I recommend heading straight to one of my favorites: The Refinery HK, a colorful and poppy fashion boutique.
Here, you’ll find unique quality accessories like pancake and taiyaki (fish waffle) bags. The Refinery HK carries various select brands, from both Hong Kong and worldwide designers.
The boutique is curated by London designer Elizabeth Lau, who also has her own witty and playful fashion line.
She had just gotten back from a buying trip to Paris Fashion Week. Every season, she hunts for creative pieces like the earrings above.
Elizabeth styled me in this outfit. Can’t get enough of the “Where’s Waldo” hat with a veil.
In a city dominated by big brands, it’s a relief to see this spotlight on indie design. We saw yellow ribbons tied to the front of this jewelry shop, in support of the Occupy Hong Kong movement.
John Skeleton wears one of these ribbons to support the student protesters. (Photos by me, Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle).
PMQ stands for Police Married Quarters, since this was the previous incarnation of this site. Remnants of the historic building remain, such as an underground tunnel that show the old foundations.
In urban Central, this courtyard is a welcome green space. The design is modern, while the Chinese bamboo adds a relaxing atmosphere.
I squished another panda at the Chocolate Rain studio and store in PMQ.
As you’ve seen in my other travel guides to Hong Kong, “kawaii” cute design is big here. Chocolate Rain’s original mascots are on every imaginable piece of merchandise: toys, stationery, clothing, home goods.
The gallery space is all about interaction. Customers can take lessons on sewing, painting, doll-making, and more. The restaurant Eat & Play encourages fun with food, through cooking classes.
How cool to see founder and designer, Prudence, painting designs right at the table.
Chocolate Rain and I are currently taking part in a hotel decoration project in Hong Kong. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements, and maybe you can join us for the opening next year.
PMQ’s artists work in different mediums, from bamboo to glass. Melissa got this unique lotus necklace in a Japanese ceramic studio.
If only I could show you photos from inside each store! I hope these visuals give you a sense of the fun, high-quality designs that you can find at PMQ.
The art hub is also home to several creative new restaurants. My friends and I were invited to brunch at Aberdeen Street Social. In the words of John Skeleton, “It’s the perfect place to have a relaxed meal, and take a break from the fast pace of Hong Kong city life.”
This is the latest venture of Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton, a protege of Gordon Ramsay. The restaurant concept encourages socialization, hence the name.
Two huge floors with outdoor terraces, set in a green garden — unheard of, in Hong Kong!
We started with a trifecta of fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
Atherton’s modern British cuisine takes the stuffiness out of fine dining. His brunch menu is a home-run of favorites, including the lobster benedict above.
John praises the “simple fare like the avocado on toast with poached eggs, to the amazing flatbreads featuring ingredients such as London cured smoked salmon, Iberico ham, and king oyster mushrooms.”
Save room for the house-made pastries, like the Sweet Social Cheesecake and Matcha Mascarpone (my personal favorite). And you can’t leave without trying at least one creative cocktail. I enjoyed the Indian-flavored cocktail with a papadum (above), and “What The Doctor Ordered,” served with a pill jar and prescription.
I also ate at PMQ’s Chinese restaurant, Sohofama – here’s my review.
It’s obvious why PMQ is one of my favorite places to visit in Hong Kong. I’ll be back in HK soon for a new project and video… stay tuned for more!
As a travel writer, I do my best to seek out obscure and offbeat places. For this reason, I went out of my way to visit Taichung’s Rainbow Village with my friend Boris Tsai. The photos say it all: this attraction is a total LSD trip!
The “Rainbow Family Village” consists of several old buildings and paths, with every surface coated in vivid, primitive strokes.
What’s the story behind these colorful paintings? Who made them, and what drugs was this person on? Let’s find out.
I was staying in Taipei, at the Humble House hotel (remember my photoshoot here?). Taichung is another major city, located about two hours south.
To get here, I recommend either driving (as we did), or taking a train and then a taxi. Taichung is rather spread out, and public transportation isn’t conveniently located near the Rainbow Village.
The directions are a little tricky. If you’re in a taxi, show your driver the address in Chinese (written below), and have him plug it into the GPS.
Rainbow Family Village: Lane 56, Chun’an Road, Taichung, Taiwan
This tourist attraction is small, and it won’t take you more than 15-30 minutes to explore it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here, but if you’re already in Taichung, it’s an opportunity to see weird and wonderful local art.
Boris and I were perplexed by these figures — human, animal and supernatural — surrounded by swirls of color. What a distinct style: modern meets primitive, with a touch of Taiwanese tradition.
This scary strawberry-person holds pamphlets by the door. On the floor, the Chinese characters say “peace and good luck.”
The walls are a superb backdrop for modeling. We were here to shoot images for Hong Kong Express Airways magazine, where I have a regular column.
The characters ranged from old people to panda bears. Doesn’t this little guy look like my Scottish Fold cat?
They have the same short legs, tiny ears and round body.
You’ll never guess who is responsible for this bizarre art… a 91 year old grandfather! Grandpa Huang was born in Hong Kong, and lived in these dilapidated buildings that were initially built for WWII veterans. He had time to kill, so he bought paint with his pension, and started to transform the old walls into rainbow murals.
Grandpa Huang is a self-taught artist who painted out of passion — he wanted to inject color into this worn-down neighborhood. Before long, students at a nearby university discovered the ever-expanding Rainbow Village. They took pictures of his works, posted them online, and they went viral.
Today, this little settlement is one of Taichung’s most popular tourist attractions. People come here to read the positive messages on the walls, and pose with the spirited paintings.
The Taiwanese government had originally planned to demolish the Rainbow Village. However, locals started a petition, and the area is now preserved (hopefully for the long run).
We saw a small souvenir stand where you can buy drinks and Popsicles, and small souvenirs. It’s an easy way to support the Rainbow Village and its aged caretaker.
Sweet and slightly demented: that’s my kind of place!
The “acid trip” feeling of the Rainbow Village inspired us to get a little crazy with our poses.
Visitors write wishes on these notes, and hang them along with seashells on the windows.
My wish to visit Taiwan and reunite with my friend certainly came true!
Pretending to be the Chiefs of the Rainbow Village.
All photography by Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner, and Ken Yuen.
We didn’t see Grandpa Huang that day, but he still touches up the paintings daily. Children love to see his works in progress.
Come make a wish at the Taichung Rainbow Family Village. The nearby Dawncake (a gifts and snacks building, featuring Miyahara tea-flavored ice cream) and Taichung Night Market are also fun to include in a day-trip.
And you can’t leave without taking a funny photo with the cut-outs!
Are you intrigued by the Rainbow Village? Do you seek out local oddities when you travel, like I do?
I wrote about this funny Asian attraction, and many more, in my travel column “Go Go Goth.” It’s published in Chinese, in every issue of UO (the in-flight magazine of Hong Kong Express Airways). Above are scans…
… and you can always see on-the-go snaps from my travels on my @lacarmina Instagram. I’ll be back in Asia soon, and you’ll be able to see what mischief I’m making!
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….”
Modern, hidden cat litterbox: Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Japan cat cafes interior design, pet furniture.
My Scottish Fold cat wonders… “What is this green eggy-thing?” Could it be an avantgarde sculpture? An alien pod?
Surprise: it’s a Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Believe it or not, this beautiful design object doubles as a cat litterbox.
Perhaps you recall my first post about the Maohaus, where I described our goal of decorating an apartment beautifully, while accommodating the needs of my cat. One of the biggest challenges: what do do about Basil’s litter box? Regular ones are an eyesore, and hard to hide.
French company SinDesign solved this problem with the Poo Poo Pee Do. I’m impressed by how they combined beauty and functionality — such as a decorative paw-print hole, which doubles as a grip / handle. As you can see, the hole is big enough for “plus sized” kitties!
Basil Farrow feels right at home in this well-constructed pod. No sharp edges, and there are seven grip points that hold the top and bottom together securely.
If it weren’t for the tiger-tail, a visitor would think that this is a mod sculpture! The enclosed pod lets Basil Farrow do his business in private, and also keeps the cat litter from coming out.
Surprise, a cat is hatched! The Poopoopeedoo comes in seven different colors, so you can match it to your interior design. (We have the green one; SinDesign also makes red, black, white, orange, pink, blue.)
Isn’t this a perfect match for our lime-green color scheme? (See more photos of our Maohaus bedroom).
These two pieces come apart. The litterbox size is perfectly tailored to cats, and the round shape is a nice change from the usual square.
Functional, practical and durable — yet it integrates right into our apartment. The material is 3mm thick ABS, which is far more solid than a regular plastic litterbox.
The cover also helps to keep smells at bay. I have to say, this is the coolest litterbox I’ve ever seen.
Hop! We love that the luxury litter-box is eco-friendly too. The interior is smooth, easy to wash, and resistant to cat urine.
Each Poopoopeedo comes with a matching scoop, which attaches under the lid for easy storage. It also comes with two anti-smell tablets that you can clip in.
What more is there to say? This designer litterbox is “Maohaus” cat-interior design at its finest.
I know you want one too… SinDesign’s PooPooPeeDo is available for order online.
As I mentioned in the first post about my apartment, my Maohaus concept is inspired by the creative interior decorations of Japanese cat cafes. To show you what I mean, let me share some never-seen photos from my Tokyo archives.
This giant, yawning gate welcomed me to the big cat “petting zoo” in Odaiba.
Located in Odaiba, “Cats Livin” later became “Nyanda Cat Cafe,” and then closed. (But don’t worry about missing out — there are still tons of cat cafes all over Japan, and now in USA).
Cat’s Livin designed the space with both the cat and visitor’s enjoyment in mind. At the entrance, an American Curl sits by the rule sheet. (“Please spray it on the hand several times before it feels after cat.”)
Keep reading for more photos from this Tokyo cat cafe, including a life-size cat-person…