Decisions, decisions. Shall I head towards Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Don’t worry: my travel filmmakers and I went to both Middle Eastern cities, and will be sharing the footage with you soon.
I’ve been fascinated by Dubai for a long time. The Arabian emirate (one of the seven making up the UAE) is like a Jetsons space-age city rising out of the desert. The city is oil-rich, and invests in ritzy building projects to keep tourism and finances flowing.
What’s emerged from the sand? A city of the future, with skyscrapers straight out of a science fiction novel. Everywhere we went, we saw more mega-towers under construction.
The Dubai Metro stations resemble gold alien pods, and the subway stops have names like “Internet City” and “Business Bay.”
There’s a feeling of possibility in Dubai; the sense that anything you imagine — a peninsula shaped like a map of the world, a mall that resembles an Egyptian pyramid — can be brought to life. I can’t thank Fairmont The Palm Jumeirah hotel enough for hosting us here.
Cat tshirt and leopard print skirt: Banana Fish, from Closet Child Tokyo
White rabbit clock bag: Amavel, from Shinjuku Lumine
Not all of Dubai is high-tech and touristy. You can relax on the beach, or drive about an hour out to experience the sand dunes. (Think Lawrence of Arabia.) Some tourists try “dune bashing,” or speeding up and down the mounds in a thrilling car ride.
My crew wanted to capture Dubai’s traditional side, so we rode the green metro line to Al Ras station, and walked a few blocks to the spice and gold souk (market).
Above: Japanese kawaii is everywhere! While we were filming, the store owner came out and demanded five dirhams (about $1.50) for the privilege.
Travel filmmakers Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle were enthralled by the marketplace lights and action. When I saw the shop sign for “Nirmals,” I couldn’t help but think of Garfield sending Nermal to Abu Dhabi. (Apparently, there are lots of stray cats in the United Arab Emirates…)
Shop windows glittered with gold jewelry. At every step, local vendors called out to us: “Sir, would you like to buy a gold watch?”
The spice souk is one of the least touristy parts of the city. In other areas, such as Dubai Marina, you feel like you’re in Times Square.
One of the vendors spoke to me in excellent Japanese! I was intrigued by the black kohl eyeliner, herbal teas, and bizarre remedies for sale (like a yellow rub for eczema).
The spelling may be off, but the spice selection is spot on. On the shelves, you can see shisha (or hookah): a traditional waterpipe for smoking flavored tobacco.
What’s the dress code for Dubai? The city’s cosmopolitan, and there’s no need to wear a headscarf. However, it’s a good idea to dress on the conservative side (cover your arms and legs), especially in traditional neighborhoods.
This mannequin is wrapped in a keffiyeh, or headscarf worn by Arab men. The colors and meanings vary; you can read more about male headscarves in this Wiki article.
I wish our photos could convey the scents and energy of the Arabian market!
Coming up next: we dive into the modern side of Dubai, with photos inside our Fairmont hotel (located on Palm Island), the Burj Al Arab, and one of the world’s largest malls.
Doesn’t Dubai remind you of an alien city? Do you have questions about traveling here? Leave me a comment, and I’ll try to help you out.
Yes, I travel non-stop. Days after Montreal, I’m hopping on a plane for Hong Kong — excited to do a fantastical magazine shoot here!
I was in Hong Kong last September, and already miss the shopping. The fashion turns over quickly, and cute cats are a popular design motif.
While strolling in K11 Art Mall last autumn, I discovered a new brand Toro x Mandycat.
These kawaii kitties are the star of this pop-up shop.
Glasses cat + eyebrows cat = an amazing “classroom” design collection.
The bright display extended into the floor, with decals of raised cat paws and classroom materials.
I bought this silver wrap-around kitty ring. I had to. (Here’s a similar cat-faced ring.)
It’s hard to pass up shopping in Hong Kong when prices are low, there’s no tax, and you can’t get these items anywhere else. To convert prices to US dollars, divide by eight.
The stationery is cute without being too kiddy-ish. If you like the items above, check out this Kutusita Nyanko cat pencil case.
The cartoonist’s cats took over several locations of Ginger, the t-shirt and accessories stores.
I bought the striped t-shirt dress on the far left. You can see me wearing it in my Hong Kong travel video.
The pop-up shop was in K-11, the art-themed shopping mall in Tsim Tsa Tsui. It’s relatively new, and has a Mona Lisa made of toast in the entrance.
K11 houses many design shops and random installations, such as these dreidel-chairs…
Sneakers made of paper…
,,, and neon teddy bears!
Since we’re on the subject of cats… Doraemon had a limited edition fashion collaboration with Hong Kong clothing brand Chocoolate.
Last simmer, Doraemon (or Ding Dong, as he’s known in Chinese) celebrated his “100th birthday” with a hundred cat-statues in Hong Kong Harbour. Remember John Skeleton’s photos of the Doraemon anniversary exhibit?
Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, almost all the items had sold out. Only the pancake pillows were left.
On the bright side, Chocoolate is always doing enticing collaborations with cute characters. In 2011, they worked with Snoopy. Last fall’s line featured Wallace and Gromit.
Thoughts on Hong Kong’s fashion, compared to Japan’s? Are you intrigued by Chinese street style? Discover HK’s Facebook page has more shopping tips and trends.
For more from K-11 mall, read my post about making candy at Sticky, a custom confectionery shop.
PS: Thanks Posse for interviewing me about my favorite Tokyo shops and cafes! I’m loving their city guides to “the best places on Earth.”
I look angry, but it’s only because of the sun in my eyes. In fact, I couldn’t be happier to spend five days in The Maldives with Gili Lankanfushi.
The eco-luxury resort invited my filmmakers and me to capture the magic — and there was plenty of that here. Take my hand, and I’ll give you a tour of our villa.
The resort is inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The villas have an over-water design, connected by wooden ramp to a jetty off the island. We had two patios: a sun deck on the roof…
… and a “water garden” below, with steps leading into the ocean. The tide was low enough for us to walk around, and glimpse Nemo-like fish darting through the coral.
The mosquito net is only for decorative effect: there are no little blood-suckers here. The Maldives is wonderfully hot year-round, without humidity. We came in May, and there were clear skies except for 10-minute rainfalls, once or twice a day.
From my desk, I can see my neighbors across the water.
My team and I lead crazy lives, and it was a relief to slow down and breathe. I haven’t felt so relaxed in ages.
I’ve been in decadent bathrooms, but never one like this. An open-air walkway links the bathroom to an outdoor shower with two spouts.
We were enthralled by the marine life around us. There are thousands of species that live in the Indian Ocean, including several types of turtles (this stuffed one was in my bathroom).
The open-air dressing room looks like a drawing out of a Tintin adventure comic. To the left of the walkway, stairs lead down to the ocean: an enclosed, private “pool”.
Every attention is paid to detail, such as the driftwood hangars, and ceramic bottles of aloe vera.
A pirate-like rope handrail leads to the rooftop deck. Gili Lankanfushi uses environmentally friendly materials and building techniques, to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible.
The living room floor has a window into the ocean!
Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the salmon caviar tartar is missing from the welcome plate. I couldn’t resist eating it before taking this photo…
V-fingers for my filmmaker Melissa Rundle, who shot the images of me in this post. Can’t wait to show you our video about Maldives travel.
Wouldn’t you like to live the Pirate life? You can learn more about this magical getaway (and plan your own) on Gili Lankanfushi’s site.
Peek at more of the island — including a photo of me failing at tennis — in this post. Next up: wine and chocolate tasting, boating and snorkeling.
What’s your impression of The Maldives? Do you like my Goth in Hot Weather look? I got a bit tanned here…
Tokyo has many crazy club nights, but which takes the cake? Department H, a monthly party that celebrates the wildest aspects of underground culture.
You’ll see monster costumes, sexy tentacle performances, anime-head masks, drag queens, extreme piercings, lesbian wrestling… read on for incredible photos!
At the entrance, a woman covered in fake blood writhes in this glass coffin — like a scene out of Tokyo Gore Police. Next to her is a realistic, decaying corpse with a very long appendage…
Inside, we met an alien. While I struggled and ran away screaming, Yukiro decided to mount and conquer him.
I wore a carnival type of outfit. No fake eyelashes today; everything’s drawn on with black eyeliner pen.
Striped pastel goth skirt: Peace Now, from Closet Child Ikebukuro
White ruffle top: Spider, Hong Kong
(I kept the same hair that Kukukachoo styled for my magazine shoots.)
Department H takes place in the unassuming Kinema Club (Address: 6F 1-1-14 Negishi, Taito-ku) near Uguisidani station. On the lower level, there are booths that offer extreme body modifications and sell alternative goodies.
While the DJs spun disco, Kanashimi no Belladonna (an old anime inspired by Art Nouveau aesthetics) projected on the backdrop. Then, the stage cleared, and the drag queens strutted their stuff.
Each showed off their handcrafted outfits, which expressed different personalities.
Such as a full body latex suit with green eyelashes.
This strawberry princess worked it to the max: as she walked the runway, her outfit exuded the scent of strawberries!
Hanky-panky and nudity are not a problem here. This is a safe space; nobody ever makes you feel uncomfortable.
Next: girl-on-girl wrestling! In the words of Naomi (who took all these images): “The match usually has two or three judges who are dressed in various monster/sci-fi costumes, and two participants who start out dressed up. However, as the match progresses, the wrestlers are encouraged to remove each other’s clothing as part of the match. It’s raunchy and ridiculous! The “fighting” is more for show than serious but they are very good at faking it.”
Many people cover their faces entirely. Anyone can be in these suits.
Japanese burlesque performer Naomi wowed us with her light-up hula hoop act.
Now that’s a power couple.
Thanks to organizer Gogh (center) for this incredible event, which has been going on since the 1990s!
Department H occurs the first Saturday of each month. Please consult my Tokyo nightlfe guide for details on this and other parties.
Many of Dept H’s regulars took part in an art show, curated by Keroppy Maeda, at Vanilla Gallery in Ginza. This little space often holds underground exhibits, such as one dedicated to burlesque. This one was titled “死と未来 – la mort et le futur” (Death and the Future).
On display were works by eight artists, including Keroppy. He’s currently fascinated by trepanning, or drilling a hole in the skull (a Medieval medical procedure).
Keroppy performed trepannation on an animal skull, and took the photograph on the wall. Behind him plays a stop-motion film of a forehead saline inflation (which he is explaining to his friend!)
Also in the exhibit: photographs of katana, corpses, and post-earthquake destruction. All the pieces reflect the theme, “The reality of death shows truth and the possibility of the future predicts a new vision for humans and our world.”
I enjoyed speaking to the artists about their process. The works ranged from stream of consciousness collages, to mistress photographs, to cultured human skin.
Keroppy Maeda is continuing to push forward with extreme body modifications and art in Japan. I can’t wait to see the projects he takes on next. (See his site for more.)
Would you attend a nightclub like this? What do you think of Tokyo body mods and underground art scene?
PS: Today, I did something involving bagels in Montreal… did you see it on my Twitter?