The Hippest Places in Portland: new travel video! Food Trucks, art hotels & hipsters.

carmen yuen, la carmina, goth hair

Hip, hip, hooray! My Portland travel video is out on Business Insider, in which I explore the city’s weird and wonderful subcultures. In a lot of ways, it’s my favorite episode so far.

I’m biting my nails to hear what you think… Watch the video above and on BI. Did you laugh at my “fairy dance” and pirate torture scene?

brickbat goth club portland, lovecraft bar

My travel series wouldn’t be possible without these two : Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann, who did all the shooting, editing and production. It’s hard to find people who you can successfully travel, work and Goth-party with!

nightmare before christmas halloween makeup

In our video, we take you inside Portland’s underground subcultures. This includes a live performance of the Nightmare Before Christmas…

goth christmas tree decorations

… complete with a spooky tree, covered with crows and brains.

tim burton halloween display

We also went to the Goth-friendly Lovecraft bar (a tribute to the horror writer) and an underground warehouse party, Steep and Thorny.

1970s vintage white fur coat

I loved Portland’s vintage clothing selection. Been searching for a disco dream-coat like this all my life.

halloween bokeh

Bokeh and ominous reflections, in the window of steampunk boutique Wells & Verne.

sexy steampunk girl art

So many things about Portland are “me” to a T. Such as this steam-girl painting, inspired by Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

buddha rainbow mural

Or this rainbow Buddhist mural on the wall of my room, at the Jupiter Hotel.

velvet devil wine

This hipster hotel must have been expecting me. Velvet Devil wine and green apples in the lobby…

art gallery jupiter hotel

… alongside modern art by local painters.

cat chalk drawing

Portland’s culture is all about creativity. My room at the Jupiter Hotel had a chalkboard door, and First Mate Naomi drew a cat on it.

avalon theater sign portland

I’ll leave you with some bonus shots. This is the Avalon Theater, next to our vegan brunch cafe Paradox. I could have walked around PDX all day long, simply shooting photos.

mismatched color tights

Naomi’s mis-matched tights match the autumn foliage.

orange fall leaves

The Pacific Northwest may be grey and rainy, but you get all four seasons and there is nature everywhere.

jolly roger pirate restaurant

Arr! We went to a food truck pit stop, near the Jolly Roger. We sampled Mexican tacos, crepes and pumpkin butter sandwiches.

food truck, jambalaya

My favorite was the jambalaya, cooked fresh from a Creole truck. (New Orleans is on my list of must-visit places…)

anthem brewing, apple cider beer

PDX is proud of its local craft beer breweries. I enjoyed the pear and cherry ciders by Anthem Brewing.

spooky reflection window

Now you know why Portland is now one of my favorite American cities. Intrigued by the quirky indie culture here? Then please take a few minutes to watch our Portland travel video, highlighting the hippest parts of the city. (Keep your ears peeled for the evil laugh!)

How are you liking my travel video series? For more photos and tips, here are all my posts about Portland alt travel.

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Tokyo Decadance Bar at Christon Cafe Shinjuku. Pole dancing Goths & pride parade!

preta porco, tokyo decadance

Ohohoho! You’ve landed in Tokyo Decadance Bar — one of the favorite hangouts of Tokyo’s alternative, Goth and Cyber club kids. If you’re visiting the city, you must stop here for the absinthe and strange performances.

Enjoy photos from my previous two trips to “Decabar,” featuring the infamous Preta Porco in his signature yellow face paint.

tokyo japanese drag queens

Address of Tokyo Decabar: 東京都新宿区新宿5-17-13 or 5-17-13 Shinjuku, Oriental Wave Building 8F/9F
Directions: From Shinjuku East Exit, walk towards Studio Alta and Don Quixote. Take a right on this main street (Yasakuni Dori) and keep walking. Christon Cafe is on the left side of the street, right above the Lawson and before the parking lot buildings. Ride the elevator up to the 8th floor (Christon Cafe theme restaurant) and walk up the stairs to Decadance Bar.

The club space is small but laid back, and decorated in neon paint. The fashion is consistently fabulous, as Yukiro Dravarious, in one of his many guises, demonstrates. (He’s performing April 27 at Tokyo Pride; keep reading for details!)

japan mistress bar, drag queen makeup

On “Porco Night,” the spotlight shines on yellow-faced bartender Preta Porco. Mistress Maya also holds a regular “Snack Mayaya” event, where she helms a snack bar and does rope-tyling demonstrations.

sophia sama, tokyo decabar

On any given night, I’ll run into friends here. On the left, you may recognize Sophia, an impressive vocalist who recently debuted her solo project, “Season of Ghosts.”

adrien le danois, tokyo decadance party

Owner Adrien Le Danois (in the blue hair) welcomes guests to his lair. You’ll see lots of cosplay girls and colorful street style on the dance floor. Many of the people who come here speak English and French, so you’ll be able to strike up conversations even if you don’t know Japanese.

japanese club kids, tokyo clubbing

Porco’s scintillating smile will immediately put you in the mood to party. (My hair is pink because these photos are from last spring.)

tokyo party photos, shinjuku nightlife

The drinks flow… and the shenanigans begin. I always order the absinthe at Decadance Bar.

japanese nightclub, crazy bar

The space is decorated like a Day Glo carnival, and the staff dresses the part in wigs and glitter.

japan pole dancer, pole dancing girl

Between DJ sets, underground performers strut their stuff. Everyone smiled at this 1980s dance routine, peppered with pole-dancing.

clown makeup, japanese pole dancers

Porco squealed and twirled on a pole. I have no words.

drag performance, tokyo lgbt

On any given evening, you’ll encounter a theme event or bizarre performance. (Photography by Naomi – check out her latest illustrations!)

pole dancing inversions, asia pole dance

If it’s your birthday, beware: the drag queens sit on you and chant the “nonde nonde” drinking song.

yamamba, ganguro, makeup, japan

The special DJs played a bouncing, techno-electric mix. You can tell that everyone was having fun.

harajuku cyber goth girl

I returned to Tokyo Decadance Bar last December. It was “Sex Pot Night,” meaning there were events both in the upstairs bar and downstairs restaurant (Christon Cafe).

alamode market, lolita handmade

Similar to Alamode Market, there were handmade Gothic Lolita accessories for sale at tables.

japanese girl tattoos, back tattoo

A striking back tattoo with hearts and wings, on this barely clad Japanese lady.

christon cafe shinjuku

As you know from my Theme Restaurants book, Christon is bizarrely decorated with church relics, like chandeliers and altars.

christian goth theme restaurant tokyo

This makes it a haunting (and slightly kitschy) atmosphere for a Goth alternative party. The big Tokyo Decadance parties, which take place every 1-2 months, are usually held at Christon Shinjuku.

animals preserved in jars

That night, the area near the lower staircase was filled with tables. Vendors sold oddities like scorpions preserved in jars.

goth chokers

It’s a great place to pick up one of a kind Gothic accessories like these hand-studded chokers.

barbie purse

Or get a glitter tattoo, from a not-so-Barbie girl.

japan latex dress

If you get tired of shopping, then there’s plenty of singing, dancing, performances and other entertainment in the room.

japanese mistresses performance

I saw a slightly incongruous performance by a group of women dressed as mistresses, in tight leather corsets and riding sticks.

japan women with whips

Yet they sang Jpop and anime songs, with giddy choreography. The men in the back seemed to be having a good time.

japan cheers, drinking kampai

“Kampai” or cheers!

man in red wig, brolita

Much like the club night Department H, this is a place for you to be whoever or whatever you wish, without judgement.

weird doll art

The grotesque doll on the wall is indication that anything goes.

boy putting on makeup

Makeup on men is the norm rather than the exception.

tokyo goth club scene

Goth fashion looks especially bloody under red lights.

gothic lolita manga

My current blue hair matches these girls on the wall.

cyber eye makeup

For once, Yukiro isn’t the tallest person in the room… thanks to little help from stilts!

tying up girl

Mistress Maya (who is also DJ Maya at her event Midnight Mess) tied up an innocent victim.

shibari demonstration

The girl got a spanking and hot candle wax on her back, among other things that we can’t post on this blog… You’ll have to use your imagination, or come to Decabar to see for yourself.

horns hairstyle

For more photos from Tokyo Decadence and other Goth / Cyber / LGBT nightlife, take a look at my Japan clubbing guide.

PS: Yukiro is performing his spooky drag queen act, Die Schwarze Frau, on April 27th at Tokyo Pride Parade! For info on how to see him in action, check out his Facebook page. You’ll be entertained and frightened for sure.

Have you ever tried pole dancing? Would you visit a club like this?

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A travel blogger’s crusade in Petra, Jordan! Ya’lla Tours: personal Middle East tour guide.

visit jordan travel blogger

On a quest to find the Treasury of a fabled civilization, buried by sand…

If this sounds like a plot from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, then you’ve nailed it. I went to Petra, Jordan — a dream come true, thanks to Ya’lla Tours.

baby the stars shine bright disney print

The story of this ancient city has fascinated me for years. In the 3rd century BC, Arabian nomads called the Nabataeans began settling here. Petra grew into a center for the spice trade, filled with marvelous temples, tombs and aqueducts.

The city passed into Roman and Byzantine rule, and then was lost… until a young explorer re-discovered it in the 19th century. Imagine coming across this glorious entryway, after years of scouring the desert!

petra jordan treasury

My film team and I were so grateful to have Ya’lla Tours guide our journey. While Jordan is a safe country, the archaeological sites are spread out (Petra is three hours from the capital, Amman) and I wouldn’t know how to get from here to there. On our own, we’d probably end up wandering the sand dunes like Moses.

horse rides, petra archeology

Ya’lla has personalized tours in various countries, including Jordan, and our guide’s expertise was worth his weight in gold. He took care of border crossing and visa checkpoints, got us to locations, gave us the historical run-down… Our journey was far richer and more relaxed because of him.

Case in point: Ya’lla planned our journey so that we’d conveniently spend the night in Wadi Musa, where Petra lies. The next morning, our guide made sure we were suitably dressed for the trek (good shoes and a jacket are necessities), and whisked us through the entrance. They even helped us get falafel afterward.

Horse rides are included, but we preferred to walk. The terrain is not difficult, but prepared to be on your feet for five hours or more.

siq, path to petra

We meandered through the mile-long siq (or “the shaft”), a narrow, winding gorge formed by a natural geological fault. I can’t think of a more epic prelude to an ancient city.

Along the way, our guide explained the aqueduct system and the meaning of carvings on the wall — things we wouldn’t have known or even noticed if we weren’t with him.

rock entrance to ancient city jordan

This photo gives you a sense of the Siq’s scale and grandeur. I spun around, between stone walls as high as 600 feet. (Photography by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)

alice wonderland lolita skirt

My outfit is an exercise in function meets fashion. I wore sturdy boots, so I never stumbled or had sore feet. However, you might as well dress up for more memorable photos. Who knows if you’ll ever be back?

Alice in Wonderland print skirt: by Lolita brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright, at Closet Child Shinjuku. Worn with a petticoat under, for poof.
Goth stockings: c/o UK Tights. I’m wearing the Tiffany Quinn Sheer Crosses Tights
Velvet Victorian jacket: Lip Service c/o

Nabataean gods, carved deities

We saw remnants of carved deities from the religion of the Nabataeans and the traders that passed through. Our Ya’lla guide told is about standing stones, or baetyli, marking the presence of a god. He also showed us Greco-Roman style figures, and a man with camel.

petra elephant rock, fish face

He asked us, “What do you see in this natural rock formation?” From the profile, it looks like a fish. Head-on, it’s an elephant rock!

stray cat, jordan

A stray cat ran down a steep staircase, as a group of Asian tourists shuffled by.

tourists feeding stray feral cat

Someone in that tour group fed the cat a cracker. Don’t do this. Instead, donate to reputable animal organizations that do humane population control and work for long-term solutions. Likewise with giving to child beggars. This is a whole can of worms so I won’t go on, but if you want to discuss this, let’s do so in the comments.

petra treasury between rocks

Finally, we saw it beckoning through the rocks… The famous Al Khazneh or Treasury, entirely carved out of sandstone.

Al Khazneh, jordan temple facade

We learned that Petra was abandoned and lost to history for centuries. In 1812, Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it during his search for the source of the River Niger. He’s quite the “Indiana Johann,” spending years learning Arabic and disguising himself as a Muslim, in order to gain access to forbidden paths.

petra treasury architecture

The Treasury carvings reveal the mix of Hellenistic and Middle Eastern religions that thrived in Petra. The two eagles at the top represent the main Nabataen god. Below the urn is a symbol of Egypt’s Isis. Underneath are Zeus’ sons, Castor and Pollux.

indiana jones last crusade petra

The details have held up remarkably well over the years, despite damage from iconoclasts and bullets. Legend says that Bedouins shot at the urn, thinking there were gems inside.

Jordanian tourism board press trip

Can you guess why there are square markings on the left? These probably served as footholds for the brave sculptors.

camels kissing

Petra is a huge city, and there’s much more to see than just the Treasury. Every five minutes, someone offered us a camel ride or asked us to buy souvenirs. Politely ignore the vendors and walk on, if you’re not interested, or else they’ll keep dogging you.

donkey rides petra

While it may be tempting to ride the cute donkeys, camels or horses, I saw that some of them weren’t very well treated… We even saw a boy whip a horse while a tourist sat on top.

middle eastern horses

Many of them stood around in the sun, dressed in Bedouin cloths and waiting.

sand art bottle demonstrations

If you get tired of exploring ruins, you can duck into the tents to see sand art demos. By precisely layering and mixing colored sand, this man made a camel sand-scape.

camel sand art bottles

Bottles, bottles on the wall.

jordan Bedouin boy

The Jordanian people are very kind, and we enjoyed meeting this little boy with a sweet smile. Inside another tent, we sat surrounded by red carpets and chatted with the Bedouin owner, who served us dark coffee.

petra archaeological site

Petra is filled with secret caves, hidden tombs, echo chambers, remains of colored tiles… the stuff of imagination.

ya'lla tours, jordan guide

Imagine the amphitheater, filled with crowds of Romans. On the right, a rainbow of sandstone stripes.

jordan, royal tombs

We climbed up a long flight of stairs to the Urn Tomb, a burial place of the royals built high on the mountain face. Tip: look out for donkey poop as you walk.

petra guards in uniform

So many mysteries still remain about Petra. Just days ago, a study suggested the Nabataeans built some of the monuments so the sun would shine on them, on significant days of the year.

Ad Deir, petra monastery

The vast view from Ad Deir, or the Monastery.

rock cut tombs, houses petra

Filmmaker Eric and I “play house” in one of the many cut-out dwellings (most of these were tombs). I’m probably thinking about how to decorate.

sandstone caves, ancient homes

This is a day I’ll remember for ages to come. My travel film crew and I can’t thank Ya’lla Tours enough for taking us on an adventure to Petra. They offer Israel tours as well, and can customize the itinerary to your interests and group size.

two camels kiss

Our Ya’lla guide had answers to all our questions, and took care of logistics so we could simply learn and enjoy. You can start planning your own dream trip on their site and by adding their Facebook.

petra treasury carved from rose rock

Is visiting “the rose-red city half as old as time” on your travel bucket-list? Do you remember Petra from the Indiana Jones movie?

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A bittersweet update about Rose. Gothic Lolita, Anime & Cosplay wigs at Tokyo craft store, Okadaya.

goth girl with tattoos, jrock style

A surprisingly large number of people ask me about my friend Rose. Why hasn’t she appeared on the blog recently? I’ve been reluctant to say because the news isn’t good. Basically, Rose has been battling an extremely serious medical condition.

However, there’s a light (over at the Frankenstein place)! A test has nailed down Rose’s mysterious condition — and with some help, she can regain her health. Please read on for the personal story, followed by the latest in Tokyo makeup and wigs (since Rose loves J-fashion, and we want this post to end on an upbeat note!)

pretty gothic girl with tattoos, piercings

Long-time readers will remember Rose from our adventures in Seattle and Vancouver — absinthe burlesque clubs, Jrock concerts, dance videos and more. She’s got such positive energy, and a flair for alt-Japanese style.

Some have commented on her thinness. Rose has been struggling with a serious medical issue for years, which left her unable to eat or gain weight. It’s a long story (which her mom outlines in full here). Basically, about 11 years ago, Rose started having digestive troubles that lead to full gastroparesis or stomach paralysis. Despite going to the best doctors and trying all options, nobody has been able to determine a cause or cure. A series of painful operations, including inserting a pacemaker and removing her entire stomach, did nothing to help.

leopard print bathrobes, tights

Sadly, in recent months, Rose has been getting worse. Her weight dropped to 73 pounds even though she takes in enough calories by tube-feeding, and she developed other complications.

However, there’s been a breakthrough: Rose tested 100% positive for Lyme disease. She took a test years ago, but the results came back negative since there is a high error margin. With this new and reliable method, the diagnosis is undeniable, and the symptoms fit.

crimped hair, goth punk girls

It’s terrible that the undiagnosed Lyme disease caused her to worsen for a decade. On the plus side, Rose now knows the cause, and can undergo a complicated treatment to hopefully beat it. However, this will be a long, expensive road. I know her family, and they put everything into her medical costs, but it is a struggle. We’re having an online fundraiser, and hope you can help Rose with a contribution, no matter how small. So grateful for your support, and will share updates all along the way. Let’s get her healthy again!

You can donate safely here by PayPal or credit card (choose to pay with PayPal and then at the bottom you will see “buy as guest.” Click that and you can then use your credit card.)

♥ Or if you can just help us get the word out — maybe with a Facebook post, Tweet, blog post or email — it will make a difference. Thank you.

pink pastel wig, bunny ears hairstyle

On a brighter note, since this post is dedicated to Rose, I wanted to put up something that makes her smile. Rose dreams of visiting Tokyo, and I know she’ll go nuts inside Okadaya — one of the best places to pick up wigs, makeup, and craft supplies. I love coming here to scout out the latest beauty trends, like bunny-eared pastel wigs.

japanese girls false eyelashes, jpop lashes

The main floor of Okadaya (address: Shinjuku 3-23-17, near the station’s east exit) has a wall of false eyelashes, especially in the glam gyaru style. Above are some special collaboration lashes, which come in different colors. There are also over-the-top ones in rainbow colors, feathers and glitter.

Don Quixote and 100 yen “dollar” stores sell cheaper false lashes, but you can’t beat the variety and uniqueness of the ones here.

disney nail polish, minnie mouse makeup

There are always displays of new, chic beauty products. Disney just released a glittery nail polish line, in a variety of colors. Cinderella, Minnie Mouse and Snow White seem to love it.

hello kitty perfume, makeup

Hello Kitty’s cute face is omnipresent in Japan. This is the new Sanrio perfume, packaged in “small gift” pouches. Different colors represent different scents.

one use contact lens, harajuku circle contacts

Circle or novelty contact lenses remain big sellers in Japan. These “Funky Whip” contacts are a relatively new offering, which you wear only once and dispose.

black red dyed hair

On the second floor, it’s wigs galore! The sample hairdos are always done up in creative styles, like this braided and flower-topped mannequin.

pastel goth wigs, fairy kei

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s influence is obvious in these quirky, experimental pastel hairstyles.

cult party kei hairstyles

Would you rather have a snake dangling by your face, or a snowman on your scalp?

weird experimental hairstyles japan

This green and red Christmas wreath hairstyle gets props for creativity, if nothing else.

funny mannequin heads

What a lovely romantic couple. The one on the left is a man… I think? (Okadaya has a fun selection of Jrock or host boy wigs too).

women's colored wigs, alternative hair

Every possible type of synthetic wig is sold here, in all colors and lengths. These shaggy bobs are more natural-looking.

pastel color wigs, gothic lolita wig

If that’s not your bag, then there’s a shelf of Sweet Lolita, pastel goth and cosplay wigs! Most are by the brand Prisila. Perfect for anime convention costumes, Halloween, or a club night out.

For more photos of fabrics and craft supplies at Okadaya (including feather boas), see this blog post…

ne-net cat logo

… and peruse my LaCarmina Instagram. I’m on YouTube and Facebook too.

fat cat face drawing

I leave you with a few kitty snaps. Here’s a fat-faced illustration in a Shinjuku store window. Looks like a British Shorthair to me.

big scottish fold male cat

Can you see the resemblance to my Scottish Fold kitten?

pretty goth girl, legs

Basil sends a hug to everyone who helps out our friend Rose, if it’s by giving to the fund, or simply sharing this post. You can see all of our adventures together right here — she’s a very special person, and I hope to have better news for you soon!

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