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A Gothic Halloween in London, UK! Viktor Wynd cabinet of curiosities, absinthe bar, horror-themed afternoon tea.

nightmare before christmas shirt top fashion

Happy Nightmare before Christmas!

I’m not much of an X-mas person…. so in the spirit of Jack Skellington, this post is going to be about how to celebrate Halloween in London, United Kingdom!

london satanic temple satanists party

Ye ol England was one of the original centers of Goth subculture, and remains one of the best cities for Gothic, bizarre and underground festivities. I spent Halloween 2017 with my friends in London, and it turned out to be one of the best All Hallows Eves yet.

Our dark bacchanal included the Black Devil Disco Club with the Satanic Temple (above), seeing The Exorcist stage play, enjoying monster-movie themed afternoon tea, and drinking absinthe at a cabinet of oddities. Keep reading for details of these London Halloween bars, events and parties! 

winter goth gothic outfit clothing

But first, a peek at my Nightmare Before Xmas outfit. You won’t catch me wearing red and green this season. Instead, I like to layer faux fur during the winter, and break out my Sorel knee-high boots. (Click below to see where I got these items.)

girardi over knee socks, kneehigh stockings

Tis the season… for unique stockings and socks! My go-to source is always UK Tights — they ship worldwide, and have the largest online selection of legwear, including fishnets, patterned and luxury hosiery.

uk tights luxury legwear, knee socks

Since it’s now too cold to go barelegged, I’ve been reaching for above-the-knee or thigh-high socks. I love the alternative look of these Girardi Meredith hold-ups, especially when paired with a short black skirt and sweater. The faux leather cuff at the top stays securely, and is decorated with an adorable bow.

You can find these socks and other fashion legwear from my friends UK TightsI’ll be wearing these and more all winter.

faux fur jacket short skirt

– Here’s a different spin on this look. I’m accessorizing with a holographic Cyberdog backpackand Moat House wood sunglasses.
– My faux fur jacket is from Pretty Attitude, similar to this furry and this ombre jacket.
– I’m wearing these exact Sorel boots (the After Hours no tongue lace-up boots in redwood leather). For more info, click below.

satanic gathering england event

Now, let’s descend into the London Underworld. When you see Baphomet and a pentagram… you know you’ve entered the den of the British Satanists!

This pre-Halloween event was organized by The Satanic Temple London & UK. It was the first edition of their “Black Devil Disco Club,” which brings together two of my favorite things (the devil and disco).

london britain satanic temple club

Established in 2016, The Satanic Temple’s mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, to reject tyrannical authority, and to advocate practical common sense and justice.”

The members are atheist, and advocate for fact-based science, and marginalized communities. Everyone I met at the event was kind and inclusive.

satanic interior decor, art posters

At the Black Devil Disco night, the DJs played tracks by Patrick Cowley, Giorgio Moroder and other Italo Disco heroes. Between boogieing, you could get a tarot reading or “leave something witchy” in the candlelit back room.

The Satanic Temple of London and UK hosts gatherings like this year-round. Check out their chapters’s Facebook page to see what’s coming up next.

the exorcist play, phoenix theatre

I wanted to do some “only in London” excursions, such as seeing a play in the West End. I’m not a fan of cheesy musicals, so I didn’t come across anything appealing… until I learned The Exorcist was opening at the Phoenix Theatre! 

I reunited with my friend Vanessa, and we went to one of the first showings of The Exorcist. I was keen to see how they’d adapt William Peter Blatty’s horror novel and 1970s movie, for a live stage production.

the exorcist london west end stage show

We weren’t allowed to shoot photos during the performance, so I’m doing my best impression of Regan, the little girl possessed by a demon (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen.) The cast nailed their parts, especially during the battle against the evil spirit Pazuzu.

The Exorcist’s lighting and set were outstanding, especially the spooky candlelight confessions and blood writings on the wall. There were jump-scares, and fantastic effects — let’s just say, they’re literally hair-raising and head-turning.

If you’re in London and a horror fan, The Exorcist is the play for you. Tickets and info here — this is a limited run show, which ends on March 10, 2018.

movie monster theme party decor food

What else is a rather British activity? Afternoon tea.

There are many London venues for tea and finger sandwiches. However, when I read that Royal Lancaster Hotel was offering a Halloween afternoon tea, I knew I’d found my place. (Address: Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY, UK)

I entered the recently-renovated modern hotel, and was delighted to see that the tearoom was decorated in the theme of 1960s horror movies! Royal Lancaster nailed the classy details: everything is in black and white, with celluloid-printed menus and a clapboard that read 666.

royal lancaster halloween afternoon tea

Out came a black-and-white themed tray, with a fog of dry ice! Royal Lancaster’s ArTea set included a mix of creatively-designed, delicious savories and sweets.

My favorites included the cucumber and pumpernickel sandwiches, sushi with black caviar, a scotch egg with black crust, and popcorn in a coffin (a nod to the film theme). The macaroons and checkered cake went perfectly with our pots of tea: we ordered a selection, including classic Earl Grey, and a ginger medley.

psycho hitchcock party screening

Royal Lancaster chose a 1960s classic horror theme since this year is the hotel’s 50th birthday. The tearoom set the mood with black-and-white footage from Hitchcock’s Psycho.

audrey carnivorous plants halloween

I loved the imaginative, classy take on the theme (this doesn’t feel like a kid’s kitschy Halloween experience). All around the room, there were carnivorous plants in homage to Audrey, the Venus fly trap from Little Shop of Horrors. 

royal lancaster black white london halloween menu

We ended our monochrome meal with freshly-backed black scones, with clotted cream, marmalade, and cake pops. Royal Lancaster ArTea offers seasonal afternoon teas year-round, but their Halloween one is especially a treat.

viktor wynd museum of curiosities

Also open year-round is the mysterious Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities. The glowing exterior looks like something out of a Victorian fantasy novel — and that just about sums up the experience of visiting Viktor’s lair. Push open these doors, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by bizarre, macabre and kitschy oddities from around the world. 

(Viktor Wynd / Last Tuesday Society address: 11 Mare St, London E8 4RP)

viktor wynd wunderkabinett bar

Viktor leads tours that are a mix of story-telling and performance art. The space is a throwback to Wunderkabinetts of past centuries: mesmerizing collections of taxidermy, natural phenomena, tribal art, and other esoteric wonders.

london goth bar, last tuesday society

In addition, the museum is home to East London’s Most Curious Cocktail Bar. A giant lobster overlooks the bar, stocked with tinctures for pre-Prohibition drinks.

london absinthe bar uk gothic

My friends Zoetica Ebb and Trevor cuddled up with the top-hatted lion, and we enjoyed absinthe with a sugar cube and water drip. Behind them, you can see spellbinding works from the temporary “Of Shadows” exhibition on loan from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. (Next time, I’ll share our photoshoot in Highgate Cemetery.)

viktor wynd witchcraft exhibition

The charismatic Viktor leads his guests down a winding spiral staircase, and into a basement filled with thousands of strange objects. He begins at a glass case dedicated to dandies such as Quentin Crisp and Stephen Tennant. He especially admires Sebastian Horsley, and keeps his Saville Row suit and nails from his crucifixion down here.

viktor wynd weird collections antiques

The theme of decadence, excess and self-creation carries through all the cabinets of wonders. Viktor Wynd’s collection includes shrunken heads (he spoke of spending time with the tribes of New Guinea and Congo), Happy Meal toys, rare and perverse books, mermaid skeletons

skulls bizarre goth museum london

You can interact with many of the objects, and ask Viktor about their origins. True to the mad dandy personality, he’ll probably answer with a cryptic tale that has you thirsting for more. 

Gnostic Temple of Agape victor wind

For a dark dining experience, you can rent out the room on the right for a private meal. Guests sit on crimson banquettes, under a preserved sea monster, and feast on a sarcophagus table with a skeleton inside!

On the left, Viktor sits at a table that was once used for secret occult rituals. The Gnostic Temple of Agape was discovered beneath an old building, and brought here for preservation.

ancient pentacles drawings rituals

He writes in his guidebook (which everyone on the tour receives for free): “For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, The Temple, under the guardianship of the initiates, has been used as a place to celebrate the divine gift of love, to create spells, practice alchemy and summon angels and spirits from the other world.” The book of magic sits outside, beckoning you to decipher its spells.

bizarre london england art gallery

Let your imagination soar at  Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities and The Last Tuesday Society. Check out their site for special events, and I encourage you to come for a glass of absinthe and tour with Viktor for a delightfully bizarre experience.

devil satan sculpture london chelsea

London turned out to be one hell of a destination for Halloween! There was plenty of spooky decor, food and attractions all around the city (I didn’t get to check out the London Dungeon or Jack the Ripper walking tour, but both were also recommended by local friends).

I leave you with some snaps from Chelsea. Skeleton and skull cookies from Gail’s Bakery, and a staring statue of Lucifer.

ouija board chocolates chocolate box

And how fabulous is this Ouija board box of chocolate, from Artisan du Chocolat? They also had pumpkin-shaped and flavored chocolates.

I still have another Gothic post from London to come, about Highgate Cemetery. And if you’re looking for Goth and alternative shopping, check out my Camden Market and Shoreditch guide.

Did you know that London had these dark attractions? If I missed out on anything, let me know in the comments and I’m sure I will be back in Britain soon.

Alternative Bucharest: a hip, street art walking tour! Rick & Morty Romania mural, travel influencers press trip.

bucharest grad na cinema capitol

Dark greetings from Bucharest, Romania! As you can see from my vampire fangs top, I was excited to be in the land of Dracula for the first time.

In Part 1 of my Bucharest series, I shared a Gothic photoshoot in a graveyard, and my speech at Experience Romania conference. This event invited travel influencers / bloggers / writers from around the globe, to discover the best of this Eastern European nation.

During the three-day event, the volunteers organized optional activities — including small-group walking tours led by Urban Adventures.

ombre gradient undercut hair haircut

Photographer Joey Wong and I signed up for the “Alternative Tour of Bucharest,” a three-hour walk that let us discover street art, emerging artists, and abandoned buildings in this beautiful city.

Our guide took us to historical gems like the Grad Na Capitol Cinema / Summer Theatre. It opened in 1912, but was damaged by a 1977 earthquake and then abandoned. Thankfully, the theater is now being re-vamped. I was glad to see the building maintain its classic arches and carvings, while looking to the future with alien-like street art.

(My hair got a makeover as well… love my slasher synthwave undercut by Chad Evans at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada.)

vampire girl outfit fashion clothes

Outfit of the Day: Since I was going to be in Dracula’s homeland, I couldn’t resist picking up this bloody vampire fangs cut-out top from H&M’s Halloween collection. This was only available during spooky season, but you can find a similar style vampire shirt here.

My long leather skirt is by Erbert Chong. It’s similar to this skirt, and this faux leather version. The sunglasses are Balenciaga.

rick and morty mural, house art

The sun was shining (in late October!), and Bucharest’s walls were a rainbow of street-art… The perfect conditions for a photoshoot.

I’m standing in front of one of my personal favorites. Who knew Romania had Rick and Morty mural? (This is the Adult Swim cartoon that follows genius scientist Rick and his not-too-swift grandson Morty on misadventures throughout the universe.)

urban adventures bucharest tour guide

The Alternative Tour is one of the many travel experiences offered by Urban Adventures Bucharest. (You may recall how I loved their underground tour of Athens, Greece.)

Once again, we had an enthusiastic, knowledgeable young guide who showed us Bucharest’s hidden and offbeat sides.

underground street art tour bucharest

Our guide Elena pointed out works by local creators, which you can spot on walls all throughout the city. This adorable pig-puppy creature is by AEUL. 

romanian pretzel romania covrig

Urban Adventures always incorporates local flavors into their tours. At the start, Elena handed us each a “covrig,” or Romanian pretzel to try. A bit like the simit I had in Istanbul, this is a delicious fresh-baked bread topped with poppy or sesame seeds. No wonder it’s a favorite snack among locals.

rick sanchez morty murals graffiti

“Quick Morty, **** did another one!” Looks like the drooling Rick Sanchez made a stop in Bucharest, between his space-flights to alien galaxies.

(If anyone can decipher the name of the artist who made this Rick & Morty Romanian mural, please let me know in the comments. Wubalubadubdub!)

vampire fangs lips shirt h&m

I was pleasantly surprised by Bucharest’s street art, which is colorful, edgy and well-executed. Urban Adventures took us to this stretch of wall with panels by different artists.

(If you’re digging my sunglasses, see more below)

hipster bucharest romania

A safe space for teens, with heavy metal upside-down crosses… rock on.

h & m halloween shirts tops dracula

Call me the Queen of Pentacles. (All photography by Joey Wong.)

bucharest street art graffiti

Romanian street art gets an A+ from me. The paintings on this wall were beautifully rendered.

h&m vampire cut out shirt

Even the graffiti tags around Bucharest add a vibrant energy to the city. (My black jacket is faux fur, as always.)

bucharest woman big mural sweet damage crew

The artists do a fantastic job at incorporating the natural landscape into their works. One of the most iconic Bucharest murals is this one by Sweet Damage Crew (Point Art Space, on Eremia Grigorescu street). It spans the side of an old residential building, and creates the illusion of a tree growing out of the painted trunks!

abandoned buildings ruins bucharest

Our guide showed us the exteriors of a few abandoned residences, which are a common sight around Bucharest. These crumbling urban ruins are fascinating examples of “beautiful decay,” which is the topic of another Urban Adventures walking tour.

h and m vampire top sweater halloween

I think I “dressed for the occasion,” wouldn’t you say?

Vampire cut-out shirt by H&M, similar to this top. Leather skirt is similar to this one, as well as this vegan leather version. My shoes are similar to these leopard print TUK creepers.

💖 If you’re looking for Gothic / alternative clothes like mine, click here. 💖

weird bizarre strange romania

You know you’re in the lair of Count Dracula… when a pedestrian walk sign becomes a vampire-hunter holding a wooden stake!

Speaking of monsters… it appears Bucharest has been infested by baby aliens with toes for limbs.

alien baby street art character bucharest

These little guys are hanging out and waving to you from various vantage points. They’re creepy-crawling over this hipster warehouse.

bucharest public art installations

Bucharest’s creative street art even has 3D components. I noticed a morbid noose hanging down, next to a sign that says The Void. 

equestrian statue of Carol I bucharest horse

In addition to modern urban art, we also got a taste of Romanian history. Elena took us to Revolution Square, framed by a statue of King Carol I riding a horse.

She pointed out bullet holes and fire damage on buildings, caused during the Revolution of 1989 that overthrew the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. Quite the moment to stand here, and see the balcony where Ceausescu gave his last speech. 

romanian fashion blogger, clothing

Is that… a speared, burned potato? An egg on a skewer?

It’s actually the Memorial of Rebirth: erected in 2005 to commemorate the people’s sufferings during the 1989 Romanian Revolution. Many complained that the pillar was too abstract to convey the meaning of the memorial.

Memorial of Rebirth bucharest pierced statue

In 2012, someone showed his/her frustration by throwing up a balloon of red paint, which stained the pillar. The “dripping blood of the pierced potato” remains there today… and adds a vampire vibe, if you ask me!

Bucharest’s architecture is full of enticing Gothic elements. These spooky faces are carved above windows and doors, to scare away evil spirits including strigoi (the blood-sucking dead that inspired the story of Dracula!)

gothic bucharest statues

This devilish, horned face in a circular plate caught my attention.

satanic goth romania

Someone gave this creature an orange eyeshadow makeover. Classic architecture meets glam rock: I’m into it.

h&m cut out top shirt vampire

Such a great way to see Bucharest’s hip, underground culture — and with a group of fellow travel bloggers / journalists / vloggers. Very grateful to Experience Bucharest for organizing this influencers press trip, which included three days of food, parties, tours and networking activities.

bucharest public parks gardens

I had the wrong image of Romania as a dark, somewhat unfriendly “Soviet / Communist” place. Bucharest reversed my expectations entirely. The city has a contemporary, cosmopolitan, European feel; much of the architecture is inspired by French and classical styles.

I was especially delighted by Bucharest’s public parks and gardens. They’re lush and beautifully designed — I couldn’t think of a better place to relax outside on a bright day.

black vampire stake crucifix

However, to my great pleasure… Dracula lurks in the shadows! I enjoyed seeing Goth elements like this black crucifix door handle to an Eastern European church. So death metal.

vampire dracula nail art halloween nails

As a “Dracula aficionado,” I got vampire nail art to match the theme of my journey. I spy a bat, coffins, fangs, bloody gradients, the evil Count, a skull… Bravo to Glam Nail Studio (award winning Japanese nail salon in Vancouver, Canada) for the intricate designs! These gel nails were painted by hand, by owner Keiko Matsui.

(By the way, feel free to Pin any of my photos to Pinterest. Just link back to my blog, and I’m @lacarmina on Pinterest.)

bucharest architecture school Ion Mincu University

Our final stop: a peek inside Bucharest’s architecture school (UAUIM, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism). Founded in 1952, the building has a modern design with a winding central staircase, and light fixtures reminiscent of honeycomb.

bucharest street style hipsters

Urban Adventures filled us in on a little secret… the back patio / rooftop area is decorated with giant murals. The helix and mathematical themes fit in well with school of architecture.

Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism romania

I relate to the little emo black cloud. Aren’t these Romanian artists talented?

h and m fashion blogger outfit halloween

My blood-dripping fangs shirt hints at only one aspect of Bucharest. I was glad to discover that this is one bright, artistic, hipster city.

bucharest tour company guide

Thanks to Elena and Urban Adventures Bucharest for the engaging underground tour. They also offer tours with food tastings, biking, dark side legends, history, and much more.

bucharest artisan Coffee Shop t-zero

A few of us were craving caffeine, so we went to hang out at T-Zero Coffee Shop. A delight to sip a flat white, beneath these spooky hanging mannequins (they have a Saw horror movie vibe).

I wanted to know if Bucharest had a weird, hipster, underground side — and was pleased with everything I found.

experience bucharest travel tourism party

Cheers to Experience Bucharest and all the volunteers who made this tourism event possible. They brought in a hundred travel / digital media leaders from around the world, to see what Romania has to offer. Shout out to S-Club Bucharest and Nomad SkyBar for hosting two of the group dinners and parties.

vampire fangs coffin gel nails designs

It was a dream to finally come to Romania and sink my claws into the vampire legends. Next, I’ll share stories of Vlad the Impaler, and a visit to Bran Castle in Transylvania.  

rick morty cartoon themed house mural

“Mortyyy!” I hope my street art walk revealed an unexpected side of Bucharest. Now it’s your turn to travel here, and “get schwifty” with Rick Sanchez!

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Visiting the Taj Mahal in Style: Tips for taking photos at sunrise! Entry fees, tickets & best photography locations.

what wear visit taj mahal sari

And… this is how you Taj Mahal in style!

Yukiro and I always travel fabulously, but I think we took it to the next level at the iconic mausoleum in Agra, India.

However, don’t expect to swing by at any time for photos like these. Visiting the Taj Mahal takes preparation, and a reputable local expert can help make the most of your visit.

Janu Private Tours, our brilliant guide throughout India, took care of all the arrangements for this perfect sunrise tour of the Taj.

female travelers instagram taj mahal india

Read on for travel tips on how to make the most of your visit to India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. We’ll share locations for taking the best photographs, and the story behind this romantic monument.

Be sure to read on to the end: there’s a bonus tour of Fatehpur Sikri palace, and Mad Max driving shenanigans in India!

taj mahal entrance gate

The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, one of the three prongs of the “Golden Triangle” route (along with New Delhi and Jaipur, which we also visited.)

Mr Janu and his team at Janu Private Tours have organized thousands of trips, and know how to help travelers get the best possible experience at the Taj Mahal. 

Unlike most tour companies, Janu customizes all itineraries, and provides a private car, driver and fluent guide for their clients. We arrived in Agra in the evening, ate dinner at a delicious Indian restaurant, and got a good night’s sleep at our 4-5 star hotel.

The next morning, our local guide Deepak was waiting for us in the lobby at 5 am, as sunrise is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal. A lady at the hotel helped us put on these saris, using only three safety pins each — amazing.

monkeys in india

Entrance fee, access and hours: The Taj Mahal is open daily from sunrise to sunset, except on Fridays.

We took a short walk from our hotel to the outer entrance of the Taj. Deepak helped us purchase our entry tickets for the Taj Mahal (1000 Indian rupees fee for foreigners, in cash). Then, we rode a golf cart-style shuttle to the entrance of the monument itself. (At sunrise, there are only a handful of visitors — not counting the monkeys!)

What to pack for visiting the Taj Mahal? I suggest that you bring mosquito spray, a bottle of water, a handheld fan, money in India rupees, and your phone / camera.

taj mahal best photography spots

Do you know the love story behind the Taj Mahal?

Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, was devastated by the loss of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal (she died giving birth to their 14th child). He was determined to build a magnificent mausoleum in her loving memory, which was completed around 1653. Shah Jahan spared no cost: the project would have cost around $830 US million today.

taj mahal entrance fee hours

As we walked through the gate and glimpsed the famous dome, Deepak told us about the Mughal architecture of the Taj. The complex is a masterpiece of refinement and symmetry, with perfectly proportioned lines radiating out in the four directions.  

photography locations agra taj mahal

Pretty much everyone tries to get a photo in front of the long reflective pool. However, it’s impossible to get clear shots like these, unless you come at dawn. 

It’s well worth waking up before sunrise to put on something special, and take unobstructed photos like these. After all, visiting the Taj Mahal is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience… you might as well “work it”!

sunrise visit taj mahal

As you can see, there are only a handful of visitors right when the doors open at sunrise. It also helps to come to India in the off season (we were here in early July, just after the high heat and before the monsoon rains).

I looked over at the meticulously arranged gardens, with the number of trees and partitions chosen according to numerology. For example, the division into four quarters symbolises the four flowing rivers of Jannah, or Paradise.

tourism tips taj mahal

What should you wear to the Taj Mahal? It’s always a good idea to cover your shoulders and knees out of respect to the local culture. If you decide to enter the mosque, then you’ll have to cover your head as well.

Many women wear saris to the Taj. Our (third gender) hijra friends from Jaipur gave us these phenomenal saris from Rajasthan, as a gift. The bright colors and light, flowing fabrics were perfect for the weather and occasion.

reflecting pool taj mahal sunrise

As you walk closer to the white domed roof, you’ll come across this second reflective pool, with a white bench in front. This is “the” famous photo spot, with a southern view of the Taj Mahal.

Be prepared for local photographers to approach you, and offer their services. We responded with a polite “no thank you,” since our fantastic guide did double-duty as a photographer! Namaste Deepak for all these images.

symmetry taj mahal architecture

Here’s another look at the architectural symmetry — isn’t the effect peaceful? The image of the Taj Mahal can be recognized worldwide: four minarets framing the tomb. The long pool perfectly reflects the mausoleum. 

visiting the taj mahal what to wear

Shah Jahan commissioned the best artisans to build the Taj Mahal, sourcing fine materials from all over India and Asia. The beautiful white marble and gemstone facades are carefully maintained today, as you can see from the scaffolding.

best time of year to visit taj mahal

I read about a travel Instagrammer who visited around the same time, and got in trouble for Photoshopping out the construction… Fierce poses require no editing!

indian women wearing saris

Yukiro and I loved seeing the lovely saris and styles worn by Indian women at the Taj. Notice that the group of women have red henna in the part of their hair. Such a unique beauty statement, which reflects their regional customs.

When you reach the platform of the mausoleum, you’ll be asked to take off your shoes. You can wear socks inside, or put on shoe covers that are provided (that’s what we did).

From a distance, the white marble of the Taj Mahal looks plain. Up close, you can see the intricate decorative elements: Persian calligraphy, and floral motifs made from inlaid gems. 

agra taj mahal mausoleum

The designs are understated and minimal, yet bursting with detail. I ran my hands over the remarkable marble carvings, which are precisely inlaid with gemstones like jasper and jade. 

semi precious stones marble taj mahal

Visitors aren’t allowed to take photos inside the mausoleum, which is designed in the shape of an octagon, and decorated with fine gems and lattices. You can walk around the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife.

The emperor wanted to build a matching Black Taj Mahal (how Gothic!) for himself. However, the spending had gotten out of hand — and after some family conflicts, his son Aurangzeb put him under house arrest at Agra Fort. When he died, Shah Jahan was buried next to his wife, forming the only non-symmetrical aspect of the monument (since her tomb was designed to be in the center).

unique photography taj mahal

Be sure to check out the two red sandstone buildings that flank the Taj Mahal. These are a mosque and guesthouse, designed for balance.

Shah Jahan mumtaz mahal

Even Yukiro looks tiny under one of the Taj’s four minarets. In the old days, the mu’adhin would climb up this tall tower five times a day, to give the call to prayer — quite the cardio workout!

agra mosque tower

Muslims come to the mosque on Fridays, as the complex is open for prayers between noon and 2pm.

women dress code taj mahal

Deepak pointed out a spot across the Yamuna River, where the emperor had planned to build his Black Taj Mahal (basically, a Goth version of the UNESCO site!)

black taj mahal, yamuna river

We highly recommend that you come to the Taj Mahal with an expert guide, as we did with Janu Private ToursYou’ll get so much more out of the visit: Deepak answered all our questions about the history and design, took care of the logistics, and helped us take photos from all the best angles.

mosque islam taj mahal

I developed a deeper appreciation of Indian architecture, after this trip. Just look at the harmonious detail above — the lines, arches, spires.

janu private tours taj mahal guide

Such a joy to see this incredible work of devotion, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

female travelers india agra

Sometimes, famous landmarks don’t live up to their reputation. This is not the case with the Taj Mahal. We both agreed that this was one of our favorite moments of our India journey.

influencers instagram taj mahal

Since we had so many great photos, I did some psychedelic edits for fun.

As you probably know, many Beatniks and Hippies were heavily inspired by Indian culture. In the 1950s to 70s, they traveled the “Hippie trail” overland from Europe through Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. Most had the goal of reaching India, or sometimes continuing all the way to Asia. With today’s political climate, this route is now impossible…

hippies beatniks india travel

On the bright side, flight prices are historically lower than ever, and online resources (like travel blogs!) make it easy for travelers to find information about India.

india military soldiers

If you’re an alternative or female traveler, be prepared for lots of curious (but good-natured) attention from locals. We usually say “no thank you” when people ask to take photos with us, but made an exception for the Indian Army Officers that guard the Taj Mahal. 

guards at taj mahal agra

Security levels were strong everywhere we visited in India. If you take regular precautions, you’ll have nothing to worry about when you come here.

psychedelic india hippie trail

Timeless, futuristic, the Taj Mahal is a work of genius. The translucent white marble even glows under moonlight!

Namaste Janu Private Tours for making this a visit we will never forget.

fatehpur sikri history jodha bai palace

If you’re visiting Agra, there’s another palace you must check out: Fatehpur Sikri. This royal city was founded in 1569 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and was the capital of the Mughal Empire until 1585 (due to lack of water in the area and political conflicts).

Jodha Bai Palace Fatehpur Sikri

We “royal ladies of Rajasthan” felt right at home here, since that was the purpose of the palace — to house the emperor’s three royal queens. One was Muslim, one was Hindu, and one was Christian. The Hindu consort, Jodha Bai, was his favorite since she was the only one who bore him a son.

jodha bai carvings architecture

Fatehpur Sikri has a playful vibe, as the emperor enjoyed playing games and living the high life. We toured the various buildings, decorated with carvings that reflect the religions of his three wives. 

india women dressed in saris

I leave you with some photos taken during our drives between cities in India. We enjoyed spending time with Mr Janu, and he was always happy to explain the unusual sights we saw on the road.

india women beggars begging

At one of the toll crossings, this female beggar and her child came to the window. (It’s advisable not to give money or food to beggars in India, as this exacerbates many problems including child abductions and abuse. Instead, I encourage you to donate to a reputable charity that helps those in greatest need.)

crazy india driving cards

Indian driving is notorious for being a free-for-all. Mr Janu’s drivers are experts who never honk the horn or make risky moves. However, that can’t be said for everyone you’ll encounter… This looks like a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road!

india public transport

Indian traffic and road conditions weren’t as crazy as I thought they might be. Still, sitting in a lotus position on top of a car takes nerve! (Yet he looks as relaxed as a Vipassana meditator.)

india tour private car

“Witness meee!” “I am awaited in Valhalla!”

holy cows crossing road india

When we saw this sight, we could only say one thing: “Holy cow.” Cows are sacred among India’s Hindus, and treated with great reverence.

satanic cow devil horns

This means that cattle are well cared for, and if they decide to sit in the middle of the road… all you can do is inch your way around them, or wait until they move along! (This one was our favorite since he appeared to have devil horns.)

custom private tour taj mahal agra

We’re so grateful to Janu Private Tours for showing us the beauty of Agra, and for the unforgettable tour of the Taj Mahal. 

I hope you enjoyed this very special travel story. You can follow our friend Janu on Facebook and Instagram as well, to learn more about how he can show you the best of India. 

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Gothic punk alternative shopping in London, England! Camden Market Cyberdog, hipster Shoreditch fashion.

kat williams rock n roll bride blogger

London calling! If you’re planning to travel to the English capital, this shopping guide is for you.

Read on for a comprehensive Goth  / punk/  hipster tour of London’s most alternative districts, Shoreditch and Camden! 

I was overjoyed to reunite with my long-time friend Kat Williams of Rock n Roll Bride (we went to Prague together years ago).

cyberdog store interior hats

We spent the day exploring two of London’s “youth culture” neighborhoods: Camden Market (Gothic punk rave) and Shoreditch (hipster and artistic).

If you’re in a shopping mood, this post comes at a good time because…

it's black friday clothing haul goth fashion

It’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday! From Nov 24-27, there are major sales on Gothic / alternative / kawaii clothing online. If you love dark fashion, I’ve rounded up some of the best deals for you.

❤ Some of my favorite Goth clothing brands — Disturbia, Killstar, Iron Fist, Valfre and Morph8ne — are currently having sales! (Click these names to see.)

You can also find tons of discounts at the following sites. Just check out the URLs below:

Dolls Kill  ❤ Amazon ❤  Hot Topic ❤ Kat von D  ❤ Sephora ❤Etude House ❤ Valfre

Feel free to share / re-post this to let your friends know!

Here’s a compilation of my favorite items. For details on these Iron Fist goodies, click the thumbnails:

If you’re a fan of Killstar – there are lots of sale prices here…

morph8ne dress dollskill black friday deals

Morph8ne – click for reductions.

Disturbia – #blackfriday #cybermonday promo codes below, and more here. Have fun!

fashion blogger house design decor living room

Here’s another version of my outfit of the day (shot in my apartment; more photos of my home here.) My skull and roses Gothic sweater is by Jawbreaker Clothing.  The light knit keeps me warm, and the Gothic embroidery design truly stands out!

I paired it with After Hours No Tongue knee-high leather boots by Sorel Footwear (this style comes in both redwood and black.)

camdenlock london, sai sai lolita

Now, back to my alt shopping guide of London UK. Kat and I started in Camden Market, the long-time hangout of British punks, Goths, metalheads and other alt youths.

To get here, take the tube (subway) — Northern Line to Camden station — and walk outside. You’ll immediately come across all sorts of alternative stores (such as the Gothic Lolita boutique, Sai Sai) and Camdenlock (where I stopped for a shot of fresh orange juice).

camden market tattoo parlors

The vibe reminds me of St Mark’s Place in NYC, but larger (there are over 1000 stores). I first visited Camden over 10 years ago, and was mesmerized by the scene. Today, this remains the go-to place for tattoo and piercing parlors, and dark fashion. 

camdon london uk goth punk stores

The storefronts are creatively decorated with giant shoes, elephant heads, dancing girls, and even a dragon that appears to be twisting around a building.

new rock boots shop camden

New Rock has a shop, with an entire wall displaying hardcore stomper boots and leather shoes.

camden market indie stores gothic

London was one of the earliest centers of Goth and punk subculture, with bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned, Alien Sex Fiend, and the Sex Pistols. These influences live on in various parts of the cities, but especially Camden Lock.

stranger things waffle pop up food truck

Camden is also a wonderful place for food, with lots of small stands selling ethnic cuisine, sweets, and creative takeaway. Kat and I saw a man at a Chinese fast food station, joyously singing “I’m a Barbie girl!”

When I visited, I encountered the Stranger Things pop-up food truck, which doled out fresh waffles. The lineup was too long, so I went around the corner and got a fresh ginger-lemon-honey drink that hit the spot.

alternative goth shopping guide london

Camden’s alt stores differ in quality. The main streets mainly have inexpensive souvenirs, so we gravitated to the smaller, inner alleyways. Here, you’ll find beautiful handmade goods such as this peacock feather neckline. Many of the shops are run by the designers, giving you a chance to meet them and make a custom order.

gothic lolita clothes london tainted prince

The shops are constantly changing around, but there’s always a great mix of underground styles. I  snapped these photos at Tainted Prince, a Victorian / steampunk / elegant Gothic aristocrat / kodona dressmaker. Kat and I also went inside a few K-pop streetwear and vaporwave / Tumblr aesthetic boutiques.

cyberdog robot statue exterior camden

My favorite Camden store remains Cyberdog, which seems to contain an entire universe of futuristic fashion.

Cyberdog blasted off in the 1990s, and continues to innovate with rave clubwear and high-tech accessories. The mothership (and largest store) is this one in Camden Market, located in a building that was once the living / rehearsal space of punk band The Clash.

(Cyberdog address: 842 Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AH, UK)

cyber dog store london england

Inside, you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from the Hackers movie. Two floors of clothing, jewelry, shoes and toys, lit up with neon lights and pumping with the sound of EDM.

ufo sci fi london store

The space was decorated with cobwebs and other Halloween elements for “Cyber-Ween.” I imagined I was being abducted by the UFO, and posted with the giant robot with flashing green eyes. 

cybergoth club party london

I was blown away by the staff’s attention to detail — their makeup and fashion skills were A++. The store goes all out to maintain an immersive sci-fi environment. Note the escalators with flashing rainbow lights and moving 8-bit characters! 

rave clubbing clubwear store london

True to its concept, many of Cyberdog’s designs creatively incorporate futuristic components. These include space-age fabrics (florescent, holographic) and tech (flashing lights, electronics, LEDs). On this wall, you can spot my light-up mini backpack.

london goths, gothic clothes

The sweet staff illustrate two of the many looks you can put together at Cyberdog. Whether you’re into Goth, Industrial, rave clubwear, Burning Man, flower child… there’s something unique to be found.

(The store also has relatively “normal” shirts with the mecha-devil-alien logo, for those who are less experimental dressers!)

mermaid unicorn glitter makeup

I first visited Cyberdog about 10 years ago (when it was in a smaller Camden location), and was delighted to see the brand maintain its subculture roots. The staff welcomed me enthusiastically, and I could tell they were truly passionate about underground music and lifestyles.

futuristic architecture glowing lights

The Camdenlock store is immense — I felt like I was exploring an extraterrestrial city. One section is adults-only, and dedicated to Cyberdog’s “Futurelovers” brand. Launched in 2012, it sells sex toys and fetish clothing (displayed in what appear to be alien pods!)

s&m fetish torture garden london

It’s amazing to see how much Cyber Dog has spawned, from a small Camden Market stall in 1994. The founders, designer Terry Davy and business manager Spiros Vlahos, named the label after their pet chihuahua, “Chichi the Cyberdog.”

maleficent devil horns headgear

The rave days of the 90s are over, but electronic / club music continues to evolve and thrive. Today, EDM festivals like Ultra are held worldwide, and Burning Man attracts record numbers. I’m personally loving synthwave (future 80s synth sounds) — this devilish headpiece would be perfect for a Perturbator concert.

cyberdog staff halloween costumes

From goggles to vinyl skirts and O-ring necklaces, the company has a huge selection of items. You can shop for everything from Cyberdog’s website (I remember ordering from their site in the early 2000s!)

cyberdog makeup led eyelashes

Cyberdog keeps a pulse on the latest beauty trends, such as glow in the dark makeup, and LED false eyelashes.

electric buddha meditation sign

There’s a section for home goods too, and gifts from the year 3000.

futuristic future fashion designs

I could see the Jetsons in these intergalactic dresses. And how about this fuzzy pink hat?

cyber goth dancers cyberdog

There were even live Industrial / club dancers in the store… and I wonder what those robotic arms can do.

cyberdog camden market interior

If you’re in London, ride a rocketship to CyberdogTheir Camden Market store is full of eye candy, and lets you dress (and feel) as if you’re in outerspace. 

cyberdog logo rave robots

The shop is easy to find: just look for these two silver robots guarding the entrance!

london goth metal fashion bloggers

Kat then took me to Shoreditch, which has become London’s “hipster neighborhood” in recent years. Quite a few alleyways are emblazoned with colorful murals.

To get here, take the overground to Shoreditch High Street, or take the London Tube to Aldgate, Bethnal Green or Liverpool Street and walk.

london halloween cute donuts

Shoreditch is the place to go if you’re into indie and vintage shopping. We admired minimal jewelry, and ducked into a Halloween charity shop. Kat and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of these spooky donuts by Dum Dums Donutterie (I spot a ghost, Frankenstein’s monster, spider, and zombie eye).

rock roll bride magazine kat williams

Be sure to stop by Boxpark, a retail complex made from shipping containers. There are lots of hip boutiques and pop-ups here, including The Ordinary (inexpensive science-based skincare). Kat’s holding a pink bag from Skinnydip, the London soft grunge / pastel cute brand (below is more info):

shoreditch hipsters street art

Located in the East End, Shoreditch has an eclectic, artsy feeling. You can find lots of ethnic food here, including a row of Indian curry houses that all claim to have won a “best of London” award.

mistress may poster mural

I was impressed by the street art that runs through Shoreditch. Many of the works have an ear to politics, such as this S&M commentary on “Mistress May.” 

queen elizabeth england shoreditch art

“I am an Immigrant” sits next to the Queen of England.

brexit protest art shoreditch

Young Brits have been pondering “Brexit?” ever since the unexpected vote to leave the EU. It’s fascinating to see the notes and art, scrawled in response to these current topics.

shoreditch hipster district graffiti

I’ll have to come back soon to spend more time in this vibrant neighborhood. I left before a taste of Shoreditch nightlife, but noticed some original themed bars (a circus-themed one, and a Ballie Ballerson ball pit).

london colored hair bloggers instagram

V-fingers for a fantastic day with Kat! (I paired my Jawbreaker Clothing skull and flowers wide-neck sweater with a leather biker jacket.)

rainbow hair alternative fashion bloggers uk

If you haven’t heard of Kat’s website, Rock n Roll Bride, you’re missing out. She features alternative weddings from around the world, from Victorian to glam rock. It’s the ultimate resource for anyone planning an offbeat wedding (or simply looking for inspiration), and also features Kat’s travel, lifestyle and fashion adventures in different countries. Kat also publishes Rock n Roll Bride print magazine, which we spotted in WHSmith and other British newsstands!

More from London to come — for now, here’s my previous Goth guide to London.

❤ And don’t forget to shop those Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals while they last!
❤  If you don’t know where to start, try Dolls Kill — and here’s a compilation of my top sales picks.

 

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