Seven Wonders

Tokyo, Japan

INK: Inkrat Tattoo, inkrattattoo.comAny Tokyo tattoo trip worth a rusty yen would include a Horimono hand-poke tattoo. Every year, countless ink enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to Japan in hope of experiencing the country’s traditional tattoo. On your trip to Japan, do something different and get yourself a fine traditional American tattoo done right in Japan’s capital. In a Far East twist on tradition, Inkrat Tattoo in Tokyo specializes in classic U.S.-style artwork. “The Japanese style is still very popular here, but we love American traditional tattoos,” says Inkrat artist Hata, who works alongside Rei at the two-man shop. “We wanted to show people how great American traditional tattoos are, and we do our best every day.” The Inkrat studio is located a few blocks from the Koenji train station in Koenji, a Tokyo neighborhood known for used clothing shops. An hour of work will cost you 15,000 yen (about $140), and appointments are best booked two months in advance. Inkrat regularly features guest spots from top artists from around the world, including recent appearances by Mario Desa, Uncle Allan, and Chad Koeplinger. And don’t worry about getting lost in translation. Hata and Rei both speak basic English, as does the Inkrat staff. STAY: Shibuya Hotel Excel Tokyu, $200 to $250 per night, Tokyo’s youth culture is twisted and weird, like an ’80s cartoon on acid. The Shibuya Hotel Excel sits sandwiched between two gathering places for Tokyo’s flashiest: Harajuku Station, where girls dressed as Goth Lolitas and magna characters hang out, and Yoyogi Park, where clusters of rockabilly dancers get down. The hotel is also close to shopping and several subway lines, and staggering distance from a string of bars and clubs. Just don’t stumble into the street: The mind-boggling traffi c at Shibuya Crossing makes it one of the busiest intersections in the world.

SEE: The Graves of the 47 Ronin, free The Sengakuji Temple is famous for its graveyard, resting place of the famed 47 Ronin. When their leader was forced to commit suicide after an altercation with a court offi cial, 47 loyal samurai spent a year plotting revenge. In 1702, the team stormed the offi cial’s house, cut off his head, and returned to Sengakuji Temple to place the severed head on the grave of their leaderand later commit ritual suicide. The temple grounds are a two-minute walk from the Sengakuji subway station and include a museum and the graves of the samurai and their leader. Be sure to check out the blood-splattered stone where their leader committed suicide.

DRINK: Garage Land,

Tokyo is home to some of the best rock ‘n’ roll bars on the planet, one of them being Garage Land. Its sign, a knock-off of the Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks cover, lets you know what waits inside. With punk and rock ‘n’ roll spinning, boozers sit at a long bar or around a handful of tables underneath video screens playing vintage clips of The Clash and The Damned. Draft beers will cost you about $5, a relative bargain in pricey Tokyo. But pace yourself— Garage Land doesn’t close until 5 a.m

Bangkok, Thailand

INK: Wat Bang Phra TempleEvery day, hundreds of people trek by foot, bike, and car to Bangkok’s Wat Bang Phra Temple in hopes of being tattooed by Buddhist monks. Considered amulets of protection, tattoos are delivered by hand-poking the ink into the skin with large steel needles, each about 18 inches long. Monks at the temple tattoo on a fi rst-come, first-serve basis beginning at 8 a.m., and each tattoo takes about 15 minutes and approximately 3,000 strikes of the needle to complete. Visitors choose a design from a wall of symbols of protection and prayer then pay for the tattoo with an offering to Buddha of cigarettes, fl owers, or other small items, which can be purchased at the door. Just beware: Monks use the same set of needles on each tattoo, all day. Blood-born diseases are prevalent in Thailand, so try to be the fi rst person of the day. If possible, ask politely if you can lay down plastic wrap and use fresh ink. On rare occasions, the monks will allow you to bring your own inks. Andrea Elston, a tattooist from East Side Ink, in New York City, made this pilgrimage almost a decade ago. Although she only planned to have the back of her neck tattooed, when the monk suggested he continue across her shoulders, she bit her lip, and braced for the worst. At the end of the ceremony, the head monk blessed everyone and ritual smoke was blown out through the temple. “We all saw an unexplainable white light surrounding the monk,” Andrea recalls of the blessing. “It was an unexpected spiritual experience that no one could explain.”STAY: Royal Princess Hotel Larn Luang, $100 to $250 per night,

Located in the center of Bangkok’s historic Rattanakosin Island district, the Royal Princess Larn Luang is a reasonably priced four-star hotel with a pool and decent restaurants. The hotel is situated close to many of the city’s best sites, including Bangkok’s Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The remote location is a decent walk from the wild Khao San Road area, but the well-known name means any taxi or “tuk tuk” driver will know the hotel no matter how much you slur.

SEE: Muay Thai Boxing Matches, $8 to $32

Muay Thai is literally “thai boxing,” otherwise known as “the art of eight limbs,” a kicking, punching, and knee-smashing style of fi ghting. Don’t miss an opportunity to see it live. Matches are held at one of the many boxing stadiums in Bangkok, the largest of which are Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen. Both are centrally located and quite inexpensive. Cards include about 10 fi ghts; $8 buys a ticket in the stands and $32 will sit you ringside. Fights begin with a ritual ceremony and end after fi ve brutal rounds, or when a competitor cannot continue. One warning: Thai people take boxing seriously, so don’t be surprised if you’re surrounded by shouting fans frantically gambling on every fight.

DRINK: Khao San Road

The gaudy neon lights and blaring music at the crowded street stalls on Khao San Road are a magnet for backpackers and travelers looking for their next drink. Try Hippie de Bar, a small club loaded with glowing lights and Thailand’s take on kitsch, then head down the road to Gullivers, a Thai version of an American sports bar, or Brick Bar, a European jazz bar with a house band. Later, grab an ostrich satay from a street vendor and a pair of knock-off Nikes for the walk back to the hotel. Looking for the city’s legendary sex clubs? Take your chances in the Patpong area.

Lausanne, Switzerland

INK: The Leu Family’s Family IronThe Leu family is tattoo history’s honored and reclusive royalty. The nomadic clan has been tattooing for more than 30 years and spans two generations, beginning with father Felix Leu, who tattooed in Kosovo in the ’70s, and passed the trade down to son, Filip. After years of traveling, the family settled in Lausanne, where they founded the Leu Family’s Family Iron, featuring work by Filip, his wife, Titine, mother Loretta, and artists such as Rinzing and Wido de Marval. Filip spent several years traveling to learn under masters such as Horitoshi and Ed Hardy, and over three decades, the family forged an honored rep, mainly for traditional Japanese-style tattoos but also Indian and fantasy imagery that reflected the family’s travels. Filip specializes in full-body suits spectacular enough to send fans from around the world on return trips to sleepy Lausanne to fi nish 60 hours of work. So how do you get chair time with this legendary family? You don’t. With no website, no e-mail, and no known direct contact, it’s who you know that gets you in. Appointments are hard to come by and rumor has it Filip is already booked well into 2010. Your best bet: tattoo conventions. Family members have been known to pop up at them, sometimes unannounced or under fake names. Nobody said it would be easy.
STAY: Grand Hôtel du Lac, $250 to $350 per night,

Located just outside Lausanne on the banks of beautiful Lake Geneva, Grand Hôtel du Lac in Vevey is a travel destination of its own. Each room boasts an incredible view of the lake or nearby Alps, and the hotel offers a range of activities from sailing trips to hiking and horseback riding. A day of skiing, ice-skating, or snowshoeing is only a 15-minute drive away. Or, just admire the Alps from afar while sitting on your ass by the outdoor pool.

SEE: Château de Chillon, $12,

The Château de Chillon embodies the best parts of European history–warfare and dungeons. Expanded into a fortress in the 13th century, Chillon includes 25 buildings situated at the top of a cobblestone road that leads directly into Italy. Although known for its architecture (largely Roman and Gothic), the castle is also infamous for the prisoners once held in its bloody dungeon, including Lord Byron who lived here while writing his famous poem “Prisoner of Chillon.” Want something more peaceful? Lay fl owers at the grave of Audrey Hepburn, who is buried in Morges, about 15 minutes outside of Lausanne.

DRINK: Taco’s Bar,

Slip through the street-level doorway, down two dark fl ights of stairs, and through a heavy curtain to Taco’s Bar, a hidden basement pub and music

venue. Taco’s is equipped with several bars, plenty of seating, and pool tables crowded around brick columns. A stage in the back regularly hosts bands (mostly rockabilly) and Texas blues-rock, but you might catch a Celtic rock group now and then. The bar stocks a long list of beers, including a massive selection of delicious Belgian beers, and serves a Swiss version of Tex-Mex food. Want some gruyère with your nachos?

Moorea, Tahiti

INK: James Samuela’s Moorea Tattoo, mooreatattoo.comTahitians didn’t just help invent the tattoo, they also invented the word. The traditional Tahitian tattoo is created using a comb with three to 20 needles

carved from shell, bone, or shark’s teeth that is tapped with a wooden stick to drive the needle and the ink into the skin. The sound created by the process (“tat tat”) inspired the Tahitian word tautau. James Samuela is one of the few remaining tattooists still practicing traditional Tahitian methods. At his shop on the island of Moorea, a seven-minute fl ight or 30-minute ferry ride from Tahiti, Samuela fabricates his own instruments from a tree branch, fi ber string, and wild boar tusks acquired from a local hunter. Although he was born in Tahiti, Samuela studied art in Paris before returning to his homeland to learn Polynesian tattoo methods. “The most important point is that I learned the basics from them, like symbolism and the ancestral traditional technique,” says Samuela. “However, the way I tattoo today is the result of developing my own technique. The technique I developed to carve the tools allows me to be more creative in my work. I think I’ve created a better and sharper tool.” And once Samuela is fi nished pounding in your ink, he’ll even give you the handmade comb as a souvenir.
STAY: Te Nunoa Bungalow, $250 per night,

Tattoo Travel Tip No. 109: Try to stay near the shop you’re visiting. That way, you won’t wind up lost in a back alley and miss your appointment while searching for someone who speaks enough English to give you directions. Tattooist James Samuela and his wife, a Tahitian travel agent, opened Te Nunoa, a private rental bungalow located next to their Moorea Tattoo shop on the island of Moorea. The bungalow includes private access to the beach, a barbecue, kayaks, and bicycles. Visit Samuela for some fresh ink and you’ll only be a few steps from a hot shower and some painkillers when he’s fi nished.

SEE: Marine Life Tour, $50 to $300,

The waters around Moorea are loaded with marine life, including several species of shark, and the island is considered the best in French Polynesia for whale watching. Several companies offer boat trips for about $50 that will let you observe sharks, stingrays, and even whales (during humpback whale season from July to October). If you want to get closer, sign up for a snorkeling excursion where you’ll feed stingrays ($75) or visit the Moorea Dolphin Center and swim with dolphins (about $300). Don’t like water? Register for an ATV ride around Opunohu Bay and up to Belvedere Lookout, a peak offering a 360-degree view of the island.

DRINK: Tahitian Feast at the Tiki Village, about $130 per person,

Playing with rum, fire, and knives usually ends in a trip to the emergency room, but Tahitians are pros at mixing all three. The Tiki Village on Moorea is a recreation of a thatch-roofed Polynesian village built on the edge of the Lagoon of Haapiti. The Village plays host to nightly Tahitian feasts, complete with performers who carve Tiki idols, make leis, and demonstrate traditional Polynesian dances and music. Fish, chicken, and pork are cooked in an underground oven while you down rum punch and prepare for the fi nale–a performance by Tahitian fi re and knife dancers.

Cairo, Egypt

INK: Street Tattooers of the Cairo SoukWhen it comes to tattooing, Egyptians are the true old-school. Wall paintings in tombs and temples suggest that tattooing there dates back to 2000 B.C., and Egyptologists have discovered female mummies adorned with blue-black markings. Street tattooists in the souks (street bazaars) of Cairo date back to 1800 A.D., and many of the stalls there today have been in the same place for centuries. These tattooists line the streets with design sheets and prices laid out on carpets, which also serve as their workspace. Designs are mostly Christian, including the Coptic cross and images of Mary, Christ, the crucifix, and various saints—each for a few dinars. Tattoos are crude at best, applied in the same manner they have been over the last three centuries (a single needle dipped into a mixture of Indian ink is tapped into the skin), and there are no safeguards against blood disease. That’s not your only risk. The souks are dangerous places, for locals and foreigners alike. Learn to say “La” (“No” in Arabic), be firm with the locals, and remember: No street vendor or bathroom attendant will ever have change. Keep in mind that in the Arab world there is a potential fee for everything. Even taking pictures of a quiet street will lead to palms held out for money. And remember what mom always said: Don’t go with anyone you don’t know, don’t take items from strangers, and stay off the camels (their owners charge one fee to get on and a significantly larger one to get off).
STAY: Mövenpick Resort, $200 per night,

A mile from the Great Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, the Mövenpick Resort at the Cairo Pyramids will quickly become your sanctuary after a day in the

chaotic streets of Cairo. The unique layout features a bungalow village buried amongst lush gardens, providing an oasis of calm where you can relax by the pool, hit the sauna, and play tennis or racquetball. Throw yourself into a long day of sightseeing in the frenzied streets then enjoy dinner at the garden restaurant or rooftop bar with a full view of the pyramids laid out in front of you.

SEE: Nile Cruise

Cairo is crowded with cool and creepy things to see including pyramids, tombs, and temples. To cover as many as possible, take one of the many

Nile cruises. Available in a range of 7- to14-day adventures, cruises are allinclusive, with adequate sleeping quarters, meals, translators, guides, and ground transportation to each site. Begin in Cairo, where a private car will escort you to the incredible Cairo Museum and the Great Pyramids at Giza, and then board the boat where you will travel by night and sightsee by day. Stops include the temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, the Temple of Horus at Edfu, the temples at Karnak and Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings, where 500 years of rulers are buried.

Nightlife: Sound and Light Show at the Giza Plateau Pyramids, $8

Cairo is one destination where you’ll want to save your drinking for the hotel bar and instead put your evening to good use by taking in the Sound and Light Show at the Giza Plateau Pyramids. The hour-long show plays three times a night in multiple languages and tells the history of ancient Egypt through the use of fl oodlights, lasers, and special effects set to a booming soundtrack. It sounds hokey, but there is something eerie about sitting in the moonlight near these monuments and listening to their story. Bring a sweater or blanket since the desert cools off at night.

Melbourne, AustraliaINK: Moving Pictures Studios Australia’s tattoo history is traced through the life story of 65-year-old Bev Nicholas. In the ’60s, a 19-year-old Nicholas (then Robinson) received four tattoos in a single night and toured the country as “Cindy Ray,” a pinup girl and sideshow attraction billed as “the classy lassie with the tattooed chassis.” Later, she married and stumbled into tattooing. “I really didn’t have any choice,” she remembers. “My ex-husband had a tattoo shop on the waterfront and he got into a fi ght one night. He broke his hand and said, ‘Well, you can tattoo.’ It’s quite ironic, really.” She has been tattooing for 46 years and owned Melbourne’s Moving Pictures Studios for 38. Over the years, Lyle Tuttle, Ed Hardy, and Ms. Mikki have all made the pilgrimage to see their friend. Kenny McPharlane, who bought the studio from Nicholas three years ago, decided to show his admiration for her with a large mural depicting her modeling days. Its artist, Mark Walsh, is now an apprentice, joining tattooist Adam Tibbitts. Nicholas, an animal lover, is passionate about tigers: “Every time somebody comes in and says they want a tiger, I run out and get the folder of them!” Nicholas is the fi rst to tell you she doesn’t act her age, and at the party for her induction into Lyle Tuttle’s Tattoo Art Museum’s Tattoo Hall of Fame, at the St. Louis Old School Tattoo Expo 2006, Nicholas was dared to ride down a fi ve-story slide. “They said I wasn’t game enough to do it, but I went off like a rocket in my ball gown,” she laughs.STAY: Jasper Hotel, $170,

Flopping on friends’ couches and fl oors is easy on the fi nances, but sometimes traveling in style is worth it, especially when you can afford it. Melbourne’s Jasper Hotel is an affordable boutique hotel within walking distance of the city’s best sites, such as the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, and the National Gallery of Victoria. The Jasper is all about atmosphere; the corridor on each floor is saturated in a different color, while the rooms are done in relaxing neutral tones. Plus, the hotel’s Jasper Kitchen serves better food than you’ll fi nd in your friends’ fridges.

SEE: Old Melbourne Gaol, $16,

Victoria’s oldest surviving prison was built between 1841 and 1864, closed in 1929, and now stands as one of Australia’s most haunted sites and the scene of 136 hangings, including the country’s most infamous outlaw, the bushranger Ned Kelly. Try the Crime and Justice Experience where you’ll be arrested in a police station, put on trial, and walked down the road to the gallows. Later, view the hangman’s box, and don’t miss the death masks, which are used to predict criminal behavior based on the study of phrenology. Think you’re tough? Test your constitution on an eerie candlelit night tour.

DRINK: Madame Brussels,

Madame Brussels is named after one of Melbourne’s original and best-known brothel owners, a former sweetheart of the Duke of Edinburgh who opened her fi rst brothel in 1879 at the age of 28. Now a bar, Madame Brussels gives off a wacky British vibe, including lawn tennis and fruit punch among the fake indoor grass, little pathways, and a hedged bar. Hit the Grotto, a room just beyond the garden gate that boasts more than 20 of the world’s fi nest rums. Host Miss Pearls oversees regular events including barbecues and garden parties, an Alice in Wonderland bash, and useful workshops, such as “How Not to Drink Wine Like a Wanker.”

Amsterdam, Netherlands

SHOP: Tattoo Peter, tattoopeter.nlThroughout history, any seaside port crawling with sailors, from Hawaii’s Hotel Street (see page 48) to Amsterdam, was rife with places to get stewed, screwed, and tattooed. Amsterdam’s legendary Red Light District is one of the few of these areas still operating. Along streets where prostitutes dance in windows sits Tattoo Peter, one of Europe’s oldest tattoo parlors. The storefront was opened more than 50 years ago by Pier de Haan, a one-legged artist from a small fi shing town outside of Amsterdam, who set up shop here after years of lugging a battery pack and a tattoo gun to bars in a search for sailors who might be talked into an on-the-spot tattoo. Haan sold the business to Eddy Wertwijn in the ’80s, and Wertwign still runs the basement shop in its original location, a short walk from Centraal Station. These days, Henk-Jan Teunissen and Bill Loika lay on the old-school work, pulling from panels of original handpainted fl ash covering the walls of the tiny shop, while Peter Toornvliet specializes in modern lines and abstract ideas. Visit the shop early (it closes at 8 p.m. most nights) then hit the streets to take in the eye candy.
STAY: Hotel Arena, $250,

Throughout its almost 120-year history, the Hotel Arena has played host to everyone from orphans to the elderly to Iggy Pop. The original building opened in 1890 as a Catholic orphanage, was taken over by Germans during World War II, and later converted into a home for the elderly in the ’50s. In 1982, the Amsterdam Municipality transformed the building into a youth hostel with 600 beds and held concerts in the former chapel (acts included Oasis and Iggy Pop). Now a private hotel, the site contains ToStay (the hotel), ToDrink (the café), ToDine (the restaurant) and ToNight (the nightclub).

SEE: Bulldog Coffeeshop,

The streets of Amsterdam are fi lled with “coffeeshops,” local speak for a place where you can smoke pot, and the Bulldog chain is like Starbucks. You can fi nd better and cheaper weed but you won’t beat Bulldog for convenience and consistency. Fill your pipe at the Bulldog Palace location in Leidseplein, the city’s nightlife district. In the ultimate pothead irony, the two-story Palace is built in a rehabbed police station and fi rst opened doors on April Fools’ Day in 1985. Tolerate the tourists long enough for a quick laugh (or stoner giggle), then puff, pass, and hit the streets.

DRINK: Absinthe

Thanks to the hallucinogenic, additive wormwood, the alcoholic drink absinthe has been blamed for brain damage, mental problems, and Van Gogh’s earchopping mishap. Banned worldwide in the early 1900s, the original version of the licorice-fl avored liquor is once again legal in the Netherlands.

Absinthe Bar, located in central Amsterdam, serves a variety of the mildly mind-bending versions, but if you want the real experience, visit Boorsma, Overmars, or other local liquor stores and pick up a bottle of Duplais Verte. Just don’t blame us if it’s a bad trip.

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