For a while now I’ve been wanting to interview my good friend Mark Wiens of Migrationology for our celebrity travel addicts series, and here it is! Mark is one of the web’s most prolific travel food bloggers and hosts, bringing the flavors of Asia to life through his web episodes and travel guides for food lovers. We love Mark’s candid love of food, and especially how his passion relates to so many of us who believe food to be one of the main reasons to get out there and see the world. Mark is the author of the popular e-book 101 Things to Do in Bangkok. Migrationology.com is consistently ranked in the Top 50 Travel Blogs. Without further ado, here’s his q&a.
How has your multicultural heritage influenced the way you travel and eat?
It has impacted me hugely. My mother is American born Chinese, so my family typically ate Chinese style food when I was growing up. Additionally, my parents are and were quite adventurous, both traveling and trying new things, so they really nurtured my love for food and travel.
How many days/weeks are you traveling in any given year? What are the types of places you like to cover?
Probably about 6 months per year. I like to cover everything from small cities to huge cities, as long as they like to eat there… which I believe is almost everywhere.
What is it that you want audiences to gain/ learn from your videos?
The first thing is that there’s nothing I enjoy more than learning about other cultures through their food, and so as I travel, I hope to spread and share the information I learn with readers. Secondly, I want my audience to be able to experience a destination for themselves, so when possible I attempt to add helpful details about how they can go there or do that.
How many countries have you visited so far?
Name your top gastronomic destination and give us your ‘Top 5’ list for the destination
- Walk around and explore whatever you discover
- See some nature. As huge as Tokyo is, it’s not difficult to get some fresh air at parks or even climb some nearby mountains.
- Go somewhere to get a bird’s eye view of Tokyo, the city skyline and quantity of buildings is mind-blowing
- Admire the seafood at Tsukiji fish market
- Eat as much delicious food as you can
Is there a place you find yourself returning to again and again? What about it is so alluring?
Bangkok is my home base right now, but even before living here full-time it was a city I kept coming back to, largely in part due to the food. Bangkok is a never ending city of food, from street food carts on every single corner to nice modern restaurants. One of the many things I love about Bangkok is that you can find food from all over Thailand, from delicious salads and grilled meat from the northeastern and northern regions, to fiery coconut milk curries from the south.
Your favorite travel movie?
It’s been a while since I’ve watched a travel movie, but anything having to do with food I enjoy.
Favorite restaurant in Bangkok?
Favorite restaurant in the U.S.?
I’ve been out of the US for quite a while, so when I go back I look forward to small motherly Mexican restaurants and Ethiopian restaurants.
Korean Air so far
City with the friendliest people?
Favorite traveling companion?
Kindle, Nook, or i-Pad?
Your top three favorite dishes?
Southern Thai sour turmeric soup
Indian goat curry
Malaysian ikan baker – roasted samba fish
Something you’ll never eat again.
Crystal baozi – Baozi are Chinese steamed buns (which I love)… but after buying it, I found out crystal boazi is the version filled in the center with chunks of pure fat.
A destination with cuisine that surprised you the most?
Tokyo – Ok, I knew of course going to Tokyo that I was going for the Japanese food and I had high expectations before I went. But even so, the food still blew me away. The quality, care, and precision that goes into Japanese food in Japan is exceptional.
Where is the most exotic place(s) your career has taken you?
Hmmm, maybe Congo Brazzaville… but I went there before taking on this career, when I was with my parents as a kid.
Your best piece of travel advice?
Eat local food – not only will you experience the culture you’re visiting, but when you go to local restaurants it will present many opportunities to meet interesting people and to learn many things.
What are some challenges associated with a career in culinary travel?
Figuring out how to earn money to support my family, planning for a destination, stability, being productive – these are just a few of the challenges.
What are five things you could never travel without?
Hot water boiler (I drink a lot of coffee and tea)
Power outlet strip – my wife and I charge a lot of electronics
Only 1 – 2 changes of clothes
Your ultimate foodie dream destination?
Chengdu – I can’t wait to go there for the food
What can other travelers learn from you?
My hope is that we all can not only learn about people and cultures through food, but that we can also use food to break down differences and to really appreciate others – food is powerful.
Your favorite travel quote?
“He that has never traveled thinks that his mother is the only good cook in the world” – Kenyan proverb (Note: I still think my mother is one of the best cooks in the world, but there are lots of mothers in the world)
Where to next?
Not totally sure yet, but I’m hoping to do some more traveling mostly around Asia – Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore. I’m going to be working on lots of new videos, and along with covering travel, I’m hoping to expand into Thai street food recipes.
Mark Wiens has had a passion for food all his life, and he’s been traveling full-time with a purpose to eat since 2008. Check out his delicious food travel adventures from around the world, and his latest Thai street food discoveries and recipes. You can also watch his food videos on YouTube.