Gwendolyn Tan is a food loving social media queen, working in international social media management across Asia. Currently based in Melbourne, Australia and originally from Singapore, Gwen spends a lot of her time travelling the world chasing the newest flavours and sights from her favourite places.
Gwen currently manages the social accounts of some of her favourite food spots from around Asia, while working with a collective who offer some of Asia’s top food vendors a home to display what they’ve got to offer. One of these places is HWKR street food, located in the heart of Melbourne. Gwen’s current travel goals are set on exploring the land down under, and experiencing all Australia has to offer. From the vast open deserts, bustling laneways, award winning beaches and unique flora and fauna Gwen has a lot of travelling ahead to see all that Australia has to offer. We had a quick chat with her about some of her top suggestions for places around Asia to grab a bite to eat, her ideas on how travelling impacts creativity and how she thinks travel is changing for the solo millennial.
Places been: Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia
Going to next: Probably Adelaide, Australia. Maybe I’ll go in February too because Fringe Festival is on then and they have some really incredible international acts I’d like to see. And pretty good food too.
Ultimate travel tip: Plan where you want to go in advance. It helps having an itinerary, especially if you’ve not been to the place and you only have a few days. It helps you build up the excitement too.
Favourite country in Asia for food: Japan has the best food for sure. I don’t really have a specific place in mind, but I suggest the fish market (Tsukiji I believe). One of the most interesting foods I’ve eaten was raw horse meat sushi. It tasted way better than it sounded.
As a creative person, do you find that travelling inspires you? Which destination have you found has inspired you the most and why?
Definitely. I love Japan the most. Tokyo was a great place with amazing food and culture. They are very advanced in technology and you get to learn quite a bit. I went to Akihabarai and there were so many interesting and new things. One night I went to a Robot cafe which my friend recommended I go and see. It was amazing how the people had choreographed their performance with the robots and got me thinking about the future of people and machines. Another place I thought was cool but bizarre was the maid cafe, where there are girls dressed as traditional western maid who you can take photos with and drink interesting teas.
Taiwan was another place I found which was very rich in culture and again, had crazy delicious street food. I went to the museum of strange things and I got to see really weird creatures like (alive!) three-headed turtles and fish with two mouths. These experiences are etched in my mind, which could become useful whenever we need some creative ideas for campaigns!
What advice would you give to anyone travelling to Australia for the first time?
Plan ahead and do a bit of research. Travel with someone who can drive too because you’re going to need it for all the road trips. Some of my favourite road trips in Australia are the 10 day trip around Tasmania, driving up the East Coast of Australia, and many of the beautiful drives in Victoria all within a couple of hours of Melbourne.
How has your experience moving to a new country impacted your view of the world and how you travel?
I would say I became more open. I feel that my ideas are more accepted here compared to my home country. Melbourne is a very creative city. It inspires me everyday, from its streets to culture to food. I am also more independent than I was previously. I feel like I can be more creative now and express myself better.
How do you think social media has changed the way young people travel? How do you think it’s changed the way we experience food when we travel?
Those travel videos on Facebook and Instagram Stories and posts makes people want to travel. There’s this travel bug going around when you see amazing and beautiful snaps of a certain place. We save these posts so we can revisit them or they could be a reference when travel to that particular destination. It’s kinda like a bucket list (I’ve done a similar campaign that saves IG photos where you can build a bucket list). For food, obviously we’d love to save those social posts we want to eat. #foodporn is one example of how people who love social media + food came about. We travel with our smart phones and updates our friends/followers almost instantaneously wherever we are. E.g. If I’m at the Grand Canyon, I want people to see that I’m there and share the beautiful sights. I saw a friend share her snaps on Grand Canyon a couple of days ago. I was so jealous!
What advice would you give you travellers who want to take more creative photos, see more creative places, or embrace creativity in a new way?
No advice. Just be yourself! Capture whatever you feel will tell a great story. If you want to experience wild and crazy things while you’re overseas, obviously the experiences you have will affect your capacity to take crazy photos (like the one I took when I went skydiving). If you’re into more calming, relaxing travel, then find your niche and stick to it. I think authenticity is important because we travel for ourselves, not the camera or the internet. If you’re having a good time, and experiencing what you want to, then just so happen to capture it in a photo – that’s going to be so much more valuable than trying to plan your trip around pleasing the internet.
Travelling with friends, or allowing yourself to meet new people along the way can often be the best way to discover new and creative places. If something is underground, it’s underground for a reason. The more you talk to people and explore, the more you’ll learn and discover. Also, travelling to places where you might not speak the language isn’t always an issue if you’re good at making friends or know how to use technology. I find that no matter where I go I can always find someone who can speak English and Chinese (I speak both) as well as the local language. We help each other out. Otherwise, the internet has really good translation apps, and oftentimes you can pick up on social cues to work out what’s going on.
Written by Stefan Petersen.
This week at chozun 途赞, we’re taking you on a ride on one of the world’s most envied metro systems. Why? To celebrate the 10th and 12th of May: world train week! We’re looking into one of the world’s best Metro systems – Hong Kong’s MTR and it’s sweetest surroundings. We cover some of the most awesome, underground, must see spots in Hong Kong. As with many of the world’s top cities, Hong Kong’s metro allows you to access many of the city’s sweetest spots.
Around central station there are some of Hong Kong’s most popular and unique bars, cafes and activities. The bars and breweries we recommend the most in the area include stock market based bar Wolf Market, Ce La Vie terrace, Ashley Sutton’s Iron Fairies Bar, 65 Peel for some crafty Hong Kong brew, and NYC’s iconic Hong Kong sister PDT (Please Don’t Tell). One of our favourite coffee spots in Hong Kong is Elephant Grounds, which is not only based near Central, but can be found near Admiralty station, Causeway Bay station and Sheung Wan station. If you fancy some creative flair with your caffeine dosage, Leo’s Espresso offers remarkable and instagramable 3D coffee art. The espresso bar is located roughly halfway between Central station and Admiralty station – so either stop will allow you to witness Leo’s incredible work.
Central station is also only a 8-10 min walk from Peak Tram stop from which you can access the remarkable viewing points and hiking tracks at Victoria Peak. If you’re around Admiralty station, Peak Tram stop is even closer. If central station wasn’t offering enough already, you are only a brisk 10 minute walk from the city’s beautiful Zoological and Botanical Gardens. If you’re looking for a quick and easy bite to eat, Hong Kong is famous for it’s Cha Chaan Teng‘s, authentic no-frill eateries. Our top Cha Chaan Teng recommendation near Central station would have to be Lan Fong Yuen. Open since 1952, it’s no wonder the pork buns are to die for.
Situated in the epicentre of Kowloon, it’s no surprise that Tsim Sha Tsui station offers some of Hong Kong’s most iconic scenes within a 10 min walk. These include fantastic views of the Symphony of Lights (also accessible from East Tsim Sha Tsui station), Harbour City Mall and Temple Street Market. Tsim Sha Tsui Station also leads directly to Victoria Harbour where there are ferries across the bay, and incredible city skyline views. Kowloon Park 九龙公园 is also a short walk from the station and provides some sanctuary from the busy street, with Tai Chi, swimming pools, stunning flower gardens, a large tranquil lake with flamingos and an exotic aviary.
If you’re after a drink, Eye Bar rooftop offers exquisite views of the city and delicious beers and cocktails. If you’re in the mood for an alcohol free coffee fix, N1 Coffee & Co is one of if our favourite spots. Our top Cha Chaan Teng recommendation near Tsim Sha Tsui station is Relax For A While – their congee menu will bring a tear to your eye.
Causeway Bay is best known as the dynamic and fast-paced retail heart of HK. It’s dived between Eastern and Western quarters. The Western quarter offers luxury malls, department stores and boutiques. It’s Eastern end is filled with a bargain hunter’s dream where they can explore Jardine’s Crescent street market. If you’re in the mood for a drink with a view, Skye Bar is a must. If you’re into the cuter, quirkier kind of experience, Rabbit Cafe is the answer to the infamous cat cafes of Japan.
Causeway Bay station is also conveniently located a brief walk from tranquil Victoria Park 维多利亚公园 where they offer popular Tai Chai. Various meeting points are in close vicinity too, including Hong Kong Central Library. Our top Cha Chaan Teng recommendation near Causeway Bay station is Yee Shun Milk Company. We can never go past their traditional HK milk pudding.
Sheung Wan is in renowned for it’s chill vibes, street art, numerous cafes, eateries, bars and markets. Based west of the main business district, the station is directly connected to the Macau Ferry Terminal. Hollywood Road and Cat street Market, and Graham Street Market are the perfect places for antique shopping – we’re sure with some luck you’ll find treasure you never knew you even needed! The station is a 5-10 min walk from the local heritage Man Mo Temple.
If you’re someone with a sweet-tooth, Oddies Foodies dessert bar offers some unique and delicious treats including liquid nitrogen cookies and cream bites! If you’re after a refreshing afternoon aperitif, The Old Man is one of your top picks. Our top Cha Chaan Teng recommendation near Sheung Wan station is Hoi An Café, which was incredibly founded in the same year as Central’s infamous Lan Fong Yuen. The buns and baked goods are a gift from the gods and the main reason we head to Hoi An Café.
Offering free wifi, navigating the MRT is easy as both Google maps and Apple maps plan your journey for you. Otherwise, you can grab an physical map from a local station or download the MRT App. You can also observe the in carriage displays that tell you what stations you’re approaching. It’s best to avoid the rush hours of 7.30am to 9.30am and 5pm to 7pm on weekdays as the MRT gets quite hectic. There are usually trains running very two to ten minutes between the hours 6am to around midnight or 1am.
The main options for using the MRT are buy grabbing an Octopus Card, Tourist Day Pass or Single Journey Pass. Hong Kong also has efficient bus, ferry and tram services – but for convenience we don’t think it gets better than the MRT. Other important trains in HK include the Airport Express Line, a special Disney Line, and a light rail network for the northwestern part of the region. Train directly to China’s mainland are also just a stone’s throw away!
The sister act that brought you Hong Kong Getaway Private Tour makes your acquaintance this week, with inside knowledge from Co-founder, Mandy Cheung.
Mandy begins to tell us…
My sister Apple and I have delivered more than 1,250 tours since starting out four years ago. As born and bred Hong Kongers, yet fluent English speakers, we discovered that all the mainstream tours in Hong Kong were either provided by expat/foreign tour guides or commercialised, big tour companies. If you want to see the real Hong Kong that we love, then we’re the perfect companion.