In pursuit of off-the-wall adventures, Simon Yin has experienced some pretty wild things like camel racing in Inner Mongolia and free diving for gold in Indonesia – all in the name of good TV. The gregarious host of History Channel’s Hidden Cities Extreme gives Travel 3Sixty° the inside scoop on Season 2 of the show.
Compiled By: Chitra Santhinathan Images: History
WHAT IS HIDDEN CITIES EXTREME ALL ABOUT?
It’s all about exploring new destinations, conquering fears of the unfamiliar and kicking some butt while I’m at it! I get to meet people from all walks of life and experience their city and culture to the EXTREME.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF SEASON 2?
We visit more cities, participate in crazier stunts and I take my shirt off a whole lot more! Highlights include getting massaged by a naked man, eating worms (and having their guts explode in my mouth), and blowing up a car!
HOW DID A PRE-MED / BUSINESS MAJOR WIND UP ON TV?
I was just not destined to be a doctor or a businessman. I started my career as an investment banker, but the 16-plus hour days behind a desk just weren’t my thing, no matter how much money I was making. One day, I came across an advertisement in the local newspaper for a comedy class and decided to check it out. The rest, as they say, is history!
HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT WHEN YOU TOLD THEM YOU WERE GOING INTO THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS?
My mother cried for 10 days after I told her I quit banking to be an actor. But, after she was through crying, she patted me on the head, gave me a hug, and said, “I gave you a good life, don’t ruin it.” Now that I am on TV, she says that I got my personality and quick wit from her, and she lives vicariously through me and my travels!
WHAT MAKES YOUR JOB EXCITING?
I love hosting the show! It’s as if this show was made specifically for me! What’s exciting is the fact that no two days are ever the same. I get the opportunity to experience different things and do stuff people have never even heard or dreamt of! It’s such a pleasure for me to be able to share these experiences with everyone and I hope it inspires people to get out there and have an adventure of their own!
HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD AN ADVENTUROUS STREAK?
Not really, but have I always been extreme? Yes! In fact, so extreme, that when I was a baby, and I cried, rather than giving me milk, my mom fed me chicken wings to make me happy.
DO YOU EVER GET NERVOUS BEFORE A SHOOT?
I don’t usually get nervous before a shoot, but sometimes, when I’m actually about to do something extreme (i.e. stupid), a little nervousness does set in. My stomach cramps up, I get dizzy, sweat drips down my face and I hyperventilate, but in the end, I steel myself and just do it!
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU’VE DONE ON THE SHOW THAT YOU WOULD NEVER ATTEMPT AGAIN?
The two episodes we shot in China were the toughest because we got down and dirty with the local folk! A goat was slaughtered by the locals at every single location we visited in honour of our presence, but the smell of boiled goat carcass and intestines was just too much to stomach! And on top of it all, the locals kept offering me shots of their local brew, bai jou, which I couldn’t refuse. So, if you watch those episodes on TV and see me slurring, now you know the reason!
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR COOL WHEN THINGS DON’T TURN OUT AS EXPECTED?
I don’t keep my cool at all! I go into the van, have a mini temper tantrum, throw some stuff around, jump up and down, and then, I come out and we get it on! Actually, on a show like this, you have to be prepared for things to go wrong. I’m mentally prepared for stuff to hit the fan, and when it does, it doesn’t surprise me at all and I just roll with the punches.
HOW MUCH OF THE SHOW IS SCRIPTED?
There is an outline to every episode and I always loosely know what is ‘supposed’ to happen. I say ‘supposed’ because things change. However, everything I say on camera is impromptu with the director throwing facts at me as we go along. And of course, the stuff that happens is not exaggerated for the cameras. I’m definitely not a tough dude and if you see me squealing and running away like a little girl on camera, believe me, it’s for real!
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BASE YOURSELF IN HONG KONG?
When I first came to Hong Kong, it opened my eyes to the rest of the world. In the United States (Yin was born and bred in the US), we are all very content about the way things are; it’s like we’re in our own little bubble. But once you get out of that bubble, you realise that there is a whole new world out there and that is when life starts to get interesting. I feel so at home here, it’s almost the best of both worlds, really. I don’t feel the pressure to fit in as I did in the US, yet at the same time, I can still be proud of my American roots while still being me.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE DESTINATIONS?
Mumbai, Manila and Hanoi. Mumbai because the city is beautiful and India is just a place that you have to see for yourself; Manila because I simply love the Philippines and its people, who are some of the friendliest on the planet; and Hanoi because it has the best food. I kid you not.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL WHEN YOU TRAVEL?
A positive attitude.
Don’t be a tourist! When you’re visiting a new city, be sure to get a taste of local life by checking out local cafés, markets and restaurants.
Be flexible. You don’t have to plan every day to the millisecond. The unexpected can be magical.
HIDDEN CITIES EXTREME 2 premieres February 25 on the HISTORY channel. Check with your local cable TV service provider for time.