Encounters Winter 2012
From the blue waters of the Maldives to the natural bounties of Mozambique, our regional travel magazine, Encounters, takes readers on rich journeys that are up-close and personal.
Passion for fun: Janet Hsieh Yi-fen
Always on the move, the prolific TV host tells Tracey Furniss about her lifelong love of travel
Television travel host Janet Hsieh Yi-fen is always up for an adventure or challenge, as seen over the years in the popular TLC show Fun Taiwan, Fun Asia, Fun USA, and more recently, Fun Taiwan Challenge. There were 11 seasons of Fun Taiwan alone, which won several awards and saw Hsieh discovering some amazing places in her parents' homeland. Born in Texas, in the United States, Hsieh is a trained musician, having played the violin at the White House when she was only 10, and across Europe, Argentina, Taiwan and the US. Hsieh speaks five languages fluently, all of which came in useful when she followed her passion for travel by quitting her modelling career to present the travel show Fun Taiwan. She is filming the second series of Fun Taiwan Challenge, which airs in Asia shortly.
What was your biggest culture shock? I cried when I arrived in India for the first time. I was lost, I had no money, it was late, and I drank some funny water which then gave me the runs. I was late and going to miss my flight, and I was alone. And there was no toilet paper.
What do you miss most about the US? I feel like I should say that the things I miss the most about the US are my family and friends but, honestly, I miss my Tex-Mex, Cajun crawfish, steaks and barbecues. Sorry, mum and dad, but you are a really close second.
Where do you feel most at home? I can feel pretty much at home in a lot of places. Hotels with room service, fresh laundry and a made bed every day - perfect. But since I've moved into a new apartment, which I designed myself, I have been feeling quite attached to the place, so it does make me happy when I enter it. I just wish I had the room service, fresh laundry and a made bed to go along with it.
What do you never leave home without? I never leave home without toilet paper. Always have toilet paper. And my baby pillow. It's 32 years old.
Has there been a time filming when it hasn't been as fun as it looked? I don't mind the grit, the dirt, the sweat, the long hours, the waiting or the travel time. But the filming becomes less exciting for me when it's repetitive or when there is too much politics within the team. Then, there's too much focus on the bureaucracy and too little on the travel experience.
Which comes first on your list of favourites - music, modelling or travel? Travel, travel, travel. I love music and modelling is fun, but I tend to enjoy both of these even more when travel is incorporated as well. Learning music from different cultures and taking photos in exotic locations ... yes please.
What has been your favourite meal ever? Don't make me choose my favourite meal, please. That's not fair. I love food too much to choose just one meal.
Wish list for next series ... finish the title - Fun xxx Fun Galaxy! Space travel? Sign me up.
Do you prefer a tropical or snowy Christmas holiday? Holiday? What's that? At this point, I'll take what I can get. But I do like to switch it up every now and then, so if I'm in a tropical climate, I love white Christmases and of course, who could possibly forget their first tropical Christmas in Brazil, where Santa Claus wears a hat with his board shorts and his elves are in bikinis.
What has been the most fun activity in the Fun Asia / Taiwan series? As crazy as it may sound, I loved that we fed, sans cage, 40 bull sharks in Fiji. I nearly s**t myself in fear as 10-foot [3.3-metre] long bull sharks grazed my head, looking for some fish heads to eat, but it was also one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. One that I'll never forget and will try and convince everybody around me to try at least once.
Which famous personality would you like to take around Taiwan or Asia, and why? Brad Pitt. Why? Because he's Brad Pitt.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Perfect happiness. I don't necessarily believe in perfect happiness.
How do you spend your down time? I love to eat, so whenever I have some down time and my friends still remember who I am, I'll organise a small get-together at a favourite restaurant, try out a new place or even wander around the night market. I also love to read, catch up on movies and TV shows. Currently addicted to Game of Thrones.
Where will you be in 20 years? I have no idea where I'll be 20 hours from now, let alone 20 years. But I can only hope that I'm still travelling with my family and friends, tasting yummy foods, meeting new people, making and sharing adventures and experiences. Hopefully, I haven't been eaten by a bull shark.