From drinking cow’s urine to eating tarantulas, Simon Yin sheds his inhibitions on Hidden Cities: Extreme.
WHEN Simon Yin agreed to be the host of Hidden Cities: Extreme, he confessed that it was based on two reasons.
“Insanity and stupidity,” he said during an exclusive phone interview with Star2. The affable American-born producer and former MTV VJ said the agreement with History Channel happened really quick.
“I had auditioned for the original Hidden Cities, but I didn’t get the part (Anthony Morse got the job). Then they e-mailed me out of the blue and asked if I would like to be the host of Hidden Cities: Extreme instead. I didn’t really think it through enough and just said ‘Yes’! I got the e-mail in June and then in July, we started filming,” said Yin, 37.
The 30-minute show premiered in 2012 and it chronicled Yin’s unorthodox journey across several Asian cities. His travel itinerary has seen him eating tarantulas in northern Thailand, compete against the locals in a water buffalo race in Bali, Indonesia and even take on champion Anita Woo in a horseback archery challenge in Malaysia.
Despite being incredibly seasick during a sailfishing adventure in Rompin, Pahang, Yin had fond memories about his time in Malaysia.
“I edited and put together the Malaysia episode. Then, I hear people laughing at the things we did on the show and that’s when I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this show is going to be good’.”
The show returns tonight with its second season and Yin is eager to share his new adventures with viewers.
“Every episode is so different. We try to do more challenges in every city.”
One episode will see Yin drinking cow urine in India.
“I literally took a bucket, put it behind a cow and let it pee into the bucket. Then I drink it. It was probably one of the most extreme thing things I’ve done for the show.”
While the host is proud of this accomplishment, it didn’t go down well with his mother when he showed her the episode.
“She asked why would I do these things. It’s not healthy and it’s bad for my body. She even said that I would die! But it’s a great experience and it’s something I’m going to remember forever.”
Yin even said he has some samples for us.
“I brought some (of the urine) back from India and you can let me know if you’re interested! I’ll send you guys some sample.” Uhh, we’ll have to pass on that.
Surprisingly, Yin didn’t name cow urine as the grossest thing he ever had to consume while filming the latest season.
“I tried coconut grub worm in Vietnam. You take it, dip into some vinegar wine mix and eat it raw while it’s still alive. You can feel the guts exploding in your mouth and it’s really disgusting.”
For those who are starting to feel bad about Yin’s culinary experience on the show, he shares that he is not alone in this process.
“Whatever I have to eat on the show, everybody on the production team has to eat it too. My director, sound guy and camera guy know about this rule.”
He added: “The rule helps with our brotherhood. It lets us know that we’re in this together and it helps us bond. We’re just four bros hanging out and being stupid, you know.”
From the challenges he performs on the show, Yin has developed a newfound understanding for the local customs. He cited an upcoming episode filmed in Indonesia as an example.
“They have this tradition called panjat pinang and it comes from a long history of Dutch occupation in Indonesia. So the Dutch set up this long pole and grease it up. Hanging at the top of the pole are items like food, clothes and tools. They will then sit back and watch the Indonesians struggle to climb the pole just to get the items.
“But what the Indonesians have done is turn the thing around and make it their tradition. So they will gather the community, climb the pole and then share the prize. I thought it was a very beautiful and meaningful tradition.”
Yin admitted to being emotional about the experience.
“So there I was and a number of other topless guys trying to climb a greased pole. The entire village came out to support our endeavours in trying to get to the top. It literally took us the whole day to get there and when we did, it was one of the best things that ever happened in my entire life.”
Yin hopes that his misadventures will inspire viewers to go out and experience the road less travelled.
“Just be careful because some of it can be pretty dangerous. I hope they go out, try it and then realise that everything will be OK at the end of the day.”
Apart from hosting Hidden Cities: Extreme, Yin is working on his next feature film. Previously, he directed Supercapitalist, a financial thriller released in 2012.
“I’m writing a musical, that’s my next passion project.”
But just don’t expect Yin to participate on the show.
“Will I be singing and dancing in it? I’m not, because that would be too extreme for sure,” he laughed.
> Hidden Cities: Extreme Season Two premieres tonight at 10pm on History (Astro Ch 555/HD 575).