Migrationology’s Mark Wiens is a Thailand-based street food addict with a passion for eating and travel that rivals only the walking stomach that is Raffles. With a legion of fans following his cultural travel adventures on his fabulous blog and tens of millions of views on his extremely popular YouTube channel, Mark is one the internet’s most prolific and successful travel food bloggers… and a genuinely lovely guy.
After bonding over a belly full of street eats at Phuket Old Town’s Walking Street Night Market, he’s also Raffles’ street food superhero and new buddy. Here they’re talking about their mutual favourite topic, travelling to eat! Over to the boys…
It was really fun to meet you in Phuket and to explore the Old Town Walking Market with someone who likes to eat ALMOST as much as I do!
My mum is a travel writer and a great cook. I’d have to say she is the main reason I love food and travel so much. How have your family influenced the way you travel and eat?
Just like you, my parents and my extended family, have had a huge impact on the reason I love food and travel so much. For travel, I grew up with my parents living in a couple of different countries including France and DR Congo, and so that’s why I still enjoy traveling to this day. And for food, I don’t know of anything my family enjoys doing more than eating!
You live in Thailand, what made you decide to move there from America?
After finishing university I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I found a cheap plane ticket to Bangkok. From there I traveled around Asia for about 6 months and then ran out of money. I then returned to Bangkok to meet a friend and I ended up getting a job teaching English. Then I met my wife, and I’ve been based in Thailand ever since.
Do you have a favourite city in Thailand for food?
Thailand has a huge diversity of food, from the north to the south. And because I love all the food from across Thailand so much, Bangkok is the city where you can get food from any part of the country.
I need to get mum to take me to Bangkok then.
What country in Asia, outside of Thailand, is your favourite food destination?
That’s a very tough question, but I think I will choose India, because I love spicy food that’s full of flavors. And India is one of the most exciting countries in the world for food lovers.
I love Indian food so much, the spicier the better.
You love street food, like me. What is your top advice for safe eating at street vendors.
Try to eat at street food stalls that are busy with customers and serve fresh cooked food. Also, take a look at the stall and see how it looks. Sometimes the hygiene at a street food stall just doesn’t look good, and you should listen to what your instincts tell you.
Great advice. That’s what we do.
You can find some pretty whacky stuff in street markets. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
I typically love to try anything I’ve never tried before, so I’ll try just about anything from tarantulas to raw pig’s blood soup. There’s a dish in northern Thailand called “loo,” which is made of raw pig’s blood and you eat it with raw slices of kidney.
OK, you win. I’ll try most things but pig’s blood soup sounds pretty full on even for me.
You have like a gazillion subscribers on your Migrationology YouTube channel, which I love. What made you decide to start your own show?
I started off blogging and taking photos, but I didn’t think that captured the atmosphere and action of eating street food. So I started just making simple videos about street food to capture the food, ambiance, and emotion of eating.
Cool, we have a YouTube Channel too and I’m launching my own travel and food series on it very soon. Stay tuned!
If someone gave you $500 to eat one meal where would you go?
Japan. You could easily spend that money on a meal in Japan, and you know the quality would be worth it.
Take me with you!
If you only had $5 to eat a meal where would you go?
Indonesia. For less than $5 you can eat a huge meal of rice and a variety of incredibly delicious curries.
Another one for my bucket list.
Speaking of which, I have a bucket list of all the places I really, really want to travel to eat. Right now my top 5 includes eating my way through a fromagerie in Paris, scoffing dumplings on the Great Wall of China, gobbling ceviche in Mexico during Dia Des Los Muertos, gorging on bunny chow in South Africa and taking down a deep fried tarantula in Cambodia… Do you have a place on your food bucket list that you want to go to more than anywhere else?
I have so many, but at the top of my list right now is going to Chengdu (Sichuan Province of China) to eat the spicy, and mouth numbing (from Sichuan peppercorns) cuisine!
Sounds really exciting and yummy, can’t wait to read all about it. Thanks for the chat Mark and hope to see you again soon.