Meet Mark Wiens, the Bangkok-based food blogger whose websites and YouTube channel have become go-to resources for people the world over—even locals!
I don’t need to cover restaurants or food just for the purpose of reviewing them. I try to make it clear that I’m not a restaurant critic. I just love to eat, and share the experiences in my own way. Having the freedom to produce content on a subject you’re passionate about, with a personal feel to it, is how I think someone can be trusted and build a loyal audience. A blog is about building a personal relationship with a reader, and not only just sharing inspirational content, but also offering content that is helpful and beneficial to the audience. When I understood how to benefit the reader, while still maintaining my own personality, that’s when my blogs started to grow and I was able to connect with a wider audience. It took a couple years, and it’s still a work in progress. Additionally, when many blogs expand they tend to hire writers or have a team of writers, and while I understand that can be a necessary part of growth, I think a blog flourishes when it has a definite person behind it.
I understand you’re a self-taught photographer and videographer. What got you interested in photography and filming?
I bought my first point-and-shoot camera when I started traveling, right after graduating from university (sometime in 2008). And due to my love for food, I naturally started taking photos of just about everything I ate. Food photography for me completely stems from my passion of food, rather than having a passion for photography, although I do really enjoy taking photos now as well. I think we always and continually need to try to new things and aim for growth in whatever we do, and making food videos is something I decided to try, without realizing how much I would enjoy it—both the filming and editing parts. Video is so engaging, and it’s such a powerful way to tell a story. I never would have known I enjoyed making videos so much if I hadn’t tried it out and experimented with video in the first place.
How did you shift from being a guy who loved eating and writing about Thai food to an ambassador of the country’s cuisine, even offering recipes for home cooks?
I started to realize that many of my readers would travel to Thailand and eat authentic Thai food, and they would return to their home country, and would want to cook and recreate the authentic tastes that they had experienced in Thailand. Since my mother-in-law is one of the best Thai cooks I know, publishing Thai recipes was a natural progression. That’s how I decided to start publishing recipes, in addition to restaurant reviews and tips. I plan to publish many more recipes, keeping the method of cooking, ingredients, and the taste authentic, just like you’d find the dish in Thailand.
What are some of your favourite neighbourhoods in Bangkok to go to for lip-smacking street food? Any secret haunts you can share?
Wang Lang Market has been a longtime favorite of mine, mainly because of its busy, yet still friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Within the labyrinth of Wang Lang Market you’ll find lots of street shopping, with an abundance of both street food stalls and local restaurants. Check out Som Tam Sida within the market, and also don’t miss the famous khanom tang taek (waffles filled with coconut or egg yolk candy) on the main market road opposite Siriraj Hospital. Yaowarat, also known as Bangkok’s Chinatown, is another place that never ceases to fascinate. The main Yaowarat road is a major tourist attraction, but if you get off the main road and explore some of the back lanes and alleys, you’ll discover a never ending array of incredible street food and old school restaurants that haven’t changed for generations. Finally, the Chokchai 4 Food Market (located just off Lad Prao, between Sois 51 and 55) provides a little bit of an off-the-beaten-path Bangkok street food experience. In the evening a cluster of street food stalls is set up, selling everything from satay to nam prik (chili dip), and along with lots of food to choose from, it’s just a wonderful street food atmosphere.
How do you find places to eat and document?
When I first started blogging and making videos about Thai food I would just go to the nearest street food stall and share the local experience. However, as time has progressed and I’ve grown as a person and food lover, I now often do a bit more research, usually on Thai food websites or forums. Another way I love to find places to eat is by local viewer suggestions and recommendations over social media. Also, I discovered some of my favorite street food stalls and restaurants by simply walking past, seeing that they were busy, and just stopping in with no prior plans to eat.
Over the past few years what have been some highlight moments?
For business, my biggest single highlight was earning my first few cents (and it was literally something like $0.03 at first) from advertising on my blog. It was that tiny amount of money that made me realize there was a potential to earn money on the internet doing something I was passionate about. On the other hand, when it comes to travel and food, there have been so many little experiences of hospitality and kindness that I’ve been the recipient of, which have been the most memorable part of traveling. Food is such a huge part of cultures around the world, and if you can genuinely appreciate a culture’s food, you can relate and connect to so many people. If I think about some of the best meals I’ve ever had, there’s often a person I can remember to go with it.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
My wife and I still have no kids, but having a family is something we are thinking about soon. At the moment we are quite nomadic, taking trips on the spur of the moment frequently. In 5 or 10 years from now, if we have kids, I think we’ll probably be doing a little less international travel, but I’d like to focus on covering more travel and food across Thailand—road tripping and finding some of the best restaurants and food spots throughout the kingdom.
Any other projects you’re currently working on?
I’m really focusing at the moment on growing my YouTube video channel, making videos about food based travel, and lots of Thai food. I’m also working on a Thai street food recipes eBook, but it’s a slow process since my wife and I travel so frequently. Additionally, I have a couple Thai food t-shirts that I wear and sell, but will be expanding with more designs soon.