By Jocelyn Lee
He was one of Singapore's most accomplished television hosts but MediaCorp artist Bryan Wong took a break from variety programmes for nine months last year to host a travelogue.
For the new travel programme Destination Most Wanted, he travelled to places such as Bhutan, Nepal, Italy and Japan.
The show is currently showing on Channel U every Tuesday at 8pm.
The 38-year-old, best known for hosting the popular Channel 8 lifestyle show City Beat (1995), struggled with his decision initially.
At a recent interview at eatery Seasons Reasons in Raffles City Shopping Centre, he said: "I was worried that Singaporeans would forget me if they do not see me on screen for a long time."
But now that he is back from his travels, the boyish-looking bachelor with the megawatt smile is happy he took the leap.
Wong, who won Best Variety Show Host at the 2006 Star Awards and has been hosting for more than a decade, said: "It was a good opportunity to go to many countries and I had not done a travel show on my own before. Also, the producer told me that I should let viewers see the more sensitive side of me."
1 You said that you had a great time when you went to Bhutan. What is it about the country that struck you the most?
I had wanted to go there long ago. When I was there, I was in awe of the scenery. It is very beautiful as there are many snow-capped mountains and I simply felt that nature is the most beautiful thing in the world. Also, the people in Bhutan care most about happiness and not so much about money. When I was there, I felt spiritually enlightened and at peace with myself.
2 Which place left the deepest impression on you?
It is definitely India's Varanasi River, which is considered the religious capital of India. Many Indians take their dead relatives' bodies there for cleansing and burning as it is a holy city. Initially, I was strongly against going there because I am a superstitious person and I felt that seeing dead bodies would bring me bad luck.
However, when I reached there and saw so many bodies, I somehow managed to overcome my psychological barrier and learnt to accept death as it is. I felt that I could not escape from life and death, and that was unforgettable.
3 What is the biggest difference between your show and other travelogues?
Destination Most Wanted categorises the episodes according to themes such as markets, rivers, caves, islands and many more. For example, in the river episode, viewers would get to see rivers from India, Britain and Japan and see the vast differences and contrasts among the rivers from all over the world. Other travelogues usually group the episodes according to the different countries.
4 Did anything exciting happen on a trip?
Yes, when my production team and I were in Darjeeling, India. We were there to film the making of tea in the tea gardens, and when we were leaving, a violent strike was about to take place and we had to leave the mountain immediately.
On our way out, many people who were stuck there kept thudding on our vehicle and wanted to get onto it.
We were scared and flustered, and I thought I would be stuck there forever. It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me.
5 What preparations did you make for hosting this travelogue?
I didn't have much time to prepare or go to the gym to build up my stamina. Instead, I went out to buy a big suitcase so that I could fit everything in.
6 What lessons did you pick up from the experience?
Being able to see the world has made me a stronger person. I have learnt not to be so materialistic because not everything is based on money. Now, I am learning to strike a balance in my life and trying to decide between wants and needs.
7 Having hosted live shows, variety programmes and travel series, what other shows would you like to do next?
I am happy with what I have done so far. However, I have never appeared in movies before and would love to do that, even if it is just a small role. I think seeing myself on the big screen will be quite fun.
8 Complete this sentence. If I could live my life all over again, I would...
Be a television host. Without this job, I wouldn't even have the chance to go on these trips. Travelling has made me understand and learn a lot and I feel very happy now.
Destination Most Wanted is on Channel U, every Tuesday, 8pm.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.