After featuring two of their videos, Bangkok Street Party and Pulled Noodles for our Film Feature, I just had to know more about them. Their Without borders, three chefs that traveled all around Asia exploring and experiencing local culture with food. I was luckily able to get an interview with them.
A quick introduction, my name is Michael Tieso of Art of Backpacking.com from New Jersey, USA. What are your names? And where are you from?
Hi Mike, our names are Chad Klyne, Clayton Klyne and Lyndon Wiebe. We are all originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. We all spent a few years living in Calgary, Alberta as well, and that is where we first met. Well Chad and Clayton are twins, and they met in their mom’s womb. (They probably had bunk beds in there too.)We spent over five years abroad and all lived in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand together. These days Chad and Clayton live up on the Gold Coast in Australia, and I have settled back in Winnipeg.
What is Without Borders? How did you come up with the name and what does it mean?
Without Borders is our own self funded food and travel series that we shot between Dec. 2008 and July of 2009. We went on a culinary adventure from Bali to Beijing, and ate, cooked and drank our way through ten countries and filmed our adventures along the way. It is an online travel series. We have over 35 videos in the award winning library ranging from 3 minutes to 10 minutes in length. Originally we started with ten trailers, one for each country we visited, just to give our audience an idea of what we experienced. Now we have moved onto individual segments taken from some of our favourite experiences. We have cooking segments, festival segments and various other videos from our travels. It is still a work in progress as we have over 100 hours of footage, so there are still lots more to come.
When most people think of Without Borders, the first thing that comes to their mind is Doctors Without Borders and the countless other charitable organizations that use that moniker. But for us, Without Borders was more of a statement of our lives at that time, when this project began. We seemed to lead a life Without boundaries, Without cares and without the conventional rules that most people live their lives by. We originally were thinking Chefs Without Borders, but then we didn’t want to be pigeonholed into just being a food show. Also, as it turns out, Chefs Without Borders is also a charitable organization based out of San Francisco. That would have been embarrassing. So it became Without Borders. We thought of it while we were all living in Melbourne, and I think, all living in one bedroom, due to our cheapness. Ugggh, gives me shivers just reliving that thought.
What was your inspiration to do this?
Our inspiration for it was simple. Employment, and we wanted become stinking rich from it. First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women or something like that. Our goal from the get go and even now is to get our own tv series, so we can get paid to travel and cook and have fun doing it.And, ofcourse, make lots of money off of our cookbooks and associated merchandise that comes with it. Just imagine it: Without Borders aprons, Wihtout Borders tshirts, Without Borders sweat bands,Without Borders haemorrhoid cream.(for those long journeys off the beaten track, where the there are at least to breakdowns), the possibilities are endless.Money,money,money.
Seriously though, we wanted to travel with a purpose this time round. We were 30 years old, and kind of felt like it might be our last hoorah together so we wanted to go out with a bang and do something completely different. We wanted to create an experience that would last a lifetime and we wanted to create an experience we could share with the rest of the world whether they liked it or not. Also, bad food and travel shows were our inspiration to develop something a little different. We had spent a lot of time travelling, just pissing it up, and not really seeing much of anything except the bottom of the bottle and the hangover waiting for us in the morning. We were all a little scared to return to our home land that we had been away from for so long and had no idea what the hell we were going to do when we got home. None of us really wanted to go back to the daily grind when we returned, so we put all of our effort into Without Borders to try and get our series off the ground. Our goal was to try and score our own series if possible by the time we returned to Canada, so we wouldn’t have to go back to working in kitchens again.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten?
Strangest thing we’ve eaten? Where to begin. How about a top 5 or seven or something.Not in any order, I don’t think. You can pick and choose which ones you like, or use all of them if you want to.
Tamilok- We ate this in the Philippines. Basically they really long worms up to like 2 feet in length that are found in mangrove trees. Technically they are molluscs, but they look like worms and taste like oysters. Pretty tasty but weird, especially when your slurping them up like spaghetti noodles and start choking on them because of the length and texture.
Balut- Again, another Philippine delicacy, but also found in other Asian countries. 17 to 19 day old duck embryos still in the shell. I think17 to 19 days is more of a suggestion and best eaten at that age. Chad and I ate some in Manila that were probably around the 24 day mark, and were fully developed, and really hard to eat. Clay got off lucky in Saigon, I think his was a proper one.
Cow Penis Soup. We found this beauty on the island of Penang, Malaysia.Clayton got the privilege of eating this one as Chad and I had already eaten something horrible the day before, though I can’t remember what. The thing was probably 8 feet long. We wanted to skip rope with it, but they wouldn’t let us. Torpedo soup it was called. Normally the seamen fire the torpedo, but this time the torpedo fired the seamen… right into Clayton’s mouth.
Assorted outdoor market treats, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After a long, hot day of touring around we went to the local market for some goodies. Clayton enjoyed the classic snake on a stick and Chad ate what looked to be a small fried baby sparrow(It’s mouth was still open like it was waiting for its mom to feed it some worms for breaky). I got picked to eat the crispy fried tarantula. After I shaved the hair off from its legs, I was able to eat it. Those treats had probably been sitting there for quite a few days cooking away in that 40 degree celcius temperature before we had the pleasure of eating them.
5 year old cobra. We traveled to the village of Le Mat, 7 kms north of Hanoi, Vietnam to eat some cobra. What we really wanted to eat was the heart. Unfortunately they were charging $40 US for one and that was all we could afford. We did rock, paper, scissors and I won. Good ol’ rock, never fails. It was the first time I had actually ever killed an animal, as I cut it open with a pair of scissors. They skinned the snake, removed the heart and the liver. The heart and the sliced open liver along with the blood, were all poured into separate glasses filled with vodka. That heart beat for over 30 minutes maybe longer, after it was removed from the body. I shot back the heart, and the boys each took blood and liver shots with vodka. They cooked us an eight course meal with the remainder of the snake and it was incredible.Mindblowingly good.The cobra heart is supposed to give you strength and potency and is a strong aphrodisiac for whoever drinks it. Unfortunately for me, I was once again sharing a room with Chad and Clayton that night. Uggggghh.
Lenny the 2foot Lizard. We were in Don Det, in Si Pan Don(4,000 Islands), Laos. It was my birthday and we wanted to cook something different. We found it. We went to a restaurant, and tied to a tree out back was Lenny. We came back the next day and cooked him. First they poured Lao Lao (strong whisky) down his throat to thin his blood or loosen him up or something, then they sliced the throat and roasted him on open flame to peel off the skin. After that, we sliced and diced him and made five different dishes out of him, all of which were pretty horrible, (as they used the wrong cooking methods for such a tough piece of meat) but worth trying all the same. My favourite was the warm blood stew, infused with lemon grass, lizard tail and bone, with pig’s penis. To die for.
E. Coli, Khon Kaen, Isaan Province, Thailand. Wow, is all I can say. Isaan is a province northwest of Bangkok on the Laos border. The land sucks for agriculture, so these people have had to eat anything they could get their hands on to survive. Anything. We tried some beauties. We had a tripe soup, made with chillies, and mud water and blood in a squeeze bottle. All you could taste was a barn. Then we tried Thai beef tartar of lack of a better word. Raw ground beef mixed with roasted rice for seasoning, fresh mint and of course more blood form a squeezy bottle.We had seen and eaten congealed blood in block form before, but blood,(pig’s. I think) in a bottle, used with casualness of a house dressing was something to behold. It was E.Coli on a plate. It tasted pretty damned good, but it was still pretty shocking. Oh, and then there was the ant eggs we ate earlier that day. They were pretty good too. Especially when they popped in your mouth.
What was one of your favorite foods and in which country?
Favourite foods? Oh man, that’s tough. Giseng Giseng, which literally means “Jump Jump” was one of our favourites. We did a film shoot at Kinabuch restaurant in Palawan, Philippines. That’s where we tried it; along with the Tamilok I had mentioned earlier. It was ground, pork, shrimp and chillies with condensed milk. In El Nido, we went to Mommy and Daddy’s canteen twice a day every day, and she made the best green beans adobo. You could never serve them in a restaurant here, as the acid discolours them so badly. They turn a horrid brown color, and you would probably get fired by your chef if you tried to send them out. But the flavour was unreal. Char Kway Tiao in Malaysia, was incredible. Anything from Thailand. Especially the smoked eggplant salad, and banana leaf salads we tried in the Sao Chingcha district of Bangkok. Bun cha from Vietnam, Nam Khao(fried rice ball salad) from Laos. Stewed turtle and Chicken Kung Pao in China. Honestly, the list is endless. Chad and Clayton probably have a lot more ot add to this, and I am sure there is lots I have left out!
We’ve featured the Bangkok Street Party on Art of Backpacking. Seems like you’ve had a real local experience there. Would you say you’ve gotten a better local experience because of the search of local dishes in comparison to the average backpacker?
We could not have gotten a better local experience if we had tried. Doing this project definitely opened up a lot more doors for us, in terms of getting in with the locals. We were surprised how much they loved the camera. For all the times we brought out the camera to ask if we could do a film shoot, I can count on one hand the number of times we were refused. Keep in mind we did nearly 40 or more food shoots, I believe and were only turned down 3 maybe 4 times at the most. It was incredible. Also, our drive to succeed and to do this project to the best of our ability, forced us to get out there to get that cool footage, and to come out of our shells and really make an effort to get to know everyone. It made for an incredible experience, but also made for good PR and getting the Without Borders name out there. There is no way that we would have even come close to having the same experience if we were just doing the normal backpacking circuit. Also, we took this project pretty seriously, so we didn’t have those big drinking binges that we are normally accustomed to when we backpack around. We wanted to be ready for anything, which meant we couldn’t be hung over.Very often.
On your website it says you guys had no filming experience prior to this trip yet the quality and editing is superb. How has the learning curve been? In summary, what are you using? What were some of the difficulties filming in the countries you’ve been?
Steep? It was a freakin abyss. The only thing we had shot prior to this really, was a skate board video filmed in Melbourne, just before we left. It’s really good by the way. The hardest part at first was actually just getting the nerve to pull the camera out and start filming. Even harder was still was talking to the camera in front of an audience. The first two weeks, we didn’t know what we were doing or even what we were supposed to be filming. We had no direction. On the last day in Jakarta on December 15th, we did our first film shoot. Chad went up and asked a local if he could show him how to make murtabak, and the guy agreed and Chad, even tried making one himself. Our microphone extension wire crapped out, so we had no boom for sound (a problem we would encounter many times), and everything had to be filmed up close to get the sound. It was nerve racking. But we did it, and it was a success. After that the jitters started to fade and we developed the cold call formula. Whereby we walk up to random street vendors or even restaurants and ask to learn how to cook the food while attempting to cook the dish ourselves. And of course, film the whole thing. In regards to filming, we learned to keep the camera still, to get b rolls or secondary filler shots, and to keep the camera rolling at least a few seconds after the person or action has stopped, so as not to miss anything. Then there was the sound. We had to practice all the time to get it just right, and of course remember to actually turn the microphone on. All of this of course, we learned the hard way. Usually afterwards, when we viewed the footage we thought would be amazing. That’s when we would discover it was unusable due to any one of the errors previously mentioned. So we kept working at it. With editing, we had to learn as we went as well.
We use Corel Video Studio 12. It’s a basic program, but it works quite well for us. We learned about fitting in b rolls, and transitions, and sound adjustments. The hardest part was usually deciding on which direction to take the trailers we were editing on the road. 3 heads with 3 different ideas, can lead to a lot of tension and a lot of frustration and a lot of wasted hours. Oh, did I mention we only had one computer? But before we could edit the footage, we realized we had to capture it as we went, and put all of that onto portable hard drives. We had 100 hours of footage by the end of the trip. After we captured it, we would take turns logging all of the footage. We didn’t know any other way, so we logged it to the second. One hundred hours, logged to the second. What a nightmare! After we logged for day, then we would edit. It didn’t always work this way though. Usually when we were editing a new trailer that was all we did until it was completed and uploaded onto Youtube. Sometimes that could be as much as 40 hours or more for one five minute trailer. It got faster and easier as time went by and we became more efficient. Everything did. Even after a new video was done it could still take another 4 days of dicking around and running back and forth to the internet cafe to upload it. Sometimes it took a week. Now, we all have our own computers, and we each have our own hard drives with all of the footage at our fingertips, logged and ready to go. It is a lot faster these days, and so are our internet connections. We shot with a Cannon HV30 HD camera, we used a Rhode directional video microphone, a wide angle lens, and a Manfrotto monopod, which doubled as our boom pole. We also bought a knock off steadycam which we bought from India, which I think we used a total of one time on our entire trip. Freaking waste of money!
I love watching your videos and the humor you guys add to them. Keep them coming!
Stay Connected with Without Borders by visiting the Without Borders website.