Penang Top Female Photographer Win Win Chew
Penang Top Female Photographer, Win Win Chew’s assignments have taken her all over Asia, shooting people, places, and exciting foods (magic mushrooms included).
Win Win’s dream is to travel with her doggo Blackie.
Many pet lovers have the same dream, just you and your pet going places to experience an adventure together.
Before the pandemic, Win Win’s assignments were short of breathless to me.
She carries up to 15kg of gear depending on the assignment, and that’s a lot of heavy lifting.
I remembered my old canon with two lenses that I took to Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai, just a little bag – maybe 5kg and I was suffering quietly.
Most people see the travel photos and go Awwwwwww.
Behind the scenes is a challenging story.
Travel writing and photography are glamorous.
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However, few readers realize that the team (writers, photographers, and crew) need to jump-start to start traveling and shooting the moment they land.
Jetlag and time zone are the biggest challenge.
As Win Win sometimes needs to cover inflight shots, sometimes she doesn’t get to rest during the flight.
Once she landed in Mauritius (wee hours Malaysian time) for an assignment, the friendly host didn’t understand it was just their dinner time.
It was a struggle for her and her writer to stay awake as her host piling them with food and telling them, “the night is still young ladies!”
Wearily, they only wanted to have a quick meal and head to bed.
Win Win told Dory, “We really need to have early starts for work the next morning!”
She has experienced extreme weather typhoon in Jeju, summer heat in Australia at 45°c, and Vietnam – climate and weather are manageable.
Nothing more challenging than tight timeframe + time zone differences
Let’s find out more about our Penang Top Female Photographer as she narrates her travel tale and tips to Smart Dory.
I freelance for the food and travel magazine, Foodsion from 2013 – 2018.
My outstanding photography work for Georgetown Heritage Festival in 2015 got me spotted by Air Asia’s Magazine team, travel 360.
I was hired as their freelancer from 2015 – 2018 and turned full-time for Air Asia from 2018 until today.
Above all Win Win Chew is all about – Creating Win-Win Situations
1 Dorm or private room?
I rather sleep in a storeroom size small room than a dorm – because I am a light sleeper, I am loud when I move around in the room, and I snore loudly when I am exhausted!
I can’t sleep in peace when I share a room with strangers, either.
I will be easily woken up when there’s someone just checking in the middle of the night.
I will stay awake for the rest of the night, OR I will be automatically alert when there’s someone near my locker!
Since I always have to wake up super early in the morning for all my assignments!
I have to tiptoe and be really quiet.
I really need a peaceful rest for a full energy day!
2 What are your packing essentials for a solo trip?
Sunglasses and sunscreen lotions.
Sun is my best friend for a good photo.
I am always out and running about shooting whenever the weather is good!
My essential medications include flu, fever, and diarrhea, or any minor discomfort, so I don’t need to wander out alone at night to buy some meds.
Techwise – power banks and rented portable Wi-Fi dongle.
I rely on Google Maps, google docs, and as I need to communicate with the office often.
I need to make sure my phone always has power.
Muscle relief oil is a must – good for long-distance walking sore feet and tired shoulders carrying heavy equipment backpack.
I also carry a clean XXL-size rubbish bag – a raining poncho / as a temporary cover to my equipment. It helps separates my worn and wet clothing from clean, dry clothing.
3 How much do you plan in advance vs. how much do you leave up to spontaneity?
If I have limited annual leave, limited budget, but still desperate for a trip. I would say a 90% planned trip.
On the other hand, if I have a good number of annual leave and no worries about spending money, I will revisit a certain place or go off spontaneously.
4 Do you call yourself a traveler or a tourist?
I like this saying “It is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
It is a journey, even though I hated the tour guide having to drop us at the duty-free plaza for 2 hours.
Or how I love to observe the morning buzzing life at the muddy and smelly local fresh market.
Either way, I would find myself immerse and learn something interesting about that place.
I would love to experience the cultural difference.
5 Do you prefer hot, cold, or temperate places?
Cold! Basically, I can’t function well over 30°c.
Plenty of times, I have to work under the super-hot summer heat.
In Taipei, just ten steps walking from the Hotel entrance to our tour bus, my shirt is already drenched wet!
Summer in Vietnam, women are all wrapped up like mummies during the daytime, and they are only active after dark!
Had super contrast weather in Australia, I had nice cozy weather of 14-21°c in Melbourne and a crazy heatwave of 42°c in Bendigo, Australia, just 160km away from Melbourne.
6 Do you prefer to walk, take public transport, or take private vehicles?
If the weather is good, I love walking.
If I want to have a taste of the life of a specific country, I will take public transport.
If I am carrying my equipment bag and limited time to travel, I will definitely appreciate private transport
7 What’s been your scariest moment?
During one of my assignments, oh my jerking up a few times from my nap in our 6 seater SUV – we realized that we have a crazy hell driver, speeding at 160kmph.
He was tailgating big trucks up and down, along the winding curves highway in China!
Me and colleague, I really thought at that moment that this is the final assignment of our lifetime, buckled up and prayed hard we would arrive safely.
I remember someone at the front passenger seat told him off bout his driving behavior, and he just stared at that passenger and took his eyes off the road to ask, “Are you afraid of a fast car?”
8 What has been the most exciting food or ingredient you’ve tasted?
“Wild Matsutake Sashimi” definitely blew my mind off!
I was on this Wild Mushroom Market Kunming assignment in China.
One night, we have to cover a five-course wild mushroom and fine fungus dining!
But mom always says, “all mushrooms are poisonous when they are raw!!!”
How could this be?
I had Matsutake Sashimi for the first course (gulp) at that moment, and I am already planning how to faint gracefully if I had Mushroom poisoning.
So that night, I ate the most varied, most beautiful/weird looking, and some of the most expensive mushrooms and fungus ever!
9 Which country makes the best coffee or tea?
Any Fresh Brew Masala Chai in India and Vietnamese Egg Coffee (Ca phe trung) in Hanoi!
I had tried to search for good Masala Chai locally; sadly, I can’t find any similarity to the taste in India.
Hanoi’s well-known Cafe Giang’s Egg Coffee should be on every coffee lover’s bucket list!
Even non-coffee lovers will fall in love with it.
Instead of regular milk foam, it was replaced by whisked egg yolks!
The unique ultra-creamy foam doesn’t taste the egg and stiff, strong Robusta coffee.
10 How do you manage to carry all your bags by yourself?
One carry-on backpack, one multipurpose sling bag, and a good lightweight wheel suitcase for check-in, never over-packed your bag, PLUS a pair of good walking shoes.
Usually, my heaviest stuff is my camera equipment, chargers, and batteries for my working assignments.
Hence I don’t have the privilege of bringing all the clothing and thinking about what to wear later; I have to check that country and plan my clothing well.
Luckily, I am not too afraid of cold; hence, light jackets and scarves help a lot.
“I wish my eyes were my camera so that I don’t need to carry my heavy gears everywhere!”
In summary, after speaking with lady photographer Win Win Chew, SmartDory is inspired to travel more, take better photos, and be challenged to look at photography from a different angle.
Win Win not only shoots travel, but her food photos are also nothing short of scrumptious and make Penang Food Bloggers die of envy.
I know I will learn a whole lot more than I ever learned in school, architecture, and construction all put together.
Thank you for sharing your story and journey – as always
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” ― Julia Child
Your life will change surely – am I up to it, are you up to it too?
Above all, I know that I will be more compassionate about life.
Look out for the next feature of SmartDory Travel Girls.
If you want to be featured or know of a single woman traveler who fits the bill, share the story, love, and write me.