Adventures of a Seasoned Traveller: Meet Mandy Tay

It’s been a crazy month for me since my trip to Abu Dhabi and my last post. But now, I’m back! I apologise for the lack of updates on my blog.

In my last entry, I wrote about a very inspiring woman I got to know about through her wonderful 2 minute clip on Iran. In fact, she was so inspiring that I wanted to chat with her personally to get to know the woman behind the lens. So I did.

Say hello to Mandy Tay…

1) Describe the kind of traveller you are.

The kind that gets lost all the time and uses her camera to chat up strangers. Initially I travelled to take photographs. Now, photographing people is my way of breaking the ice with the locals.

2) Why do you travel and what do you love about it?

To meet new people and learn new languages. Almost every last destination is my favourite so I need to keep going!

3) In all your travels, what was the most memorable moment or destination and why?

When I was in Iran, a friend of mine drove me to Chehel Sotun only to find that we have missed the opening hours for the third time. I was a little disappointed but just as we drove out of this nondescript carpark, we bumped into his best friend! They were both visiting that city without knowing that the other was in town and his best friend was leaving the very next day. I was glad that the park was closed…the impromptu carpark meeting turned out to be one of the highlights of Iran in the end. You can view this moment in my video of Iran (somewhere in the middle).

4) What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt from all your travels?

That the unplanned events are always the best. And that expectations ruin everything.

5) What is the best travel advice you’ve been given and what advice would you now give others?

More and more people are taking travel photographs and my advice is not to bring the best camera you can buy but rather, bring the camera that you want to use. There is no point carrying 5kg worth of equipment if the thought of changing lenses tire you. My only equipment consists of one camera and one lens, no flash and no tripod. That’s also the only gear I shot the Iran video with. A great piece of equipment can only get you so far. The most effective camera is the one that becomes a part of you, an extension of your eye.

6) Which country or city do you plan on going to next and why that particular destination?

Serbia, Lebanon or Morocco. Basically countries that I am closer to at the moment. It would be a pity not to visit these places before I leave Dubai. Since I relocated to the middle east, I have only visited Jordan, Nepal and Iran. My upcoming trip is to the West Coast in the States.

7) Could you share with us about Iran, its people, and what you love about being there?

I had no expectations going to Iran. I decided to go 3 hours before the flight. Maybe that’s the best way to travel. To just pack your bags and throw caution to the wind, even in Iran. Especially in Iran. Then you find out how connected everyone is and how small your mind used to be.

8) What is your inspiration behind the video clip ‘Discover Iran in 2 minutes’? What are your thoughts about the impact its had on others?

I didn’t tell my mom that I went to Iran. The video was my way of telling her that her only daughter had spent 2 unbelievable weeks in Iran. The reaction to my 2 minute video has been overwhelming. It was even shown on BBC Persia! It has been almost 5 months since I’d posted the video online and to this very day, I still receive heartfelt messages from both Iranians and Singaporeans, telling me how much it has moved them.

9) In your website describing your book, you mentioned that after a trip to Beijing and Tibet, your definition of travel was changed forever. What was your definition of travel prior to that trip and what is it now?

My father is the most amazing traveller I have ever known. When he was in a small village in China and wanted to buy a watermelon from a vendor he was busy playing mahjong. My father ended up playing on his behalf while the rest of the village rooted for him. He taught me by example that you should never judge a country by its reputation but rather, through getting deep into the alleys, talking to the locals and sometimes, from a game of mahjong. To this day, I am constantly thankful for that chance to see how much more travelling can be.

10) Tell us more about your book ‘The Edge of Photography’. What can we expect from it?

It is a collection of the images I had taken over the last 10 years, mostly with my trusty Nikon D70s and some with my newer D700. There are images that I have taken over the years which started speaking to each other. You can look at them individually (like the portrait of 2 sheep entitled “Wedding Photo”), as a couple (“The White Haired Boy” & “The Red Haired Girl”, taken 5 years apart but seemingly echoing each other’s thoughts) or as a set. None of the photographs in my book were cropped.

And with her permission, here are some of the lovely photographs she’s taken on her travels.

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Currently, her book is sold at BooksActually, and now that I have the time to hunt down the shop, I’m going to drop by to pick up her book. If you’re not sure where BooksActually is, here’s the address:

No. 9 Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru,
Singapore 168645
(tel) +65 6222 9195

There are also other bookshops that sell her book and they are listed on her website In fact, she is still looking for a place to sell the book online and an exhibition space to showcase the unreleased photos she took in Iran, so if you know of anyone that might have contacts, do drop her an email here.

To view the clip that started it all, you can go to my previous post to check out the youtube video, or go to Vimeo for her updated version of the clip. You can also find out more about her trip to Iran in the article here.

My little chit chat with Mandy has given me the idea of interviewing other seasoned travellers and getting to know fellow globetrotters from all over the world, so be sure to look out for future interviews on my blog!

And Mandy, thank you for agreeing to do the interview and for sharing your world view with me.

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