Smile Contributors and Their Favorite Travel Assignments

Travel writers are some of the best sources of insider info. Let our contributors' favorite assignments inspire you to start planning your next adventure.

Who better to give you ideas for your #traveltomorrow list than our pool of contributors? Travel writers get sent on assignment to under-the-radar places and try out new activities and restaurants ahead of the pack. Here, our contributors tell us about their favorite assignments — and we’ve included links in case you missed them.


Lester V. Ledesma, writer and photographer: Thailand and Cambodia

“One of my favorite Smile assignments is from 2016, which saw me traveling via motorbike and hired car across Thailand and Cambodia in search of Khmer-era temple ruins. This kind of story turns up stuff that doesn’t appear on Google and to this day I smile whenever I think of that awesome solo adventure.”

Read the story: The Intriguing Ancient Kingdoms of South-East Asia


Charles Usher, writer: Seoul

“For the May 2018 issue I tailed fashion entrepreneur Terrence Kim through his favorite Seoul haunts. Many of them felt like embodiments of jeong, an important Korean concept that means something like “affection.” At a chicken soup place we shared a table with other diners, and at a hole-in-the-wall bar called Nomad, the owner, Jeon Hoal-chul, forgot about serving and just sat down for a chat. Jeong seems in shorter supply in the time of social distancing, but when we come back together, I look forward to sharing more of what gives me so much affection for this city.”

Read the story: How to Spend 12 Hours in Jongno, Seoul


Bruce Scott, writer: Bangkok

“My first assignment for Smile was reviewing Michelin-recognized street food restaurants in Bangkok. I visited four of them with a Thai foodie guy I knew, and since the guide had some glaring errors, we had to do some detective work to actually find a couple of the places. But the experience really cemented our friendship from that time forward.”

Read the story: 4 Affordable Eateries in Bangkok for Frugal Foodies


Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap, writer: Samar

Crawling through the “mudpack chamber” of Lobo Cave in Jiabong

“My most challenging Smile assignment was documenting the spectacular underworld of Samar, including the largest cave system in the Philippines. Deep, wet and pitch-black, these subterranean labyrinths were one of the toughest environments to explore, let alone photograph. Our four-day spelunking marathon got me slogging through fields of guano, sleeping with giant crickets, and rappelling into a crystal forest. I can’t wait to inspire readers to explore the world again with chronicles of my off-the-beaten-path adventures!”

Read the story: Spelunking in Samar


Keren Lavelle, writer: Sydney

Spit Bridge, a functional lift bridge, in the Middle Harbour area. Photo by lrosebrugh / Shutterstock.

“When Smile commissioned me to write on seeing Sydney without spending big bucks, it was fun to plot the best ways to enjoy my city on a budget. Cutting down the costs of getting around, by public transport or bike hire, I discovered there’s plenty to do in a city with national parks and more than 100 beaches, plus plenty of great places to eat.”

Read the story: How to Spend an Adventurous Weekend in Sydney for less than USD200


Lucy Dayman, writer: Tokyo

“One of my earlier assignments for Smile is still one of my favorites — it was a guide through Shimokitazawa with Priyanka Yoshikawa. Shimokita, as it’s affectionately known, is one of my favorite neighborhoods — it’s full of local independent businesses, old family-run stores and trendy boutiques. Spending the day discovering the corners of Shimokita that I hadn’t yet explored, made me fall in love with this wonderfully layered city all over again.”

Read the story: How to Spend 12 Hours in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo




Lia Lenggogeni, writer: Bali

“My mind goes back to the time I wrote a Bali guide — we were zipping through small alleys in Canggu, on the backs of small motorbikes; discovering hidden graffiti on the sides of warung; and sipping cold beer while watching sk8er bois do their thing on a skate ramp.”

Read the story: How to Spend 12 Hours in Canggu, Bali


Pierra Labrador (LabTeamPH), writer and stylist: Tokyo

“It’s a pleasure and a challenge every year to put together — my partner Toto and I source, shoot and style! — Smile’s Christmas gift guides. And it’s even better when we work with local themes — Toto and I take special pride in highlighting Filipino talent and craftsmanship for the magazine’s international market. On the travel front, writing the Shimokitazawa feature is a favorite. Back then, this bohemian Tokyo enclave was still relatively under the radar, and exploring every atmospheric little alley made my treasure hunter heart sing.”

Read the story: This Is the Trendiest Neighborhood in Tokyo Right Now



Written by

Kimberley Koo

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