About Us

Our Story

iDiscover is about the spirit of place. We work with locals who show us their favourite places and tell us their stories. We put them in a handy map and savvy app to create honest and authentic routes in Asia’s most captivating neighbourhoods so that you can Travel Good. Our mission is to keep the heritage alive for a vibrant and viable urban future. Keep in mind that the guides are created locals, designed, and powered by locals…with a little help from iDiscover.

Travel Good

We create an immersive and meaningful ‘Travel Good’ experience that gives you the opportunity to spend money locally and consciously in Asia’s heritage cities. How? Watch this video created in partnership with Cathay Pacific and Two Humans Travel and travel responsibly and respectfully in Yangon, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bali, Colombo, Chiang Mai, Manila and Penang.

Curated by Locals

Locals handpick the sites and handcraft the iDiscover walking and cycling itineraries. They know the places that are unique to the neighbourhood and are worth a detour. Not just temples and monuments, but also popular café’s, local hangouts and lesser known sites. This is the iDiscover community curative process in 6 easy steps:

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1.   REVEAL THE NARRATIVE

The local community is the curator. In each city we work with local NGOs, universities, community groups and creative collectives. We spend a few days together and tap into their vast knowledge of local culture and living heritage. Collectively we define the spirit of place. Meet the curators

#neighbourhood
#cityspirit
#localcommunity

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2.   FIND STORIES OF PEOPLE AND PLACES

We wander the streets. We listen to old shopkeepers, colourful characters and creative entrepreneurs. Through them we learn about the traditional trades, hidden secrets and local legends that make each neighbourhood so unique. We’ve taken over a million steps, join our journey.

#travellikealocal
#insidersecrets
#authenticity

iDiscover App

3.   CRAFT WALKING & CYCLING ITINERARIES

Maps, words and photos are combined into one handy app. We think the best way to experience a city is walking through back alleys or cycling through little laneways. So we take great care to craft your perfect neighbourhood itinerary. Download the app here

#wanderlust
#travelapp
#getlostwithoutgettinglost

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4.   DESIGN A MAP

A local illustrator designs the neighbourhood map. Each map is a unique artistic ode to the spirit of place. Maps are printed locally in Hong Kong, then distributed to hotels and shops that share our passion for the authenticity. Find all neighbourhood maps here

#localdesign
#appandmap
#supportlocaltalent

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5.  GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

We put locals on a map and make them proud. We drive traffic to the traditional shops and small entrepreneurs for whom it is increasingly difficult to survive in a 21st century city. Every dollar spent in a local shop is a dollar well spent! Travel responsibly and shop locally

#shoplocal
#responsibletourism
#supportlocalbusiness

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6.   CELEBRATE LIVING HERITAGE

We bring the local community together through fun-filled events that celebrate the neighbourhood spirit. Even better, you can be part of it. Grab a map and start exploring

#spiritofplace
#socialenterprise
#keepheritagealive

Our Journey

iDiscover started in 2014 as a passion project of Urban Discovery, a Hong Kong based social enterprise.  We wanted to create a community-based tool to document the spirit of place before it disappears from Asia’s cityscape. Not just the buildings, but the people, stories and collective memory. Now, four years later, iDiscover is an independently registered charity has mapped more than 50 neighbourhoods throughout Asia, collaborating with over 60 partners. We’re always on the lookout for new destinations and new partners, want to work with us? Get in touch! i-discover@urbandiscovery.asia

Meet the team

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Ester van Steekelenburg

founder / director – passionate urban explorer

Ester moved from Amsterdam to Hong Kong just before “The Handover” in 1997… with little more than a backpack. She fell in love with the city’s energy and almost 20 years later, she still calls Hong Kong home; a base from where she works on cultural heritage projects throughout Asia. Her favourite cities include Hanoi, Istanbul and Yangon. In Hong Kong she’s happiest exploring the city’s busy backstreets or hiking in the country parks.

 

Favourite spot in Hong Kong: Sai Kung waterfront on a Sunday afternoon.

Steph

Stephanie Cheung

community manager  – super-organised, enthusiastic urban observer

An energetic and inquisitive traveller, Stephanie has visited Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. That leaves only South America, Africa and Antarctica as the remaining continents to explore! Her Global Business Studies background, versatility and organisational skills are well used in her role as our dynamic community manager.

 

Favourite spot in Hong Kong: the relative calm of a Sheung Wan rooftop above the bustling metropolis

Tiffany

Tiffany Tang

design, tech & cultural mapping – adventurous urban acupuncturist

Having lived in France and Finland, Tiffany is now rediscovering Hong Kong with European flair. With a keen interest in current social affairs, Tiffany is building bridges with like-minded individuals in the local community: people that want to make Hong Kong a better place to live. Open-minded, generous and creative, Tiffany works with designers, app developers and community groups in five different countries, always with a smile on her face.

 

Favourite spot in Hong Kong: enjoying street food at a Sham Shui Po dai pai dong

iDiscover team

Sheren Ngan

community manager – iDiscover’s friendly face

Sheren loves to travel. Whether it is volunteering at a school in Cambodia, backpacking in South Africa or hopping on the Trans-Siberia express. Born and raised in Hong Kong she likes sharing the culture of her city with people she meets on the way.  Her multi language proficiency, versatility and organisational skills make her a great fit for the role of community manager.

 

Favourite spot in Hong Kong: any coffeeshop with a good street view

Yangon Chinatown travel

Thurein Tint

Yangon Brand Ambassador

Thurein (or just call him Tim) is a 19 years old graphic designer and recent graduate from the prestigious Pre-Collegiate Programme in Yangon. He loves the city where he was born and raised, but dreams of going overseas one day to explore new adventures.

 

Favourite spot in Yangon: a really good mohinga breakfast at 11th street in Chinatown

Board of Directors

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Dr. Johnson Cheung

Johnson brings a wealth of on-the ground experience as a social worker in Hong Kong. For many years he was responsible for children and youth projects in deprived and transient communities. He worked for the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association (HKYWCA) where he collaborated with different stakeholders, i.e., NGOs, district committees, government officials, pressure groups, residents, community organizations, and local SME’s. He now teaches at the Department of Social Work at The Chinese University of Hong Kong because he believes that it is important to pass on his practical and theoretical knowledge to a growing young generation who want to enter this industry. We’ve met Johnson at a UBS/CUHK NGO leadership trajectory in which our colleague Tiffany recently participated and he was one of the key advisors.

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Ms. Yeone Fok

Yeone is an avid traveller and heritage lover. She has lived in the US, Asia, and Europe, and today calls Hong Kong home. After a career in investment banking at bulge bracket banks, Yeone founded SparkRaise.com, a crowdfunding platform for the socially conscious that helps social enterprises, startups and non-profits succeed. SparkRaise also proudly hosted iDiscover’s first and successful crowdfunding campaign, helping iDiscover launch the first co-created travel guide to be crowdfunded. In addition to exploring urban jungles, Yeone’s wanderlust has led her to trek in more remote locations, including small parts of the Himalayas and the Gobi and Sahara deserts.

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Prof. Johannes Widodo

Johannes originally from Indonesia, now a Singaporean- is a lecturer at the National University of Singapore where he teaches urban history of SE Asian cities, modern Asian architecture, and heritage conservation & management. He is a well-travelled and greatly respected academic and hands-on expert and tireless advocate for heritage conservation throughout Asia. He is a member of several international advisory bodies and industry associations in the field of heritage and has a very wide network of local heritage professionals and NGO’s. We have crossed paths many times and recently collaborated on a cultural mapping exercise for cultural heritage students at the Institute for Tourism Management in Macau.

Awardwinning!

We love what we do and we’re delighted there is a community out there that values our work. We even managed to pick up some awards on the way. No matter how big or small, each of these marks another step in our journey. It means the world to us and the people we work with. Together we try to keep heritage alive for a better urban future.

A big thank you for the recognition and making us feel humbled and honoured:

2019 . Hong Kong . HKICT Awards . runner up . innovative smart tourism product

2018 . Myanmar . Responsible Tourism Award . runner up . best tourism innovation

2018 . Chiang Mai . Chiang Mai Design Award . winner . graphic design for social purpose

2017 . Hong Kong  . UBS/Chinese University NGO Leadership Programme . outstanding performance .

2016 . Hong Kong .  American Institute of Architects Award . winner . raise awareness for built environment

2016 . Hong Kong .  City Tech Award . winner. innovation of urban walking experience

2014 . Hong Kong . Cathay Pacific Shooting Star Award . winner .  successful, innovative, creative and sustainable entrepreneurship