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. Our mission is keeping heritage alive for a vibrant and viable urban future.

That’s why the guides are created by locals, designed by locals and powered by locals… with a little help from iDiscover.

Co-creating

Our unique community curative process in ten steps:

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1.   NEIGHBOURHOOD NARRATIVE

iDiscover partners with 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 the neighbourhood. Meet our partners

 

#neighbourhood
#cityspirit
#localcommunity

Neighbourhood guide

2.   WANDER THE STREETS

Together we hit the streets and talk to old shopkeepers, colourful characters and young 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

 

#likealocal
#insidersecrets
#authenticity

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3.   STORYTELLING

Inspired by these local stories, we delve into archives and libraries to equip the editorial team with all they need to craft insightful stories and shoot beautiful photographs and video portraits. Join us behind the scenes

 

#citylife
#streetphotography
#urbanstory

Exploring Sanur's paddyfields

4.   THE BEST ROUTE

It’s not too long, not too short! We take great care to avoid big busy streets, find interesting back alleys and a balanced selection of sites that make for a relaxed, fun and meaningful exploration. Time to get lost .. without getting lost

 

#wanderlust
#streetscapes
#backalley

iDiscover App

5.   TRAVEL APP

We love how technology makes it easy to share our stories. Maps, words, photos and clips are combined into a savvy smartphone application with GPS based offline maps. It’s a free download from Google Play and the App Store. Download the app now

 

#travelapp
#citytech
#getlostwithoutgettinglost

Sheung Wan_connie Yuen

6.   DESIGNER MAP

A talented local illustrator designs a map that gives a flavour of the ‘hood’. Each map is a poetic ode to the neighbourhood. Maps are printed locally and sustainably, then distributed to places that share our passion for the authenticity of the neighbourhood. Meet the iDiscover designers

 

#localdesign
#appandmap
#supportlocaltalent

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7.   SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES

Every dollar spent in a local shop is a dollar well spent! Our tips, recommendations and colourful anecdotes drive traffic to the businesses that need it most: the traditional shops and small entrepreneurs for whom it is increasingly difficult to survive in a 21st century city! Meet some of our favourite local entrepreneurs  

 

#shoplocal
#responsibletourism
#supportlocalbusiness

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8.   LIVING HERITAGE

Income from the iDiscover guides helps the local groups that created your travel experiences. This money helps them to keep local culture and heritage alive! Find out about the great work of these passionate people

 

#giveback
#socialenterprise
#keepheritagealive

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9.   COMMUNITY EVENTS

We use APPXMAP as a tool for clever and fun-filled events that celebrate the neighbourhood spirit and bring the local community together. Check out some of our recent events here

 

#instameet
#treasurehunt
#placemaking
#getinvolved

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10.   DESTINATION PARTNERSHIPS

iDiscover is not-for-profit. We provide the APPXMAP platform free of charge to groups that want to share their local culture and heritage. To cover our cost, we rely on partners who share our ethos and see responsible travel as a valuable investment into a neighbourhood community. We create a positive place making dialogue between the old and young generation in a neighbourhood as well as between different stakeholders: small business owners, government, civil society, hotels and developers

Want to know who our partners are?

Travel good

We create an immersive and meaningful ‘travel good’ experience that provides visitors with opportunities to spend money locally and consciously.  We are proud to have partnered with Cathay Pacific and Two Humans Travel in an online campaign beautifully captures how to can travel responsibly and respectfully in Yangon, Hong Kong, Java and Bali. See the highlights

Awardwinning

iDiscover is the proud winner of the prestigious 2016 Cathay Pacific Shooting Star Award, the 2016 Hong Kong Internet Society and Civic Exchange City Tech Award and the 2017 UBS/Operation Santa Claus/The Chinese University Hong Kong  NGO Leadership Programme Outstanding Project Award

Our Journey

iDiscover started in 2014 as a passion project of Urban Discovery, a Hong Kong based social enterprise that works with city governments and developers to make heritage preservation financially feasible and design trajectories to open people’s eyes to the value of heritage.  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, three years later, iDiscover is an independently registered NGO that together with over 60 partners has mapped more than 20 neighbourhoods throughout Asia. 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

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.