10 Questions for (7): Esme Vos of Mapplr

Happy to present Esme. Actually we have never met, but we “know” of each other over 6 years. Esme was the first whom I asked to be questioned last month, but before I could get my act (questions) together she traveled and traveled..a real Globetrotter!


Esme Vos

1) Who Are you?
I am the founder of Muniwireless.com, the portal for news and information about citywide wireless broadband.

I am also the founder of Mapplr.com, a blog dedicated to selecting the best boutique hotels, cool restaurants and cafes around the world.

I live in Amsterdam and San Francisco, but travel frequently as well to other cities.

I am originally from the Philippines.

2) What do you like about what you do?
– Independence and not working in a traditional office
– Meeting interesting people who are at the forefront of technology and media

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
– At times, the isolation can be overwhelming and the travel can be very tiring.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

I made Mapplr into a blog because I wanted to create a site where people can find hotels, restaurants and cafes that have been carefully selected by an editor who values quality, design, style, service.

I also wanted to provide lists of good hotels, restaurants and cafés in cities around the world, not just the US or Europe, because I travel a lot and I know the problems travelers have: where do I find good food in a city I’ve never visited? where’s a good boutique hotel that does charge an outrageous amount of money? how can I avoid staying in a chain hotel? where can I find a café that serves good espresso and has free Wi-Fi?

I am not convinced that user generated content sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor work very well in pointing out to you the best places to eat or sleep. Yelp is very popular in SF for restaurant reviews, but it’s flawed. Many restaurant owners complain that Yelp puts pressure on them to advertise on the site by burying negative comments only if they advertise. It compromises the reliability and independence of Yelp. In addition, how can you trust the restaurant reviews on Yelp? Recently, I saw that Subway, a sandwich chain that serves horrible food, got better marks than Local, a fabulous restaurant-wine bar in my neighborhood. The people posting restaurant reviews often have no taste and focus only on portion size (this is America after all, land of the Super Sized Sandwich).

I rely on a trusted network of friends who have good taste in places I don’t visit regularly. They tell me what’s good in their city.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
– Paris: style, design, history, architecture all rolled into one cosmopolitan area with lots of incredibly good food
– Cusco, Peru: the physical beauty of the area, a city high up in the Andes very close to Inca Ruins; I use it as a starting point for treks to Macchu Picchu
– San Francisco: a city in one of the most beautiful natural surroundings — you can have an urban lifestyle, great Asian food, yet indulge in outdoor sports such as hiking, cycling, running.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
– Verne Dreaming (Gent): Shanghai 1930s red bordello style B&B with giant golden Buddha in the room, very kitschy in a stylish way
– Can Marti (Ibiza): agriturismo that is totally eco — they rely on solar power, collect water and purify it, and they have an organic farm too but they do not sacrifice style and comfort
– Chambre Avec Vue (Saigon in the Provence, France) – stylish B&B run by an artist set in a tiny village in the Provence; artistic installations in the garden, quiet location away from all the tourists

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
– Ceviche in Lima: the real thing, with real aji peppers (very spicy) and fresh seafood; beats any ceviche I’ve eaten outside Peru
– Ramen noodle soups in Japan: the broth is rich, vegetables are fresh, noodles very savoury for under 8 EUR per bowl
– Boudin noir at Afaria, a restaurant in Paris: never thought boudin noir could taste like this

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
My worst travel experiences are not related to a particular destination, rather, it’s the manner of travel and transit. By far the worst experiences are with US airlines which now charge you for sandwiches even in business class (United) and even drinks and blankets. The airplanes are ancient. US airports are also a disaster. They are decrepit and sad, and the security personnel are always screaming and yelling at passengers.

What we used to call “Third World” airlines, for example, LAN (Chile) and TACA (El Salvador), have new planes and very good flight attendants. Their airports – San Salvador and Lima – are also brand new and civilized. Airports in Asia such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are modern and distinctly un-Third World. So are the Asian airlines.

Worst café experience: Starbucks, which serves muddy water with coffee grinds mixed in

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
I am currently in San Francisco so here are my tips:
– avoid Fisherman’s Wharf which has bad food, lots of tourists; go instead to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. It has artisanal cheese shops, good restaurants (Boulette’s Larder is my favorite) and good vegetarian Japanese food (Delica)
– take a stroll or a run in the Presidio which is beautiful, filled with trees, very quiet, and ends at Golden Gate Bridge
– hang out in the Mission / Valencia St. area near Dolores Park for good coffee and a younger crowd

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Favorite places in SF? Ozumo, Olea, Okina Sushi, Lahore Karahi, South Food and Wine Bar, Mitchell’s Ice cream, Bi-Rite creamery ice cream, Blue Bottle Coffee
Favorite places in Amsterdam? Quattro Gatti, Terang Boelan (Indonesian takeaway in the Jordaan), Pompadour (chocolates and pastries)

Favorite adventure destination? trekking to Macchu Picchu for several days and spending time in Cusco, Peru

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Esme. I take it you don’t want to link to your other blogs here. and: For a connoisseur like you it is about time to check out The Hague properly:-)

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