Simon Yin eats the beating heart of a King Cobra and gutsily declares there’s nothing he won’t try in an episode of Hidden Cities: Extreme. The series, which premiers Oct 29, is a spinoff following the success of 2 seasons of Hidden Cities on History Channel, hosted by Anthony Morse.

This time, Simon brings viewers on an entirely different journey as he learns to steer a water buffalo and stomachs exotic food like tarantulas and spoon worms across Asia, traveling to the Philippines, West Malaysia, Indonesia, North Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan.

“I will try anything once. Anything,” the dapper host hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, tells UrbanWire. “After you eat cobra heart, you will eat anything!”

We’re standing outside Amara Hotel at Tanjong Pagar on a warm Tuesday morning, and CTV’s cameras are rolling as Simon tells UrbanWire the craziest things he’s done in the 6-episode series.

“As a kid, I wasn’t very adventurous with food,” he admits. “My mum loves telling this story when I went to this Chinese restaurant once, I stayed outside and cried the whole time ‘cos I didn’t wanna eat Chinese food, and she gave me—”

“—a chicken wing?” I ask, remembering reading about it in an interview online.

“How did you know?” he booms. “Oh, yeah! Whenever I cried she’d just give me a chicken wing.”

There’s no intrepid explorer, Indiana Jones background for this presenter either. It will come as a surprise Yin studied medicine and business in college before landing a job as an investment research banker—the “worst job ever!” as he puts it—before he found his calling and earned a name for himself as VJ for MTV CHI, a programme targeted at the American Chinese population, in New York.

Where the past seasons of Hidden Cities placed an emphasis on history and undiscovered places, Simon brings to the table the changes that earn the series its “extreme” label. In the first episode, for example, he maneuvers Philippines’ most notoriously reckless mode of transport—the jeepney, a.k.a King of the Roads—and  clambers 25 feet up a coconut tree to extract traditional Filipino palm wine, tuba, from the tree’s sap.

Extremes come in the form of gender bending, too: Simon is made to wax his legs when he participates in a Thai pageant as a ladyboy in the fourth of the 6-episode series.

“It was very, very painful!” he concludes of the experience. “Let me see, do you wax? It’s very fun,” he continues, with a tinge of sarcasm. “I love the hair on my legs! I miss it now. It’s just starting to grow back.”

The personable host is affable and warm throughout—he shared a hug with this UrbanWire writer, the photographer and crew after filming the session— but you’re never quite sure whether he’s serious, especially when he deadpans his responses. When asked about how he felt when he learnt his audition for the first season of Hidden Cities hadn’t been successful, he responds in mock disappointment.

“I was SO p***ed off; very, very angry. Very mad at History channel and very sad.” He pauses, then laughs easily. “Just kidding, no. Anthony [Morse] was definitely the right guy for the series. They called me 3 years later to say, “Hey, we’re doing a new show! Do you wanna do it?” I had no idea [what show it was for]… and I said yes! You go in and do your best, leave a good impression and they remember you and call you back 3 years later. It feels great.”

Hidden Cities takes Simon Yin through experiences that not even locals may have had the chance to try. In North Korea, he battles a champion wrestler in Korean Sumo Wrestling, chows on “live” octopus tentacles and trains in a traditional circus troupe for an acrobatic tightrope performance.

“[The tightrope walking] was amazing, but I didn’t have enough time,” he says remorsefully. “They said I was really good! They say it took them 3 months to learn. They thought if I was there full-time I could have done it in one week.”

Given his intense schedule (he’s based in Hong Kong where he hosts several TV shows, juggles corporate gigs worldwide, and his feature film directorial debut, Supercapitalist, was released in New York in August), it seems Simon barely has the time to catch a breath. But when the cameras stop rolling, the self-described “city, metropolitan boy” really loves his downtime as much as the next person.

“I’m definitely a homebody. I watch Blu-ray [discs], play PSP, eat pizza. I lie in bed, and I just do this—” he demonstrates eating a pizza, with an imaginary box flat on his stomach, then guffaws in a way that’s contagious enough to set everyone off laughing.

Just don’t mistake his willingness to “try anything once” as a love affair for exotic foods. For his last meal, Simon Yin prefers the regular American fast-food option: “Fried chicken, a cheeseburger, an ice cream sundae, chased down with a root beer float. If it were my last meal I’d want it to be served to me. I’d want to relax and enjoy it fully.”

Join Simon Yin in Hidden Cities: Extreme when it premieres on Oct 29, at 9:30pm on History Asia. For more information, visit their website or the Hidden Cities: Extreme Facebook page.

Credits to Kenny Png, Donovan Chan, Tony Jackson and Klix Photography.