I have been a fan of both The Amazing Race and The Amazing Race Asia since their first season. The Amazing Race returns to the air with its thirteenth season on Sunday, September 28. If you want to read more about the contestants please visit The Amazing Race 13: Meet the Cast.
The Amazing Race Asia Season 3 will start at AXN on 11 September 2008. Most of the contestants are either model, actor, actress or beauty queens. May be the should rename the show to The Amazing Race Asia-All Star.
Meet all the 20 contestants here :
Team Mai-Oliver (Thailand) - Friends
Oliver started out as a friend of her brother, and Mai first got to know him when she was dating one of his friends. Fate threw them together, but not in any romantic way, but as best friends.
In a way, actress and model Visa Sarasas, or Mai, as she is known to her friends, is the one person that Oliver Faivre can behave naturally in front of.
"She is the only girl friend that I have who I can talk normally to," says the 26 year old model and student, adding, "She is someone I don't necessarily have to be polite to."
Such honestly is the culmination of seven years of friendship and the friends have decided to celebrate by taking part in the race simply because Mai asked and Oliver agreed.
"I picked him because I think he has the most potential to go on this race and be able to cope with all the situations that will happen," describes the actress, who has made a name of herself starring in movies and television shows in Thailand.
In case you think of her as a celebrity who is more used to assistants and an entourage of helpers, think again. For her audition video, Mai simply tied up her hair (sans make up!) to speak to the camera, and in fact, her real life persona is nothing like her sultry on-screen roles on TV and magazine covers.
She proclaims, "I joined The Amazing Race Asia because I want to travel around the world and compete with myself."
Given the history of male/female pairings in race history that have led to explosive confrontations during the competition, Mai is thankful that her team does not fall within the usual stereotypes of such pair ups.
"The fact that my teammate is a guy, and we're not in a relationship so I don't think we're going to fight like lovers do," she says as a matter of fact.
"I have a very strong teammate and I think I'm a very strong girl as well. Our weakness would probably have to be the fact that we have never worked together as a team so I cannot predict what's going to happen when we do."
Assure Oliver, "You don't have to worry about the fighting. We fight a lot, but it's for fun. We will make the show interesting."
Not that it matter to Oliver, who is looking at the race as more of a chance to meet new people, and maybe do something for a good cause.
Team A.D and Fuzzie (Singapore) - Friends for 15 years
Colourful does not begin to describe long-time friends A.D. Chan and Fuzzie Sirajudin. As one can tell, normal does not describe the default buddies, as they describe themselves, who oddly define their relationship as "an old married couple". "We're like that, except we're not old, we're not married, and we're not a couple!" says Fuzzie, 34, a partner and teacher in an English language centre.
Having met in school 15 years ago, Fuzzie was nothing that A.D., 34, now a freelance writer-director for TV and T-shirt designer, saw as a potential friend. She says, "But look how far we've come! It must have been written in the stars that we should become default buddies. And I suspect this is what we will be for the rest of our lives."
So it was only natural that when auditions for The Amazing Race Asia 3 came up, choosing each other was well, a default choice. Referring to the race as an opportunity to do something different, Fuzzie says, "It's to do something outside the mundane, to do something to challenge myself and something to define the year."
"It's always been a dream to be on it someday. But all that talk finally led to some action only this year, when I felt an inexplicable impetus to just go for it," A.D. concurs.
The duo are also the first to admit that they are not perfect for the race, with the many shortcomings that they have, but adds, "We're perfect for TV."
And the first thing Fuzzie has done is to lose some weight for the race. A.D. too dusted off some dumbbells for the big event, but reasons that her secret weapon for the race is her complex character, much like a sheep in wolf's clothing. "My character is layered with contradictions and complexities, which make me idiosyncratic, inimitable, and hard to categorize," she notes gamely.
Despite their 15 years of familiarity, hard habits are hard to break and one thing Fuzzie will have to contend with is A.D.'s obsessive compulsive controlling behavior, as A.D. says that while she has a low tolerance for imperfection, she tends to "over-analyze everything to death and can be indecisive".
On her part, A.D. will have to contend with her buddy's lack of physical fitness and general slothful ways, among other things jokes Fuzzie, who adds, "There’s also my 'over-drama-ness' which makes me easily excitable, and my lack of attention to details and my poor memory."
Their goal in joining the race isn't about the fame or money, but the fun they think they would be enjoying. Says A.D., "Who wouldn't want to watch two highly unlikely people run the race? Everybody loves the underdog."
To which Fuzzie gamely adds, "Did we mention that we're unfit?"
Team Geoff and Tisha (Philippines) - Dating Couple
You can call this her second chance. A technicality led to her resignation as Miss Philippines Universe 10 years ago and Tisha Silang is making sure that history does not repeat itself.
In 1998, Tisha won the Miss Philippines Universe crown but had to give it up because of her Canadian citizenship. While that win has remained the proudest moment of her life, she's hoping that taking part in The Amazing Race Asia will trump that.
Joining her is her boyfriend of three and a half years, Geoff, and by all accounts, participating, much less winning the race will be an uphill battle says the couple. For one thing, their relationship is the classic definition of opposites attract.
"Nobody would have thought that we would end up dating. We have very different personalities but have managed to make it work so far," notes Tisha.
Quips Geoff on the first time they were introduced by a mutual friend," I was interested in Tisha for obvious reasons. And Tisha wasn't interested, for obvious reasons."
This is also the second time that the couple has auditioned for the show and the couple almost missed the deadline too. "We were in such a rush to submit the video I can't say we did anything really spectacular," Tisha admits.
The last and most important reason against them has to do with their horrible track record when it comes to traveling. While on vacation in Boracay, the couple missed not once, two but three consecutive flights back home to Manila. And by that time, they were broke as well. Tisha says with a laugh, "And now we want to race together...should be interesting." Fingers are crossed but hopefully, the two won't be making the same mistake again, especially on the show.
"Missing a flight, I think that is the most embarrassing thing you can do while traveling," admits Geoff. But rather than to lay blame, the couple made the best of their situation. "Tisha was shooting for FHM and we were supposed to be there only for the weekend. By then we had spent all out money in re-booking and extension fees. But time flies when you're in love and having a ball."
And the other reason for wanting to be in the race is of course, to counter the loss of Team Philippines from the previous season, jokes Geoff. Marc and Rovilson came in third in the last show. He says, "We have huge shoes to fill after the stint that Marc and Rovilson pulled off."
Nonetheless, the couple is certain that they will bring to the race the love and respect that has been the foundation of their relationship. Geoff says, "Tisha and I have had a sound relationship, from the time we have met. And now we are testing our relationship, by entering the race."
Team Henry and Bernie (Malaysia) - Brother & Sister
It is not because the 43 year old isn't famous, but rather because the chef and restaurant owner has had reconstructive surgery done in late 2006. "In Aug 2006, I fell over and broke my jaw very badly. I've had reconstructive surgery on my face and mouth, but I'm all fixed up now," says Henry Chan with a gleaming smile that shows no record of his accident.
But it is what's inside that counts and the siblings are hoping that their 39 year old relationship will give them an edge. Says Bernie, 39, "Finding the right partner to do it with is half the race won and Hen is the only person who understands what I'm trying to say half the time."
Hen, of course, is her nickname for her brother, in response to the name Bernie he coined, since he could not pronounce her actual name, Bernadette, as a child.
"I thought it would be fun, stressful but fun. I love traveling and I thought, if I get in, it would be the biggest challenge of my life," she adds.
Sums up Henry on the natural choice of picking each other as teammate, "We don't really fight, we think alike and we get on crazily well."
But if there is one thing the siblings do not share, is their behavior. Henry is the more contemplative of the two, preferring to sit back and analyze the situation while his sister leaps at every available opportunity. Like Henry says, "I tend to think about things too much, while she tends to just act and think about things later."
Explains Bernie, "I'm too impulsive! If I want to do something, it has to be done now," and adds, "My strategy is to try and stay calm but with have a sense of urgency and just go with our instinct. Luck plays a big part too which to me comes with being positive and happy, which Hen and I are."
As for preparing, one thing Henry did have to pick up was learning how to drive a manual transmission. Naturally, his coach was his baby sister and given their hectic schedule, it wasn't the best of lessons. Groans Henry, "Bernie gave me a crash-course in the pouring rain, at night, in peak hour Kuala Lumpur traffic.
But learn he did and the driving lessons show the extent that the duo has worked together. Admits Bernie, "Even though I shout at Hen, he will know it's not personal and in the next second we will be buddies again. And he won't quit on me."
Quitting is the last thing on Henry's mind though, as he had already mapped out a plan on how to celebrate if they win. "We go back to one of the favourite countries we visited in the race but this time round, we do it in five-star style."
Team Ida and Tania (Malaysia)-Actress & Heiress
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, or make that a group of 13 females who were shortchanged. Such was the case that involved Malaysians Ida Nerina, 44, and her best friend Tania Khan, 36, in, of all places, a luxury resort! Throw in a hen's party, a burnt rug, hotel management and even the police and the mixture is a potent one that shows what these two will do to get what they deserve.
Recalls Ida, "All 13 of us were held hostage by the hotel who blamed us for a carpet burn that we did not cause. Even the police got involved. It was so traumatic."
The ladies insisted on their innocence but the hotel refused to let them leave and even locked the gates. "Due to the trauma, we caused a ruckus on the plane," adds Tania, a mother of an 11 year old daughter and a 10 month old baby, who despite her sheepishness at admitting the event, displays an inner strength. So just because there are now only two of them doesn't mean their combo is any less potent. If history is anything to go by, they are not pushovers simply because of their age or reputation.
On paper, they are two very different people – Ida is a homegrown actress with 16 movies under her belt, Ida is a media star compared her more corporate driven, property developer buddy. "We're both bubbly, dramatic, kind-hearted, fiercely loyal to our friends and klutzy. We're often the first to jump into the deep end of any adventure," describes Ida on their similarities.
"Tania and I just thought it would be fun to try out together too. Tania is so game for adventure and is always fun to be around and just as dramatic as I am," says Ida.
One thing they both hope to achieve, other than taking home the top prize, is the chance to see the world from a new perspective. Ida admits, "We've shared some great trips together and who better to see if you can backpack the world with as neither of us have ever done it (referring to backpacking)."
Viewers if not their fellow racers are in for surprises with Tania and Ida joining the race. These fans of The Amazing Race Asia have many natural talents they can count on to stay in the game. Tania comments of this, "I'm pretty good at finding handy short-cuts to all kinds of things. I'm very friendly which always helps in getting things done when you need help."
Hopefully, these attributes will make up for some of their shortfalls which includes indecisiveness on Tania's part, and weak ankles for Ida, which are not good for running she says jokingly.
Underneath the playful exterior though is a person who bears grudges more than she wants to, so the other teams better not cross Ida, less she unleashes her anger on them. "I'll scream my head off, then apologise to whoever's in the way."
Team William and Isaac (Korea)- Brothers
These brothers know how to score a goal when they spot an opening, seeing as how the siblings are a staple in the Korean football arena – They are sports commentators and football agents for professional players in what is arguably Asia's favourite sport. William and Isaac Hong are definitely looking at bringing their A-game to The Amazing Race Asia, as this is the first time that a Korean team is participating in the race.
"Nationalism is big in Korea and William and I believe that we can be on the show, and show everyone our positive and energetic attitude," says the older of the two Isaac, 29.
It is this attitude that has brought the brothers huge success in their lives, from when they were both actively involved in the football scene during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, to when they, as football agents, successfully negotiated the transfer of a Korean player into the Spanish Primera Liga.
So yes, working together and counting on each other has been a backbone of their relationship, as they not only grew up together, they are now working in the same office and sharing the same apartment.
"Even though we are brothers, we have very different personalities. I guess it's because we lived apart from one another for quite some time. However, that works out well for us, since we can look at things in different ways," says William, 26.
And it does help that Isaac is the biggest "TARA freak" he knows of. To his credit, Isaac claims to have watched all The Amazing Race episodes ever produced, from both the US and Asian versions. Coupled with his confidence and past travel experiences to over 38 countries in the world, taking part in the race just seems right. He gushes, "TARA is my favorite TV reality show, and it is only a lifetime opportunity to be part of it."
"Since I have been to many countries in the past time I do know the quick way to get close to the local people so I think this could be a secret weapon for me," says Isaac.
"Winning the race would mean a lot to me since The Amazing Race is my favorite show in my life," says Isaac, who is clearly very excited about joining the show, and being a role-model to viewers just as previous contestants were to him.
"I have learned so much from contestants that positive attitude can bring you so many great things and they taught me how to live with bigger passion and greater energy. Hopefully at the end, not only Koreans but Asian can see what two brothers are capable of doing, to achieve our ultimate goal with our positive effort."
William however, does not have such lofty ideals. His idea of celebrating would be a nice long break. "I'll take a nice vacation somewhere where I don't have to race around."
Niroo & Kapil (India) - Father & Son
Life is about taking chances and sometimes, having to learn fast when thrown into the deep end. For father and son team Niroo and Kapil Asrani, the latter cannot be more true, or literal.
As a child, Kapil wanted to learn how to swim and his father did it the only way he knew how, by picking up his son and tossing him into the pool. "The way my dad had thrown me into the swimming pool in order to teach me how to swim, it communicates a lot about the person he is," recalls Kapil with affection.
The good news is, Kapil managed to learn and the success fostered a great father and son relationship that has since grown beyond the familial, to that of friendship. In fact, one glance at Niroo and Kapil would conjure the image of two friends hanging out, despite the fact that the elder man, currently enjoying his time as an actor, is all of 53 years old. At 25, Kapil is less than half his father's age, but the HR executive has the same level, if not more of the enthusiasm towards the race.
One of the reasons Kapil wanted to take part, aside from seeing the world in the race format, is to bond more with his father. This probably explains why the duo has yet to plan on race strategies and would rather run the race one step at a time.
Explains Kapil, "Our strategy is to go by gut feeling and take each thing as it comes. If you are prepared for anything, everything comes easy." And Daddy concurs on this point. "We do not like to copy. We will cross the river when we reach there."
When it comes to challenges, Kapil has no problem with Dad taking control, because he is used to it, but not in the way you think. Outside of the family, the duo is also part of the same acting company, where Niroo serves as actor cum director, with his son as one of the actors. Notes Kapil, "Although we share a father-son relationship, we are more like friends. That's rare to see in such a relationship."
This act of following the father stems from the fact that on the one occasion Kapil never listened and allowed his overconfidence to take over, his actions "messed up a show", says Niroo. Those days are gone and Kapil has grown into his own as an actor, and his proudest moment as a father and director was when Kapil won accolades during a performance directed by Niroo.
Despite having a short fuse, Kapil is looking to keep cool under pressure. His strengths, he says, is to enjoy even a stressful situation, depend on his communication skills and rely the ability to think on his feet.
Balancing him will be Niroo, who despite his recent acting foray, is an engineer by trade. "My engineering background, my analytical skills, & my sense of direction are my true strengths," he notes. And if they win, the duo is also looking at the prize money to expand their theatre group. "We will utilise this money in building a theatre stage which I want to build in the name of my mentor," say Niroo.
Neena & Amit (India) - Cousins
If one half of this team can "betray" even family to get what he wants, what chance do the other teams have? Take Amit Rai, 27, for instance. One thing he has never forgiven his cousin, Neena Rai, 24, who used to be an air hostess, for is never introducing him to any of her model and air stewardess friends. So rather than rely on family help, he took matters into his own hands.
"I stole her mobile phone and took down all the numbers of her model friends, and called them up as a model-coordinator," quips the media and real estate consultant. Now, whether he got lucky with those numbers is another thing, as his only goal now is to represent India and if he wins The Amazing Race Asia, make Indians everywhere proud of his achievements.
But he adds, "The prize money is very tempting too."
And while his cousin is thrilled to experience the rush of the race, the reality TV fan also hopes that the increased profile of being on The Amazing Race Asia will boost her modeling and art career.
Having known each other all their lives, and having spent the better half of that time seeing the better and worse of each other, the duo believe they are ready for whatever the competition throws at them. In fact, watching them together, it seems they too have a need to outdo each other, and are behaving more like siblings than first cousins. They say, "We have gone though life, education and stress together and we have this bond."
But with family, there is always the drama to expect. Summing it up, Neena explains, "We both are poles apart in everything but still get along like a house on fire. We both are melodramatic people as well. While my reaction to a particular situation could be loud, his reaction to calm me down is even louder."
However, there are elements that only she can bring to the team, such as her vast airport hopping experience during her time as a flight attendant. Her game plan is to have other teams underestimate her. "I intend not show my competitive side to the other racers and let everyone think I am all beauty and no brains," she professes.
One thing she would have to master is her patience though. "I am very impatient and tend to think negatively. And God help me with my punctuality."
She also has to deal with a cousin who more often than not, prefers to give up on things.
"He deliberately starts giving up or loses a winning game because he is either annoyed or impatient," she says.
As for Amit, he credits Neena for getting him hooked on the show and intends to play the role of the underdog, and of course, work on his impatience. "I intend to show the other team that we guys are good for nothing and then like tortoise win the race, slow and steady."
His intent is to stay chilled out, calm and focused, while having fun. "I can handle stress and people who are under stress," he says.
Sam & Vince (Hong Kong) - Best Buddies
For those wondering, Prolific is a word puzzle much like the classic Boggle game and yes, this shows how quick thinking the duo, who make up Team Hong Kong, can be. Having met three years ago while working in Hong Kong, the 32-year-olds became fast friends due to similar passions in a variety of things, from acting, hosting, stand-up comedy, and most importantly, partying.
They actually met via mutual friends at a party and things since then have been a blast. Recalls Vince jokingly, Sam "wouldn't leave the area where the food was being served."
This also will not be the first time that the friends have participated in a competitive event together. Vince once made it as a finalist in the first ever nationwide stand-up comedy competition, "The Funniest Person in Hong Kong", and if you hear Sam tell the story, the jokes were all Sam's. "I was very proud of him," enthuses Sam. "They were all my jokes of course, but he denies it vehemently."
One thing that does stand in their way though is their hot headed nature, which has led to confrontations. Sam too has to deal with physical fears as he is terrified of needles and bees.
He says, "I was hospitalized after getting stung in the head by a hornet when I was four and since then, I've had a major phobia and if anything flies near or around my head, I freeze instantly."
This is why Sam reckons that Vince is the more physical one, whereas he is the thinking part of the group. And what is their overall strategy? Sam says it is to, "always be part of the pack, and then break away to lead the pack in the middle legs of the race".
But what if it doesn't work? Vince jokes, "I want to bring banana peels to throw onto the ground so that teams running behind us will slip on them."
Yes, Vince is the more competitive of the duo, but it's because being on top is in his blood. Vince has also joined various sports teams, from softball, baseball to football throughout his life and swam competitively from age six to university.
Don't dismiss Sam either as he too can be single minded in his endeavors. Back in 2001, a desire to lose some weight made Sam go on a diet that saw him shed 20kg over a five month period. "I went from an obese 80kg to a 60kg, through rigorous exercising and dieting," he recalls.
The one thing the duo will do however, is to soak up every experience on this race because this could be their last hoorah, since Vince might be leaving Hong Kong in the near future. You might say they have nothing to lose, but everything to strive for.
Natalie & Pailin (Thailand) - Beauty Queens
No Amazing Race season is without its resident eye candy but with leggy beauties Pailin and Natalie, their team has one credential none of the previous good looking teams in race history ever had – being in a Miss Universe pageant and winning one!
25 year old Pailin Rungratanasunthorn was the first runner up in 2006 Miss Thailand Universe and represented her country as Miss Thailand Earth 2006 as well.
As for her good friend Natalie Glebova, the 26-year-old actually was a Miss Universe. Natalie took home the gleaming crown and title from the competition held in Bangkok, Thailand in 2005. The Russian Canadian beauty originally from Tuapse, Russia represented Canada in her winning event and is the second Canadian to claim the title.
It is no wonder that beauty pageants are part of their blood, having met in the 2006 Miss Thailand Universe pageant and becoming fast friends after that. Pailin was also one of Natalie's bridesmaids when she married Thailand's highest ranked tennis player, Paradorn Srichaphan, in November 2007.
But beauty is not the only thing that links the Thailand team together. Both have acute business sense as they are running their own business. Pailin's company makes toys, t-shirts and gifts for sale online, while Natalie's company sells beauty products across Thailand.
Describing herself, Pailin notes of her decision to participate in The Amazing Race, "I am really competitive and I want to do something where I can put my energy in it."
Agreeing, Natalie adds, "We're both very competitive and cannot stand to lose. We love to travel, love to do adrenaline like things, love to experience new cultures and learn."
And with both their credentials, travelling has become second nature to them. Pailin has travelled to Japan, China, South Africa, and Egypt while Natalie, other than gracing beauty pageants around the world, has attended the G8 Summit in New York, and as a HIV/AIDS awareness advocate, has travelled extensively to India and Africa.
Having spent their formative years in the beauty circuit, the damsels know a bit about what it takes to stay ahead. And having seen the show on television, the duo is also gunning to experience the thrills and tumbles that only the race can deliver. Exclaims Natalie, "We love to try new things. Give us bungee jumping, parachuting, paragliding and parasailing any day!"
She adds, "We are competitive, we're in shape and we're going to kick ass."
The girls have started preparing for the trek around the world based on what the previous Amazing Race Asia seasons were like. Surprisingly, their strategy for winning is to be the underdog and "fly under the radar". "Let's hope that no one will take us too seriously so we won't be recognized as a threat until it's too late!"