First in Service News

Agent Spotlight: Kathy Chou, Asia Specialist

Kathy3_550x367 (3)At 17, Kathy Chou caught the travel bug on her first flight. Leaving her native Taiwan behind, she crossed the Pacific to join her mother in her new home in Cleveland. It was a transcontinental journey she’d make many more times over the years.

Today, with 26 years in the business, Kathy is as passionate as ever about helping her business and leisure clients navigate all of Asia (along with Europe and the US). “Asia can be a big puzzle for the Western traveler,” she says, seeing her role more of “advisor, designer, researcher and curator to create the perfect journey for the individual.”

She encourages clients to mix luxury adventure travel with traditional touring in Asia. For East Asia, Kathy recommends Japan, China and Taiwan for their wealth of destinations with enough wow factor to fill 2-3 days, and the versatility to build add-ons. For Southeast Asia, she thinks Vietnam, Siem Reap and Thailand are foolproof because they offer a blend of touristy highlights and vast unspoiled areas to explore.

No matter where in Asia, her advice is to pace oneself and be open. She advises, “Culture shock and jet lag in the first days can be jarring, but Asians love American and Western travelers because of their fun loving, easy going nature. Also respect common etiquette and customs as Asians are people of tradition, quite the contrary to Western thinking.”

Kathy loves to chronicle her travels in writing. She’s drawn to ancient cities like Rome, Beijing, Istanbul, Machu Picchu, and Luang Prabang for their wealth of history and preservation. She also loves exploring nature’s wild side. Swimming with the whale shark in the Gulf of Mexico, balloon riding over the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia, waiting for the Bison crossing in Yellow Stone Park, searching for capuchin monkeys in the untouched rainforest in Costa Rica.

Her most fascinating adventure is ongoing, and it’s the subject of her next writing project. Four years ago, she went to Yantai, China, to research her grandmother, whom she knew little about. There through a local writer, she learned that her grandmother was one of the first feminists in China, part of the Cultural Revolution, and later became a legislator in Taiwan. She’s determined to uncover more of her grandmother’s story to compile into a biography. It will be a legacy she hopes to pass on to her own teenage daughter.

 

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