Joe Chang finds another world In Southeast Asia

Meet Joe Chang, who just returned from vacationing in Thailand and Vietnam.  Yes, he has a big smile on his face when not yawning from jetlag.  He loved it:  The weather, the culture, the food, the nightlife.

Joe is a single 30-year-old Korean-American, born in Vancouver, WA and never lived outside of Washington state.  He gets teased sometimes for being a banana, an endearing (hum-hum) term for his Asian appearance but Americanized attitude and ways.

Joe is a man about town in Seattle.  He is known to frequent Belltown establishments in the weekend and has an extensive network of friends who all enjoy time together.  So, what could Southeast Asia possibly offer Joe?

“People are so much nicer (in Thailand),” he said.  “It’s the land of smiles.”  Yes, true, the Thai are known as very hospitable people with warm dispositions.  The Buddhist culture shines there.  But it seems that Joe, the banana, would have some more interesting insights; after all, he’s not just your average “Joe, the Plummer”.

“Well, there seemed to be a lot more women (than men),” he said.  Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  He lowered his voice a tad, as if letting you in on a secret, “They were a lot hotter than i expected too.”  Really?

Lucky for Joe, Korean pop culture is pretty hot in Southeast Asia and many admired his boyish Korean looks. His friend whom he was visiting, played that up as well, telling the locals that Joe was indeed a Korean actor.  Hum, I wonder how they got past the fact that Joe doesn’t really speak Korean at all.

it was obvious that the trip has had a profound impact on Joe.  He speaks of possibly returning and living in Thailand for some time.  There, he saw elephants in the streets, snake shows and constant friendly smiling faces.  Everything was hot: the weather, the food, the night clubs and the women.  He saw the stark contrast between the ultra modern and the old that are always evident in developing countries like Thailand.

Now, with the economic downturn in the States and the relatively lower cost of living in Southeast Asia, the temptation to move could be great for a growing number of Americans.  Additionally, when the economy returns to steady growth, more and more of that growth will be generated from Asian economies.

Well, we can’t finish Joe’s story without some romantic elements.  In vietnam, he was introduced to a very nice local girl through some friends.  They met a couple of times with other friends, which was important since she didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Vietnamese and needed interpreters.  When they would text each other, it was obvious to him that she was getting translations from Babelfish or some other online translator.  The sentences were cute but often difficult to decipher.  Nonetheless, he appreciated the effort.

Finally, when they decided to go out by themselves, he was surprised at how well they could actually communicate through facial expressions, hand gestures and body language.  They ended up in a club where he ordered a bottle of whiskey for the table.  The night flew by and they ended up drinking the bottle between them.  “Oh, the girls there can seriously drink,” he added.

In the end, it was a date like he’s never had before — not at Amber, not at Venom, not anywhere.  It was a date full of animated conversations, but without many words.  It was a cool date.

“I felt like i had a better connection even though we couldn’t verbally communicate,” he said.  “I can’t explain it any other way.”

Joe in the middle
Joe in the middle