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Celebrity Travel: Go Away With Kenny Leu

By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency on

Actor Kenny Leu was three months old when his family emigrated from Taiwan to the United States. Best known for playing Sgt. Eddie Chen in National Geographic's series "The Long Road Home," Leu also appeared on "NCIS" and "Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope." A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in mechanical engineering, Leu resides in Los Angeles. Fans may interact with him via Instagram (

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I would have to say Taiwan. My parents immigrated to California with no family in the area -- and barely any in the United States. When I go back to Taiwan, I get to catch up with the dozens of cousins I could have grown up with. The last time I went back was four years ago. My mom planned a trip for my dad and me. Taiwan was how I remembered it, but I also got to know it a lot better. We explored places like Penghu, which is a vacation archipelago off the mainland -- kind of like Hawaii to the U.S. But it's like what Hawaii was like in the '50s -- pristine and relatively undisturbed by tourism. We rented scooters and spent five days riding around the whole island.

Q. What are some of your recommendations for people who have never visited Taiwan?

A. It's especially famous for its night markets -- think street carnival, but it happens every night. I remember loving this carnival game called Fishing (where) you get a paper scoop, and you try to get as many fish as you can before the paper breaks. You keep the fish you get. A lot of street vendors would have stalls that are simply a big blanket laid out on the street and they're selling everything from cellphone cases to slippers. Everyone goes there for the food, though. Food carts sell now-renowned dishes like Stinky Tofu, Taiwanese Sausage, shaved ice and, yes, boba milk tea. Taiwanese invented that! The country has such good food that Asians from other countries visit Taiwan just to eat. I remember that the seafood there is so fresh. Every restaurant has a menu (with) crab, fish, lobster, clams. ... When you order it, they just boil it and put it on a plate. No seasoning required.

Q. What locations have you filmed at that you'd like to return to for a vacation?

A. Definitely New York. The amount of life and culture, all infused and combined in one place is astonishing and, often times, overwhelming. You'll never run out of things to explore.

Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?

A. We're not so different after all. Despite how differently we all live, we cherish love, family and belonging.

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Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. A friend of mine highly recommended getting certified for scuba diving so we can dive all around the world. I got certified (a few) months ago. I'm dying to go to one of the top spots in the world -- the Sea of Cortez, (which is) only about an hour away from Los Angeles.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. If I make a trip anywhere, I need to know everything about it -- its history, demographics, geopolitical climate, prime places to visit, what it's famous for. ... When I was younger, I traveled to countries without context and it was just one meaningless landmark after another. It was after I decided to inform myself that the things I saw and experienced began to have meaning and leave lasting impressions.

Q. What is a vivid vacation memory?

A. Some friends of mine and I planned a trip to Machu Picchu about two years ago. It still is one of my most memorable vacations -- not only because of the great company, but at times it felt like I had traveled to another millennium. Machu Picchu was like the Mecca for the Incas and they built a path out of stones -- a four-day pilgrimage through mountains. It was an insane hike. There were periods where we were climbing stairs for six hours at a stretch, then going downstairs for another four. I call them stairs, because that's exactly what they were. Our tour guide was incredibly passionate about his history and culture and filled us in on everything that he knew. With nothing out there but the scenery, the path and ruins, with a captivating tour guide telling us stories of what it was like to live back then, it really felt like I was there. The Incas lived about a thousand years before and I felt like I had stepped into a time machine.


(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)



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