A Culinary Tour of Asia

The very heart of your Asian vacation isn’t the exotic locale, the invigorating massages, the majestic ancient temples, or even the warm, friendly people. It’s the food. When you’re at home, food is a centerpiece of activity and fun-the backyard cookout, the Friday evenings with friends, or the romantic dinner. When you’re on vacation, it will be even more memorable if you keep food enjoyment high on your list of priorities.

Food is more than mere sustenance. It is a social experience, and a sensory treat that will be remembered long after you return home. Asia is well-known for its exotic cuisine, and no Asian vacation would be complete without thoroughly enjoying the food. In every major Asian city, you’ll find your usual array of the familiar favorites from back home: KFC, McDonalds, Sizzler, and so on-but why not enhance your foray into the unknown with something new on the menu?

The cuisine is as varied as the continent, ranging from the aromatic curries of India, to the fiery-hot tom yum goong of Thailand, to the European-influenced Macanese cuisine found in the Chinese autonomous region of Macau. Wherever you travel, you’ll find unique and fresh ingredients, presented delightfully in authentic surroundings and delivered by friendly, smiling staff.

You’ll find your environment as memorable as the food itself. You may find yourself sitting under a straw roof, sitting cross-legged and eating off of a banana leaf, or enjoying the most elegant, five-star posh surroundings you’ve ever witnessed. And don’t neglect the local specialties. A meal of dim sum (“yum cha” in Cantonese) in a Hong Kong tea house is an event unto itself that will never be forgotten. Take a boat cross the bay to Macau for a trip back to old Europe, where you can enjoy High Tea in the afternoon, and one of the country’s characteristic egg tart specialties. And when you tour Japan, you’ll discover that there are dozens of different varieties of sukiyaki, which is customarily cooked right at the table.

You’ll also find very informal street cafes throughout most of Asia, which are little more than a handful of plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk, overlooking a kitchen that consists of a propane tank and a wok. If you’re adventurous enough to try one of these places, you’re likely to find very local cuisine that you can’t find in the “normal” restaurants, including wild game, insects, and parts of animals that you never knew you could eat.

Desserts are not to be missed. Unlike the rich, gooey, chocolatey sweets of America, Asians tend towards the lighter, more delicate tastes in sweets. A Chinese sweet red bean bun is very tempting (and does not have the usual disagreeable side effect that beans often do). Japanese sweets (wa-gashi) also frequently use sweet bean paste and are quite delicate. In Thailand, you may enjoy bua loy naam qing (literally, “floating lotuses in ginger water”), which delivers an enjoyable contrast between the strong ginger tea and the delicate rice flour sesame balls floating within.

Often overlooked are the unusual tropical fruits found throughout Asia. If you think of fruit as apples and watermelons, think again-the taste of the lichi, mangosteen, and rambutan are incomparable and a sheer delight to the senses. Beware of the infamous durian though, the heavy, spiky “king of fruits” that has a decidedly foul, almost fishy smell and is definitely an acquired taste.

You’ll find that in most Asian countries, meals are very social, and are often served to your table communally, as opposed to the Western style of each person ordering individual dishes. Don’t be surprised if your host serves you and continues to refresh your drink throughout the meal. Bone up on how to use chopsticks. Here’s a chopstick etiquette tip: You’ll sometimes see diners at inexpensive restaurants rubbing together the chopsticks before eating. This is done when using the inexpensive, wooden disposable chopsticks, to make sure there are no splinters. Avoid rubbing your chopsticks together at somebody’s home or at an upscale restaurant, as it would be considered an insult-you’re saying that the chopsticks are inferior when you do that. But, not every Asian country uses them. Thais eat European-style with a fork and spoon. In China, you’ll use chopsticks, but will never see a knife at your place setting, because it is considered aggressive. In some very rural parts of Asia, such as in the Laotian countryside, you’ll eat with your fingers. But regardless of how you convey the food from plate to mouth, you’re in for a real treat.

The Missing Years of Jesus – Resolved

Shrouded in mystery, fable and legend, nevertheless the Bible recorded the birth of Jesus Christ and follows His life up to about 12 years old.

To this day Jewish male children undergo Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13. This was not recorded by the Evangelists. Indeed, the life of Jesus is not considered again till the age of 30.

To accept that Jesus was just at home with His family is a plausible explanation, but not in keeping with the Gospels that say at the age of 12, Jesus was at the Temple, and the people marveled to hear Him.

Certainly, after His Bar Mitzvah, He would have been technically a “man” and no longer a boy, and would naturally continue to marvel the people. It would have been His right to speak in the Temple. There is no such record.

There is much speculation, but a lot of recorded incidents and connections. One very important one is Joseph (Saint) of Arimathea. Certain he was a rich man, and certainly he was able to speak (in Greek and /or Latin) to the Roman governor at a very sensitive moment, so he was certainly influential.

He gave his own tomb for the burial of Jesus, and paid for all the necessary burial formalities. There is no question he was close to Jesus, and as a member of the Sanhedrin, would have defended him in that assembly. There were more connections, and many very plausible.

Joseph of Arimathea was certainly wealthy, but how did he amass his wealth? Arimathea, is not a town or district at all, but a Greek compound word meaning Harima Theo (by the Grace of God).

He most likely came from Ramle or another town. He was said to be in the trade of metals; tin precisely. This would have theoretically put him in contact with England, where tin was mined and sent throughout the Roman Empire.

More speculation has Joseph related to Jesus directly. It is been written by early Church fathers that Joseph was the uncle of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Certainly the Gospel has them familiar as when Joseph was burying Jesus in his tomb, he was accompanied by Mary (the mother of Jesus), and Mary Magdalena.

Jesus Himself was familiar with Alexandria in Egypt (where He grew up) and as a major center of learning (the Library was there), Jesus would have also spoken Egyptian.

Since where there is so much smoke there must be fire, the story of the young Jesus being accompanied by Joseph, his uncle, on a journey to England is certainly possible.

The legend records the journey home, but with a diversion to Greece, and then into Asia Minor. There it is said that Jesus and Joseph departed, with Jesus joining another wealthy traveler with his son.

At the time, there were Buddhist missionaries all over Asia Minor, and indeed as far as Rome and Egypt. It is plausible Jesus had encountered one or more, and thus found His interest and way to India.

There are many records from early travelers to India having been shown or heard about Jesus’ time there.

The famous James Churchward in his major work Mu the Lost Continent describes such an encounter. There have been many others including Notovitch in 1888.

Aside from the fantastic speculation, many of the diversions from classic Judaism appear to be oriental in nature, and very specifically Vedic in nature.

Where the Jews were waiting for a Messiah, the Hindus have their belief in Avatars which are human incarnations of God.

So the missing years perhaps saw a journey from the Holy Land to Egypt, to England, passing central Europe into Greece, Asia Minor, and the Hindu Kush all the way to the Himalayas.

There, Jesus would have found the perfect environment to slowly become the world Avatar that He has indeed become.

There is no Hindu which does not accept Him as a divine incarnation.

Here is William Blake’s poem Jerusalem which alludes to such a visit…

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;

Bring me my Arrows of Desire;

Bring me my Spear; O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of Fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant Land.

There have been many theories on Jesus the missing years and we hope you find our view thought provoking.

Rising Asia and Its Implications

I find the notion of “A Rising Asia” interesting, and I think it presents a major opportunity for the localization and translation industry in the years to come. I was first introduced to this concept many years ago by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their excellent book, Thunder from the East. (They were also among the first to point out the promise of China/Rising Asia, several years before the “experts” did.) I really liked the book because it also quickly provided an economic history of the world and is a very easy read.

I thought it would be good to update and expand upon an article I wrote for GALA a little while ago. I have been surprised how little real awareness there is even in the localization industry where leaders often equate Asia with China & Japan (CJK). This was really brought home at the #LTBKK conference, when I saw what a revelation Biraj Rath’s excellent presentation on the Indian localization market opportunity was, to many industry experts. LISA, to their credit announced an India Forum shortly after the conference.

So I thought it might be useful to provide a basic primer on the broader Asian market opportunity. For some in the L10N industry this might all be obvious but here goes anyway. I am interested because:

– There are a lot of people living in Asia (maybe 95% of the next billion Internet users)
– The Internet has very low penetration thus far. Multilingual content will very likely play a key role in driving increasing penetration and commercial opportunity.
– They will need a lot of information quickly (huge opportunity for automated translation technology)
– Largest concentration of young people in the world (also the Middle East and Brazil)

Asia is extremely diverse, economically and culturally, but yet there are some strong common elements. It is also much less connected than Europe. Today, we are aware of the current economic momentum that India and China have, historically they both also had a deep and lasting cultural influence on much of Asia. An awareness of this history is very useful in developing effective business strategies for different countries. The internet is only just beginning to take root in much of Asia (18% vs. 73% for North America), however, it is expected that almost half of all Internet users will be Asian by 2013. Already, China has more people online than the US. Asia could be a major opportunity for companies that learn to tap into this new emerging online population. But this will require an understanding of the diversity and characteristics of the various segments and will also need new approaches in communication and marketing. Asian economies continue to rise in importance and growth, as both a supplier and consumer. Today China and India are the largest mobile phone markets in the world.

Some interesting and perhaps less known facts about Asia that provide a useful contrast to Europe are shown below. They also give one a sense for the different type of opportunities available and the differing reality of Asia.

-GDP per Capita in Asia (~$15,000) is less than half of the EU average and there is a much wider standard distribution and a large population living in poverty throughout the continent.
-While India and China are among the fastest growing economies in the world, the GDP per Capita is $2,800 for India and $6,000 for China and they should still be considered developing economies.
-The top GDP/Capita countries (2008) in Asia are: Singapore ($52K), HK, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea ($23K), Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Thailand ($8.5K).
-India has 22 official languages that are as distinct and different as the 23 EU languages, and also include at least 6 different scripts. English is only spoken by about 7% of the people in India. However, it is possible to get deep penetration into the Indian market with 5 key languages.
-There is very little local language content for Asian languages on the web in general. Based on a survey done by Asia Online in 2007, less than 15% of the total content on the web is in Asian languages. Almost 90% of the Asian language content is in Chinese and Japanese. There is huge need for more local language content all over SE Asia.
-Mandarin is beginning to edge out English as the preferred 2nd language in Asia
-China is now the fastest growing patent office in the world. The WIPO and others state that China is clearly an emerging scientific and technological power.
-The share of Asian country based patent filings is now in excess of 50% of all patents filed across the world.
-India has more gifted and talented students in high school than the total school student population in the US.
-China has more students in Science and Technology college degree programs than India and the US combined.
-McKinsey has identified a “Rising Asia” as a stable long term trend that will fundamentally change consumption patterns. Gartner suggests using IT to reach the market. They suggest that global companies use IT to ‘lighten’ their Asian business model to address the specific cultural, geographic reach, and supply chain considerations.
-The wealthy Asians are concentrated in major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Delhi, Seoul, Manila and Bangkok.
-China is now the fastest growing market for Bentley and BMW.
-More cars are now sold in China than in America.
-Even countries like Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Cambodia which have very low GDP/Capita are interesting markets for cell phones and basic commodities.
-An understanding of Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism cultural perspectives can dramatically enhance your communications strategy into most parts of Asia.
-The fastest growing Facebook markets in 2H2009 are Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
-Google is not dominant in key Asian markets, in Korea they have less than 2% search market share and they are a distant second in China and Japan. Maybe even completely out of China soon. Local companies dominate because of better understanding of local content, language and customer preferences. This suggests that standard US approaches may not work as well in many Asian markets.
-Chinese social networking startups have produced many innovations that have led to them becoming profitable much faster than US equivalents like MySpace and Facebook. We are now seeing Asian innovation gradually making its way to the west.
-Most of Asia has been relatively unscathed by the global financial and real estate market collapse.
-India is increasingly considered a “soft power”. Influential culturally way beyond it’s direct sphere of influence.
-The venture capital markets in India and China are rapidly developing with help from “returning” entrepreneurs and hostile US immigration policies.

But simple strategies like simply making your web content available in the local language may not work. Asian cultures may look superficially similar and even western on the surface, but can have deep cultural differences. The localization market is estimated to be $1.5B in 2010 and could grow dramatically. My sense is that those numbers miss much of the impact of recent growth as the Facebook trends show, mobile computing and successful bottom of the pyramid marketing strategies.

All of these factors point to fundamental shifts in the global economy and indicate that many of these trends will accelerate further. Asia is a significant opportunity for informed globalization managers — and probably key for long-term leadership for many global enterprises. Global companies need to develop broad and unique country-specific strategies to be able to prosper and thrive in this rapidly changing world. Localization and translation will be key elements of any successful globalization plan and should present significant opportunities to vendors that prepare for this change.

It’s wise to remember that the Chinese ideogram for “change” can also mean “opportunity.”