By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Media Services
Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
Born in China, classical pianist Lang Lang splits his time between New York City and Beijing -- when he's not touring, that is. The 30-year-old musician travels about nine months each year for his concerts, his work with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and his International Education Foundation, which helps inspire kids through classical music. His latest CD, "The Chopin Album," is now in stores. Get updated tour dates via http://www.langlang.com. You may also follow the musician on Twitter (AT)langlang.
Q. What is your favorite getaway in New York?
A. I actually like Central Park a lot. To have a park like that in such a big city is really enjoyable. I also like Queens. It's really quite nice there.
Q. If you could go to a place you have never been to before, where would it be?
A. The Bahamas. It always looks so beautiful and relaxing in pictures. I would love to go someday. I'd also like to get to Egypt and go to Cairo. Like a lot of people, I want to see the pyramids.
Q. What is the prettiest place you've been to so far?
A. I would say Zanzibar. It's really like another world. It's very exotic and beautiful. I was actually there for work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. It was really wonderful and I'd like to spend more time there.
Q. Where did you play your first concert?
A. It was in my hometown of Shenyang. It was a very special feeling.
Q. When you're on the road, do you sample the local cuisine?
A. I do, but I prefer Chinese food. French and Italian food is very good and I've been very lucky to eat some wonderful meals. But, for me, I need to eat Asian food to please my stomach and make it happy. (Laughs.) I love Korean barbecue, but I can't eat the spicier things like kimchi. The main thing I've found, though, is to get out of the hotel and find restaurants. I've had the best meals that way.
Q. To someone who was going to China for the first time, what would you advise?
A. China is a very big country, so plan on going for at least two weeks, so that you can see more than just Beijing. China has many beautiful mountains and rivers. I'd say go to see the Shaolin Temple. And get a foot massage, if you get a chance. It's great, especially for tourists.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Some of the very small cities surprise me. You don't expect to like them, but you go there and find them to be very beautiful. There are some cities like Kansas City, Missouri, that everyone thinks is in the middle of nowhere. But it's a really beautiful city. I was there a few times and was surprised at the variety that you find there. It's very nice.
Q. How many languages can you speak?
A. Only Chinese and English. There are so many other great languages I'd like to learn one day. I envy people who are very good at speaking many different languages.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. It was going from my hometown to Beijing when I was 7 years old. I went there and learned. After that trip, I knew that my hometown was very nice, but that there was a whole world beyond there that I wanted to see.
Q. How much do you travel a year for work?
A. Let's see ... I have a home in New York and one in Beijing. I stay in New York almost two months a year, and then maybe three weeks in Beijing. The rest of the year is spent touring.
Q. Of all the places you've been to, could you see yourself retiring in one of them?
A. I actually think I could retire in Los Angeles. I like good weather -- warm weather. It's very good for the circulation.
Q. How many pieces of luggage do you bring with you?
A. I always have two big bags and two small bags total. I am not a really heavy traveler and don't bring so many clothes with me. But the thing that is really heavy is my music work.
Q. What is your exercise regimen on the road?
A. I'm not naturally fit, so I try to take half an hour of exercise every day to try to relax. Playing two-hour recitals nonstop is very tiring.
Q. What do you do on the plane to make the most of your time?
A. I try to sleep, actually, because once I get off the plane I start working pretty much right away. But I will also listen to music, watch movies or just try to relax. I'll also study new music that I'm learning.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
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