I watch a lot of travel shows. What can I say, it’s one of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings when I’m not traveling. My local public television network KCET has just aired what is probably the best travel show I’ve ever seen. It caught my eye because of the host—it’s Sue Perkins, host from The Great British Bake Off!! Say whaaaaat?? It aired on BBC Two a couple of years ago and I’m not sure it ever aired in the US until now. The show synopsis goes like this:
“The Mekong is South East Asia’s greatest river, the ‘Mother of Water’ that brings life to millions of people from the paddy fields of Vietnam to the mountains of the Tibetan Plateau. In this ambitious, entertaining and illuminating series, Sue Perkins goes on an extraordinary journey, spanning nearly three thousand miles, to explore lives and landscapes on the point of enormous change. Across four episodes, she travels upstream through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China, towards the Mekong’s source high in the Himalayan glacier.”
Here is why this travel show is brilliant:
Sue is funny and entertaining throughout. Extra credit because her English accent is comforting.While some travel shows struggle with how much history and politics to cover, this show nails it. You know those questions we have when there’s a culture or religion we don’t understand? Sue talks about those things in an attempt to understand them in a compassionate way, regardless of her personal views or judgements. This is one of the main reasons travel is important, so the fact that viewers can see this without leaving their home is huge.She’s never doing something a tourist would typically do. She stays with rural families for days at a time and we watch her harvest rice, milk yaks, actually walking in their shoes. It’s not just for viewers’ entertainment; there is a valuable reason but I’ll let you watch the show to get the benefit.She is a fantastic example for everyone who travels, gracious and grateful to every person that welcomes her. She also does good when she travels, like helping to release wild animals that had been captured by poachers, or taking part in a floating library for village kids along the river.Lastly, the show illustrates how kind and generous people are, even some of whom have never seen a westerner’s face in their lives.
You can stream The Mekong River with Sue Perkins here.
Today I sent Sue a tweet telling her how much I think the world needs this show and she told me that BBC1 is sending her to the Ganges River this October to shoot the next travel series! Thank you BBC!
And by the way, Sue’s very first book is out now called Spectacles and you can find it on Amazon right here: