Dara and Ed continue their journey in Thailand. The pair fly into Phuket and experience an island that is sinking under the weight of booming tourism.
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'..where ancient religions jostle for space with super highways.
'One of the most rapidly changing places on Earth.'
That was genuinely amazing.
'My fellow comedian Ed Byrne and I...'
I don't understand anything that the board says.
'..are on an epic adventure...'
It's difficult to get the rhythm right!
'..through three of the most vibrant countries in the region.'
This is an astonishingly beautiful sunset.
'From the economic powerhouse of Malaysia,
'the holiday paradise of Thailand,
'to Myanmar, a fledgling democracy unlocking its doors to the world.'
It's a lot of people. There are a lot of people here.
'It's a journey that takes us over 3,000 miles from Kuala Lumpur,
'across the Malaysian peninsula, to the historic city of Mandalay.'
This is a taste of real Malaysia now.
-That's a nice feeling, isn't it?
This could prove to be a very long night.
'We want to explore how Thailand
'is sinking under the worst excesses of tourism.'
To me, Phuket is now like the Titanic.
We are moving to the huge iceberg ahead.
'Meet the indigenous tribes of Malaysia, struggling to survive.'
-They're really shy of new people.
-We're going to be just as shy.
'And discover how Myanmar
'is grappling with its new found freedom.'
The perception was that I was watched
and I could be thrown into jail at any minute.
'We want to understand how the clash between east and west,
'the traditional and the modern,
'is transforming these countries. forever.'
It does seem odd. It felt like I've stepped into a time machine.
Do you know what this trip needs? A giant golden Buddha.
Would there be one of them nearby by any chance?
'We're in Thailand.
'Once a stopping off point only for intrepid backpackers,
'it's now one of the world's top holiday destinations.
'We've just landed in Phuket, the country's largest island
'and one of its most popular resorts.'
-Are you ready to party, Dara?
-I'm going to party harder...
Dara, are we going to party like it's 1999...
when we were younger men?
'But it's not quite the island paradise we were expecting.'
RUMBLE OF THUNDER
Wow. Did you bring a rain coat?
You know what? Normally I'm pretty good on waterproofs.
People normally laugh at me for my excess weatherproofing.
They wouldn't be laughing now, Ed.
Right, we need to find our transport,
which I believe is a cream van.
-Well, I'll keep an eye out for one of those.
-For a cream...
This probably wins the award for the greatest disparity
between the brochure with the picture of the beach in it
and what you first see when you first arrive.
I'd like to get a way behind that and actually...
I'm not going to say it. I'm not going to say, "The real Thailand."
Stop me if I say, "The real Thailand", OK? I apologise.
I'll say, "The Real Thailand."
I'll give you that. I'm going to, at some point, go, "Ah..."
In fact, I'm going to keep asking you all trip,
"Do you feel now like this is the real Thailand, Dara?"
'Phuket is a tropical island in the south-west of Thailand.
'From here, we'll be travelling 1,000 miles north,
'stopping in the buzzing capital of Bangkok,
'now the most visited city on the planet.
'Finally we'll head to Thailand's northernmost point -
'the remote and rural Golden Triangle.
'Thailand's tourism industry is booming.
'In the past 15 years,
'visitor numbers have trebled from 10 to 30 million.
'It's a big concern, leading to some beaches being closed.
'We're keen to see the impact this wave of tourism is having
'on this beautiful country.
'But first, we're going to negotiate the infamous Bangla Road
'in Phuket's main resort - Patong.'
There's something for everybody if you like bright lights
-and loud noises.
-Full on, eh?
Bar. Bar. Bar.
No, I would say a pharmacy is quite an important thing.
A lot of hangovers.
Chlamydia is going to be running through this place like wild fire.
'Strips of go-go bars and sleazy cabaret joints
'have sprung up in many of Thailand's holiday hot spots,
'catering for a certain kind of tourism.'
I don't really feel like we're in Thailand yet.
It's a bit like saying, "I visited Somerset." "Where did you go?"
"The Glastonbury festival." "It's very busy, Somerset, isn't it?"
OK, but this is also, sort of, that Thailand that you...
'But all this walking is thirsty work.'
Really? Really? This is where we're going for our date?
It would seem churlish not to.
This is where we're going for our anniversary dinner, is it?
I feel this is one of these places
which is a once in a lifetime experience, and we've done it once.
Sitting in a seat that makes you look like you're wearing a thong,
in a really loud bar.
Is that our thing? What do you say we neck these and move on?
I think so. I think so.
'Whilst it brings in some much needed dollars,
'the Bangla Road is not the most attractive side of Phuket.'
-It's a bit more quiet.
You can still hear the thump in the background.
-There's people having fun somewhere.
It's funny, like, whenever you're travelling,
there's always that thing of wanting the authentic experience.
-The real Thailand, say.
-If you say that again...
It's like a swear box, if you say the words "the real Thailand" again
you have to pay 50 baht. Every time you say it.
Having seen it, actually, that end of Thailand,
I'm actually looking forward more...
-I'm more galvanized about seeing...
-Were you going to say it?
OK, put me down for 50 baht,
-I'm looking forward to seeing the real Thailand.
'Early next morning, Phuket looks a little more like
'the beach paradise we were promised.'
He's more into beach holidays than I am. He likes the beach.
I don't like the beach.
I'm not a good swimmer, I don't tan, I don't surf, I don't sail,
I don't dive, I don't do any of these things.
I'm like a diabetic in a sweet shop here.
I can see other people are delighted and very happy
but it's not for me.
'About a million people live year round in Phuket.
'But with over six million heading here every year
'in search of their own slice of paradise,
'precious resources like water and sanitation are being stretched
'with more pollution ending up in the sea.
'It's a huge concern for conservationists
'like Nok Homcha-aim.'
-How are you? Hello, hello. How are you?
-Good, thank you. I'm Nok.
-I'm Dara. How are you? This is Ed.
Ed. Nice to meet you.
You work in conservation. Is that a tough job? Is it like keeping the tide out with a pitch fork?
You're the woman ringing the bell right now,
going, "Iceberg, right ahead!"
In a way, Thailand is a victim of its own success.
-It's a beautiful place, people want to come here...
..but by coming here, I guess they're making it less beautiful.
Can you show us some of the things that are maybe being done to...?
That would be great. Let's go see that.
I'll just grab my trouser legs.
'One of Nok's biggest campaigns is the rescue of sea turtles.
'She's helped by the Thai Navy,
'who protect hatchlings from the overcrowded beaches.'
Oh, my God!
-Oh, my God, I'm dying.
'Turtles used to lay eggs on beaches all over Phuket
'but they've been edged out by the sun loungers.
'The Phuket Marine Biology Centre now provides the only safe place
'for baby turtles to grow.'
They need beaches to lay their eggs on,
they need beaches where the eggs will be undisturbed for a long time.
Then the little baby ones have to crawl unmolested from egg to sea.
You can't do that if you've got a series of nightclubs
running all the way along every beach in the state.
The turtles are at their most vulnerable at the bits
where they intersect with our lives, so frankly this is exactly
what we should be doing - putting a fence around and helping them out.
That's why I think this is beautiful.
'But 500 turtles take a lot of looking after.'
-Now we've got a very important job for you.
-Wow. Good. What's the job?
Cleaning the tank.
I thought we might have cleaned a turtle, I didn't think we'd have to clean an entire tank.
-We're not cleaning a turtle, we're cleaning turtle poo.
-I need it spotless, too.
This really is the lowest rung of the ladder here.
Oh, you've just smeared poo where I'm going to stand.
It's better than there being poo where you're going to stand.
Oh, now I've just put sunglasses on a turtle.
Do we shove everything down that drain there?
-Yes, but make sure...
-The turtles aren't anywhere near the drain.
-I'll brush, you sluice.
-Yeah, go on.
You stand in the middle and I'll basically wash the poo towards you.
Oh, hello. He's making a burst for freedom.
You're not ready for it yet, my friend. You've not graduated.
This institution is essentially...
like Thailand installing stair gates.
I can see why they had to step in and whip them all out
and grow them to a certain age.
When they're tiny, they have a 99% chance in the wild of dying.
If they get them up to the age that we're going to release them at,
they have a 99% chance of surviving.
'Once they're big enough, the turtles are ready to fly the nest.'
-So these are the turtles that are old enough to be released?
-They're a year old?
-Yeah, they are one-year-old.
They have to have the completion of the flipper,
they have to weigh more than 2kg.
'Sea turtles have been around for 110 million years
'but our obsession with sun, sand and sea
'could, if we're not careful, wipe them out.'
It feels like the Blue Peter moment of, "Here's one I made earlier."
We're showing the process of how these turtles
are returned to the wild and releasing one.
'As the sun sets over the island,
'it's time to set our turtle friends free.'
We're nearly there. We're nearly there.
He knows, he knows.
This is quite a moment.
-Are you going to give yours a name?
-Yes. What do you want to call them?
-I was thinking I'd call mine Recall.
-I get it.
What do I get, then?
-Eclipse of the Heart.
Are you ready? Now find your bearings.
Find your bearings.
Good for you.
To know that the baby that we have been raising up
is going to go out and grow up,
and if she's female she can come back and lay eggs again,
is just incredible.
All right. Little steps. Find your bearings.
Oh, he's off.
Ah, he's going, he's going, he's going.
Now, you write, OK?
You keep in touch.
Oh, here comes a wave. Yours is going to go.
Yours is going to go.
-There you go.
This is the one. This is the one.
Bye-bye, little turtle.
Have a very long and very happy life.
It's an emotional thing. Sorry.
I have sunscreen in my eyes, that's what this is.
You know, some day, I hope I'll see him again.
I'll be on a diving holiday somewhere
and we'll look each other in the eye.
And if it's not him it'll be another turtle
and it'll be a turtle somewhere else because of schemes like this.
We use so many of the beaches where they lay their eggs
and it's only right that we take care of them
for that small bit where they're most vulnerable.
'And with our two little turtles safely delivered into the ocean,
'it's time for us to leave for the mainland.'
'We're heading 500 miles north to Bangkok,
'which has recently overtaken London and Paris
'and become the most visited city in the world.'
'Thailand earns nearly 10% of its income from tourists
'and most of them pass through here at some point.'
Asian cities are just this teeming mass of life on every level.
Markets tripping over themselves and traffic and tuk-tuks
and all sorts of things happening around you.
I get energised just by being in an Asian city.
'I'm not the only one who likes an Asian city.
'Last year, 21 million visitors descended on Bangkok.'
You can get a sense of getting properly lost in the vastness of it.
Well, what an exciting new taste we've discovered.
It is just rammed with life.
'And where there's life, there's religion.
'Over 90% of Thais are Buddhist and take their faith very seriously.
'There are 400 temples in the capital city alone,
'not unlike where I'm from.'
SLOW DRUM BEAT
In Ireland we like sticking churches on every corner, right,
and we have bells that ring that essentially call you to pray.
So we're not that different, the Irish and the South-east Asians.
'But in Ireland a Sunday morning trip to church
'isn't quite as exciting.'
We just don't have the colour. God, they love their colour.
'Here at Wat Ta Kien temple, in an effort to draw in a crowd,
'the monks have come up with an unusual
'but hugely popular ceremony - the contemplation of life and death.'
Are they supposed to look like nooses?
I don't know. I don't know. It is about death.
But everyone's wearing it happily.
'Over a hundred worshippers take part every day,
'hoping to rid themselves of bad karma
'and accept the inevitability of death.'
In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, please attach
your own head necklace before attending to the needs of others.
'The service begins with a half hour sermon in Pali,
'an ancient sacred language.
'Neither of us understands a single word.'
It's always awkward when you go to a religious ceremony
and you're not religious.
Some people like to join in.
I feel it's more weird to join in with something you don't believe in
than it is to just sit there while it's happening.
But there's also the awkward feeling when you're just sitting there
and everybody's looking terribly solemn and very sincere about it,
then you start to feel bad that you're not joining in.
I don't feel nearly so disrespectful
when I look at a women checking her phone over there, though.
There is a large poster...
over the chanting monk...
for Leicester City Football Club.
I did not expect that.
Then again, if anything has risen from the dead,
it's been Leicester City Football Club.
'So now it's time to lie in a coffin and contemplate our mortality.'
It feels like the least I should get when I die
is a coffin that actually fits. I'd get cramp in this coffin.
'But no sooner have we been covered over with a sheet
'than our death and rebirth is complete.
'The monks believe that this symbolic experience
'can encourage people to say goodbye to bad habits
'and lead a better, more caring life.'
Have you learned any profound truths?
'Finally, presumably to wake us back up from the dead,
'the monk gives us a blessing.'
It's certainly cooling.
-Starting to feel picked on.
Well, that was awkward.
I feel like a terrible tourist in those situations.
I feel very uncomfortable. I am delighted to be out of there.
Do you feel like you learned anything about the nature of death?
I got a glimpse of what it would be like to be a magician's assistant
just lying down in a box and then a swish of cloth,
then another swish of cloth, then a reveal.
I felt like I should have got out and gone, "Ta-dah!",
and been in, like, you know, a short skirt.
Whereas if you're just not spiritual at all,
I didn't feel much like dwelling on my own mortality.
There is an element which is them going,
"That entire service is to teach you an important lesson
"that life is fleeting and then it's over."
And me going, "I'm an atheist. That's what I already believe."
"Oh, OK. Thanks for coming along anyway. And thanks for the flowers."
'We've got one more night in Bangkok
'before we continue our journey north.
'It's Saturday so we're hitting the town.'
You're in Bangkok now, baby. Do you know what Bangkok is?
-It's a party town.
There is a solar system with no less than four planet Saturns...
-..right above our head.
The actual solar system only has one Saturn
but this bus, baby, has got four Saturns.
This bus is better than the solar system.
Boo-boo-boo, the party Saturns, we've got four Saturns!
'Thai food is one of the big draws for foreign tourists
'and it's the country's most well-known export.
'We're on our way through the infamous Bangkok traffic
'to meet Thailand's answer to Jamie Oliver, Chef Dolf.
'He's invited us to a supper club he's hosting tonight.'
-Nice to meet you.
-How are you? Lovely to meet you.
-This is some place you have.
-Is this your home?
Cooking studio? What a brilliant idea.
Dolf, we have a choice of food from all over the world where we live.
You can see why some food has travelled the world so much.
India is a country of a billion. China is 1.5 billion people.
Thailand is not that but Thai food is still up there.
Why are Thai people so good at cooking?
Thai people have got a lot of ingredients
from everywhere in the world.
The chilli is the not the native Thai
but we mix all of the ingredients
and we cook and we bring, like, the best combination
to Thai cuisine.
'Dolf is preparing a five-course feast with dishes from all over Thailand.'
What are the hallmarks of southern Thai cuisine as opposed to northern?
-The north is, like, fatty...
-..because of the cold weather.
In the south, it's spicy.
-You guys want to cook a little bit?
-I'd love to help. Absolutely.
You seem to have everything under control
but if you'd like us to ruin anything, just ask.
Ah, so this is a tofu, prawn and pork dish that we're making.
-Yes, and you are tossing.
-OK, that's fine.
-With my hands or with the...?
-No, with a spoon.
-Lovely. Delighted to hear it.
-This is pickled garlic.
Oh, that's good. Yeah.
'We're being joined by four of Dolf's close friends.'
Our guests are here.
'Food is central to Thai life
'and any good conversation goes hand-in-hand with a good meal.'
It's such a delight to have you here.
We have a colonel in the Thai Army,
we have a former Thai ambassador to Morocco,
we have a university professor in business, we have an air steward.
'I'm keen to find out the thoughts here
'on how tourism is affecting their homeland.'
How do you feel about the fact that in this country
that has such a rich history, culture and heritage,
that for some people, when they think of Thailand,
they think more of the hedonistic tourism,
the pleasure, the girly bars, things like that?
How do you feel about how sometimes Thailand can be perceived that way,
for some people, the first thing they think about?
It's a big problem in terms of perception.
But I think we try...we try to communicate the right thing,
we try to tell them about our rich culture
rather than try to promote that.
Thai culture is unique
and we have many things to present.
A beautiful coastline.
You have a lot of tourists, though.
Is that a worry, that there's so much tourism?
But I think it's difficult to control because you can't say,
"Hey, you can't come to our country. There's too many of you now."
We can't do that, but something in between.
Our government needs to come up with some procedures,
maybe limit the numbers of visitors in some areas
or something like that.
But to learn about Thai, Thailand,
-I think you need to stay a bit longer.
'The tourism dilemma has no easy answers
'but it's time for us to leave Bangkok
'and head off the beaten track.'
'We're travelling northwards on a converted rice barge.
'These boats were once used to ferry crops
'from the fields to the cities.'
It's nice to be back on a boat.
Do you know what I think this trip needs?
A giant golden Buddha.
Would there be one of them nearby by any chance?
Like, a massive, huge...
Build me the biggest Buddha anyone has ever seen.
I want people to know how little I care about material things.
'We're cruising 50 miles north up the Chao Phraya River
'into the more rural heartland of Thailand
'to one of the world's greatest archaeological sites,
'the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.'
Do we move further and further away from tourism
as this journey goes on?
-I would hope so.
-I feel less sure footing
-as we head out into the countryside.
-Yes, but that's it.
Out of your comfort zone. It's more of an adventure.
Would you go on a journey like this to find yourself?
You don't want to find yourself.
If you find the real you, suddenly your drive for attention
-and your ambition to be a big TV star will leave you.
And I can have at least some of your old jobs.
So, yes, find that inner peace, Dara, lose that ambition,
lose that drive and get out of my way.
'We've arrived in Ayutthaya.
'Once one of the largest cities in the world,
'it was the spiritual home of Thailand
'until it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.
'The temples and palaces are the only remains left standing.'
Something about getting out of Bangkok by going up the river
really felt like an escape.
It feels like going back in time,
to come to this very ancient pile of bricks.
I'm always wary of this false romanticism that...
the real Thailand, trademark, is the one that exists further away
from the one we already know, where all the people are,
because it's very easy to come somewhere like this and think,
finally, this is the place we get to see it as it really is.
As if, if they had their way, the people of Thailand,
this is how they would like to keep it all the time.
No, they're living their own lives in the big cities.
But do you think you get a better flavour of the character
-of a country by going to its biggest city than you do from going...
and experiencing its landscape, for instance?
Landscape is very beautiful
but you see the character of the people where the people are.
Still, it's peaceful, and maybe you should be quiet and let us enjoy it.
You can't even allow silence between your own words.
You have to go, "Aaaa..."
Is this the place? Now? Now you want to do this?
Oh, suddenly now we're into the quiet contemplation of the temples.
'In its heyday, Ayutthaya was a warrior city,
'birthplace to Thailand's national sport - Muay Thai boxing.'
'This fierce martial art was developed 500 years ago
'and practiced by whole armies against their enemies in battle.'
'Ed is a lifelong martial arts fan
'so we've come especially to the Palang Gym
'so he can train with Muay Thai master Kru Sid.'
'And after looking at these guys, good luck, Ed!'
Look at the lats on them.
As well as the pecs and the abs, in fairness.
The gluts are probably quite powerful as well.
And they've got a couple of lovely femurs.
"A couple of lovely femurs there."
I would have said, in many ways they are the man you always wanted to be.
And some of them are not even ten.
-Come on, will you go out? Are you going to have a go at this?
'Fighters in the gym here start training as young as four
'so Ed's only starting 40 years late.'
-How are you doing?
-This is my fighter here.
Could I have one of these to wear just to cover my muffin top?
-Is that cheating?
-What's your name?
Kru Sid? OK.
What are we going to kick off with today? What's first?
-Ten minutes of skipping?!
There we go. Chin down.
Chin down. Chin down, Ed. Chin down! You're fighting, Ed!
I can't do this for ten minute! I'm not breathing!
What people at home are not going to appreciate
is that it's about 30 degree heat and 100% humidity here right now.
'Next, Ed learns how to defend himself against a kick.'
-So you block the kick with your shin?
See, where I'm from, that's called being kicked in the shin.
-Even in slow motion, you managed to land one on me.
I think he's really enjoying it.
His greatest advantage as a fighter in the world of Muay Thai
will be blinding people with the paleness of his skin.
Because even in the shadowy environment, he moves like a ghost.
They wouldn't know where it had come from...
where the kick is coming from.
'Having mastered the art of being kicked in the shin,
'Ed's trying some moves of his own,
'although his technique isn't quite up to the standard of the locals.'
There was a guy beside you and when he kicked,
you heard this thunderous clap, right?
And then when you kicked, we're going to call you... Whisper.
It was like...
How about distant storm? Can I be The Distant Storm?
It was like, you know when flour falls,
and I mean, like, a handful of flour.
Ed, come on.
No rest for the wicked.
'Next up is body conditioning.'
Ooh! You motherless...!
'Trainer Kru Sid beats Ed with a large pad
'in a bid to toughen him up.'
-More of that! More of that, please!
-No, no, no.
I actually think this may terribly backfire
because he's learning new punches and new kicks.
Fight! One, two, three...
So I think, dreadfully, I may have made a rod for my own back here.
I may end up get kicked in ways he didn't even know how to do
a couple of days ago.
Pads, elbow, knee, kick.
'Ed's kicks are improving but, fortunately for me,
'his balance still needs a bit of work.'
Don't think I'll make any money on him.
Given the fact that he collapsed after kicking the other guy
and that's what knocked him out,
he's not going to make any money on this circuit.
'Having survived a kicking,
'it's a relief to get on a train and head on towards Chiang Mai
'in the remote mountains of northern Thailand.'
Platform 2 to Chiang Mai.
'This is going to be a new experience for both of us.'
-You looking forward to this?
-Have you ever caught a sleeper train before?
-I've never caught a sleeper train anywhere.
Judging by the way my head is a foot above every other head here,
the cabin might be a little bit tiny.
Looks exciting and very uncomfortable.
'It's not the quickest way to Chiang Mai,
'but it's a chance to get some sleep whilst on the move.'
-This is us?
-This is us, yeah.
Oh, there's somebody there.
'Sharing with 40 other travellers is not what we expected.'
-I thought we got, like, a carriage.
I thought we got, like, a room to ourselves.
-No, it's us and loads of backpackers.
I had visions it was going to be like Murder On The Orient Express.
I didn't think it would be a youth hostel on wheels.
A youth hostel run by the NHS. What's with the blue curtains?!
The other thing that's dawned on me is this baseball cap backwards,
while a slightly sad but acceptable thing for a man travelling to do,
now, here, it just feels like a 44-year-old member of the drug squad
trying to infiltrate the young people.
-Just don't be alarmed.
I am simply one of you, as you can see.
So, everybody hanging loose?
'400 miles and 12 long, uncomfortable hours later,
'we're nearing Chiang Mai.'
'And it's an early start for us
'as our bunks are transformed from bed to dining table.'
-There we go. Thank you very much. You're very kind.
So, we have...
on the same plate, this thing - source unknown.
This thing - a form of ketchup.
There's something very odd about slices of apple next to a fried egg.
That's a wobbly looking egg.
You know, that's perfectly done if you're, you know, French.
How did you sleep?
I probably got to sleep about 11:00 and there was a massive jolt
about 3:00 in the morning which not only woke me up...
but made me so angry I couldn't go back to sleep.
"Why would they jolt a train that people are sleeping on that hard?"
-Was that you awake from 3:00am?
I was the other way. I didn't get to sleep until 4:00am.
-Yeah, yeah. I can't...
You know, I'm not good at getting to sleep.
I am of the night.
And I wish to be in the night.
Chiang Mai Station. Please check your belongings.
-Chiang Mai Station.
-I didn't even get my coffee into me.
'Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city,
'is now well established on the hippy trail.'
So, first impressions?
It's that city that every country has where all the backpackers go.
Bangkok felt like, even though I was excited to get out of Bangkok,
Bangkok still felt like it was full of Thai people going around
doing their Thai things.
-This feels more touristy.
-Oh, man, is it ever.
And even this...
This is unique to here.
I like these. It's like a stretched limo but really, sort of, low-fi.
I can imagine if Bear Grylls had a stretched limo it'd be like this.
'This is the place to tick off the traveller shopping list.'
I might get one of those Chang beer T-shirts.
-Nice, aren't they?
I might get a Jack Daniels singlet.
Puppies. Puppies and rabbits and birds.
This is exactly the kind of random things for sale
that you can buy...
a budgie and some underpants in the same row of stalls.
But you're only allowed two budgies and one rabbit. Don't go crazy.
-Yeah, go on.
-I'm going to wander down here.
Don't get lost.
Don't spend all your money at the first stall.
We're in the market place in a town which we arrived sleepy
because we arrived off that train and the town was quite sleepy
and then darkness falls and it explodes...explodes into life,
and you're aware this bit isn't for tourists.
But so much of Thailand is for tourists.
So much of Thailand is, not quite a front, but it feels like...
It's, "Here, look, we've created this lovely glowing thing for you.
"Our beaches are... Our cities are..."
Not that the people are insincere in any way
but they're quite private and quite reserved
so it's a delightful country to visit
but I'm not sure that you leave knowing more about the people.
'But there's one famous Thai experience we haven't tried yet.'
Is this a bad time to admit I don't like my feet being touched?
This is a bad time to say that.
-Is it because you have very ugly feet?
I find the whole being rubbed by a stranger odd.
-Check out the bruising from my training.
-From my fighting training.
-And your previous lack of fighting training.
-What do you think? Medium?
-Medium it is. Okey-dokey.
That's great. All in the toes, yeah.
Toes very.... Yeah.
-No, that's good. See, that stretch now is nice.
-Ah, stretch is good.
It's striking as well how many of these places there are
and clearly it's not like, what a treat to go on a spa day.
It's more like coffee shops, to a certain extent.
There's loads of them. You know, "Before I go to work, I'm just going to get this done."
That's good, though.
He's on my calf. It's good. He's working it.
You have the calves of Superman?
Yes. Unfortunately, he has hands of pure kryptonite.
The only drawback is every time she passes over a mosquito bite.
-It's like a little speed bump.
-It is, yeah.
That's very good...no, thanks! That's very good...thank you!
I've got your nose. I've got your toe.
This is a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement
what I can take and what I can endure
and that was quite something. I don't like people touching my feet,
which is a ridiculous place to come
for someone who doesn't like people touching his feet.
You know, as much as it might be a bit touristy,
I do feel like it is a thing that people here do
and it's a part of life that it's quite handy to sample.
It's a little bite-size thing of what it's like to be Thai.
I'm glad I did it. It feels good.
He kept telling me I should get it done more often.
I'm like, "Yeah. Yeah, will do."
Much like when you go to the doctor and the doctor says,
"You should eat more fibre." Yes, I'm going to get right on that.
'And after being rejuvenated in Chiang Mai, it's back on the road.'
As well as the physical journey through this landscape,
have we not also been on an emotional journey
through our own relationship?
Do you think this trip has changed us?
We seem to be sitting slightly further apart than we were.
I'm glad that when we go back
we won't have completely changed our look in the style of a backpacker.
-And those big, baggy, MC Hammer things.
Would you though, at 22, if you'd done this trip,
bought the silly trousers and got the hemp?
Was there a point in your life?
-Oh, I don't know. I probably would have done.
If I'd come travelling through here in my 20s
I probably would have at least gotten a henna tattoo.
Man, I was always 45.
Next year I actually will be 45.
I'll probably feel really at home with myself.
'We're heading to a small Hmong tribe village called Mon Jam.
'The Hmong make their living by farming strawberries and other crops
'but as more travellers reach the remote north,
'they've found a way of making tourism work for them -
'through their now world famous Formula Hmong.'
'Originally a downhill go kart race
'between tribes to celebrate New Year,
'the carts are now hired out to tourists for a fee.'
Hello. Look at that. Cute little puppy dog.
-It's the healthiest dog I've seen in a while.
-Yeah. He's lovely.
'Before we get under starter's orders,
'we're going to meet the tribal mastermind behind all this.
'Hur is the chief mechanic
'and he had the idea of making money out of the go karts.'
This looks brand-new. Is this new, this one?
This is your handiwork and just you?
Do you want to try it for size? Let me have a gander.
OK, how's that? Comfy?
-Yes, the seat is actually very comfy.
And then steering with your legs.
-And that's the brake system.
-Brake is reassuringly responsive.
-A very simple... A very simple mechanism.
Yeah, I'm up for doing it.
'Before our go, we check out the karts in action.'
How would you grade your excitement level?
Well, I'm looking at the lack of steepness of the slope.
-That still looks steep to me.
-No, it doesn't.
Also, we don't know what you're coming down from.
This could be the most exciting thing...
anyone has ever done or seen.
Here they come. The come at some speed as well.
That's not a fast speed.
Your greatest risk is dying of boredom.
'It's a risk we're willing to take as we head for the start grid.'
-You're taking your life in your hands here.
-After you, sir.
Hello. Are you getting some illegal lubrication?
No, it's just a last minute pit stop. If we're going to talk about
what's fair, look at mine and look at yours. Yours looks like it's
-fresh off the production line.
-It's too fresh off the production line.
Mine hasn't had it's 1,000-mile run-in period yet.
'Our excuses made, it's time to race to the bottom.'
Whoa, whoa, whoa.
'And it's tougher than we anticipated.'
-Are you with me?
Where are you going?!
'Dara's finding it difficult to even stay on the track.'
-Were you so busy concentrating on the brake, you forgot about the steering?
I was slightly taken aback by how fast it was.
Trying to pull me back. There we go.
Got a bit too competitive there.
'But I'm pleased to say my misspent youth is paying off.'
A bloody ditch! Did you see that ditch?
Dara's in a ditch.
God, this is responsive!
'And as I head for the finish line, Dara really has ruled himself out
'of the next Formula 1 driver championships.'
He takes the chequered flag!
I never thought I'd say this but he is seriously holding me back.
I tell you, that was a lovely lunch you missed.
Turns out small Thai children are better at driving this than we are.
That was petrifying.
I expected...genuinely expected to come down here to the bottom
and to be in that adrenalin rush of something not being quite as scary
and actually it was more frightening than I expected it to be, you know?
You can tell why I was never linked to Top Gear
at any point or at any stage.
That's just simply not happening.
Unless they want to change the show title to Second Gear.
Maybe if prevailing wind is in the right direction.
Dara and Ed present Hit The Brakes.
You've no idea what it was like to be me in that situation.
No, I've not, because I cannot comprehend anyone
who would find that as difficult as you found it.
Did your vision not go all wobbly?
No. Just pull the brake a bit if you're getting into trouble.
I wasn't getting into trouble.
'Leaving the hill tribes behind, we're heading into an area
'called The Golden Triangle.
'In less than 200 miles, we arrive at Thailand's northernmost tip,
'where three countries meet - Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
'This fertile mountainous area is infamous for its opium production
'but in recent years travellers have been attracted here on the search
'for a more adventurous and authentic Thai experience.
'For hundreds of years, this wild region was largely inaccessible
'and home to thousands of working elephants.
'But when the logging trade was banned in the late '80s,
'these elephants and their owners were left with no way of earning a living.'
DARA HUMS THE A-TEAM THEME
-Why am I singing The A-Team theme?
-Why does being in a Jeep...?
-We're in a Jeep, for God's sakes.
You have to sing military music to yourself when you are in Jeep.
'We're on our way to a sanctuary which has transformed the lives
'of 24 captive elephants with the help of tourism.
'Manager Mutsa and vet Nissa are in charge of running the centre.'
-Hello. How are you?
-How are you guys doing today?
We're surprised by how friendly they are.
They're immediately interested in Ed.
They're here to steal hearts.
That's what they do for most of their lives.
They're enormously charming, aren't they? Just delightful.
I know they're not violent animals but is it dangerous
just to be working with something this massive and mobile?
You'd be surprised. They're very mindful of their surroundings.
They know very well where they are, where people are around them.
Do they arrive in a bad state?
A lot of them come in poor health.
Definitely have a lot of room to grow into, so...
once they stay with us for about three months,
pretty much everybody bulks up, have a lot more meat put on them.
Some of them are actually on a diet at the moment.
-They can get a little bit too fat as well.
-Oh, really? OK.
I don't think it's a bad look in an elephant.
-Can they be patted on the nose?
-Yes, they can.
Bo is really, really friendly so on the nose is fine.
He's getting alarmed, the way you're doing it, Ed.
It's going to be a little bit rough right there.
You can be quite... Oh, hello. OK.
Is that a sign of affection, that this elephant just blew snot at me?
Well done. You have back wash all over you. Congratulations.
'The elephants and their mahout owners have close bonds
'and depend on each other for survival.'
'When the crisis for Thailand's working elephants became evident,
'this project was set up by foundation director John Roberts.'
Their main task for at least the last, I guess 500 years,
-It was banned in Thailand in '89.
So that just overnight put thousands of elephants out of work.
They hadn't had any of the traditional jobs to do
so they found themselves begging on the streets with their mahouts,
maybe for 10, 12 hours a night.
And during the day they were in Bangkok sleeping under underpasses
or in fields or anything like that,
which was not an ideal place for them to be.
Almost everything we do in the captive elephant community
at the moment is trying to find ways that elephants can make a living,
mahouts can make a living that isn't harmful to the elephants.
And that's increasingly difficult.
'Captive elephants can't survive in the wild
'so they need a safe place to live.
'And their mahouts need an income.'
'This sanctuary provides food and lodging, paid for by visitors
'like ourselves who come for an elephant experience.'
Right, OK. Don't get crushed, Ed.
Ed, you've knocked him out.
He's actually sitting on the hose.
Sir, you're on the hose. It's your own...
Sir, I'm going to have to ask you, sir.
That is an unexpected...
There we go. Right.
Here, you spray, I'll scrub.
Cleaning the elephant.
-You have to sing for your supper at this place, don't you?
You're drinking your own bath water.
Who doesn't drink their own bath water?
Behind the ears. We're literally washing behind the ears.
On an elephant that's a lot of real estate.
Oh, you want a drink, do you?
There we go.
'The mahouts are invited to live here with their families
'so they can continue to care for their own elephants.'
'Mahout Pong has been living here for nine years.'
What was life like for you and indeed your elephant
before you came here?
What is life like for you now, living here? How has it changed?
'And now, at end of our Thai travels,
'I have finally succumbed to the tourist uniform.'
Oh, for God's sake.
You bought elephant trousers.
Find a tuxedo and then come back to me.
All right, all right, all right.
Welcome to Jurassic Park.
HUMS JURASSIC PARK THEME
-Where are the dinosaurs?
-What's with the trousers?
-They are perfect for the temperature.
And does it allow you to do your Muay Thai moves?
-Can you kick better?
-Actually, yes, it's very loose.
Oh, my God. That actually...!
This is a great place. I like what they're doing here.
I'm big into the idea of making doing the right thing profitable.
The fact that they basically built a luxury resort around
a home for rescued captive elephants.
It's essentially a donkey sanctuary for elephants.
-Like if Battersea Dogs Home opened a B&B.
This is lovely.
But soon we go there.
Or there, I'm not really sure. It's somewhere there.
Or maybe a little round there.
It's definitely broadly over there.
'Our time is Thailand is nearly over.
'We've experienced the various directions
'tourism is pulling this country in.
'Hopefully what we've found here is the future.
'It seems only right we spend our last afternoon
'with our new friends.'
Trunks up if you want some sunflower seeds.
Trunks up, who wants sunflower seeds?
Oh, my God, don't breath on me.
You'll get more if you don't breath on me.
What else are you going to do with these working elephants?
What are you going to do with this entire culture of people
who's entire way of life is built around working elephants?
The only thing that can keep them alive and keep them going the way
they are used to is tourism.
Did he just burp in your face?
And if it's managed correctly,
it will be of huge benefit to many people
and much of the wildlife and the, you know...
ecosystem of Thailand.
There's no way to describe that sensation other than wet hoover.
'Thailand is a breaking wave
'of when tourism actually reaches its physical limit.'
It's interesting to meet people, like we did on this trip,
who are working in order to protect against this huge wave of tourism
while at the same time not being so blinded by ideology
that they realise that tourism is a huge industry here.
I know you doubted me. You said, "There's no river round here."
-There it is.
-But I brought you to a river.
That's Myanmar ten feet over there.
-That's where we're going.
-Straight across the other side.
Thailand is a great country to visit and the whole experience,
one could call it touristy or one could call it user friendly.
Seems nice that we started this journey
by releasing turtles into the sea
and end it by releasing elephants into the river.
Let's just enjoy it for what it is.
A gloriously beautiful country of fabulous wildlife
and incredible things to see and they're lovely people.
They're maybe a little tired of seeing so many of us
but they remain lovely people.
-Hey, how are you?
'Next time, we're in Myanmar,
'which has been shut off to the world for 50 years.'
This is very much a country which is undergoing enormous change.
But we know that we're in the middle of one of those timelines
that will be written about in the history books.
'This land trapped in the past takes us on a journey back in time.'
The country has been held back from development
because there has been a desire to keep the rest of the world out.
In Thailand, Dara and Ed fly into Phuket and experience an island that is sinking under the weight of booming tourism. They meet up with a local environmentalist campaigning to protect Phuket's wildlife and help out at a turtle conservation centre, returning two turtles to the sea.
Moving on to the mainland, Dara and Ed travel to the capital city of Bangkok, which recently became the most visited city in the world. They are invited to a supper club, where they find out how the locals are reacting to the explosion in foreign visitors. Travelling out of the city on a rice barge, the boys arrive in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya and visit its ruins before Ed takes up Muay Thai boxing for a day. Following the backpackers, the boys then board the night train to Chiang Mai, stop for a Thai massage and see how the city has adapted to life on the tourist trail. As they head towards the north of Thailand, Dara and Ed see some of the positive changes that tourism is bringing. They visit the Hmong hill tribe who have transformed their traditional go-karting track into a fee-paying attraction for tourists, bringing in some much needed dollars.
Finally, they end their journey in the Golden Triangle at a sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from Thailand's logging industry. Here the income generated by a purpose-built, eco-friendly tourist resort is funding the welfare and future of the elephants and their handlers.