tv Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown CNN December 24, 2014 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
chances are you haven't been to this place. chances are this is a place you've never seen. other than maybe blurry cell phone videos, old black-and-white newsreels from world war ii. chances are bad things were happening in the footage you saw. myanmar, after 50 years of nightmare, something unexpected
in the street cast an eerie yellow-orange hue. for almost 100 years under british rule, this was rangoon. in 1948 after helping the british fight off the japanese, there was a new taste for self-determination, the country gained independence. after a decade of instability, however, the military consolidated power and never let go. elections? they came and went. the results ignored, opposition punished, or silenced entirely. burma, now myanmar, where orwell once served as a colonial policeman, where he first had grown to despise the apparatus of a security state, make more orwellian than imagined, in a nation where even having an opinion could be dangerous.
>> i am very honored to be here at this university and to be the first president of the united states of america to visit your country. >> morning in yangon, to nearly everyone's surprise, there have been some huge changes in recent months. >> difficult time in transition is when we think that success is -- >> nobel prizewinning democracy champion, aung san suu kyi, after 15 years in house arrest, was released, now taking an active politics. part in with the doors opening, our crew is the first -- meanwhile, this southeast asian country of 80 million is collectively holding its breath, waiting to see what's next, and will this loosening of government grip last?
of course, morning in yangon has always been about tea. it's black indian-style tea, usually with a thick dollop of sweetened condensed milk. you want it sweet this less sweet? very sweet? strong? less strong? everybody's got a preference, everybody's got a preferred tea shop, where they know presumably how you like yours. >> i want only last week a bit strong. >> journalist and publisher u thiha saw. we meet at the seit taing kya tea shop. >> this place means a lot of things. not just a place to grab a snack. >> for 50 years of paranoia and repression, teahouses were also the main forum for guarded and not so guarded discussions of
the daily news, where you tried to piece together the real stories behind the ludicrously chopped and censored newspapers. carefully, of course, because informers and secret police were also heavily represented in these hotbeds of sedition and discontent. given your position, how have you managed to stay out of prison all these years? >> no, i was there. two times. >> two times. >> once they called me and said, u thiha saw, would you come into the office and talk? >> right. >> so i went there, and -- i was there 89 days. it was a very serious control that came with the first government. and registration. >> that doesn't sound good. >> together and we look at everything. take this out, take that out or black that out, or just take the whole story. >> magazines that came into the
country, they would literally cut out the pieces? >> people under this kind of censorship, i think they become more creative, care reading, something between the lines. >> something you were accused of, sending secret messages? in the back, a call drone of salty fish bubble over hardwood coals. fingers work mountains of sweet bean, one of the fillings for the variety of pastries stuffed, shaped and put into an old wood stove oven. in another corner, the heartening slap of fresh bread pressed against the clay wall of a tan doori, and of course eggs bob and spins in the broth of
fish, spice and herb. >> mohinga? this i must have. if there's a national dish, would it be this? >> yes, you look at the sometimes. these are indian, these are chinese, but mohinga is a local thing. it's fish based with rice or noodles, sometimes we put in some crispies, like fried beans, and these are some coriander leaves. >> yeah. >> lime. >> sprinkle some in here. >> good textures. particularly in the light of obama's recent visit, these are interesting times. significant changes for the first time in 50 years. >> yes. one thing that's quite significant. you take a look around, all kinds of people, all age groups. a couple years ago, people would be talking about politics, you -- nowadays, it's more outspoken. the government is more open.
they also are relaxing the rules about censorship. august 20th, we were called into the office, many publishers and editors, and the boss, okay, 40 years and 20 days of censorship is gone. that's it. >> feel good? >> yeah. that's what we've been waiting for for so many years. >> i love the answer. it's a careful yes. >> yes. people in the country, we have some doubt, is it real? the changes? the reforms? but now it's a couple years. people start to believe, okay, maybe it's real. the process is still very young, but it's still possible. when the generals stop and say, okay, now let's turn back or let's stop. i'm optimistic about the changes, but still cautiously optimistic. >> in yangon, motor bikes are
outlawed. why is a matter of much rumor and speculation, so it's the bus for me. something seems almost out of sync. not too long ago, even filming here officially as an open professional western film crew, would have been unthinkable. in 2007, a japanese journalist was shot point-blank and killed filming a street demonstration. people seen talking to anybody with a camera, there would likely be a knock on your door in the middle of the night. yet so far confronted with our cameras, a few smiles, mostly indifference at worst, shocking considering how recently the government has started to relax its grip. >> we love to eat.
don't forget for years, under dictatorship, there were not a lot of things to do. get shampoo and eat. >> this is ma thanegi, a famous and very controversial figure in public life. >> myanmar or burma? >> myanmar, because that's the original name since the 13th century. >> ma thanegi, like u thiha saw, has also spent time in prison. emerging after three years, they became to the minds of many an apologist to the regime. fairly or not i leave to others. >> you know, it's only after the military went away, you know, that things happen, especially with the state like -- snow white. >> but her many well-known books on the culinary traditions of myanmar, make her a compelling advocate for burmese cuisine. >> you're very passionate about the cooking and cuisines.
>> just because i like to eat. i eat like a pig. >> this is yangon's feel restaurant. >> i think the best of our food, i'm going to order a lot of salads. it's good to be like sort of a tasting thing. >> pig head salad with kaffir lime leaves. long beans salad. with sesame and fish sauce. penny leaf salad, even this salad of indian-style samosa. no first court or second course? >> no. >> if i'm invited to a friend's house, the table would be covered. >> it's about the interaction between a lot of colors in one dish or -- >> or different. >> wow, i'm in love. that's good. >> yes. >> and of course, there's the maddeningly delicious condiments and pickles of which to make each dish your own. >> you make a lot of different combinations with each mouthful.
>> this is something confusing in this part of the world, everyone eats differently to their own taste. >> anything goes. >> every mouthful, you can make as different as you want. it is?? >>hump day! hummmp daaay! it's hump day! >>yeah! >>hey mike! mike mike mike mike mike! >>mike mike mike mike mike. hey! he knows! hey! guess what day it is! hey! camel! guess what day it is! >>it's not even wednesday. let it go, phil. if you're a camel, you put up with this all the time. it's what you do. (sigh) if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. ok... why do i cook for the to share with family to carry on traditions to come together, even when we're apart in stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and more, swanson® makes holiday dishes delicious!
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here, only crisp, absolutely none $100 bills accepted. in myanmar, it's another older world. oh, and what's up with this? with all kissing sounds, smooching, kissing sound ear hearing all over the place? my wife would have been in like ten fights so far. sorry, who are you smooching at? this is how you summon a waiter in myanmar. i know. i know. try that at hooters, and you would be rightly ejected. it takes some getting used to, for sure. this is a big noisy fish house. named for you this khine people. the coastal province to the west named for the people, more than 135 distinct ethnic groups around here. >> now we're talking. it's one of the things we're told you have to eat here.
frogs from the river, then tomato curry. try this. good sauce. that's good. that's some good stuff, my friends. we shall know them by the number of their dead. early morning in yangon. among the crush of commuters, shoppers, people trying to make a living, rise up the last remnants of empire. faded, often crumbling, but still there after all these years. these are the offices, businesses, and public buildings of the british colonials. this building was once one of the swankest department stores in rangoon. a century ago in the poem by
kipling, young englishmen, you could buy fine egyptian cigarettes, french liqueurs. the floor tiles were shipped over from manchester. now people live here. a half century of a pariah state has left very few of these buildings in good repair. there are divergent views on whether to preserve them. for many a reminder of colonial subjugation, for others, a vestige of a golden time. ♪ these days in myanmar in the streets, on the docks, it's all about moving forward. in an economy ripe to explode if things continue to trend, the busy port appears even busier today as workers prepare for the oncoming holiday. hey, chef.
how are you doing? >> it figures, doesn't it? >> it does. welcome to myanmar. >> philip lajaunie, owner and proprietor of my old restaurant les halles. >> it seems only natural that you would be in burma, myanmar at the same time i am. back before i wrote the book that changed my life to whatever it is i am today, i had never been to asia until this guy sent me to japan, and got me hooked on a continent. >> there we go. >> oh, nice. chicken head, yeah. >> that is the perfect mood awakener. >> flip traveled constantly, bouncing around asia for decades. like all good travelers he's relentlessly curious, and without fear or prejudice. >> fantastic. >> it makes perfect sense over cold brew and chicken necks, flip is the one joining mess to explore this particular moment
in myanmar. >> the party. >> it is going to be a party. full moon party tonight. what's that mean? we have no idea. >> we don't know. there's only one way to find out, i suppose. >> it sounds like a party. >> it's crazy from now on. >> it's full moon day, a holiday marking the end of the rainy season. today marks the beginning of three days of break out the crazy. giant speakers compete for attention. everybody cheerfully oblivious to the distortion. cotton candy, trinkets, tube socks, just like a street fair,
but infinitely better food. >> these are very good. >> it's the backbone of every street fair, isn't it? deep fried food. >> that's it. and also the little butter where they break a quail egg in it. one shot, pretty good. this is so tasty. much better than i thought. >> anytime you tell me crispy little bird, i'm all over it. >> good beak, too. crispy and tender. >> oh, and they have rides. check this out. okay. it's a ferris wheel, but the power source, not unusual for these parts, is not electric, it ain't gas. oh, man, are you kidding me? it's human power.
>> yes. every bit of it. >> an absolutely insanely dangerous closely choreographed process of first getting the heavily laden wheel in motion and getting it up to top speed and keeping it there. wow. look at this thing tilting out, too. >> then it goes the other way. >> note to footwear, by the way. it's not just this one, every couple blocks bigger and bigger, each one with its own troupe of spinners. going for a ride is tempting, but -- >> host of cnn implicated in death of four underage carnies. it came off the hinges, next thing i would know it's rolling down the street and sending kids flying.
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next day in the full moon festival. whether you're looking out the window at a rural village or at the streets of yangon, what's happening is probably pretty similar, a tableau of car mounted speakers blasting. but it is also three days of charity or otherwise good works in hopes of jacking up your karma. money trees are paraded around pinwood cash donations for months. free wank -- banquets and feasts
are held. many moments of spiritual reflection. the majority of people here practice tera vata buddhism, the oldest most conservative form of the religion which, simply put, asserts that existence is pretty much a continuous cycle of suffering through birth, death and rebirth. >> very noisy. very noisy, yes. >> the morningstar teahouse where i've come for several reasons, the must-have, bone deep, favorite la pet tuk. the salad of fermented leaves, i know, it doesn't sound good, but you would be wrong to think that. take the fermented tea leaves, add cabbage, tomatoes and lots of crunchy bits, season with lime and fish sauce. this is absolutely delicious. >> you like it? >> oh, yes. it is fantastic.
>> yes, yes, fantastic. >> simple, delicious, things not to be taken for granted if you've been out of joint like this guy, zanzi. >> this happens again and again for us in myanmar. >> almost six years? >> nearly six years. all the judgments are made by the kangaroo court and the army, the navy, the air force, and they read off, this is your sentence. it happens only minutes, like that. >> what is life like inside prison. >> nice, nice, very nice. >> i have a hard time believing that. >> we can talk to each other, say to use a mirror to look at each other. >> access to books? >> no books, no writing things. no paper. no nothing at all. a mat and a blanket and a plate and a bowl. >> right.
>> only things are the things that we possess. >> how is the food in prison? >> soup. pea soup. only one meat meal for a week. that's on thursday. you know that in prison, all the -- nobody, only the head of the fish and the tail. no middle part. >> so there is hope for this country, in your view. yes? >> yes, yes. the buddhists believe how to live in situations, dictators, political passion, or even discrimination, everything is happening to us, but the buddhists say, okay, that's a past life now and maybe something in your next life will be good. >> there's something pretty cool about meeting people who have been for so long unable to speak. now so unguarded about their hopes and their feelings.
♪ sizzling meat, the clink of beer glasses, ringing bicycle bells. this is yangon's 19th street. does yangon rock? can it rock? >> nine years, like a must-go place when you are in yangon. >> meet burmese punk rockers side effect, and lead singer darko. >> you can come here any time, there will be lots of people like here. >> so if you sit here long enough, you'll see every musician? every music in town? >> yeah, you can say that. >> the citywide curfews used to mean close your doors at 11:00. most restaurants close early still, but not here on 19th, where you can eat barbecue here into the middle of the night.
>> what is this, tofu? >> pork tail. >> the barbecue is awesome. >> these young men show exactly how determined you've got to be to rock, especially in burma. >> i like to say my audience was nirvana and then sex pistols and stuff like that. >> what american bands do you hate? >> um, creed. >> yes! they are like the worst band in the history of, like, the world. so what's it like having an indie band in myanmar? difficult? >> for sure, yeah. before you record a song, like when you have the lyrics, you have to submit the lyrics, so they're going to censor it, they're going to check it. even sometimes they will, you know, suggest you some words you
change. >> that must be funny. >> very funny, you know. >> now, is that still the case? >> no, it's not like that any more. they're not going to censor you, because it's risky. you don't know what will happen to you if you write and sing something wrong. >> so let me ask this. if all your dreams came true, where would you want to play? >> really? new york city. >> you want to go to new york city? >> my dream is to be strong, so that's why -- what i'm -- what i keep telling my band mates. >> come on. >> so old people reach out. making roll and roll is hard enough. truly independent rock and roll is even harder. i'm guessing making it here is even harder still. so gentlemen, you deserve success. people should hear you. >> yeah.
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so you heard the sleeping call of the whale? and the dining car? >> no, we lost the dining car, i hear. >> but even our car of the -- lost a wheel. so we have to just hope for the best. >> the night express to bagan. 600 kilometers of what will turn out to be kidney-softening travel by rail, but bagan,
myanmar's ancient capital, i'm told, is a must see. >> the true old english experience. the engine is a french engine from the '70s. >> we've been told it's a somewhat uncomfortable ten-hour trip. so really the question on this end of the journey is come back on the train or flying coffin. >> mishaps on both burmese planes and trains are not, shall we say, unheard of. >> the widowmaker express. >> that is the choice. that may be the signal to depart at some point. >> yeah. all aboard. we're moving. here we go. >> here we go. >> that's it. we are at cruising speed. >> really? this is cruising speed. i could literally outrun this train.
>> we could jog ahead and have a nice meal. in some recommended restaurant. >> we could catch up with it. >> with a digestive walk. here we go. this is stop number one of 75. ♪ >> heading north, the scenery opens up. the space between things gets wider, more pastoral, more beautiful. looking around at my fellow passengers, it could be hard to
distinguish between the 135-plus ethnic groups that make up the burmese population. the very name, burma, refers actually to only one of these groups. what they all seem to have in common, however, is a thanaka, a sunscreen from tree bark that masks many of their faces. it is ubiquitous here. at first jarring to see, it quickly becomes something you get used to and take for granted. yangon's gravitational pull broken, and with darkness falling, the train picks up speed. at times terrifyingly so.
>> if this thing is going to be derail at some point. they have lost how many wheels yesterday? on this one train? so truly it's about being in the right car, the one that keeps its wheels. >> derailments or rail splits as they've referred to more is more benign sounding than rolling off the tracks into the rice paddies, which are not uncommon. one can't help wondering what the engineer and conductor are thinking as the train speeds heedlessly on faster and faster. >> all right. it must be like 40, 50 miles per hour at this point. >> i wonder if anyone has ever flown out of their seat out the window. you don't want to be holding a lab dog. >> or baby or anything. >> yeah, try -- in the bathroom and find yourself launched
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i have time. >> what's yours? >> arrowroot. >> potato. >> how do you make good -- look at this, a bouquet of fish. >> this is the plain of bagan. >> out the window, the modern world seems to fade away, then disappear all together, like the last century never happened, or even the century before that. we're traveling across the largest mainland nation in southeast asia. but it should be pointed out that we are still within the confines of the tourist triangle. areas permissible for travel. whole sectors of this country, much of it in fact, are off-limits. simply put, there is -- going on
that they do not want you to see. a low intensity conflict with the ethnic kachin tribe would be one of them. a wave of persecution and death in the thu kine state. the country may be opening up in the center, but on the edges they're waging a desperate war to hang on to the stat us quo. needless to say, the status quo is not good. >> all right. bagan, here we come. a thousand years ago bagan was the capital for a long line of kings. it's the sort of place where the old coexists with the even
older. as elsewhere in this part of the world. in many of the buddhist temples here more spirit-based beliefs coexist with buddhism. and in myanmar, worship of the nats are widespread. they are gods, obvious with human failings. dance performances pay homage to the individual nats, performers claiming to actually channel them, bringing about one hopes a beneficial spiritual possession. but i'm not just here for a nat pue. i have a list. things to eat in myanmar. this is one of them. chicken curry. and from roadside joints like this nestled among the temple
ruins, you're more than likely to catch a very enticing whiff. just delicious. spicy, but not to the point you want to scream out for mercy, but of things, really interesting salad, but i'm not really a salad guy. salads here are happening. spicy, sour salty, it's delicious. delicious. a plethora of textures and flavors. they thought a lot about their food and clearly like eating, like feeding people. think a lot about the balances of flavors, colors and textures. best restaurant in the country so far by the way. ♪ you'd expect this, an ancient
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. you'd expect this, an ancient you'd expect this, an ancient city of nearly unparalleled size and beauty to be overrun with tourists, snack bars, tours on tape. but no. >> this is stunning. >> you'll encounter some western travelers at bagan's travel sites for sure but they are a hearty bunch. even the bus tours here are not for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. but for the most part you are more likely to bump into a goat than a foreigner. >> this is so beautiful.
so much like an ode to human believes and admiration and worshipping. >> slave labor. >> and slave labor. you build this many temps thousands of them in a short period of time. chances are someone was working for less than minimum wage, let's put it that way. >> oh, sure. you could fly here. look at that. >> a millennia ago in a period of 250 years, over 4,000 structures like this were built here. they say that a bama king began this project after a conversion to buddhism. they started a new temple like
every 14 days. over 3,000 pagodas, temples, and monasteries remain today. inside almost every one of them, a buddha figure, each one of them, different. >> and i like how integrated it is with the frieze, postures. >> funny you mention that. people used to live here and the government came along in the '80s, i believe, and relocated them. it was a mass relocation project. this is tourist bucks here. they relocated the entire population. we're in one of the first mass waves of tourists. european tourists have been coming here in relatively small numbers for a long time but it's the flood gates have opened.
they are building hotels like crazy in this area called the tourist triangle. >> what is this here? this is a scarf. >> as myanmar begins the shift to accommodating tourism and the service economy to go with it there will be adjustments. there will, of course, be a downside. >> what is that going to mean? how will burmese react to all of the good and evils that come with tourism? it's going to be mobility. it's going to mean prosperity for some. it will mean a lot of bad things too. it will mean prostitution. it will mean hustling. >> everybody tell it to you. you buy -- you don't buy -- that's no fair. >> i don't need it. >> kids are dropping out of school to do this. the double-edged sword of the service economy. >> you want bamboo skin?
you want one for $5. one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. >> what i'm amazed is how friendly and open people are with us. it's very easy for me to sit here and say whatever i want about the government. right? we can go home. our lives will go on. we don't pay the price for that show. everybody who helped us could very well pay that price. it should be pointed out that a lot of people did not. a lot of people were very nice to us but said i've already been in jail. you know, i really don't want to go back. it's a very real concern. what happens to the people we leave behind? you know, one would think you can win freedom. they tasted freedom. you know, you can put the toothpaste back in the tube. you know, there's no doubt about that. but for the moment at least,