Adventurer and journalist Simon Reeve heads to Cuba to find a communist country in the middle of a capitalist revolution. Two years ago Cuba announced the most sweeping and radical economic reforms the country has seen in decades. From ending state rationing to cutting one million public-sector jobs, one of the last communist bastions in the world has begun rolling back the state on an unprecedented scale. Simon Reeve meets ordinary Cubans whose lives are being transformed, from the owners of fledgling businesses to the newly rich estate agents selling properties worth up to 750,000. Simon gets under the skin of a colourful and vibrant country famous for its hospitality and humour and asks if this new economic openness could lead to political liberalisation in a totalitarian country with a poor human rights record. Will Cuba be able to maintain the positive aspects of its long isolation under socialism - low crime, top-notch education and one of the best health systems in the world - while embracing what certainly looks like capitalism? Is this the last chance to see Cuba before it becomes just like any other country?
The third leg takes him from the illegally annexed peninsula of Crimea to the historic Baltic city of St Petersburg. Crimea is part of neighbouring Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014. President Putin's government is investing heavily in the illegally occupied territory - building a huge bridge linking Crimea to Russia. Simon meets the eccentric and fearless owner of a safari park who likes to get up close and personal with his pride of lions. The owner is struggling to get water to his park after a canal that supplied much of Crimea's water was shut off by the Ukraine. And it is not just the lions that are affected - the diminishing water supplies are now beginning to threaten a humanitarian crisis.
The second leg begins in Siberia and takes him to Russia's far south west and the majestic Caucasus Mountains. From Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on Earth, Simon takes the Trans-Siberian Railway to the city of Krasnoyarsk, the scene of brutal violence in the 1990s, and now the location of a cafe paying homage to Vladimir Putin. Simon is introduced to a Siberian community that worships a former traffic cop they believe to be the reincarnation of Christ. Along with a rare interview with the messiah himself, Simon meets some of the daughters of his followers being educated to become future brides of worthy men. After encounters with Tuvan throat singers and Cossack street patrols, Simon visits Dagestan, a largely Muslim region that has been scarred by jihadist violence. He meets security forces who use highly trained dogs to tackle the terrorist threat, and villagers attempting to keep their ancient tightrope-walking traditions alive.
Setting out amongst the active, snow-capped volcanoes of Kamchatka, over 4,000 miles from Moscow, Simon explores one of the remotest regions of the country. The population of Russia's far east has fallen dramatically in recent years, but travelling by chopper and skidoo, Simon finds indigenous reindeer herders who are still eking out a fragile existence. In the port city of Vladivostok, Simon visits a newly built mega casino, designed to attract high rollers and tourists from neighbouring China. Deep in the forest, Simon meets the inspirational conservationist who has created a sanctuary for the country's most iconic predator, the giant Amur tiger. Simon ends his journey on the rim of a giant crater that has emerged in the Siberian landscape - chilling evidence of the impact of global climate change.
Adventurer and journalist Simon Reeve heads to Vietnam to uncover the stories behind the nation's morning pick-me-up. While we drink millions of cups of the stuff each week, how many of us know where our coffee actually comes from? The surprising answer is that it is not Brazil, Columbia or Jamaica, but Vietnam. Eighty per cent of the coffee we drink in Britain isn't posh cappuccinos or lattes but instant coffee and Vietnam is the biggest supplier. From Hanoi in the north, Simon follows the coffee trail into the remote central highlands where he meets the people who grow, pick and pack our coffee. Millions of small scale famers, each working two or three acres, produce most of the coffee beans that go into well known instant coffee brands. Thirty years ago Vietnam only produced a tiny proportion of the world's coffee, but after the end of the Vietnam war there was a widescale plan to become a coffee growing nation and Vietnam is now the second biggest in the world. It has provided employment for millions, making some very rich indeed, and Simon meets Vietnam's biggest coffee billionaire. But Simon learns that their rapid success has come at a cost to both the local people and the environment.
2014 • Travel
The clean minimalism of the Japanese home has been exported around the world, from modernist architecture to lifestyle stores like Muji. But the origins of this ubiquitous aesthetic evolved from a system of spiritual and philosophical values dating back centuries. James visits one of Japan's last surviving traditional wooden villages, and the 17th-century villa of Rinshunkaku, and reveals how the unique spirit of Japanese craftsmen turned joinery into an artform - creating houses without the need for nails, screws or glue. Exploring some of the traditional arts of the Japanese home, James also investigates attitudes to domestic culture in modern Japan, meeting photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki, chronicler of Japan's crowded cities and tiny apartments. Other highlights include a performance by calligrapher and artist Tomoko Kawao and a visit to the hometown of architect Terunobu Fujimori.
He explores how the artistic life of three Japanese cities shaped the country's attitudes to past and present, east and west, and helped forge the very idea of Japan itself. In Kyoto, James reveals how the flowering of classical culture produced many treasures of Japanese art, including The Tale of Genji, considered to be the first novel ever written. In Edo, where Tokyo now stands, a very different art form emerged, in the wood block prints of artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. James meets the artisans still creating these prints today, and discovers original works by a great master, Utamaro, who documented the so-called 'floating world'. In contemporary Tokyo, James discovers the darker side of Japan's urbanisation through the photographs of Daido Moriyama, and meets a founder of the Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata, whose film Grave of the Fireflies helped establish anime as a powerful and serious art form.
James journeys through Japan's mountainous forests, marvels at its zen gardens and admires centuries-old bonsai, to explore the connections between Japanese culture and the natural environment. Travelling around Japan's stunning island geography, he examines how the country's two great religions, Shinto and Buddhism, helped shape a creative response to nature often very different to the West. But he also considers modern Japan's changing relationship to the natural world and travels to Naoshima Art Island to see how contemporary artists are finding new ways to engage with nature.
On the last leg of his journey across the South American country, Michael explores the Brazilian south, where he is surprised by the rich diversity of European and Asian influences. Along the way he meets Dom Joao de Orleans e Braganca, second in line of succession to Brazil's defunct throne, goes flying with a man who has made a fortune out of rubbish and meets rap star Criolo, who believes social equality is a distant dream for most of his countrymen. Travelling farther south to Blumenau, the former Python's views on what makes a typical Brazilian are challenged when he finds German speakers and Bavarian dancers, before he catches piranha for sushi and helps cowboys treat a calf attacked by a jaguar
Michael begins the third leg of his journey in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais, where he learns about the Brazilian mining industry and meets some of the people dedicated to overturning the environmental damage it causes. He then heads to Rio de Janeiro, focus of the next World Cup and Olympics, where the authorities are ridding the streets of violent drug gangs that have controlled the city's shanty towns. On a lighter note, the globe-trotting broadcaster also learns to celebrate a goal like a well-known radio commentator and visits a `love hotel'.
The Python star continues his first visit to Brazil by travelling by river from the northern border with Venezuela to the capital of Brasilia. Along the way he visits indigenous tribe the Yanomami, learning about the threat to their hunter-gatherer way of life, before watching a rehearsal by the Amazon Philharmonic Orchestra and searching for the remains of Henry Ford's unsuccessful attempt to build a vast rubber plantation in the middle of the rainforest. In Belem, music producer Priscilla explains why Amazonian women are such powerful forces, then he moves southwards, meeting rock star and political activist Dinho Ouro Preto, who believes that despite its social and environmental problems, the country is on the brink of becoming a superpower.
The seasoned traveller explores the South American country, beginning in the north-east - where Europeans first landed and grew rich on the profits from sugar and tobacco plantations run with slave labour. In Sao Luis, Michael finds out about a ceremony based on a 200-year-old tale before heading to the coastal lagoons of the Lencois Maranhenses National Park. Journeying inland, he gets a glimpse of the fast-disappearing world of old-style cowboys known as vaqueiros, has his fortune read by a Candomble priest and learns to drum with the Olodum cultural collective.
Joanna ends her 5,000 mile journey in the place where she was born, Srinagar in Kashmir. She starts off in the Ranthambhore National Park, where she hopes to spot a tiger in the wild. Meeting tiger conservationist Belinda Wright, Joanna witnesses the work of local NGO Tiger Watch, who are attempting to break a cycle of poaching and poverty through education. Home to over 18 million people, Delhi is a city of stark contrasts. The extreme differences are obvious when Joanna visits a homeless community - where 10,000 men live under a flyover - and visits the modern part of the city where she has a go at working in a hi-tech call centre. The final leg of her journey takes her north from Delhi to Dharamsala, where she is granted a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Joanna concludes her trip with a stay on a houseboat in Srinagar, as her parents did on honeymoon in 1941.
Joanna meets the Maharaja of Dungarpur, who shows her around his lakeside palace. In stark contrast, Joanna visits a Dalit community - considered to be India's lowest caste - in Gujarat, and hears of the everyday discrimination these people experience under India's still deeply entrenched 3,000-year-old caste system. She later joins in a Hindu house warming ceremony, where a cow and calf are brought into the new house for luck. Braving the roads of Mumbai, Joanna takes a ride in the city's only all-female taxi company and visits the Times of India, where her uncle was editor of the paper in the 1930s and 40s. She then overcomes her vertigo to explore the World One Tower, soon to be Mumbai's tallest luxury residential building.
Joanna witnesses religious ceremonies in temples, learns how scientists are enabling people in tea plantations to live alongside wild elephants and with the help of computers is turned into a multi-limbed Indian goddess. In Kolkata, Joanna takes to the streets at night with a local guide and meets members of India's transgender community. Finally she journeys high into the Himalayas to visit Gangtok in Sikkim, where her mother lived as a child.
Giles and Monica don their best thermals and extreme weather gear, and travel 200km north of the Arctic Circle to Sweden's Lapland. They enter a magical world of snow, ice, inky blue and pink skies, and ICEHOTEL, a regular feature of bucket lists, now in its 27th year.
Giles Coren and Monica Galetti experience the warm embrace of Fogo Island Inn on a rocky, sea-sprayed outpost of remote Fogo Island in Newfoundland. White, angular and perched atop zig-zagged stilts like the local fishermen's houses.
Giles and Monica arrive at Royal Mansour, one of the world's most discreet hotels, hidden deep in the heart of Marrakech's ancient Medina. In stark contrast to the developing country it inhabits, the 'jewel of the city' was built with a limitless budget by royal decree to showcase the kingdom to world leaders and to billionaire and celebrity guests.
Giles Coren and Monica Galetti head to the Andean Cloud Forest of Ecuador to work at Mashpi Lodge, a $10-million modernist hotel featuring an extraordinary gondola cable car that 'flies' guests one mile through the jungle canopy at a dizzying height.
In the first episode of this eye-opening series, Giles Coren and Monica Galetti join the 9,500-strong workforce in one of the world's biggest hotels - Singapore's Marina Bay Sands. This epic hotel caters for one million guests every year, cost 3.5 billion to build and was created as part of a government plan to triple tourist income to Singapore within ten years.
The first leg of his journey begins in Istanbul, from which he travels along the Aegean coast to the hostile border with Syria. He meets refugees trying to start a new life and a billionaire taking advantage of a property boom. He moves on into the Taurus Mountains and the Black Sea Coast, and visits a community trying to keep an ancient language alive.
The odyssey continues as Colin Stafford-Johnson completes his journey along Ireland's Atlantic rim. Exploring the wildlife and mountains around his home inlet of Clew Bay, Colin then heads north for Donegal - golden eagle country - before reaching the island's northern tip and turning east along the coast of Northern Ireland.
Colin Stafford-Johnson begins his Atlantic journey exploring the ancient ruins and wildlife of the Skellig Rocks - stormbound ocean pinnacles off the south western corner of Ireland, where early Christian monks built a monastery on the summit almost 1,500 years ago. His journey ends in Clew Bay, an iconic inlet halfway up Ireland's west coast and the place Colin chose to make his home.
The actor begins the next part of his journey on Mundoo Island, which has provided shelter and a way of life for five generations of one farming family. Martin Clunes joins Colin and Sally Grundy for a day of cattle mustering. He also explores Phillip Island, one of Australia's favourite playgrounds, then heads south to King Island, in the blustery Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia. Martin completes his odyssey with a visit to see one of the region's most iconic creatures, the Tasmanian Devil
In this episode Martin travels to the Tiwi Islands, swims with a whale shark, and visits the Houtman Abrolhos, a string of over 100 little islands. Martin Clunes also samples life on Rottnest Island, which has long been a playground retreat for mainland visitors.
Northern Thailand is dominated by mountains and cloaked in forest. It hides ancient creatures and surprising partnerships. To survive here, both the wildlife and people rely on maintaining the natural harmony of the mysterious north.
In central Thailand's forests, fertile plains and even city streets, nature finds a way of living alongside people. Spirituality can be found in human and animal relationships, both likely and unlikely. This bustling region is known as the nation's rice bowl - but even here, there are magical places to be found.
Southern Thailand is the Thailand we think we all know. It is a place of both spectacular natural beauty and of wild parties, but behind this well-known image is also a place of unexpected surprise, where spirituality pervades every bit of life. For the animals that live here, this is natural wonderland.
The actress heads to the island of Shikoku hoping to gain a better understanding of Japanese Buddhism. She then takes a bullet train to another island - Kyushu - where she finds the Henn Na Hotel, the world's first robot hotel. At Nagasaki, she visits Shiroyama Elementary school, one of the only buildings to survive the atomic bomb dropped on the city in 1945. Joanna then travels to Sakurajima, one of the country's most active volcanoes, before heading to the islands of Okinawa where one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War was fought.
The actress flies over Tokyo in a helicopter. The city was bombed extensively during the Second World War, so almost all of it is a symbol of the post-war economic boom that saw Japan become the world's second largest economy. While in the capital, Joanna heads out to a nightclub to see a Japanese girl band and witnesses the largely male audience perform almost as much as the artists on stage. Later, Joanna travels to the Kiso Valley to walk the Nakasendo Way, an ancient route that once linked Tokyo to Kyoto, a place best known for that most famous of Japanese traditions, the Geisha.
Joanna begins a 2,000-mile journey across Japan in Hokkaido, where she meets one of the most important animals in Japanese culture, the red-crowned crane. She arrives in Sapporo during the middle of the annual Snow Festival and meets members of the local indigenous community, before travelling into the Fukushima exclusion zone and taking a bullet train from Nagano to Tokyo.
Episode 3 takes us to Northern Romania and the Maramures - one of the most picturesque regions in Romania. Here we experience festivals and weddings and learn about the evolution of traditional folk music with renowned singer Grigore Lese and pop idol Loredana Groza. We visit historic wooden churches and villages, which have been preserved, despite the march to modernise. Charlie Ottley explores the wilderness by steam train and on foot through Caliman National Park and the mysterious Twelve Apostles. Further east we drop in on a scheme to rewild Buffalo and visit the incredible painted monasteries of Bucovina before heading south to see what's being done to protect the ancient forests of Transylvania. En route Charlie meets a number of local and internationally acclaimed characters and looks at ways tourism is helping to preserve natural habitats. Wild Carpathia 3 finishes with some enlightened words from HRH The Prince of Wales who once again describes his passion for Romania and the urgent need to protect its rural heritage.
Join us for a cultural odyssey through little known parts of the southern Carpathians starting at the majestic Iron Gates and the ancient Roman Spa town of Baile Herculane. Charlie Ottley explores the remote Cerna Mountains finding historic working mills, and legendary rock formations. On our journey east we stop at a boutique winery and the stunning Cosia National Park with its grottos and picturesque monasteries. Crossing Saxon Transylvania Charlie visits the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and meets a Romanian Princess at her ancestral home, majestic Peles Castle. In the second part we leave the mountains behind and meander down to the Danube where it branches to form the largest wetland in Europe. Here Charlie explores tiny fishing communities, fragile forests and labyrinthine waterways teeming with rare birdlife. We also see why this vital ecosystem is under threat and look at what is being done to preserve it.
The original Wild Carpathia gives you a unique insight into the beauty and rich culture of Romania exploring its chequered history from the mystical ruins of the Dacians to its medieval communities, many of which survive intact to this day. Presenter Charlie Ottley goes in search of ancient villages, crossing mountains, forests and alpine meadows in his quest to understand this vital region. Along the way he encounters counts, wild bears, shepherds, artists, environmentalists, craftsmen and even a Prince. Wild Carpathia captures the fragile glory of Europe's last surviving wilderness and shows why it needs to be preserved for the benefit of future generations and the survival of our most endangered carnivores.
Simon Reeve sets out on an epic journey around the island of Ireland - a place steeped in history, culture and belief, but with a complex past. Part 2: North Starting at the spectacular Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, Simon travels down the east coast to the great and rapidly changing cities of Belfast and Dublin. He ends his journey in the stunning Wicklow Mountains.
Simon Reeve sets out on an epic journey around the island of Ireland - a place steeped in history, culture and belief, but with a complex past. Part 1: South Simon begins his journey in the south of Ireland, paramotoring with an Irish explorer. On the west coast, he does spot of surfing before climbing Croagh Patrick in honour of Ireland's patron saint. This leg of his journey ends in Malin Head, Ireland's most northerly point.
Simon travels travels down the east coast to the magnificent cities of Sydney and Melbourne in the final part of his journey. Simon's journey starts in Surfers Paradise near the city of Gold Coast, the Las Vegas of Australia. Behind the sun and surf, this area has become the organised crime capital of Australia. Police are cracking down on outlaw motorcycle clubs, accused of being criminal gangs. Simon meets the most notorious and feared biker group in Australia to hear their side of the story. Arriving in Sydney, Simon discovers a city of huge cultural diversity closely linked to its booming Asian neighbours, India and China. One in ten Aussies are now of Asian origin. Simon gauges Australia's attitude to immigration and meets the country's first Muslim ladies Aussie Rules Football team. On the very last stretch of the journey, Simon takes to the air to witness the devastating and deadly bush fires ripping through the country, before reaching his final destination, Melbourne, just in time to celebrate Australia Day.
Simon travels from Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory or 'Top End', across to the remote Cape York Peninsula, and on to the Great Barrier Reef. Simon sets off from Kakadu, the largest national park in the world, where the wildlife is under threat from the march of millions of poisonous cane toads. He joins a team of toad-busters catching the amphibian invaders - originally introduced to the country to kill pests. In Robertson barracks Simon meets Australia's best - and only - tank regiment. They will soon host 6,000 American Marines - evidence of Australia's strategic importance in the Asia Pacific region. On the Cape York Peninsula Simon joins scientists catching deadly box jellyfish, whose venom could prove to have great medicinal value. And on the Great Barrier Reef he dives in search of the starfish destroying coral, before flying 100 miles out into the ocean to watch as a huge tanker is expertly guided through the fragile reef.
Simon's adventure starts in the magnificent 'red centre' of the continent and onwards through South Australia, via the extraordinary Indian Pacific Railway until he reaches the west coast city of Perth. On the way, he joins an Aussie rancher in the parched outback and takes part in a spectacular camel round-up. This mad adventure, involving specially adapted off-road vehicles and a chopper, is part of an ongoing effort to stop the damaging spread of up to a million feral camels across the country. Finally in Perth, Simon discovers a full scale British invasion. Working in a mine or driving a lorry can bring a salary of a hundred thousand pounds a year, as evidenced when Simon meets a former bin man from hull who is now living the dream, with a beautiful house in the sun, private pool and his very own boat.
Japan's northernmost - and wildest - island, a place totally unlike the rest of the country. Every year it swings from a bitter Siberian winter into the warmth of a Mediterranean-like summer, when the thaw reveals a landscape changed beyond all recognition. It takes tough animals and tough people with real ingenuity to survive, and even thrive, in this ever-changing place.
In the far south west of Japan, there is a chain of islands stretching towards the tropics - a place where all life is influenced by the power of the sea, and where volcanoes and typhoons are forces to be reckoned with. The journey begins at an island at the top of the chain and travels south, revealing unexpected stories of isolation, unique wildlife and unsolved mysteries.
Japan's central island of Honshu is home to over 100 million people, and its biggest city, Tokyo, is one of the largest urban metropolises on earth. But it has a wild heart - most of Honshu is mountainous. This wilderness is home to an astonishing range of wildlife - black bears, monkeys, exquisite fireflies and even cow demons. But all across this island, from the mountains to the edge of the sea, people and nature are drawn together in the most unexpected ways.
The adventurer begins his final leg on the northern tip of Sumatra, near the epicentre of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, finding out how the province of Banda Aceh has undergone many changes since the disaster. He also explores the illegal trade in exotic pets in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, before heading for Australia, the final country on his epic journey. There he visits the unspoilt wilderness of the Kimberley region, meets a real-life crocodile hunter and goes fishing with Aborigines campaigning to stop the construction of a giant gas plant.
The adventurer reaches Sri Lanka, whose strategic location and tropical spices made it a target for invaders and colonisers for centuries. In the north he visits the scenes of vicious battles between the Tamil minority and the Sri Lankan army, traumatic events from which the population is still recovering. On his way to Bangladesh, he hitches a ride on a trawler, highlighting one of the Indian Ocean's fastest-growing industries - providing prawns for the West. But as he reveals, it comes at a price for the environment.
The fourth leg of the broadcaster's journey takes him from Oman to the Maldives. He starts in the Strait of Hormuz, where oil from the Gulf is shipped through the narrow channel, then moves on to Mumbai, the ocean's biggest port. In the Maldives, Simon finds arguably the most beautiful collection of tropical coral islands in the world - but the fragile underwater environment is a barometer for the changing nature of the sea, as he witnesses how bleaching has damaged the coral and one entire island has been manufactured as a landfill dump to deal with the problem of rubbish.
The third leg of the adventurer's journey takes him from the south of Kenya to the Horn of Africa. Along the way he joins a Ugandan peace-keeping force in Mogadishu, the capital of war-torn Somalia, which turns out to be the most dangerous leg of his journey as he ends up under fire on the front line. In contrast, he finds neighbouring Somaliland a stable and democratic home to thousands of Somalis fleeing fighting and famine. In Kenya's Tana Delta, he meets villagers facing eviction from an area that the government is turning over to sugar cane production for bio-fuels.
Simon Reeve visits the tropical Indian Ocean Islands of Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles on the second leg of his journey. Amid the paradise of coral reefs and jungles full of spectacular wildlife, Simon witnesses some of the threats to the Ocean.
This first leg takes him from the rugged coast of South Africa, where he joins the fight against wildlife poachers, through Mozambique, and on to the tropical island of Zanzibar. On the way, he swims with sharks, meets the refugees who have found shelter in a luxury beachfront hotel, and travels on a huge container ship fortified against the constant threat of pirates.