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tv   Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown  CNN  December 24, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am PST

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when i first went up this river, i was sick with love. the bad kind. the fist around your heart kind. i ran far but there was no escaping it. it followed me upriver all the way. that was ten long years ago. a previous episode of a previous
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series in a previous life. yet here i am again. heading up to that same longhouse in the jungle. ♪ ♪ i took a walk through this beautiful world ♪ ♪ felt the cool rain on my shoulder ♪ ♪ found something good in this beautiful world ♪ ♪ i felt the rain getting colder ♪ ♪ sha la la la la ♪ sha la la la la la ♪ sha la la la la ♪ sha la la la la la la
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♪ >> last time i saw all this, i think it's fair to say i was at a turning point in my life. i promised some people i'd come back, and i am back. my life has changed a lot. how much have their lives changed? kuala lumpur. happy to be here, but brimming with mixed emotions. surrounded by all the sights, smells, and flavors i remember so well.
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this is where a wandering soul such as myself can dive right in and get some of that straight chinese food i've been missing. first order of business, dinner. been on a plane for, like, i don't know, this long. very long. saw, like, five mark wahlberg films. i can't tell you how excited i am about the prospect of getting some black pepper crab, and some pork related noodles and a regional beverage. reasonably cold. i don't even know what this is. i love you, noodles. don't want to get all heavy and philosophical at this point, but why i'm here, what my mission is, what i expect to find, basically me tracing my steps
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and all that. we'll talk about that later. right now, noodles. good watt hai. this place is the most excellent. oh, look at the greasy, fatty, yes, come to daddy. i'm a bad man. this is, like, a random restaurant with a purloined minnie mouse logo, and their food sun believably good. oh, yeah. black pepper crab. right here. reveal yourself to me. hot, hot, hot. oh, yeah. wow. all right. the frenzy's over. now eat in a more relaxed phase.
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kuala lumpur rises up out of steaming equatorial southeastern asian jungle, malaysia's capital city. a chaotic, multi-ethnic, multicultural modern metropolis of malay, chinese and indian. this is where you start out when fulfilling a decade-old promise to your ex-headhunter friends to return for the annual gawain rice harvest festival. what's interesting the last time i was there, the old guys with their tattoos and rings on their fingers. >> yeah. a lot of them have passed on. >> i hear no more skulls. they made them put the skulls away. >> once enjoyed a truly formidable reputation as
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trackers, warriors, and ritual istic takers of heads. they were and continue to be wanderers. valuing a tradition where every tribesman was set out from the longhouse of his birth to travel, learn, to bring something back. each tattoo he gets over the course ever of his life represents a different experience, a different journey. >> just to signify knowledge and the wealth they brought back to the longhouse, what you probably would want to get -- >> like that. >> since last i saw you, you were getting this. >> still there. >> still there. ten years ago at his shop, borneo ink, eddie david tattooed me with a symbol of a snake eating its own tail. life, death, the eternal ebb and flow. i think i was going through a hippy phase. eddie does great work and he's
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known for traditional tribal tattoos, but i'm looking forward to getting it done old school this time. hand tapped in the jungle. so, i need your advice because i'm going back to the same village that i went to last time. >> just be careful of the -- >> yes, they had it in every type of bottle. this is clear sort of cloudy liquid with particles in it. >> sometimes they put weird stuff inside. my dad used to tell me they take mosquito oil and leave it inside. >> a mosquito what? >> coil. >> like the pesticide? >> yeah. just make it, like, stronger. >> i would imagine so. >> that's a natural staple, gawai, usually drinking, passing out, waking up, eating, drinking some more, passing out again then getting up and drinking some more. yeah. you're going to have fun, man. >> wow. all right.
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♪ so i'm headed upriver again. >> yes, sorry i can't be there. >> i promised them, i said i'm going back. >> about nine years late on your promise, but -- >> nine years late. >> that happens. you know, promises come liberally. >> it was david who first took me up to the longhouse. on that previous trip we met at aunty aini's on the outskirts. >> everything moves exponentially. feels like some things remain exactly the same, some things haven't changed at all. this place is certainly one. >> the charming and for lack of a better word fabulous aini was an actor in the malaysian film
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scene who now runs a very successful restaurant specializing in beloved village or country classics. all of them prepared with a staggering finesse and precision. this is delicious, delicious food. >> welcome. it's been so long. oh, my. you still look as handsome as ever. all right. >> well let's pick up right where we left off which started with this. >> help yourself. >> thank you. >> you're going to have the rast beef and poached egg and our favorite. >> 'ah, yes. >> this is chicken. >> so good to be back. >> i love watching you guys eat. >> who taught you to cook? who was the good cook in your family? >> when we were small, my grandmother would say stuff like, i don't care who you are,
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if you can't cook, you're nobody to me. >> oh, wow. >> yeah. there's no teaching malay cooking here. it comes from your mom's kitchen. and you learn by smelling, by seeing. that's how i teach my children to cook. all these dishes, when you do them, the aroma just floats around. i know exactly where the chili paste frying in the pan is ready or not. it's from here. basically it's from here. >> this food is so perfect. the flavors are so perfect. it's so delicious. ♪ ♪ ♪ such a shame it's labeled a "getaway."
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♪ after a two-hour flight from kuala lumpur, i land in borneo, third largest island in the
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world. divided between malaysia, brunei, and indonesia. kuching. capital. it's a sleepily city with a colorful 19th century boys adventure story history. pirates, head hunters, opportunists. the former domain of sir james brook, an englishman who came to be known as the white raja. for a century, generations of the brook family ruled sarawak has an independent kingdom. they created their own army, the sarawak rangers who also acted as raja's personal guard. tomorrow i follow the pavement as far as it goes then it's boats the rest of the way. but first, breakfast. and fortunately, i know exactly where to go. i sat at this same table last time.
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if i look at my life as a continuum, a trail of noodles. going round and round the world until it comes right back to the same spicy bowl. oh, yeah, that is, can i say tumescent on cnn? yeah, pretty sure i can. oh, yeah, baby. it's a magical dish. i don't know. it's two types of noodles i think. chicken, prawn, coconut, chili. you know, the main event of this is the broth. the wisdom of the ages is contained in there. it's, like, super complex. might need more of this. all right. i'll have another one of these. more. it's the broth.
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the broth. look at it. thank you. now i'm becoming the object of much amusement. people have noticed i'm on my second. damn. best breakfast ever. ♪ ♪
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♪ >> love that sound. ♪ ♪ >> before heading out to the
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longhouse, i'm meeting kuching native alex wong at a dockside karaoke joint on the malay side of town. what's up to the karaoke here? it's popular everywhere, but this is alcohol-free karaoke. >> yes. >> in my experience, you have to be really [ muted ] up to do karaoke, but here apparently not. >> no, no. it's the spirit. our people here, they can party any time. ♪ >> so you're coming upriver with us? >> yes, i am. i am. >> exciting. >> four days of non-connectivity, you know that? >> yes. i'm committed to that. it's the drinking. >> i'm worried about that, too, seriously, because i'm past my drinking days, you know, but i don't think there's an escape from it. why are you back in kuching after ten years? why kuching, all the places in
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borneo? >> it's a good question. i'm revisiting some stuff. just some -- i was in a weird place in my head when i first came here. i was personally, professionally, everything in my life was changing. i was in this sort of nowhere land between previous life and whatever came next. i'm retracing my steps to a lot of this to see if it still hurts. >> ah, okay. >> and also i said i'd promise these guys in the village, the chiefs, that i'd come back. well, i made a promise, and i'm going to live up to it. >> yeah. ♪
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♪ even the jungle wanted him dead. ♪ this river, what's the line, snakes through the sarawak jungle like a main circuit cable, plugged straight in a, somewhere. a place.
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a state of mind. i don't know. i was a basket case last time i went up this river. my mind miles away. >> is this how you remember it, tony? >> yeah. >> exactly the same, huh? ten years later? >> pretty much. yeah. so far. you pick your way upriver, like walking up a gradual flight of stairs, getting out often to push. with several hours still to go, a stop for lunch. there we are. we're even right on a beach, too. all right. that's cool. >> looks like bamboo chicken
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there. ♪ >> good. good, right? >> it's great. that means delicious. >> yeah, how's your -- >> it's possible, i guess. basic words. >> i gather the plan is to try to get there before dark. >> i don't think it's going to happen. >> yeah, me either. >> no. ♪
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>> hello. >> all those years ago the man who looked after me at the longhouse was named itom. over 80 years old back then, he led us bounding uphill through the jungle like a young gazelle. he still had the marks on his fingers of a man who'd taken heads, in his case, presumably communist guerillas when he fought with the british during the malay insurgency. we drank shots of whiskey together under human skulls, trophies of the time. i promised i'd come back. for gawai, a big deal in the calendar, when friends and relatives return to the long house. a lot has changed since he tracked comis through the jungle and much has changed in the ten
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years since i've been here. itom passed away the year before last at the age of 92, and the evidence of how timbering has depleted much of the forest is everywhere, scandalously so. ♪ it's dark by the time we arrive, but someone has been waiting for us.
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please advise me of protocol. [ speaking foreign language ] thank you. all for me. oh, yeah. just like old times. there you go, my man. custom must be observed. thank you. woo. oh, yeah. >> woo! ♪
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♪ >> more cell phones than last time. ♪
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back to entalau after a lot of years and a lot of miles. i wake up to the sounds of early morning village life. roosters call. the coughing and clearing of lungs as the elders rise to do their morning chores. the whole village lives here in separate apartments, sharing a communal space that runs the length of the building. some things have noticeably changed. the longhouse i first stayed in has been replaced by a somewhat more modern version. these days there's electricity from a reliable diesel generator. and while there's no cell phone signal, the plumbing works, the washing in the river is still, the way i see it, anyway, the preferable option. ♪
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in this part of the world, you live or die by the rice harvest. less so these days as timbering has changed, well, everything out here, but traditions run deep, and in gawai, the harvest festival was and remains like christmas and new year's rolled into one. [ thunder ] we will need pork for gawai. and unfortunately, that means a pig must die. more awkwardly, custom, and my personal history in this village demands, once again, that i do the job.
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down by the river, i shot my baby. what did he mean by that? why would he do that? shoot his baby? unless baby was a delicious, delicious pig. ♪
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♪ ♪ >> i'd like to tell you that this is never easy, that i felt this time like i did the first time. sad, nauseated, complicit, aware that i crossed a line, been
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changed by the violence and the blood and the awful noise. but that would be a lie. this time, i plunged the spear in without hesitation or remorse. when the pig dies, finally gives it up, i feel only relief. i have been hardened by the last ten years. i don't know what that says about me, but there it is. ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ far up the river, the countdown to gawai is on, and i can't help but be struck by one particular upgrade since my last visit. ♪
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♪ karaoke. as i come to learn, constant karaoke. never-ending karaoke. from a limited playlist of favorites. nearly 24 hours a day accompanied by copious amounts of beer, and other strong spirits. ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> it should be pointed out gawai isn't just about consuming potentially blinding amounts of alcohol. it's also about food. and one would be well advised to eat a lot. lay down a solid base for the torment to come. oh, thank you. i feel so guilty. no, no, not at all, actually. >> should not. >> so delicious. all right. >> tradition that people put rice on their plate. >> common. >> yeah, yeah. >> good. delicious.
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♪ ♪ ♪
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>> welcome back. >> thank you. cheers. ♪ >> as the revelry kicks into high gear, there is nowhere to hide. i know only that if i sit still anywhere within range of hospitality, there will be a river of booze. beer, tuak, which is rough hand crafted local rice wine and its more lethal distilled brother.
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lancao. then somebody's pouring you johnny black or j.d. or vat 69. then lancao again, then who knows. you only know it keeps coming until you sag facedown on the hand-woven mats and pass out. perfectly acceptable practice, by the way. i wake up, i go to sleep, i wake up again. the party has moved down a few doors, but it's still going. this is an experience that will repeat itself again and again for the next three days. one time it's the ladies still standing, partying like it's 1999, dancing and drinking.
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another time it's the old dudes, the village chiefs and elders. then everybody, elders, women, children, visiting relatives and their families from kuala lumpur and kuching and abroad. wherever circumstances took them. the party expands and contracts according to mysterious patterns that i'm in no shape to discern. lease the 2015 gs350 with complimentary navigation system for these terms. see your lexus dealer.
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okay! fun's over. aw. aw. ♪ thirsty? they said it would make me cool. they don't sound cool to me. guess not. you got to stick up for yourself, like with the name your price tool. people tell us their budget, not the other way around. aren't you lactose intolerant? this isn't lactose. it's milk. ♪
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morning routine. wake up, feed the chickens, rake the pepper drying in the sun. then it's time to rock the bike, people, and it starts all over again.
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♪ while the party continues up at the long house, i've got an appointment. if you're wondering by the way if this hurts, two guys hammering away at my sternum with a bamboo club, sharp needles, yes, yes it hurt a lot. and you can be damn sure if i wasn't on television while it was happening i would be whimpering like a gut-shot poodle.
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>> there. >> all right. good? very happy, guys. thank you. happy gawai. all right. let's party. >> another tattoo is never going to make me younger or tougher or more relevant. it won't reconnect me ten years from now with some spiritual crossroads in my life. no. at this point, i think my body is like an old car. another dent ain't going make a whole lot of difference. at best, it's a reminder that you're still alive and lucky as hell. another tattoo, another thing you did. another place you've been.
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a final long gaze at the river. take in probably for the last time in my life the slow rhythms of the village. one more thing to do. say goodbye to an old friend. ♪ he was a very strong man. >> yes. >> i remember him well running up hill faster than all of us. so what do we do? we leave him a beer? some cigarettes? he would like that? >> yeah, we would like.
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first cigarette in two years. ♪
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♪ what does it mean to be strong? it implies hardness and flexibility. okinawa is a place with a fighting tradition. a history of ferocious resistance. but it's nothing like what you might think. not at all. ♪ i took a walk through this beautiful world ♪ ♪ felt the cool rain on my shoulder ♪ ♪ found something good in this

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