If there’s one element that every geek shares, it seems to be curiosity. Geeks approach their thing — whether it’s keyboards, headphones, or maps — with ravenous curiosity. They hunger to know and remain open to knowing more.
I don’t think anyone’s called Anthony Bourdain a geek, but he’d fit the mold. On his travel shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown, Bourdain was the embodiment of curiosity — someone who lived voraciously on new sights, new sounds, and new snacks. This curious geek relished new cultures and approached them with open-hearted curiosity.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the man was something of a personal hero for me. I wanted to be like him — to eat and travel across the world in parts unknown. It gutted me to hear that he took his own life last Friday.
(And here I must pause for some responsible reporting. Experts warn about ‘suicide contagions’ or ‘copycat suicides,’ which is a real thing. Celebrity deaths, in particular, can lead to an increase in suicides. If you’re considering self-harm, please call the Samaritans of Singapore hotline at 1800-221 4444, or the hotlines listed at the Ministry of Health.)
It’s hard to get episodes of either No Reservations or Parts Unknown in Singapore. No Reservations has been released on DVD, but Parts Unknown is only available on digital streaming. If you have a US Amazon or iTunes account, you can buy episodes.
If you’re on Netflix US, you can stream seasons one through eight, but not seasons nine and ten. Parts Unknown was scheduled to go off Netflix US on June 16, but Netflix has just announced that it will remain for “months to come.”
Parts Unknown season 11 is currently playing on CNN, the network broadcast episode six, ‘Berlin,’ last week. ‘Cajun Mardi Gras’ and ‘Bhutan’ are scheduled to run, but it’s unclear what will happen with the episodes that Bourdain was filming before he died.
I devoured all of Parts Unknown, which captivated me from the first episode. If you do have a way of catching it, here are five episodes I’d recommend. They’re not the ‘best’ episodes in any way, but ones that have stuck with me. I hope they’ll serve as appetizing entrees for you.
Copenhagen, season 2, episode 5
‘Copenhagen’ is one of the ‘easy’ episodes focused predominantly on food. Bourdain visits with chef René Redzepi and his Michelin-starred restaurant, Noma — ranked the best restaurant in the world from 2010 to 2012 and 2014. Other fun ‘food episodes’ include Quebec (season 1, episode 4), Lyon (season 3, episode 4), Thailand (season 3, episode 8), and Japan (season 8, episode 7).
Tokyo, season 2, episode 8
You’d think Tokyo has been covered to death as a travel destination, but this episode will show you the other side of the metropolis. From meeting the man who invented tentacle porn to interviewing a dominatrix, this episode will open your eyes (and is definitely NSFW).
Vietnam, season 4, episode 5
Bourdain visits the former Vietnamese capital of Hue in this hauntingly shot episode. He spares no side of the Vietnam War from criticism but also presents both sides with respect and nuance. Bourdain later returned to Vietnam in season 8, episode 2, and famously shared beer and noodles with US President Barack Obama in a neighborhood restaurant.
Iran, season 4, episode 7
This episode takes you into Iran, which US President George W. Bush named one of the three countries in the “axis of evil.” And yet, Bourdain finds himself warmly welcomed by Iranians who share their food and homes with him. ‘Iran’ shows us, as Parts Unknown often did, how people around the world are more alike than different.
Borneo, season 6, episode 7
Bourdain returns to Borneo after 10 years to fulfill a promise to return to the Dayaks, one of the country’s largest indigenous groups. He drinks like a fish and delivers one of the most intensely personal episodes in the entire series.
I like coffee and cameras, but not together.