I’m writing this as I sit on a couch in front of my barely used TV. It’s been over a month since I arrived from my last trip. Due to the COVID-19 threat, I canceled my upcoming travels and self-imposed social distancing. And now, Metro Manila is under community quarantine, further chaining me to this surprisingly comfortable couch.
I can’t remember the last time that I have stayed at home for this long. Thankfully, my location-independent job allows me to work from home. But over the past few weeks, even though I choose to stay within the four walls of my apartment, I still get to explore the world and live vicariously through the shows I have been been watching on Netflix.
Here are some travel-related features you might want to check out on the streaming platform. Note, however, that I’m only including titles that are available on Netflix Philippines.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
1. Dark Tourist
Dark Tourist is an eight-episode documentary series that will take you to the places that ordinary travelers wouldn’t even dare considering for their itinerary. New Zealand journalist David Farrier focuses on “dark tourism” or traveling to attractions that are linked to death, tragedy or even the supernatural.
In the pilot episode, he flies to Medellín, Colombia, to meet Pablo Escobar’s former hit man and see the drug lord’s impact in the area’s tourism. He then proceeds to Mexico City, where he witnesses an exorcism. In Episode 7, he explores the origins of voodoo in Africa.
But the most nerve-wracking episode for me is when he journeys to Japan to visit Tomioka, a town severely affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, before making his way to Aokigihara forest, a notorious suicide spot in the shadows of Mt. Fuji. These are places I would never set foot on so it was interesting to see someone else do it, to say the least.
2. Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
In this road trip docu series, British comedian Jack Whitehall goes on a tour with his father Michael around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in an effort to reconnect and spend some quality time together, something they have not done in years. What happens is a hilarious journey that not only features fascinating spots but also breaks down the generational divide between the father and son.
The series returned for its second season, this time with the duo road-tripping across Europe, making stops in Germany, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and ending in Turkey.
3. Tales by Light
“The art of seeing is such an extraordinary sense, and photography is such an extraordinary art. As a photographer, you see these moments which only you see, and you just want to share them and say ‘This is the world we live in’.” – Angela Scott
If you’re an aspiring photographer looking for a big dose of inspiration, get that remote and play Tales by Light, a breathtaking Australian documentary series. A collaborative project between National Geographic and Canon, it trails professional photographers as they try to capture incredible moments that tell powerful stories.
All three seasons are now available on Netflix, with the first having six episodes and the rest with three each.
4. Conan Without Borders
A spin-off of the TBS talk show, Conan Without Borders takes the ever-energetic Conan O’Brien around world. But unlike most late night shows where the host takes centerstage, the spotlight shifts to the place as Conan tries to connect with locals and get a better appreciation of the culture. Yet, unlike most travel show hosts, he’s not afraid to discuss uncomfortable topics. It’s a great fusion of information and entertainment, steered by an unlikely traveler with an eagerness to learn and a sense of humor.
5. Street Food
You’ll find the soul of any destination in the streets, where locals go about their daily lives. And it is in the food where you’ll see the biggest part of it. Street food reflects not just the culinary tradition of the place but also the social conditions. It’s why we always search for street food and local markets whenever we travel.
This Netflix documentary not only showcases countries with a strong curbside cuisine but also the success stories of people whose passion influenced the local dining landscape. The featured countries are Thailand, Japan, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines.
6. Restaurants on the Edge
Another food-centered title on Netflix is Restaurants on the Edge. While it follows the reality-show format of other restaurant makeover series out there, what sets it apart is a strong focus on the location.
In this series, chef Dennis Prescott, restaurateur Nick Liberato and designer Karin Bohn travel to magnificent corners of the world to renovate a restaurant with stellar views but struggling business. They give the site an updo, improve the menu, and help the owners relaunch the place. As they do so, they dig into the culinary heritage and culture of the city to inspire their work.
There is not much drama or intrigue here. There is no frustrated Gordon Ramsay angrily shouting at someone. But it’s a great vehicle to learn more about the food of the destinations they feature. And for that alone, it’s worth a stream.
7. Our Planet
Okay, this is more like a nature documentary than a travel documentary, but nature is a huge part of travel and tourism. Narrated by David Attenborough, this eight-part series features the diversity of life on earth and tackles conservation and the impact that humans make on the environment. Each episode features a type of habitat and the many fascinating life-forms that call it home.
Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus states, “A cornucopia of visual wonder and environmental advocacy, Our Planet’s breathtaking cinematography explores more of this beautiful, blue marble while presenting an urgent call to action to its inhabitants.”
With additional words by Asta Alvarez