Anthony Bourdain’s 9 Most Dangerous Destinations Gallery
Anthony Bourdain’s 9 Most Dangerous Destinations
Anthony Bourdain was one of the culinary world's most notorious bad boys, earning that reputation with his profanity, crude humor, mosaic of tattoos, and strongly held opinions. Throughout his life, Bourdain traveled the globe showcasing different countries and their cultures through their cuisine. Bourdain did everything from sharing drunken nights with a group of former Viet Cong soldiers, to dining with some of the most famous chefs in the world, like Ferran Adrià at his late, legendary elBulli.
But Bourdain's exploration of global cuisine and culture led him to some of the world’s political hotspots, war-torn countries, and regions damaged by natural disasters — places considered some of the most dangerous destinations in the world.
While filming his series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Bourdain found himself on lockdown in his hotel as war broke out in Beirut, an episode that later went on to be nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Information Programming in 2007.
Bourdain said that leaving the Travel Channel and launching his series with CNN opened windows and doors for him to delve into and explore places he’s long dreamed of going.
"With CNN, I get to go to all the places that I never would have been able to go really with any other network," Bourdain said in an interview. "Places like Congo, Libya, Myanmar, would have been very, very tricky to do elsewhere. I’m able to go places I never would have been able to go and look at these cultures in either a bigger picture or a more narrow focus as I choose."
From No Reservations to Parts Unknown, here are 9 of the most dangerous destinations Bourdain traveled to in order to tell a good story.
In 2006, Anthony Bourdain and his crew traveled to Lebanon to film an episode for No Reservations; Bourdain likens Beirut to L.A. or South Beach, and says it has some of the best Middle Eastern food while also offering an array of other cuisines, including Asian fusion, European, and American — a variety that led him to bring his show there in the first place. However, the episode didn’t go as planned. Bourdain and his crew were trapped in Beirut as an Israel-Lebanon war broke out. As Bourdain and crew explored the streets of Beirut, gunshots rang out around them and bombs started falling. Bourdain watched as the airport was bombed just a mile from his hotel.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the last locale Bourdain visited in his first season of Parts Unknown. He had long dreamed of going to Congo as it is the setting of one of his favorite books (and films),Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Additionally, Bourdain wanted to take his show to a place people didn’t think would be possible for him to visit. Congo has a long history of corruption, human rights violations (particularly against women), and ongoing violence, and according to Bourdain’s crew, it was one of the more challenging locations they’ve worked in. Bourdain himself agreed it was terrifying. “No show I’ve ever made has been more difficult, more frustrating, more uncertain, maddening, or dangerous,” Bourdain posted on CNN. While driving across the border from Rwanda into Goma in eastern Congo, Bourdain learned that there were nearly 30 rebel troops and militias fighting it out across the country, with one group in particular fighting just 10 miles away from them. Though they managed to film unharmed, Bourdain said they were “extorted, detained, and threatened daily.” However, “such is life in the Congo.”
In February 2011, for the seventh season of Parts Unknown, Bourdain and his crew visited Haiti, a country that had been devastated by an earthquake just a year earlier and one that constantly battles poverty, corruption, and political turmoil. Bourdain’s episode in Haiti was among one of the more emotionally powerful ones in his series, and his visit to this small Caribbean nation was marked by the threat of a cholera outbreak as well as an oncoming hurricane. Bourdain showed to the world a Haiti left in pieces from the earthquake and captured the country’s devastation.
Iran has long been considered a dangerous locale, and a country with which the United States has long had a difficult and complicated relationship — and also a place Bourdain had been trying to film in for a while. He finally received approval from the Iranian government and headed to Tehran in 2014. Despite Iran’s dangerous reputation — especially for American travelers — Bourdain was floored by the country, saying it was “extraordinary, heartbreaking, confusing, inspiring, and very, very different than the Iran I had expected.” And though there was a “Death to America!” sign that loomed high in the city, Bourdain met friendly locals who welcomed him to the country, people who were outgoing, grateful that an American wanted to explore the country, and who offered hospitality and kindness that “to a degree that we really experience very, very few places — and I'm talking Western Europe and allied nations.”
Bourdain was blown away by his Iranian visit, yet there were stark realities of the situation that served as a reminder of where he was filming, like the fact that the secret police were camped out a few doors from Bourdain’s room, or that social media were forbidden.
In the end, Bourdain says, he and his crew left Kurdistan “as untouched and as untroubled” as they’d been before they arrived. Back in 2011, Bourdain and his crew filmed in war zone of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as the Turkish Kurdistan, which he said was even more dangerous at the time, for No Reservations. To prepare for the show, Bourdain and his crew received days of security-training exercises. In the episode, Bourdain dons body armor and travels with four heavily armed Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) as well as a security team of three British security experts with years of experience of working in conflict zones. Yet Bourdain and his crew remained unharmed, saying the training was much harder than what they faced in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkish Kurdistan, going so far as to call the latter “lovely.” Though Bourdain admits there were slight issues and some tension along the way, at the time he said he’d still recommend Iraqi Kurdistan to anyone looking for “off-beaten track adventure tourism.”
In the second season of Parts Unknown, Bourdain traveled to Gaza and the West Bank, an area rife with terrorism, war, and ongoing violence and conflict. Bourdain said, "It’s impossible to see Gaza, for instance, the camps, the West Bank, and not find yourself reeling with the ugliness of it all." Bourdain had long wanted to film in the area and knew that filming in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank would bring with it backlash and controversy, which is why he famously opened this episode with this quote, “By the end of this hour I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse." One of the more harrowing scenes that deeply affected Bourdain was when he saw the bodies of two children on a beach, which he took a picture of and posted to Twitter, opening up a window for conversation, criticism, and comments.
A bombing target during the Vietnam war and much of the land is still a literal minefield — especially in the countryside — waiting to explode. Bourdain watches as the country’s UXO, or unexploded ordinance, team searches for unexploded bombs and shells hidden throughout Laos. wasA small and relatively untouched country in Southeast Asia, Laos has a tragic past and still bears scars from the Vietnam War. Though there is no threat of war or bombs like in other countries he’s visited, Laos
If you don’t plan on visiting the countryside, however, consider Laos as a future holiday destination
Libya has made headlines since 2011 with ongoing conflict and civil war. Given such dangers, the thought of flying to Libya may be the furthest thing from most people’s mind, but not from Bourdain’s. He traveled there in 2012, and admits that neither he nor his teams were particularly well-versed in working in conflict zones, and that he was truly scared. “I was, frankly, frightened by the daily security briefings, with their ever-escalating levels of concern.” In order to film in Libya, Bourdain and his crew had to develop a new strategy, as he revealed on his Tumblr account. “We had to adapt to a whole new style of shooting — where prior preparation, instead of being a religion — became a security risk. Destinations couldn’t/shouldn’t — to the greatest extent possible, know we were coming. We had to learn to keep moving, spending only a short period at each location before moving on. We changed hotels frequently, spent as little time as possible milling about between vehicle and destination, refrained from social media, rarely went out for dinner off-camera.” He admitted that he faced enormous obstacles and perils while shooting in Libya, and recounted the number of times he and his crew were woken by their security in the middle of the night and informed they needed to pack their bags and be ready to go the airport; however, despite filming under the constant stress of danger and threats, Bourdain and his crew remained unharmed. No near-death experiences, he said, and no close calls.
Bourdain and his crew headed to Myanmar in 2013, once the government has opened their borders to tourists, to film the series premiere of Parts Unknown. The country long suffered from political strife and lived under the control incredibly repressive and corrupt military regime, where Tom Vitale, who traveled with Bourdain to shoot the episode in Myanmar (among many other places) said, “…we were shocked that nobody seemed to be watching us. I mean, even just a couple years ago, if you were seen talking to a westerner in Burma, someone would take down your name, and there would be a knock on your door at 2 in the morning.” Despite the overpowering regime, Bourdain was pleasantly surprised to see how open, warm, and gregarious locals were with him and his crew. But he probably would've been better off in one of the 50 safest cities in the world.
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