Dark Tourist (2018) s01e06 Episode Script

South East Asia

I'm a journalist from New Zealand investigating dark tourist hot spots around the world.
This trip, I'm traveling around South East Asia visiting places associated with the mad and macabre.
It's a wild ride.
This is Sisambak.
It's an Indonesian harvest ritual supposed to strengthen friendship.
Fucking hell! I guess we are all officially friends now.
Oh, my God! But on this trip, I'm not just the whipping boy.
I'll be visiting the brand new, bizarre, and empty capital of Myanmar.
But you're never going to have enough traffic to block this up.
I'll test my moral limits in Cambodia.
You wait here.
And I'll go and get the gun.
And I dig up dead grannys in Indonesia.
- Thank you.
- It's okay, grandma.
My name is David Farrier and things are about to take a bloody turn.
My first stop is the kingdom of Cambodia.
Cambodia has a reputation as being the Wild West of South East Asia.
After decades of war, famine, political instability, and genocide, the country is finally starting to recover, but it's still incredibly poor, corrupt, and legally a bit loose.
Most dark tourists come here to visit the killing fields, the grisly memorial of the communist regime that murdered two million people, only 40 years ago.
But I've come here to investigate an alternative dark tourist industry that's sprung up.
Because in Cambodia, you can pay to shoot guns, even rocket launchers.
But I've heard a rumor that if you pay enough they'll also let you shoot live targets: animals, even cows.
I want to find out if it's true.
You can shoot a lot of guns here, is that right? - Yeah, with a rocket launcher - I see the rocket launcher on here.
- AK-47.
- Okay.
Yeah, and the machine guns.
As a New Zealander, where even our cops don't carry guns, this is quite mind-blowing, especially as these guns here were likely used during the genocide.
It feels like a lot of tourists come here for some pretty dark reasons.
It's not like they're coming here to go to the beach or something like that.
If you have the money, you can do every, everything.
This country, man.
 Thank you.
When I looked online, there were lots of videos of tourists shooting guns and rockets launchers.
Ooh! And there's lots of stories about shooting animals but definitely no real live targets.
I can't find a single photo or video to prove this happens.
I wonder if it's just a backpacker's urban myth.
I go down to the local tourist bars to see if I can find anyone who might have actually already done this.
I meet some young Brits.
- It's a crazy place.
- You know how it is.
It's mental.
- Cheap alcohol.
- Cheap alcohol, lights all over.
Have you done any of the other crazy stuff that Cambodia's known for? Like, you can shoot guns here.
- I haven't.
- I've heard you can shoot a chicken.
Yeah, I heard you can shoot a cow.
- Really? - Probably Probably more than a cow.
You can probably kill an elephant, if you want.
What I've been told is that you can rent a bazooka and, like, blow up a cow from distance.
But the safe part of it is that no one knows how to handle a bazooka - usually.
- If you don't, what happens to the cow? Okay, so we've all heard the same stories, but are they for real? We decide to go to a shooting range tomorrow to find out.
Will you fire any guns tomorrow, do you think? - I'm willing to.
- I'm well up for it.
I'm I'm well up for it.
Yep, I'm well up for shooting any gun that's provided to me.
How about if there's any animals involved? Would you go there, or no? If there's a chicken there, say, you can shoot that chicken? I'm willing to try, but I couldn't tell you if I'd hit it.
Maybe it's the heroic amounts of booze talking, but they all seem pretty keen.
But faced with a live animal target, I wonder if any of us will actually be able to go through with it.
The next morning, and slightly hungover, we head for the shooting range designed for tourists and, crazy as it seems, run as a side business by the army.
This is a K-50 like Tommy gun.
It's a shotgun.
 This is a carbine M1.
- This is a AK-47.
- Cool.
This a M-16.
This is a PKM machine gun.
- Are these guns that the military uses? - Yeah, military.
And where does the money that we pay go? - Go to military.
This support to military.
- Okay.
You've got a good military? Not doing anything bad? Jack, Brett, and Frazer seem to be really enjoying this instant macho swagger in anticipation of firing off some big guns.
And the potential for a new Tinder photo is irresistible.
Okay, here is the machine gun.
- Bigger than my finger.
- It's a hundred round.
Good luck.
That's an experience.
Shhhh! Okay.
But now the big question.
I've heard a rumor.
You can shoot animals, - if you want to.
- Yeah, you can.
Like, chicken or duck.
- Something like pig or cow.
- Cow? Depend on the customer, they want to shoot.
So, you can.
I could pay to shoot a cow, if I wanted to.
But no shoot people, only the cow or chicken.
I feel it's good you've got a limit.
You know, it's like duck, chicken, sheep, cow, but people, no.
- People.
- One cow, $400 dollars.
400 dollars to shoot a cow? We're all joking, but I am not so sure our hosts are.
So, I'm going to push them a bit further just to see.
- Could I shoot a cow? Could I try that? - Mm-hmm.
- I've got the money.
- Yeah.
If you want to do it, you can do it.
- With a rocket launcher or a machine gun? - Rocket launcher or machine gun.
God, so many choices.
I think a machine gun's okay, if we can do it here.
The cow's not around here.
The cow may be, like, in front of here.
- We've gotta buy from a farmer.
- Okay, let's get the cow.
All right, good luck.
Oh, gosh, they're for real.
He's getting a cow.
Which seems outrageous, but it's happening.
Now that it looks like it might really be possible, I can see that some of my fellow travelers are not happy.
I don't wanna shoot when they're allowing that to happen.
Where you can like pay to blow up an animal, that's - I think, is so disgusting, so - It's like a line you won't cross.
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
It is different shooting a target, but the money goes to them - Yeah.
- for them to carry on doing this.
Especially, when they've probably killed people, these guns.
That's pretty bad.
I'm not feeling good about this either, but I want to know if the stories are true.
Will they really sell me a cow to shoot? Essentially, just funding the military here.
I think he's got a cow.
Oh, yep.
Oop! Oh, God, they've gotten a cow.
- What about here? - What about here? - Okay.
- Good place.
You put it where I can shoot it.
You can bring machine gun through here, as well.
- Okay.
You wait here.
- Yeah.
- I'll go get the gun.
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
- Okay.
Oh, man, what have I got myself into? We've got a cow, if you guys want to come over.
How close do I get? Just shoot here.
Hold here? God, that poor cow.
So, it's definitely not a myth.
You really can do this, but I wonder what kind of person would? Does anyone normal really find this fun? It's just not right.
I'm I'm not going to do it.
- I'm not going to do it.
- No? It's too much.
It's such a beautiful cow, or any cow.
Oh, that's probably the mother.
Imagine if I just shot that cow? It's like Bambi.
But with cows.
The cow survives one more day! There's a sense of relief from everyone, including the Cambodians, that I didn't shoot the cow.
We can probably untie We untie the cow, now! - Should we let it go? - Okay, untie.
Release it? Yeah, I think I will.
I've proven that if you want to, you can pay to shoot a cow in Cambodia.
I guess sometimes money can buy almost anything.
But despite all the bravado, none of us qualified for this particular dark tourist badge today.
None of us want to kill a cow just for fun.
And I'm glad about that and leave realizing some things are just too dark for me.
My next stop is Myanmar, the country that used to be called Burma.
It has a dark military past, but became a democracy in 2015; and it's only now opening once closed off areas to a small number of tourists.
Dark tourists love frontier tourism, getting in first to see places that were once closed off from the world.
I want to see the bizarre new future that this country has built for itself.
Hi, folks.
When you hear about something happening in the world that is so awful, so violent Ten years ago, Burma was on everyone's mind and it hasn't left the news since.
I'm not coming out until Burma is free.
Every celebrity, from Jennifer Aniston to Steven Segal to Kim Kardashian were campaigning against the brutality of the military junta.
I wrote my whole thesis on Burma.
It's a terrible situation over there.
The generals who ran the country suppressed almost all dissent and stood accused of human rights abuses.
However, in 2010, the military transferred power to a democratic process.
And in 2015, Myanmar finally got its first civilian government.
And for the first time, Myanmar officially promoted tourism.
So now, Myanmar wants to present a new face to the world.
To do this it's built a five billion dollar capital city, from scratch, in the middle of absolutely nowhere and called it Naypyidaw.
It's quite big.
Despite the new government's efforts to attract tourists, no one is here.
It's deathly quiet.
Filming is still monitored by the government.
So, I'm officially here as a journalist reporting on tourism.
The next day, I meet the man who will try to explain this bizarre place, the very charming Nao Nao.
Is there anything that's kind of off limits, ‘cause obviously this place has been closed off for a very long time? - Mm-hmm.
- And now it's open to the West.
Well, actually it has been opened a long, long time ago, so you mostly can talk about almost everything.
Okay, what's off bounds? Well, don't criticize about the other, like like, cruel stuff and other cruel things.
And because the country's opened up, but the media is not really opened yet.
- So But it's fine.
- Okay.
We've also been assigned a government chaperone.
Ni-Ni is a minder from the government who is sort of following us around while we're here? And why is she here? Is she sort of here just to keep an eye on what we're saying, or what we're doing, or She's actually trying to help us.
So, because we also like to promote tourism in our country to so many area, but sometimes some people are just a bit nervous that they don't realize who you are, and what we're coming for, and what type of program that we're doing, or are you coming to visit, or So, they just want to make sure to clear the path, to be smooth, and easy way.
So, she just come and join us to help us.
I'm not sure why filming our every move helps us, but it's one of the rules we had to agree to.
All right.
She seems nice.
- And she's good on the GoPro.
- Yeah, she does.
We leave the sanctuary of our hotel for the trip to the center of Naypyidaw, its Parliament buildings.
Ni-Ni sticks to us like a limpet.
Having a minder filming my every move seems a pretty strange way to encourage tourism.
Perhaps shaking off a paranoia of outsiders hasn't come easily.
However, Nao Nao seems unperturbed and he's excited about showing off the sparkly new city to me.
- This is really cool.
- This is cool.
- Big open roads.
- Yeah.
This time it looks a bit quiet, but this is really good because there's no traffic jam.
Like in other big cities you've got to wait for hours - I know.
- to go a distance of only 2 kilometers.
If this was Los Angeles we'd be stuck in traffic now.
But we are flowing.
On the way to Parliament, Nao Nao insists on taking me to one of their unique tourist attractions, a road.
Eleven, twelve thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen Yeah, twenty.
Well this is good for the Parliament on a day when they're busy.
So, there will be no traffic jam.
Admittedly, this humongous twenty-lane highway is pretty impressive.
The rumor is that this road was constructed as an emergency runway for military aircraft.
Like, it is a bit excessive.
Or do you not think it is? - This is good.
- Honestly, it's a bit much.
- It's a good amount? - Yeah, it's good.
To show how important the Parliament building is.
Well, the army, too.
It's huge.
There's never going to be a traffic jam on this road.
I can assure you of that.
I mean, have you ever seen a highway this big? - No.
- No? Watch out! You're funny.
- You are, too.
- You're a funny guy.
Naypyidaw is literally in the middle of nowhere, built in extreme secrecy in 2005.
The place is so empty because it's almost entirely ceremonial, built solely to serve the gigantic Parliament buildings.
Most businesses are in the old capital of Yangon, hundreds of miles away, So, this is Parliament, these buildings over here? Looks like a giant palace.
It does, it looks like a big theme park.
This is so over the top.
Are you nervous? - Nope.
- No? Good.
Almost in.
The Parliament building has been off limits to foreign film crews for a very long time, but we've granted special access.
- Good morning.
- Good morning.
Once inside, I am swarmed by a posse of eager government officials.
This may seem like a lot of guides, but as I am starting to realize, in Naypyidaw, there is a very particular way of doing things.
He is the one who can take us to the Upper House.
- Okay, so you're Upper House.
- Yeah.
They have different section and different people.
Will these gentlemen follow us as well? Will we all go as a group? - I don't mind.
- There's They also have to wait for other visitors, if there are more visitors.
So, they all have their own duty.
All right, let's go.
Let's go to Parliament.
I'll follow you.
Or you, or you, or you.
So, they're here all day, waiting for people to arrive, making sure they get to the right place.
And host the representatives and all the minister who wanna join to the regular meeting, as well.
Well, it's a big place, so you need a lot of staff, as well.
- Right? - Yeah.
What way, this way? - This way.
- This way.
Maybe this is a day with not many visitors.
But the only thing is you are not, we are not allowed to get - In.
that's fine.
- in.
Can I walk in without the camera? To have a look? - I can walk in? - Yeah, we can go.
- It's big.
There's lots of seats.
- Not like other buildings.
- Not like town hall.
- No.
This is really important for the whole country.
This is the red line.
Okay, no.
You can stay there.
So, who sits where in here? Usually, all the representative of the military just sit So, 25% is military and they sit up here.
25% out of 660.
No constitutional change can happen unless more than 75% of MPs approve.
And with the military holding 25% of the seats, this pretty much means, no changes can be made unless generals approve it.
Myanmar may officially be a democracy, but the generals are still very much in power.
Right, so that's out of respect.
Oh! Okay.
Oh, no filming? Okay, we can stop.
That's fine.
Thanks for bringing us over here.
Okay, thank you.
I hope we're not in trouble for filming.
Is that okay? - Yeah.
- Okay.
We're just passing through.
Nao Nao insists on taking me to his favorite military display.
It's a lot to take in.
There's a lot going on in the one image.
Got some ancient warriors.
Got some tanks on the ground, some tanks floating, some horses galloping in from the side.
Some more horses from the side.
It's striking.
And this gentleman at the top? - The senior general.
- Yes.
It sums it all up, doesn't it, really? I'm not sure how to take all of this.
It's hard not to be impressed with the earnestness of the place.
And sometimes, its absurdness, But it does seem like a good moment to leave the corridors of power and hit the real streets of Naypyidaw.
As we drive the pristine roads, I'm struck again by the emptiness of the city.
The only people in sight are street sweepers and gardeners.
And Nao Nao tells me many have moved to the city to serve the new capital's needs.
They get well paid, so they're happy to come here.
There's a lot of work to be done.
 I mean, there's a lot of curbside to clean.
Apparently, they earn three to four dollars a day, which Nao Nao says is a better wage than working in the countryside.
I told Nao Nao I'd like to meet some of them, so he's arranged for us to have lunch at one couple's home.
Before we go there, I offered to pay for any food.
So, my hosts take me shopping at the local market.
This is a very different Naypyidaw.
The streets are bustling, vibrant, and full of people and shops.
Nao Nao tells me, the paste on people's faces is thanaka, a sunscreen made from ground down bark.
I feel like I'm in a real functioning city again.
Even Ni-Ni turns off her camera and finds a bargain.
We go back to their home, and the head of the house starts cooking.
What are you making in there? Chicken curry.
Let me know if I can help with anything.
It smells good.
- Yeah.
- It smells really good.
I think this is better than our hotel chicken.
It's good.
It's good.
The 21st century luxuries of our hotel and Parliament seem a world away.
And Ni-Ni and Nao Nao seem at home, too.
They say this is the first time visitors just come and Oh, really? Well, thank you! On this trip I've learned frontier tourism often means what you see and hear is managed by authorities.
But when you look behind the curtain or got a little off track, you can find a different, less manicured world.
Naypyidaw is a bizarre and seemingly soulless city.
But away from the pristine empty highways, I found warm and wonderfully kind people, who make an amazing chicken curry.
I just had to look a little deeper.
After the futuristic theme park of Naypyidaw, I head for Toraja, in the rainforests of Indonesia Toraja is the zenith for a dark tourist.
The Torajans practice some of the most elaborate and unusual funeral rituals in the world.
I've heard they even resurrect their dead, years after they die.
This just sounds so extreme, I want to see it for myself.
But getting there is not easy.
Toraja is extremely remote.
It's an eight-hour overnight bus ride followed by a two-hour drive through winding mountain roads to the village.
Other intrepid dark tourists come here, but this week I'm the only one.
I'm here to meet Andarias.
He's a local who's agreed to be my interpreter and to explain what's going on around here.
Hey, David.
Are you doing okay? I'm slightly nervous, because he says he's going to take me to see Yusef, a local villager who's been dead for quite some time.
Andarias suggested I should bring some snacks and treats for the ceremony.
- I tried to get a variety.
- Okay.
These will be fantastic.
So, this gentleman is one of the the oldest sons of the person.
- It's nice to meet you.
- Yeah.
He would like to introduce you to; we call it the sick person.
- The sick person.
- So, let's check it out.
- Do you want to lead the way? - I will.
- Mind your head.
- Yop! It's quite dark, isn't it? - It's busy in here, packed.
- Yeah.
It is.
- And so here he is.
- Yeah.
You can say hello.
Thanks for letting me come and say hello.
It's nice to see you.
- I bought these for you.
- Yes.
Cigarettes, old favorites, yeah? - Urban Mild.
- This is Urban Mild? I've got another pack of cigarettes because you like to smoke, so two packets.
- These are favorites of mine, Oreos.
- Oh, Oreo! Yeah, these are good.
Everyone likes Oreos, yeah.
These are a bit plain, they're plain biscuits as well.
Coconut biscuits.
Here's a real treat, some nuts.
There's a lot of them.
They'll last for a while.
What did she say? Well, we can also share that too.
You're gonna share some? Okay, I'm sure he'll share with you.
In my world, Yusef is dead, but,, here, the locals refer to it as "resting".
- How long's he been resting for? - Coming November, will be two years.
Two-year rest.
That's a good rest.
It's a good long rest.
This is very different to any funeral I've attended.
For starters, the body is two years old.
I sort of expect him to smell, but I'm told he's embalmed in tree sap.
And it's all very jolly.
You make sure you give him first chance to have these before you take them, okay? I'll be watching, all right? Good, I'm just checking.
I've got my eyes on you.
You still got his glasses on.
It's important 'cause he needs to see.
Yusef's two-year rest finally comes to an end as his casket is closed.
The funeral rituals will continue for six days before his body is finally entombed.
Torajans traditionally believe that death is not a sudden and abrupt event, but a gradual process towards the afterlife known as Puya, land of the souls.
The next stage of the funeral ritual is a buffalo fight.
Bizarrely, the buffaloes are dressed up in mad party hats and spray painted with their fighting names.
They always try to select the best buffalo, not only in size, but also the buffalo that can fight.
That have the best fighting personality.
- Like that one.
- Oh, God.
You have to be careful.
So, how to escape if they run this way - If they start moving, we start moving.
- Yeah.
- Are you a quick runner? - Oh, I am.
- That's a winner.
- Winner.
- Nabire is the winner.
- Nabire.
The buffalo fight is over.
And the ceremonial sacrifice begins.
- He's nervous.
- You can see it! - But this has to be done for - Oh, yes.
- Ma'nene to start.
- That's right.
Family members from all over have gathered in the village to pay their respects and take part in a massive sacrifice and feast.
- God.
- Ready.
It's hard to watch, but it's an important part of the Torajan funeral.
Andarias explains to me that the last breath of the first sacrificial buffalo marks the official death of the sick person.
The number of animals killed determines the speed at which Yusef's soul will travel from the village to the afterlife.
Families spend huge amounts buying buffalo for the festival.
Andarias tells me that this was just one of 50 buffalo killed as part of this ceremony.
I'm glad I didn't have to see all of them slaughtered, to be honest.
David, do you want to also chop it up? - To do the buffalo - Oh, no.
It's too much.
Andarias seems completely unfazed by the bloodbath, and tells me it's only just beginning.
As a thank you gesture to the village for letting me attend the funeral, I followed advice and donated a pig.
Okay, let's go and tie up the pig.
- Yeah, come.
- Isn't that a really peaceful looking pig? I hadn't thought much about it at the time, but now I realize I am partly responsible for what's about to happen next.
Oh, God.
I feel bad for the pig.
Do you feel a bit bad for the pig? You know, you have to understand.
This is - This is our culture, so - Yeah.
I know, I mean, I eat pig, but I just don't have to see it, you know? It's like they're sort of realizing what's going to happen.
You know, pigs are very clever animal.
I mean, I know we gifted a pig.
- Yeah.
- Oh, hello.
Oh, he's coming to tell us that they are going to slaughter the pig now.
- They're going to kill the pig now? - Are you okay, David? Yeah, okay.
Well, we'll Yeah, which one? - All of them.
- All of them? - Now? - Yes.
Oh, no.
I'd naively thought it was just my pig.
Who's gonna do the killing? Does everyone swarm in at once? Yeah, one by one, but sometimes they do it at once.
Oh, he just poked it in the side.
That's hardly slow.
Jeez, that's brutal.
And as we all watch on, he literally shanks them.
- I'm feeling queasy.
- You okay? - It's pretty hard to watch.
- Yeah.
It's gruesome, but this is just the reality here.
Oh, fucking hell.
It's so rough.
But the Torajans have always done it this way, and as their guest, I don't feel it's my place to criticize.
I don't think I could get used to it.
- No? Okay.
- I think I've seen enough.
This is intense.
But really, what did I expect? A peaceful day at the petting zoo? - Hey.
You all right? - I'm all right.
Just thought I'd get away from the squealing.
Yeah, well, he's happy.
Can we let this one go? - That one? - Yeah, maybe untie him.
Let them free? Would that go down well? - Would we get chased out of the village? - Everybody's watching.
- So, there's no way to do.
- Yeah, okay.
Everywhere there's, like, bits of animal.
And, like, people and other animals eating them.
It's just a different way of looking at death, I suppose, to what I'm used to.
It's all out in the open here, you know? Until I came here, I'd never even seen a dead body before.
So, that's even quite weird for me, I think.
I mean, how many dead bodies have you seen? - Me? Many.
- Yeah.
- How many? Like, two? - No, hundreds.
Hundreds? You see, I've just seen one now.
I'm gonna go vegetarian.
I realize my urbanized life in the West has become sanitized from the realities of life.
I eat meat.
Maybe I should be reminded where it comes from, every now and then.
Finally, all the pigs have been killed.
Now it's time for the chanting and singing part of the ritual.
Part of it is, like, a story of the person who died when he's alive.
- It's like a celebration.
- Yeah.
- I feel too tall.
- Yeah.
- I feel too tall for the circle.
- You have to be shorter.
Thank you.
- You light it later.
- Yeah, all right.
I try to hum along, but my mind keeps replaying all those pigs being shanked.
How long does it go on for? - Hours.
- Hours? - Literally hours? Amazing.
- Yeah.
Have a sit down, please, and we'll have a break.
- A little break? - Is it okay? Finally, after all these rituals, Yusef is ready to leave home and be taken to his final resting place.
All of us, the entire village, friends and all the relatives, we all set out on our way to the ancestral tombs, where another ceremony is taking place.
It's called Ma'nene, which is the ceremony of cleaning corpses.
It happens once a year, and it's a time to show their love and respect for their ancestors.
This will eventually happen to Yusef.
But now we are visiting Grandma.
She's been in this tomb for 17 years, and it's time for her spring clean.
Oh, there she is.
Once uncovered, she's dusted off, groomed, and wrapped in new clothes.
It's a thorough and also very tender process.
Are they just kind of airing her out? - Freshening things up? - Yeah.
People seem so casual and relaxed looking at a mummified corpse.
I have seen so much death on this trip, but I realize I'm the only one who thinks this is strange.
Granny's up.
See that? Granny's standing.
If you want to give some money, you can give it to her.
Like, you know - You know, offerings.
- I don't have any money on me.
The one time I need money.
You wanna I can give you the money.
- If you want.
- Okay.
I'll borrow a few.
Put it there.
That's for the betel nut.
- Thank you.
- It's okay, grandma.
- I'll pay you back.
- No worries, mate.
It's quite unusual getting so I sort of touched her.
Is that okay? I'm not that into it.
I just didn't want any arms to fall off or anything.
Hey, you know, you got lucky.
Everyone's taking photos.
- Sorry? - They're taking photos.
It's such an odd mix of ancient ritual and new technology.
Where are all these photos going? Facebook, I suppose.
I've never seen a dead body like this before.
And she'll just be put back in until next year? Yes.
I came here wondering if people really do dig up their dead relatives.
And they do.
But in this place it seems totally natural.
Death seems to be very in the open, whether it's pigs dying, or chickens, or buffalo.
You know, getting dead people out again.
You know, it's not hidden away? No.
So, it's always We say, life is always the mixture between laughs and sadness.
I kind of agree.
Death here among the Torajans, it's violent and macabre, but it's also vibrant and poignant.
I feel like I've seen more dead things the last couple of days than I have my entire life.
I definitely have.
Okay, so do you mean you would like to come back again to see more? What? No, I think I was In the West we fear death, but here they celebrate it as a normal part of life.
Maybe this is why dark tourism is becoming popular.
People want to challenge their fears and preconceptions by coming to extraordinary places like this.
I'll never think of death in the same way again.
Subtitle translation by: