DVD Review: Travels to the Edge, Kingdom of Bhutan

by Kara on November 4, 2009

DVD CoverWhile we were in Bhutan earlier this fall, our guide told us about being involved in the filming of an episode of photographer Art Wolfe‘s series, Travels to the Edge. Of course, Stephen wanted to hear all about this, and was full of questions like what kind and how much gear Art Wolfe carried. He also asked our guide, Pema, if he appeared on camera, which he did.

As soon as we got home, we ordered a copy of the DVD with that episode. It is hard to be terribly objective about this particular episode, as we just returned from a fantastic trip to Bhutan and because our guide is featured so prominently in the show. But Art Wolfe’s on-camera personality is very likable and his enthusiasm for the subject matter is infectious. He seems to have a lot of respect for the culture, and he is often clearly in awe of his surroundings. For such a well-traveled and successful photographer, he does not come off as at all jaded.

One of the things I liked about the show was that he talks a little bit about taking is photos and they show some of his still shots. Although it is more of a travel show than a photography show, I’d like to see him talk a little more about the photography – and perhaps he does on other episodes. This disc also includes a documentary on making the show, and listening to Art Wolfe and his crew talk about making the show was really interesting. There is a bit of a conflict between the crew getting the material they need for the show and Art Wolfe taking his photographs.

The emphasis is definitely on culture and nature, rather than photography, and for a half hour show viewers get a pretty good glimpse into Bhutan. It did seem that the people were extremely tolerant of having cameras in their faces, and for that reason, both the live action film and still images are fantastic. Some of the footage that they got in the monasteries was amazing. Unfortunately, we arrived in Phobjika Valley a little early to see the black neck cranes, so we enjoyed seeing the shots they got of the cranes. I also especially enjoyed the archery scenes, which had a lot of humor.

What made this episode even more appealing to us is that Art Wolfe’s guide, Pema Sonam, was also our guide in Bhutan. When we travel with a guide, we are with that person constantly for two or three weeks, and then just as suddenly as they appeared in our lives they are gone. It’s kind of a sad aspect of travel for me, because we have always had such terrific guides that we genuinely liked. So it was really kind of strange to watch this episode and see someone that we spent so much time with – it is kind of like having a flashback of our trip.

I still have two more episodes to watch on this disc, and I would love to see more. For me, it is a little tough because the show airs on PBS (check your local listings) and we don’t have any tv reception. I checked Netflix and they don’t carry the series. I had to order directly from Art Wolfe’s online store, and while the price of each disc is reasonable at $17.95, they charged me a whopping $9 for shipping. This seems a little excessive for a package that weighs less than a pound. I looked on Amazon, but they don’t sell it directly – Art Wolfe’s shop sells it through Amazon, so I imagine the postage is the same. So if Netflix decides to carry it, then I will watch more episodes. If like most normal people, you have television reception, then it is definitely worth checking it out on PBS. If you are into travel photography, it is even better.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jigme Tsering March 6, 2015 at 2:49 am

Hi, Thanks for sharing the link. I came across your link from the comment you had written on 25 october 2009 after you returned from your first trip to Bhutan. I was intrigued on how people find the “phalluses on the houses and building very interesting” given that for us, it ‘s just so common.

Then I remembered the quote from Mark Twain – ” Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness” .

Travel sure makes us so much open and tolerant :)

If you ever visit Bhutan, do let me know.

Cheers, Jigme

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