Monday, 8 April 2013

this one is special because it was fun talking to Ian Wright! (Deccan Herald, March 2012)

Asian way of life

March 18, 2012
The best travel experience is one in which the traveller gets a whiff of a city’s culture and lifestyle. And that is exactly how Ian Wright does it in season two of TLC’s ‘Invite Mr Wright’, writes Juanita Kakoty  

Ian Wright, trying out a local delicacy in Okinawa, Japan.The brilliant raconteur that he is, Ian Wright, the celebrated globetrotter and travel host, in a couple of minutes, offered me a kaleidoscopic peep into his experiences in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Australia and Singapore. These are the countries he has visited for the upcoming second season of the TLC series Invite Mr Wright, premiering on March 29, 2012 at 8 pm.

“In India, I travelled to Sikkim this time. I lived in a monastery and experienced Sikkim with three monks who showed me around. Initially, I thought it would be boring. But once we got there, I was amazed to see how colourful Sikkim was. There were coloured buildings all around you, everyone was in a costume, and everyone was with music. And to my surprise, the monks were such fun to be with. It was fantastic!” spoke Ian, who is often described as the funniest and best loved travel presenter on British TV, excitedly.
“I lived in the Rumtek monastery near Gangtok, which is the first monastery built outside of Tibet after the Chinese invasion; and took a crash course in how the monks live their lives. That’s a feat, and it’s special because, usually, this is not allowed. I shaved my hair, learnt to chant, and ate vegetarian food that was great.” 

In season one, Ian had travelled around Mumbai and Goa. “There I lived with Bollywood actor Arshad Warsi, visited film sets and learnt to act, dance and stage a fight. Hence, Sikkim was an altogether different experience from Mumbai and Goa. But both the times have been uniquely charming.”

Been there, done that 

Invite Mr Wright, as a concept, has been very well received by the audience. “It is a great idea where I get to go to a country, stay there for a relatively long period, build relationships with the local people, live with them and see their culture through their eyes. And season two gets all the more better because it is more refined, more about personal opinions, relationships and more focussed,” revealed Ian. Talking of his varied experiences in season two, he spoke about how, in Indonesia, the team visited the island of Sumatra and spent time with conservationists trying to save the orangutans and green sea turtles. “This bit is more like a wildlife conservation film. There, we saw the local authorities sell and destroy the orangutans’ land; and how they have no desire to keep the apes safe.”

In Vietnam, Ian and his team visited Sapa, a frontier town in the northwest that borders China. “We drank rice wine for three continuous days at a hill tribe wedding. It was crazy! We also helped a young woman, who has started an orphanage for young girls, with photographic exhibitions.” In the island of Okinawa, Japan, Ian tried to pass on his Ipswich (believed to be England’s oldest Anglo-Saxon town) skills to the only football team on the island — Ryukyu FC. Then there were crazy experiences with Indians in Northern Australia, where he hung out with a mud-racing couple. 

But the most difficult bit was when Ian had to cook for a top chef in Singapore. “Over there, I was with one of the top chefs of Singapore in the best restaurant, enjoying life, when one day I had to cook a meal. I made some English dish for them and the feedback that I received was pathetic.”

Ian might have travelled to India on work with Invite Mr Wright, but his tryst with the country began some 25 years ago. “I was about 23 years old then and had travelled all over India — to Kerala, Kodaikanal, Calcutta, Delhi, Darjeeling, Amritsar, etc. Those days, there was no Internet or mobile phones, and the only time I could speak to my mother was during Christmas, from a post office in Darjeeling. But in all those months, India had so much to offer that I was never bored, nor was my mind ever blank.”

Ending the conversation, even though he admitted to ‘hour-long’ anecdotes that he could share from his travels, Ian reflected, “What I love about India is that it is several countries united into one. As you move from one place to another, body shapes change, languages change, colours change, food changes, neighbourhoods change. And the most amazing thing about the country is that you don’t really have to go looking for places to see the local cultures and lifestyles. You just go to the street and watch the whole world go by.”

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