Dark Tourist season 1, episode 6 recap: ‘South East Asia’


In episode 6 of Netflix series Dark Tourist, David Farrier witnesses a death-centric Indonesian harvest ritual visits the empty capital of Myanmar and tests moral limits in Cambodia.

Known largely for its genocidal leader, Pol Pot, Cambodia is considered the “wild west of South East Asia.” As David Farrier tells us, dark tourists in Cambodia can do a lot of morally ambiguous things. As one might expect, this includes paying to shoot guns and rocket launchers at livestock. It’s a slightly different type of killing field, but can David actually blow apart cows or pigs with a Tommy gun, an AK-47 or an M-16 on Dark Tourist?

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because, ultimately, he doesn’t go through with it. Although proceeds would go to the Cambodian military, it’s not enough of a charitable cause for David. After saying, “Oh man, what have I got myself into?,” he confesses, “Some things are just too dark for me.”

Myanmar, Naypyidaw, Ni Ni and Nao Nao

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Dark Tourist then heads to Myanmar, which used to be Burma. As David notes, Myanmar is freshly opened up to tourists and is perhaps trying to clean up its reputation as a human rights abuser. Still, David is drawn to the quirky fact that their 5 billion dollar capital’s in the middle of nowhere.
Indeed, no one else seems to be in Naypyidaw besides David. The countries opened up a little, but not much to journalists. Like in other Dark Tourist episodes, David pretty much has to con his way in.

While in Myanmar, David is given an official government chaperone named Ni Ni. David’s tour guide, Nao Nao shows David around, but there are plenty of areas David’s not really allowed to properly film. While it’s not entirely unusual, this always gives the aura of something being a little bit off. Also quirky is a 20 lane highway that almost no one else uses. Don’t think that’s odd? Just watch the scene. It is a very large and very empty-looking highway.

David also notes how the parliament building looks like a big theme park. Sometimes, Dark Tourist‘s most controversial moments and implications involve telling it like it is. It’s simply a fact that Myanmar has its system rigged so military generals retain power. Still, would David be able to say that in public without facing repercussions? Quite understandably, David seems to mostly play it safe. The object of being a dark tourist isn’t to get one’s self-imprisoned or killed.

David is relieved to see that Naypyidaw does have actual people in it, working around the capital. He says they are warm and kind people. They live away from the capital and make great chicken curry. In other words, Myanmar probably has some really decent people, but their political system is highly unstable. Or, alternately, one might say their system has become too “stable” — as in too rigid and set—, which certainly lends itself to abusive behavior. That aside, one wonders if any people play “Mad Max”-style chicken on that highway. It would be an understandable temptation, wouldn’t it?

Toraja, Indonesian Rainforest

When Dark Tourism rolls into Toraja, it’s to see if they resurrect their dead years after they’ve died. Andarias, his interpreter, seems to know a great deal about the events of their harvest ritual.
Before long, David gets to meet Yusef (a name that sounds like “Joseph”), a villager who’s been dead for quite some time. While he hasn’t literally risen from the dead, people are showing reverence for him.  David was advised to bring snacks along, so he brings Oreos and other goodies to Yusef, who’s been “resting” for 2 years. The Torajans will bury Yusef soon, we are told.

This isn’t the most disturbing part for David. That would be seeing a buffalo fight, after which there’s a sacrifice. He sees pigs get slaughtered as well. Although it disturbs him, he eventually gleans some wisdom from it. He tells us, “My urbanized life in the West has been sanitized from the realities of life.” He continues, “I eat meat…maybe I should be reminded where it comes from every now and then.”

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During the ritual, the Torajans also clean the dead. A deceased old woman is given money and other offerings. People take photos of her, perhaps to share on social media. While the whole thing seems strange to most Westerners, it’s probably not so different from keeping an urn full of a loved one’s ashes.

So, ultimately, the process is sort of demystified by one’s seeing it. It is about celebrating life and honoring people in death, as opposed to something altogether morbid. As Andarias says to David: “Life is always the mixture between laughs and sadness.” It may be a different way of seeing death, but again, it’s not entirely different, either.

That’s it for this Dark Tourist recap! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!