Full Circle with Michael Palin
bgcolour = #D6B97A
show_name = Full Circle with Michael Palin
caption = DVD cover
runtime = 50 min
last_aired = 1997
num_episodes = 10
preceded_by = "
Pole to Pole"
followed_by = "
Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure"
"Full Circle with Michael Palin" is the title of a 1997 documentary television series produced by the
British Broadcasting Corporation. Presented by Michael Palinof " Monty Python's Flying Circus" fame, "Full Circle" was one of a series of programmes in which Palin made unusual and interesting trips.
The series documented a 10-month, 50,000 mile (80,000 km) trip taken by Palin and a film crew around the rim of the
Pacific Oceanin 1995, beginning on the Diomede Islandsbetween Alaskaand Russiain the Bering Strait. The intent was to make the full anti-clockwise trip around the Pacific Rimand end up back on the Diomede Islands, but due to rough weather, he was unable to actually set foot back on the Islands again at the end of his journey. He got within 2 miles of completing the full circle. Palin travelled through Russia, Japan, South Korea(they were not allowed to travel very far in North Korea), China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, United States, and Canada.
Palin also authored a companion book based upon the series, which was published concurrently with its first broadcast. This book contained both Palin's text and many pictures by
Basil Pao, the stills photographer on the team. Basil Pao also produced a separate book of the photographs he took during the journey, Full Circle - The Photographs, a large coffee-table style book printed on glossy paper.
The program consists of 10 episodes, each 50 minutes long. Unlike the first two Michael Palin journeys, the episodes were not given names, and are just presented as "Episode One", etc.
Episode One: Alaska/Russia
Palin begins his trek around the
Pacific Rimat Little Diomede Island, Alaska, in hopes of returning there in a year's time. Arriving at Nome, he visits with a goldpanner on the "Golden Sands of Nome". Next Palin journeys to Kodiak Island, aiming to catch a flight from the U.S. Coast Guard to the western island of Attu. Unfortunately, the plane never arrives; however, he does catch a glimpse of the Kodiak brown bear. Palin and his crew find an alternative: they catch the last Alaska Airlinesflight of the year from Anchorageto Petropavlovskin Russia. Arriving on the Kamchatka Peninsula, he meets his guide Igor Nosov and his assistants. They board a helicopter and observe the Kronotsky Reserve, which contains some active volcanoes, as well as some reindeer. Moving on to the city of Magadan, he visits an old Gulagcamp with a survivor. In Vladivostok, he observes the once-powerful Pacific Fleetand is given an opportunity to sing with the Pacific Fleet Ensemble.
Episode Two: Japan/Korea
Palin begins his time in Japan at
Sado Island, where he meets the famous Kodō drummers. He participates in a morning run with drummer hopefuls and then takes his shot at the largest drum. Then it is on to Tokyo, where he meets up with Mayumi Nobetsu, a Japanese Monty Pythonfan. They tour the Asakusa neighborhood where they decide to bet on a horse race. Palin and Nobetsu strike gold with a horse named Super License. The two also eat a restaurant where the specialty is loacheswho have been fed sake, the popular Japanese rice wine. Afterwards, they catch a punk rock concert in Yoyogi Park. Catching the shinkansento Fukuyama, he takes in a Zen Buddhistmeditation session at Buttsuji Temple. During the meditation session in the Zendo, he is struck by a keisaku, which is used to keep meditators from lulling off to sleep. In Nagasaki, he visits Huis ten Bosch, a Dutch-themed park set to symbolize old trading ties with the Dutch.
After catching a ferry to
Pusanin South Korea, he meets up with Shin-Na, a journalist in the capital of Seoul. Shin-Na explains to him that there still exists animosity between Koreans and the Japanese, none more evident than in the fact that most Japanese cultural items are still banned in Korea. The two then witness a rally protesting generals' immunity from prosecution in a bloody massacre in Gwangjuin the early 1980s. (After Palin left, the generals were prosecuted and imprisoned.) At the South Seoul Marriage Hall, Palin and Shin-Na attend a wedding ceremony. Palin notices that the number of traditional Korean marriages are dwindling. Not too long after, Palin encounters his first roadblock of the journey: North Korea. He can only go with a group of foreign tourists (no Koreans are allowed) led by one of the Americans stationed at the DMZ. He then "crosses" the border in the Joint Security Areaat Panmunjeominto the North; however, he cannot venture much further than that without being shot or arrested. A sad Palin looks out into North Korea and states that North and South Korea are not really two separate nations, that it is one nation divided against itself.
Episode Three: China
Arriving in China at the port city of
Qingdao, Palin checks in to the Welcome Guest House, where Mao Zedongonce spent a month right before the infamous Great Leap Forward. Palin gets a massage on the streets of Qingdao and then visits a winery in the Laoshan Mountains, where he samples Chinese chardonnay. He then climbs Taishan Mountain, one of the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism. Catching a train to Shanghai, he notices how more modern Chinese trains have gotten since "" in 1988. Arriving in Shanghai, he discovers a Harvey Nicholsstore. Palin also takes time out to dance with one of the locals. He also finds out that the Bund, the longtime economic heart of the city (even when he last visited), has been usurped by the Pudongarea. Taking an inland route via the Yangtze River, he views the construction for the Three Gorges Damand notes how a lot of area will be submerged after its completion in 2009. In the large town of Chongqing, he chats with a university graduate over lunch about modern Chinese society. From there, Palin heads south into Guiyangand then the land of the Miaopeople, a Chinese minority. Some people in a Miao village note that Palin is the first Westerner they had ever seen, as well as the fact he has a big nose. From there, he catches a bus to Pingxiangand Friendship Gate, on the Vietnamese border.
Episode Four: Vietnam/Philippines
Palin arrives in Vietnam at a time when it is reintroducing itself to the global stage, via a process called
Đổi mới("new thinking"). He also observes a local cricketmatch in the capital of Hanoi, although the BBC is not allowed to film because due to the fact it took place on land owned by the Vietnamese military, it was deemed a security risk. Palin also observes the Hanoi Hilton, an infamous prison for Americans during the Vietnam War. Catching a train going south to Saigon, he makes a stop in Hueand the Forbidden Purple City, an old imperial palace. In Da Nang, Palin relaxes at China Beachand meets up with a 16-year-old who shows him what is known as the Gateway to Heaven. In Saigon, he tours the Củ Chi tunnelswhich the Vietnamese military used during all the conflicts within their borders. In nearby Tay Ninh, he visits a Caodaist cathedral. Then he takes a ferry down to the end of the Mekong River.
Philippines, Palin notices how congested traffic is in the capital of Manila. He then chats with some women who are going abroad to work in order to support their families. Palin then takes the opportunity to observe the Banaue Rice Terraces. However, when he gets there, a dense fog prevents him from seeing the terraces. In Baguio, he witnesses two unique procedures (assisting in one of them) known as " psychic surgery". In the southern part of the country, Palin gets some scuba divinglessons and even has a meal underwater. In Zamboanga, he attends a cockfightand also judges the Miss La Bella Pacifica beauty pageant. Afterwards, he drives a jeepneydown the streets of the city, waiting for a ferry to take him to Borneo.
Episode Five: Malaysia/Indonesia
After a bit of a wait, Palin catches a ferry across the notorious
Sulu Seato the northern tip of Borneo. There, he visits an orangutanrehabilitation center. From there, Palin ventures south to Kuchingin Sarawak, once ruled by what were known as the White Rajahs. Then he travels inward to a longhousewhere members of the Iban peoplereside. He chats with former headhunters and takes part in a special feast honoring the highest-ranking Iban in the Malaysian government.
Afterwards, he ventures south to the island of
Javain Indonesia. From the capital of Jakarta, he journeys east with his guide to a tea plantation and helps pick tea leaves. They then observe a wayang kulit puppet show. In the cultural hub of Yogyakarta, they sample some durian, a notoriously smelly fruit. They then tour the Buddhist temple at Borobudurand climb Mount Bromo. In Surabayaon the east coast of Java, they encounter their first major transportation issues since Alaska. Being unable to find a boat to take him across the sea to Darwin, Australia, they settle for one that will take them east on Java, but no further.
* In the DVD interview, Palin states that while in Kuching, he learned that his wife needed surgery. Palin flew back to London from Indonesia, spent a few days with her, and then flew to Australia to continue his Pacific trek.
Episode Six: Australia/New Zealand
Palin begins in Darwin, where he catches a truck down to Katherine. There, he visits a crocodile farm and helps hatch a few eggs. (Palin wanted the camera to focus on the fact he held a baby crocodile in his hands for five seconds.) Nearby, he checks out an animal rehabilitation center. Down to King's Creek, he participates in an exciting
camelhunt which results in Palin actually getting one. Down to Alice Springs, he catches the Ghan train down to Adelaide, where he participates in the Desperate and Dateless Ball. Then he takes part in a cow race, where he places second. On to Sydney, he gets a cameo in the popular soap " Home and Away".
Auckland, New Zealand, he catches a train down to the town of Kaikoura. There he participates in a Maoriacceptance ceremony where he spoke and sang a song he learned at Shrewsbury. Palin then travels to Mount Cookand Queenstown for lessons in mountaineering and rafting. He then watches bungee jumpingand chats with A.J. Hackett, who developed the sport. Palin then ventures south to the University of Otagoin Dunedin, where he is caught in the middle of orientation-week activities. Palin has now reached the halfway point around the Pacific.
Episode Seven: Chile/Bolivia (arrival)
Starting the second half of his journey at
Cape Horn, Palin views the end of the continent of South America. He travels through the southern islands of Chileto the town of Punta Arenas. He renews acquaintances with his guide from " Pole to Pole" and the statue of Ferdinand Magellanwith the Indian whose toe he kissed to ensure a safe journey. Venturing through the islands, he views the Torres del Paine National Parkand the grave of an English explorer who committed suicide in the area. At Chiloe Island, he chats with an American transplant who discusses the possible existence of witcheson the island. Then he attends a local barbecue that included dancing and Palin attempting to play the horse's jawbone. North to Santiago, he observes a memorial to victims of the 1973 coup d'état. Driving through the Atacama Desert, Palin reaches the highest elevation of his life thus far. At the world's largest coppermine in Chuquicamata, Palin does the honors of counting down to the explosion. In the northern town of Arica, he catches a one-car train to La Pazin Bolivia. Things go smoothly until, as they are within striking distance of La Paz, the train has a freakish derailment. After several attempts to get the train back on line, they are successful and eventually reach the Bolivian capital in the black of night.
Episode Eight: Bolivia/Peru
At the town of Copacabana, Palin visits with reed boat makers on the shores of
Lake Titicaca. Crossing the border into Peru, he chats with a lady who hopes to get the "Yavari", a century-old ship, sailing again. On to Cuzco, he arrives in the middle of the Feast of Corpus Christi. He then journeys to the most famous relic of the Inca Empire: the lost city of Machu Picchu. As well, he visits a nearby village of Inca descendants. He then catches a train to Quillabamba, and then moves on to Kiteni, where he meets a local pub owner who agrees to go up the Urubamba Riverwith him. After a day or two consisting of sailing and birdwatching, they reach the canyon of Pongo de Mainique. Soon thereafter, they stop and set up camp for the night. Palin later states that Pongo de Mainique was his favorite place to travel in the world.
Episode Nine: Peru/Colombia
Palin and his guide approach a
Machiguengavillage where the feast of St. John the Baptistis going on. Palin observes a men's and women's intervilage football matches. Then he samples a drink made from the yuccaplant. Back on the Urubamba, Palin eventually makes it to the northern town of Iquitos. Here, there is a barriothat contains many shops. Palin visits one where a lady is making cigarettes. He then takes his first puff of a cigarette in a long while. After a little wait, Palin realizes a dream by catching a boat on to the Amazon River. Bogotá, Colombia, is as Palin put it, "trading one jungle for another." With a guide, he discovers why the Colombian capital is one of the most dangerous places on earth. He learns that most of the trouble stems from the drug trafficking in the country. He then travels down Bullet Street, arguably the most violent street in the city. Here, rocks are thrown at the car Palin and his guide are traveling in. He then offers to take him to lunch; however, his guide declines, stating that the restaurant he is going to is owned by the father of a notorious drug trafficker. Palin, however, continues, and is granted an interview (in Spanish) of the restaurant owner, Don Fabio. Continuing north, he visits an emeraldmine and some of the workers there. Then it is on to Cartagena, where he hops on a party bus, celebrating the end of his nine weeks on the South American continent.
Episode Ten: Mexico/Western USA/Canada/Alaska
Mexico City, Palin attends a lucha librematch and listens to a lively mariachiband. The next day, he observes the darker side of the city, as a graffiti protest is being led by a lucha libre wrestler named Super Barrio. On to a small village outside of Querétaro, he helps a lady make tortillas. He then catches a bus to the town of Tijuana, where after observing a house in the shape of a woman, he walks to the United States–Mexico border, a.k.a. the "Tortilla Curtain". Here he observes "Pollos" attempting to cross without any security noticing. Afterwards, Palin crosses the border legally into San Diegoand gets a glimpse of the border from the American perspective.
Venturing north to
Los Angeles, he gets a bird's-eye viewof the city from a local news helicopter reporter. He then becomes involved in a breaking story of a plane approaching Van Nuys Airportlanding on the freeway. Driving along the Californiacoast, he reaches San Franciscoand the Golden Gate Bridge. He then takes a tour of the notorious Alcatrazprison and chats with two former inmates. Then he visits The Castro, well-known for its homosexualpopulation. Palin's guide introduces him to a local gay policeman and then shows him the place where The NAMES Project originated in 1987. From San Francisco, he flies to Seattle, where he tests a flight simulator at Boeingheadquarters.
Canada, Palin manages to flag down a train near Vancouver, British Columbia. In the nearby town of Squamish, he is the guest of honor at a loggers sports festival, where he takes part in one of the races. Taking a train north through to Prince George, he realizes that the closer he gets to completing the circle, his transportation options dwindle. He reaches Wales Beach, the westernmost point on the North American mainland. However, Little Diomede is still 25 miles away. Then the Coast Guard comes to pick him up and put him on a boat that will attempt to get him there. Unfortunately, the weather does not cooperate, and the Coast Guard abandons the attempt. Even though Palin came up two miles short, he believes, in a way, he did close the circle.
In the DVD interview, Palin noted it was somewhat fitting the circle was not closed, referencing his inability to enter the Reform Club at the end of "...80 Days" and not getting on the 'Agulhas' in "Pole to Pole".
* [http://www.palinstravels.co.uk/static-11 Palin's Travels - the official web site]
*imdb title|id=0122819|title=Full Circle with Michael Palin
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