Our premiere on Sky Arts

October 16, 2010

Transmission of the new series begins tomorrow, Sunday 17 October, at 7pm on Sky Arts 2. The first film to be shown is Hinduism, and we’ll be updating the blog with reactions and responses.


Cambodia 5: face to face

February 26, 2010

John Wyver:

Wednesday 24 February: Angkor Thom (with photos still to come)
After filming at Ta Prohm on Wednesday morning, our next location is the south gate of the nearby city of Angkor Thom. I know this reflects little more than my ignorance, but I really had little sense of the scale of this late twelfth and early thirteenth century metropolis. With the other Khmer capitals built on or near the same site, this was an urban sprawl comparable to Los Angeles today. An infrastructure of roads and canals supported more than one million people, making it the largest preindustrial city in the world. Given how impressive many of its buildings remain, we keep reflecting on what an overwhelming impact Angkor Thom must have made on medieval visitors. Here be wonders indeed — and we have all of four hours to film them. Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia 4: down in jungleland

February 25, 2010

John Wyver:

Wednesday 24 February: Ta Prohm (with photos still to come)
Here’s today’s (rhetorical) question: is Ta Prohm the most extraordinary place I’ve ever been? Well, quite possibly. Ta Prohm was constructed at the end of the twelfth century as a Buddhist temple and monastery just outside the walls of Angkor Thom (for more on which, see next post). After the fifteenth century fall of the Khmer empire it was abandoned and the jungle reclaimed the site. Which was the case also at many other buildings in the Angkor region. At Ta Prohm, however, the trees and roots continue to grow through and on and around the ruins. The decision was made to leave site more or less as it was found, although some tidying up was done and partial restoration is underway. The effect, even as the inevitable tour parties traipse through, is mysterious, melancholy and — there is no other word — magical. Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia 3: one touch of rosy sunset

February 25, 2010

John Wyver:

Tuesday 23 February: Siem Reap (with photos still to come)
Just near Angkor Wat is one of the oldest of the many other temples in the region, Phnom Bakheng. This was built around 900 CE and was dedicated to Shiva — it’s also the vantage point from which Lara Croft first looks out over Angkor Wat in the Tomb Raider movie (more on this tomorrow). Presumably because the temple is built on what’s pretty much the only high point in the area, it has become an exceptionally popular spot from which to observe the sunset. So regardless of the damage that we and, today alone, hundreds and hundreds of others are doing to the monument, Ian, John and I tramp up the hill carrying the stripped down camera kit (which is still heavy, and especially so at six in the evening). Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia 2: I have seen such things

February 25, 2010

John Wyver:

Tuesday 23 February: Siem Reap (with more photos to come)
We have, believe me, been intensely busy since before dawn on Tuesday. So apologies for not posting over the last two days, but I’ll try now to catch up. After all, I’ve got a 24-hour trip home today, with more than a six hour lay-over in Singapore. Soon after we touch down at Heathrow first thing Friday, I intend that you and I are entirely up to date with our Art of Faith filming adventure in Cambodia. Which began for real around 5am on Tuesday, when we clambered into our crew bus and set out for the temples of Angkor. It’s still dark but there’s a steady stream of tuk-tuks on the road and when we get near to the site the ticket booth is already open. Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia 1: night before the dawn

February 22, 2010

John Wyver:

Monday 22 February: Siem Reap
At least you can see what we drank with our (delicious) supper last night. This post is something of a place-holder until I can post further about filming at Angkor Wat. We’re aiming to get up at 5am Tuesday morning so that, with thousands of other tourists, we can observe the sunrise over the temple (and hopefully film it in glorious HD for Sky Arts). I think it’s fair to say that we don’t have much sense of what time it is either here, in Siem Reap, or back in London. We took a twelve hour flight from London to Singapore, hung out in the airport for some six further hours, and then crossed into another time zone in flying through to Siem Reap. Greetings, meetings, dinner and then a deep sleep of, oh, at least three hours! Read the rest of this entry »

India 7: love and learning

February 12, 2010

John McCarthy:

Monday 8 February: Khajuraho
After the nightmare drive to Khajuraho it’s a surprise to wake up and find ourselves in a neat little tourist town. Low rise hotels line the roads into the centre, catering for every budget, everything from the basic-looking Hotel Gupta sitting a few yards from the road behind a dusty car park, to the Radisson, set back and shimmering white in green and shady grounds.

Read the rest of this entry »

India 6: a wise man at Sanchi

February 8, 2010

John McCarthy writes:

Saturday 6 February: Sanchi 

At the entrance to the site of the Great Stupa at Sanchi a Bodhi tree rises high, covered in bright green leaves and with multi-coloured prayer flags wrapped around its trunk. The story goes that it started as a cutting from the actual tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. Or rather that the cutting was taken from a tree in Sri Lanka that was taken from a cutting of the original tree which grew away off to the east in Bihar state.

Read the rest of this entry »

India 5: caves and custard apple variants

February 6, 2010

John McCarthy writes:

Tuesday 2 February: Bombay (or Mumbai)
Steering a sailing boat you are forever moving the tiller or wheel. To counter the effect of wind, current and waves and keep going straight you have to make constant and sometimes quite large adjustments. Steering a car on a tarmaced highway you should need only to move the wheel a smidgen to keep on track. So it’s a bit alarming that our driver from Bombay airport swings the wheel between 10 and 2 o’clock just to go dead ahead.  Mind you, his Fiat taxi is so old that it’s a wonder it goes at all. Still even if we’d been in this year’s limo we’d have got to the Gateway of India no sooner. The traffic in the capital of Maharashtra state is at times as fast and furious as elsewhere, but for long stretches it just crawls along. Read the rest of this entry »

India 4: blog – producer – writes

February 2, 2010

Seb Grant: Apologies once more, I’m afraid the blogging baton is once again in the clumsy grasp of the Producer.

Monday 1 February
By way of excusing the worsening syntax, can I introduce my new obsession: ‘keyword English’? Perhaps it’s obvious, but ‘keyword English’ is the employment of a very simple sentence structure when trying to communicate with principally non-English speakers.

So for example one might say, ‘Tonight evening. Where Go?’ or “Leave. Tomorrow. Six. Yes?’

Read the rest of this entry »