Program 305a: Radio Shangri-La in Bhutan; Tibet on the Edge; Pico Iyer: Lonely Places

Release Date: 08-30-2014

On Air Description

The Himalayas are high on our list on this week's Travel with Rick Steves.

Lisa Napoli  (NAH-po-lee)  tells us about her stint, helping to start a radio station in the formerly-isolated former-kingdom of Bhutan. 

Photographer Phil Borges  (BOR-juss)  describes how much things have changed on a recent return to rural Tibet, and what's threatening its indigenous people.  

And author Pico Iyer  (PEE-co EYE-ur)  explains the appeal of spending time in some of the world's least likely places for tourism.

Find yourself in another world, on the next Travel with Rick Steves. 

Notes to Stations

If your station plans to fundraise during Travel with Rick Steves, in addition to the fundraising modules we provide, you can contact producer Tim Tattan for suggested cutaway cues during any week's edition of the show.  This will give you additional fundraising time, with clean ins and outs, while retaining most of that week's program content. 

This is a re-edit of Program #305, which first aired November 3, 2012.


  • Lisa Napoli, author of "Radio Shangri-La:  What I Learned on My Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth"  (Broadway Books)
  • Photographer Phil Borges, author of "Tibet:  Culture on the Edge"   (Rizzoli)
  • Pico Iyer, author of numerous articles and books, including  "Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World" and "The Man Within My Head"  (Random House)

Related Links


  • "Pico wrote an article that I saved, called '10 Things Every Traveler Should Do.'  You said, ‘Go to McDonalds.’  I'm going to do that this spring in Italy with my husband and teenager.  A mixture of the familiar and the strange, as you said.  Brilliant!"  (Alison in Spokane, Washington)
  • "When you are traveling, can you enjoy yourself, or do you always think about what you will write?  How do you combine both?"   (Phyllis in DeMotte, Indiana)

Incidental Music

  • Intro to Bruce Springsteen, "Waiting for a Sunny Day," The Rising / Columbia
  • St. Germain, "Latin Note," Tourist / Blue Note
  • Volume One, "mono + mono," Claude Challe:  Sun Disc vol. 1 (collection) / Wagram
  • Tarun Nayer, "Kezang La," 22º of Beatitude / Chaiwalla's Boombox
  • * B-52s, "Follow Your Bliss," Nude on the Moon:  The B-52s Anthology / Rhino-Warner
  • Thundering Dragon, "A Tiger Sharpens its Teeth," The World Is a Disc (collection) / Haus der Kulturen
  • Arto Tuncboyaciyan, "Arto:  Singing to the Mountain," Paul Winter Consort:  Miho - Journey to the Mountain / Living Music
  • St. Germain, "La Goutte d'Or," Tourist / Blue Note
  • The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, "Kha-rag Ri," Off the Beaten Track (collection) / Detour-Erato
  • Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, "The Practice of Chöd (excerpt)," Amiata's Secret World (collection) / Amiata Records
  • Monks of the Nyingmapa Order, Tuning of the Butanese Dramnyen," Tibetan Buddhist Rites from the Monasteries of Bhutan, vol. 4 / Lyrichord
  • * Dee Dive Corp, "Summertime," Nirvana Lounge by Claude Challe & Ravin, disc 2  (collection) / Challo Music (France)
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," Piano One (collection) / Private Music-RCA
  • DuOud, "Midnight for Dancing with Friends In Your Living Room (Chase Remix)," Wild Serenade / Label Bleu (France)
  • Intro to Suzanne Vega, John Cale, "The Long Voyage,"  Hector Zazou:  Songs from the Cold Seas (collection) / Columbia
  • Michelle Sell, "Eclipse,"  Secret Harbor / Sugo Music
  • Yothu Yindi, "Yolngu Boy," Freedom / Hollywood Records
  • Marco di Bali, "Tibet Flavour," VIP Lounge, vol. 1 (collection) / Wagram (France)

Dated References

  • Lisa Napoli notes at 10:31 that only Bhutanese nationals can be hired to work in their media (she was officially a volunteer aide there).  
  • At 13:28 Lisa says the new radio station held a song competition, and adds there is now a local version of "American Idol" on Bhutan TV.
  • Rick makes reference to Bhutan's "new king" at 14:42 as a "hip" reformer.  Lisa adds there is inherent respect for the monarchy in Bhutan, even with the king's push to turn the country into a representative democracy.
  • Rick notes at 16:43 that the average annual income in Bhutan is around US$1500, with "well under a million people" in the country.   
  • In the intro to segment B, Rick notes that pressures in Tibet from development and climate change threaten its indigenous people.  At 22:42, Phil Borges elaborates that Tibetan culture is undergoing major changes from modernization.  Chinese controls include improved infrastructure and solar-powered cellphone towers, but restricts mandatory education to grade nine in only the Mandarin language. 
  • At 26:25, Phil says the Tibetan plateau is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the world, which threatens water supplies for 2-billion people in Asia.  He also describes how nomadic herders are being moved into resettlement camps because herding practices are being blamed as a reason for water shortages.  At  27:23, he adds the Yellow River goes dry for two weeks each year now, and describes how methane gas is being released after glaciers disappear and the terrain heats up.
  • At 29:10, Phil says that Buddhist monasteries are being built at a rapid rate by Chinese authorities, because they are major tourist attractions in Tibet.  Phil says six million Chinese tourists go to Tibet each year, and the number is expected to climb to ten million soon.   He then describes how the relationship between monks and laypeople is being complicated by large scale donors.
  • At 31:42, Phil notes that self-immolation has been going on recently as a form of protest among monks in Tibet, but that pilgrimages have increased since the riots that happened prior to the Beijing Olympics. 
  • Rick and Phil note at 33:00 that the Dalai Lama has not been able to return to Tibet since 1959.   Phil adds that his role helps to temper protests against China among young Tibetans.  
  • At 34:41, Phil says visitors need a Chinese visa to legally enter Tibet, and that visitors should not mention their intention to travel to Tibet when they apply for one.  Visitors then need to make arrangements in China, and get a second travel permit upon arriving in Tibet.  He recommends FIT Travel as a specialist for arranging travel to Tibet. 
  • At 50:38, Pico Iyer says McDonald's in Japan sells "moon viewing burgers" in September.