When you think of Asia, you might think of steel-and-concrete jungles and glitzy glass towers. You might think of a people so reticent they border on cold.
Extreme adventurer Ryan Pyle wants to change that image. His latest show, Expedition Asia, is all about showing off Southeast Asia’s natural landscapes in the region’s lesser-known countries — think Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia — as well as urban cities like Hong Kong.
The ten-episode series sees Pyle journey through the remote, deadly Badain Jaran Desert in China, navigating through some of the highest sand dunes in the world, and battle through a relentless snowstorm in the Western Himalayas.
But it’s not all Man-versus-Wild stunts and heart-stopping moments. In between the action, Expedition Asia is also paced out with deep dives into local culture: Beyond the 5-star resorts on the island of Bali, Pyle discovers hidden temples and active volcanos. In Mongolia, he visits the local Eagle Hunters and goes trekking with the local Kazakhs.
“There is no race. There is no competition,” says Pyle. “We’re there to experience, learn, and absorb. We spend a lot of time in our show focusing on local culture and interactions, and we really put nature at the forefront of everything we do. It’s very different from most travel shows on TV.”
Of course, it helps that Expedition Asia’s host is also a battle-hardened adventurer who’s unafraid of crossing razor-like ridges 3000m above sea-level, or being caught in a 4-day snowstorm.
“Imagine doing 10 large scale expeditions in 10 months,” says the Canadian-born adventurer. “It was pure insanity, and our schedules were very, very intense.”
Asia, in particular, is a continent that’s close to the adventurer’s heart. Pyle got his start in adventuring after falling in love with China and moving there in the early 2000s. He’d later catapult to fame for riding a motorbike all the way around China and documenting his journey, a feat that earned him a Guinness World Record for the longest motorcycle journey within one country without backtracking or overlapping (though that’s since been broken).
“Asia is amazing — there’s so much diversity when you look at all the countries we filmed in,” he says. “It was wonderful to have that much diversity in one region of the world.”
But stunning landscapes weren’t the only thing that struck Pyle during filming. Often when they were out on treks, he’d see the effects of global warming first hand: “My guides often say things like, ’This river never used to be dry’, or, ’This glacier is shrinking’,” he says.
“Everything we do seems to drive climate change to heightened levels,” he says. “It seems like ‘we’ are the problem — too many people, too much meat production, too many cars, too many planes — even Bitcoin mining is supposedly environmentally unfriendly.”
As an advocate for sustainable living, Pyle says that he hopes his new show will inspire people to preserve the environment for generations to come — and to take proactive steps to heal it.
Pyle is currently weathering out the pandemic in Istanbul after having his flight home to Dubai cancelled, though he’s keeping busy with his Covid Calls series — in which he discusses world issues and current trends with prominent figures and experts — and a stray cat that he rescued there.
“If the world ended, or we were all stuck indoors for decades, that would feel terrible,” he says: which is why he hopes that more people will commit to keeping the planet in good shape for centuries to come.
Expedition Asia with Ryan Pyle airs on Tuesdays at 10.50pm (SEA) on Discovery (Singtel Channel 202).