15 Essential Episodes of Parts Unknown .

You’re going to have to walk me through this,” former president Barack Obama tells Anthony Bourdain as he perplexedly peers into a bowl of bun cha (grilled-pork noodles). Seated on plastic stools, the wily host and the onetime leader of the free world swap stories of past delicious meals. It’s one of the most iconic scenes from CNN’s Peabody- and Emmy-winning show Parts Unknown, which captured the unfiltered truth of many lesser-known destinations. While other travel shows serve up aspirations with high gloss, Bourdain’s travelogue was gritty and raw. The directors had almost free rein to experiment with wacky animated sequences, black-and-white film, silly sketches, and more. In an interview with Adweek, Bourdain explained that several places he visited for the show had been previously inaccessible, but his move to CNN allowed for the “infrastructure and inclination to make those places doable.” Out of all his series, Parts Unknown captured Bourdain at his best: compassionate about new cultures and consistently eager to embrace new experiences that were often out of his comfort zone. Most notably, he took some of the focus off the food to dive deeper into conversations about politics, culture, and the meaning of life. Many viewers will want to revisit the show after seeing the new documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. If you haven’t watched any of the 104 Parts Unknown episodes, getting started can be daunting without a guide; the episodes aren’t sequential, and you’ll probably want to start with the must-watch ones. Here are 15 essential episodes across all 12 seasons of Parts Unknown that showcase Bourdain’s pure joy of travel and may inspire yours.

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