Here at T+L, beating jetlag is something of a sport. So we’re all pretty pumped for The Layover—the new show from globetrotting chef-author Anthony Bourdain, he of No Reservations notoriety—premiering at 9pm ET/PT tonight on the Travel Channel. In ten hour-long episodes, Tony travels everywhere from London to Hong Kong to Los Angeles in search of the best that each city has to offer.
Here’s the catch: the entire series was shot in 30 days, and he has only 24-48 hours in each place. The result? A whirlwind world tour that’s peppered with all the biting Bourdain commentary we’ve come to love and expect, even if it’s tempered with a dash of jetlag. I got a sneak peek at the first episode (spoiler alert!), in which Tony spends a day in Singapore.
After touching down at 5 a.m., Tony checks in at the Grand Hyatt, where he’s upgraded to the presidential suite and, upon observing the steam and aromatherapy attachments in the oversize shower, notes that “unfortunately I’ll be unable to enjoy any of this, because I’ve only got 24 hours here.” Foreshadowing, indeed.
What follows is a get-in, get-out guide to the city with a go-go-go M.O. Instead of napping or hitting up Raffles for a Singapore Sling (“Tip to travelers: Skip that,” he says. “It’s a disgusting drink—you don’t want it; don’t waste your time.”), Tony meets up with old friends to eat street food at the hawker centers and to shop at the flea market and to do just about everything they deem worthwhile in between. What he doesn’t do is stop—ever. Whether by moped or MRT or foot, he is always on the move, which is great in terms of efficiency, but not as good in terms of taking some time to soak things in.
Which brings me to another thing: the time. It’s always ticking away in the corner of the screen. Tony is literally racing against the clock, and after a while, I couldn’t help but feel a bit bad for the guy. By the end of the day, after having worked up a sweat (“I smell like I’ve been rolling around in sheep guts”), he’s dreaming of a shower and a change of shirt—which he’s not allowed, for the sake of the episode’s “continuity”—and (yes) sleep.
But hey, he’s a pro. Gimmick or not, when Tony’s given lemons, he makes damn good lemonade.
Christine Ajudua is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.