Michael Palin Himalaya Starring: Michael Palin, Dalai Lama and a slew of Himalayan characters Directors: Roger Mills and John Paul Davidson The series: After six travel-related BBC documentaries that started with his recreation of Phileas Fogg's global race against the clock in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, Michael Palin's beautifully filmed accounts of lesser-visited destinations are always entertaining. Once better known for his input in British comedy ensemble Monty Python, Palin's travelogues are always tinged with humour, but little of the irreverent or skewed Python variety. This six-part series, screened last year, skirts the Himalayan region from west to east - with a little zigzagging in between - starting in Afghanistan and ending in Bangladesh. This makes for an enormous diversity of ethnic groups and associated culture and landscape. Yes, landscape - because, crucially, this series investigates areas and countries in which the Himalaya range has some significance. Hence, Afghanistan is included as an area through which the west - historically, Britain - gained access to the Himalayas, through the Khyber Pass to Pakistan. Likewise, Bangladesh is visited, as the sprawling fertile delta that consists largely of the muddy deposits of two rivers whose sources are in the mountains to its north. Palin's style of Himalayan travel is a mixture of down-to-earth and highbrow. On one hand, he and his crew attempt to encounter average folk on public transport, for insights into the local psyche. On the other, with his BBC cachet, Palin gains access to the Dalai Lama and Bhutan's royal family, with whom he gets private audiences and, in the case of the latter, a slap-up feed. Now in his late 60s, Palin is entitled to the odd luxury, such as opting for a first-class cabin on the final leg of his lengthy travels to the Bay of Bengal - a serendipitous decision, as he meets a popular Bangladeshi folk musician in this section of the steamer. Although not venturing further than the foothills of any mountains, Palin is often in altitudes above 3,500 metres, hitting 5,000 metres in Bhutan. Amid some of the world's harshest year-round conditions, he meets nomadic and monastic communities in Nepal and Tibet. Inaccessibility has kept many cultural customs intact, such as the colourful tribal-like communities of the Kalesh in Pakistan, the Naga in Myanmar and the Naxi in China - although Palin and those he meet concede the inevitable encroachment of western influence. The best Palin gags come from his English lesson at a Kalesh school, where he uses his shoe as a make- shift puppet, and his trading of songs with Bhutan's most respected poet: he sings the Monty Python Lumberjack Song. The extras: Extended scenes include a generous and interesting stack of encounters that were mostly not included in the final cuts. An interview before Palin sets out is the DVD's most vapid inclusion, but the post-series interview is the contrary. In it, we learn that altitude sickness resulted in a sound engineer being flown home from Tibet. The verdict: Quality armchair travel with a few laughs. Highly watchable.