Shaun Johnson: Across the Mekong (Prime, Saturday, 9.30pm) is a bit more than a celebrity travelogue. The rugby league player is visiting Laos with his family to learn more about his mother’s heritage and her journey to New Zealand.
After his parents divorced, Johnson and his brothers were brought up by their father, and didn’t know much about their mother’s past. In the doco, the four brothers and their parents, Paul and Say, accompanied by a niece,
start their journey in Laos’s capital, Vientiane, where Say’s sister and aunt live.
It’s the first in a series of eye-openers: there is great food and much laughter and the lads begin to see a different side to Say. “Seeing her happy, seeing her smile, has definitely made this trip already worth it,” Shaun Johnson says.
The boys from Whangaparaoa also learn more about their mother’s Buddhist beliefs when they go to a temple to receive a blessing for the trip, but it’s the visit to the banks of the Mekong River, where Say escaped to Thailand 36 years before, that is really special. Shaun’s oldest brother, Tee, was one, and he and Say were shot at after she pushed off in a small boat.
“We didn’t know anything about this,” says Tee. “She didn’t want to make a big fuss out of it.”
Shaun Johnson: Across the Mekong, Saturday.