10 December 2008
In the Footsteps of Marco Polo
In the Footsteps of Marco Polo is yet another travel book where the authors are trying to recreate someone else's journey. The biggest difference with this one is that the book is beautiful and the pictures are wonderful (except I would have preferred more pictures of the people they met, instead of so many group shots with the authors in the mix). I expect many people would love this book and it really is a good book if you haven't read lots of travel books about the region, or haven't been there yourself. So in general, it's recommended, even highly, as an interesting and painless way to learn a bit more about Asia. And it's lovely to read a Marco Polo book where they actually go everywhere and don't fly.
I still prefer Ella Maillart's books though. I think she writes better and is more interesting. I thought it was strange that Belliveau kept trying to make their 20th-century Asia mirror Marco Polo's 13th-century Asia. I am also not very impressed to read about people who risk others' lives to follow some former traveler's footsteps. You can risk your own life if you want to, but don't ask others to escort you.
I couldn't believe some of the things they tried though- crossing into eastern Tajikistan from Afghanistan in 1993? And thinking that just because you have a Tajik visa that the crossing wouldn't be a problem? I was impressed they made it along the southern Silk Road in China. You can do that now, but it took some doing then.
Someday I'd love to read a book from the perspective of a guide employed by intrepid Western travelers of Asia.