Read Cruise through History stories, just for fun, before you take a cruise, or when dreaming of travel. Stories are told from the perspectives of people in countries visited, so well-researched, true, and entertaining. History in school was never like this. Accompanied by photos and original art, stories go beyond guidebooks taking readers deep into cultures as they present themselves.
Thirty-two stories in Itinerary XIII travel from West Africa in Senegal, along South Africa and Mozambique, across Indian Ocean islands to Sri Lanka, and to India, then across Southeast Asia to Vietnam. Across the modern nations, products of the twentieth century, there are themes common to all, though peoples are varied. The theme that joins is the search for, and restoration of, cultural identity. In appreciation of culture, too long co-opted, the stories go within cultures, presenting history from the host country perspective. To travel is to learn.
Malaysia built a successful nation and dynamic economy by first defining who is Malay. To do so meant jettisoning the island of Singapore, overwhelmingly culturally Chinese. Singapore capitalized on its strength by unifying its people and promising First World lifestyle if they would heave to a common goal. Thailand’s identity was the product of a brilliant king, who created the concept of national Thai from people with languages so diverse, they did not understand each other. Loss of culture and cultural icons in Cambodia left the country bereft. So many problems plaguing West African nations today stem from loss of culture, land, people and resources. Reclaiming identity is critical.
Primary to each story is an introduction to local cultures. The list of peoples of this itinerary is long. So too, is the list of World Heritage Sites, attempts to preserve and promote cultural identity by support for cultural icons. The oldest cultures in human existence are in Africa. The story of West Africa begins in three parts, the first West Africa to 1500, prior to European impact, is the story of cultural development of kingdoms of power and beauty. Bushmen of Southern Africa carry the basic gene of humanity and a life in tune with a harsh environment. In stories of the Indian Ocean is the Story of the Eastern Sea. The story of People of Southeast Asia follows human migration to understand the origin of people and groups, now nations.
Slavery and colonialism are common themes throughout these stories. Slavery existed prior to European impact, as a means to vanquish enemies and obtain labor, a scarce resource, necessary to build great kingdoms. Slavery in the pre-European sense was fluid. Slaves often melded into the dominant society. In contrast, European-style slavery depopulated communities, dissipated historic kingdoms, and deprived national development by the loss of its people. That is Part II of the story of West Africa.
The lesser-known story of West Africa is Part III Colonialism. Colonialism in these stories is a scheme that keeps people in place and harvests the resources for the benefit of the colonizer. Trade among peoples built cities and kingdoms in Ivory Coast and Gold Coast Ghana, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, and kingdoms of Myanmar, Up the Irrawaddy – Yangon to Mandalay. Colonialism displaced governments, local economies, and most importantly, cultural identity. The political map of Africa was created in a meeting room in Germany, where nations of Europe staked claims to real estate, with no relevance to cultures.
Portugal, Spain, the Dutch, Britain, and France came for trade and stayed to colonize. When colonialism ebbed, in recent history, the extent to which the colonizer developed physical and governmental infrastructure played a role in the success of a young nation. France, never profiting from a colony, brought peace to Cambodia, for the first time in its history, yet created a thirty-year war in Vietnam, through intransigence and refusal to work with the developing country as a mentor. These are difficult, but necessary stories.
In Africa stories include the Golden Stool, and the meaning of Kente Cloth. In India, the story is the Jewel in the Crown and the story of diamonds. The success of India and Sri Lanka to emerge strong from colonialism is based on retaining the richness of culture. Delve into architecture, arts, and literature, including the Arthasastra in India, and the cultural history of Sri Lanka in the Mahavamsa. Translation of Sanskrit shed new light on ancient culture.
Included in this Itinerary are fun stories of the French Corsairs of Port Louis and pirates and perfumers in Reunion Island, a beautiful bit of France in the Indian Ocean. The Story of Tea highlights a well-known and unknown developer of the modern international tea trade. The story Travels of the Emerald Buddha is known to Thai people, who love their national icon, as the patron protector of the people. The Buddha kept Thailand from colonialism, the only country in Southeast Asia to remain culturally independent.
These stories invite the traveler to celebrate the cultures of the host country, through rich life ways exotic to westerners and therefore sometimes mystical and strange. CTH invites rising out of comfort zones to achieve an understanding of the people that come with travel.
Travel often, grow from experiences, and enjoy! CTH