Day 61

We were still travelling on the sea this morning. The lazy start this morning had me running, with a coffee and muffin, to Terry’s lecture, which was on one of my favorite person’s that I read about as a child, Marco Polo.

His father and uncle had previously been sent east to establish trading posts by the Doge of Venice. They reached Constantinople in 1260 and set-up trade, but continued further east until arriving in Bejing in 1266. Kublai Khan was fascinated with these Europeans, wanting to know their language and culture. Eventually, he allowed them to return with a promise to return with a letter from the Pope and oil from the lamps of Jerusalem. The return trip included Marco, 17 years old, and took 3 ½ years. The Khan was impressed by Marco and gave him several royal tasks to perform. Many years passed and Marco’s influence with the Khan continued to grow. The Khan refused several requests of Marco to return home. By 1292, an opportunity arose for Marco to escort the Kahn’s daughter to be married to the King of Persia. This resulted in a 600 person entourage travelling in three ships for two years from China to Arabia and then across the desert. Sadly only 18 people survived the journey. Seems that cruising has improved a lot since then. When he finally returned to Venice after a 27 year absence, a few things had changed. His wife had died and there was war with Genoa. Because he knew something about ships, he joined the navy in 1298. At the Battle of Curzola, he was captured and imprisoned. He befriended a fellow prisoner, Rustichello da Pisa, who he dictated memoirs of his travels to the east, in French. The memoir was published about 1299, with pictures. Some people had difficulty believing his descriptions of new and different way of doing things and pictures of exotic buildings and animals. You have to wonder if his travel log inspired other explorers. A Latin copy of Marco’s book, with handwritten notes in the margins, was found with Christopher Columbus’ personal belongings.

Today we made it to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and docked around 1PM. Our Kota Kinabalu City excursion began after 1:30 and took us first to the Heritage Village at the Sabah Museum. The village is a replica of villages more than 100 years ago, where a hundred natives comprised of multiple families would live together in a long house (similar to some native American tribes), except that a large part of their culture was headhunting. They were not cannibals, but used heads of their enemies as trophies. We saw a skull house where actual skulls were hanging from the roof and protecting the current rice harvest. We entered at least 6 buildings and learned how early Malaysians lived and worked. These villages were always mindful of possible pirate attacks from outside, so they hid young girls in a tall tower for protection.

After walking around the village, we got to explore the adjacent museum which contained more skulls, the swords used in the beheadings, clothing, artifacts, and many other interesting exhibits. We only had 40 minutes here and could have spent several hours. At least the museum was air conditioned, unlike the outside 90 degree humid weather.

We went next to a local handicraft market and had 30 minutes to explore this area. Mac took some interesting photos of the food stalls where locals purchased many items. We were told not to eat any local fruits or vegetables because they may have been grown in a manner that could make us ill.

On to the Sabah State Mosque and some mosque-looking government buildings for a few photo stops. It was now raining, but still very warm. The buildings were strikingly beautiful, but we could not enter them.

After a drive through town, we headed back to the ship about 6PM, just in time to get ready for dinner after a badly needed shower.

Tonight’s show was Broadway in Concert, performed by our group of singers. This is the third time seeing it, so Mac opted to remain behind to download and send todays pictures. I love Broadway tunes, so I went again. The cast sang songs from Pippin, Carousel, Wicked, Guys and Dolls, Cabaret and others, and finished with a rousing medley from Les Miserables. They all have wonderful voices.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac