Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Lands of Charm and Cruelty" - Southeast Asia*

One of the joys of browsing in bookshops is that you discover interests you didn't know you had.  I didn't know I had an interest in Southeast Asia until I saw a clump of books in a used bookshop in Seattle.  It sparked an interest and I went on a brief book buying binge with the following results.

1.  Chasing the Dragon: Into the Heart of the Golden Triangle, Christopher Cox (1996).    Cox traveled to the shadowy zone where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet.  An area of drug smuggling, tribes and jungle, Cox reports on a region where few Americans have ventured.  Bought new.

2.  The Forgotten Kingdom, John Murray (1957).  A rare and revealing account of of a largely forgotten kingdom.  Murray's book draws on the life of  a Russian-born Depot Master in the Tibetan province of Nakhi--on the border of China and Tibet.  Great black and white photos showing village markets and the arduous trail on the way to Nakhi.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore.

3.  Tropic Temper: A Memoir of Malaya, James Kirkup (1965).   Account of Malaya by a Englishman who lectured at the University of Kuala Lumpur and traveled the country extensively.  Bought used at a garage sale. 

4.  The Lands of Charm and Cruelty: Travels in Southeast Asia, Stan Sesser (1993).  Sesser travels to Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Borneo.  Sesser sees Singapore as a mini-capitalist theme park in drastic contrast to the dark and forgotten countries of Laos and Cambodia.  Bought used at the Globe Bookstore in Seattle.   

5.  Burma Road: The Story of the World's Most Romantic Highway, Nicol Smith (1940).  Published at the beginning of WWII, the road had become a high value military asset linking British Burma with China.  The author drove the entire route despite warnings from locals that he'd be washed down in the gorges and attempts by Chinese military authorities to block his way.  Maps of the area in front and back end papers.  Bought used at the Globe Bookstore in Seattle.

6.  Explorers of South-East Asia: Six Lives, Victor King, ed. (1995).  Profile lesser known European explorers of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.  Explorers who penetrated the remote jungles of Borne0, mountain ranges of Laos and Burma and the headwaters of the Mekong River.  Illustrations, sketches, and maps showing the region.  Bought used at Globe Bookstore in Seattle.  

7.  The Menacing Sun, Mona Gardner (1939).    A narrative of travels through pre-WWII Indo-China, Thailand (or as the author calls it, Siam), Malaya, East Indies, and India.  Maps at endpapers.  Black and white pictures.  Inscribed by the author, "Dear Mrs. and Grew (?), I hope you find something in this that you like, Mona Gardner Tait."  Bought used but can't remember where. 

*Title from Stan Sesser's book of the same name.  

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