Where the Strange Trails Go Down Sulu, Borneo, Celebes, Bali, Java, Sumatra, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Cambodia, Annam, Cochin-China

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Language: English
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It is a curious thing, when you stop to think about it, that, though of late the public has been deluged with books on the South Seas, though the shelves of the public libraries sag beneath the volumes devoted to China, Japan, Korea, next to nothing has been written, save by a handful of scientifically-minded explorers, about those far-flung, gorgeous lands, stretching from the southern marches of China to the edges of Polynesia, which the ethnologists call Malaysia. Siam, Cambodia, Annam, Cochin-China, the Malay States, the Straits Settlements, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Celebes, Borneo, Sulu ... their very names are synonymous with romance; the sound of them makes restless the feet of all who love adventure. Sultans and rajahs ... pirates and head-hunters ... sun-bronzed pioneers and white-helmeted legionnaires ... blow-guns with poisoned darts and curly-bladed krises ... elephants with gilded howdahs ... tigers, crocodiles, orang-utans ... pagodas and palaces ... shaven-headed priests in yellow robes ... flaming fire-trees ... the fragrance of frangipani ... green jungle and steaming tropic rivers ... white moonlight on the long white beaches ... the throb of war-drums and the tinkle of wind-blown temple-bells....

But it is not for all of us to go down the strange trails which lead to these magic places. The world's work must be done. So, for those who are condemned by circumstance to the prosaic existence of the office, the factory, and the home, I have written this book. I would have them feel the hot breath of the South. I would convey to them something of the spell of the tropics, the mystery of the jungle, the lure of the little, palm-fringed islands which rise from peacock-colored seas. I would introduce to them those picturesque and hardy figures planters, constabulary officers, consuls, missionaries, colonial administrators who are carrying civilization into these dark and distant corners of the earth. I would have them know the fascination of leaning through those "magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."

I had planned, therefore, that this should be a light-hearted, care-free, casual narrative. And so, in parts, it is. But more serious things have crept, almost imperceptibly, into its pages. The achievements of the Dutch empire-builders in the Insulinde, the conditions which prevail under the rule of the chartered company in Borneo, the opening-up of Indo-China and the Malay Peninsula, the regeneration of Siam, the epic struggle between civilization and savagery which is in progress in all these lands—these are phases of Malaysian life which, if this book is to have any serious value, I cannot ignore. That is why it is a mélange of the frivolous and the serious, the picturesque and the prosaic, the superficial and the significant. If, when you lay it down, you have gained a better understanding of the dangers and difficulties which beset the colonizing white man in the lands of the Malay, if you realize that life in the eastern tropics consists of something more than sapphire seas and bamboo huts beneath the slanting palm trees and native maidens with hibiscus blossoms in their dusky hair, if, in short, you have been instructed as well as entertained, then I shall feel that I have been justified in writing this book.