Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote "Kubla Kahn," his most rapturous poem, in an opium - induced stupor: "In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn/A stately pleasure dome decree." Coleridge was responding to the fantastic descriptions of the Kahn's court recorded in the 13th - century Travels of Marco Polo, a narrative which has inspired countless artists over the past 700 years because of its literally incredible accounts of the intrepid Marco's travels from Venice to China and back.

In Denis Belliveau and Francis O'Donnell's new travelogue/photographic essay, In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, we are given stunning proof of Marco Polo's essential veracity, for the geographic realities and enduring ethnographic facts overwhelm any doubt. The illustrated chronicle of the authors' two - year, 25,000 - mile, 20 - country expedition in Marco's footsteps surpasses in sheer strangeness anything that Coleridge could have imagined, whether tripped out or sober. On almost every page, we discover that Marco's anxious assurances (shown here in scriptural red) that what he implausibly reports is real and actual, pale in comparison to the authors' own death - defying exploits, all of them corroborated by beautiful and disturbing photographs.

Belliveau and O'Donnell took the trip 15 years ago (it has taken that long to get a book and PBS film deal), so they have had ample time to digest and interpret their adventures with wisdom and renewed wonder. They reflect poignantly on the timeless nature of the many Asian cultures they encountered, so many of them threatened by endless conflict. In order to follow Polo's route, the authors had to travel through eight war zones and were very nearly killed on several occasions. When what you experience exceeds what you can imagine, the physical and spiritual costs can be very high. Is it worth it? Get this book, go along for the wild ride, and see for yourself.

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