Since departing Darwin we have been following some of the most travelled sea lanes in the East. We are on the path of the explorers – ranging from the ancient Indian and Chinese to the Medieval Marco Polo and the later Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English. Exploration and discovery were part of their motivation, trade (and particularly spices) another, then in the end it became all about subjugation and commercial profits.
Spices were in particular demand in times of no refrigeration apparently in large part to disguise the taste / smell of less-than-wholesome food. Pepper and Nutmeg were major products of the part of the world we are currently traversing – Indonesia.
We have followed romantic sounding routes – North through the Timor Sea, then the Lombok Strait between Lombok and Bali (last year on our cruise Bali was enjoying a religious holiday so we went to Lombok instead); then West through the Bali Sea and on into the Java Sea.
These areas were invaded by Japanese troops very quickly between December 1941 and mid-1942 . The resulting defeat of the local and colonial troops led to their being imprisoned and treated very poorly. We will be visiting the areas of Singapore on Sunday from where its defense was conducted, where the surrender occurred and Changi the infamous prison. Prisoners captured here also had to build projects for the Japanese victors that included the Thai railway commemorated in ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’
Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies at that time and it was the Dutch military and civilians who bore the brunt here. Singapore and Malaya were one confederation then under British Colonial rule;
Wherever the British Army were, so too were the Anzacs (the Australian and New Zealand forces) so a large number of Australian prisoners – soldiers and support staff and civilians were captured in New Guinea, Singapore and Malaya. Many family members are here on this cruise; in fact, tomorrow morning at 6.30am family members and the Captain invited passengers to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the sinking of HMAS Perth.
The weather has been perfect as we have sailed on (and on) and as we get closer to the Equator, its getting hotter and the sun stronger. I have been sun bathing for an hour or so each day so that I can be sure my wrinkles are all evenly tanned.