Friar Odoric was a 14th century traveler. Born in Italy between 1265 and 1285, he left on his voyage to the Far East from Venice between 1315 and 1318 about 20 years after Marco Polo returned from his Far East journey.
He spent the next 14 to 16 years traveling. It is clear that Odoric was a bit of an meandering adventurer, never in a hurry to reach the court of Genghis Khan. During his travels he visited Constantinople before heading across the Persian empire, now modern day Iran and Iraq. In his journal, he described cities great and small. Some of the cities have been lost to time. From Hormuz, he traveled by sea to India. In India besides describing the great heat, he detailed the customs, religions and people he encountered. After crossing the Bay of Bengal, Odoric described the people he met in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He marveled at losing sight of the North Star, the weather and great bamboo forests of Java and Sumatra. Eventually he reached the mainland of Vietnam and traveled the coast of China describing the great rivers, beautiful cities, fishing practices and hordes of people.
Odoric spent three years in the court of the Great Khan, providing information on life in the royal court before returning to Italy. He was on a journey to visit the Pope in 1330 when he encountered a man in pilgrim’s clothes in Pisa. The man, who seemed to know him from his Far East adventures, warned Odoric that he should return to his monastery in Udine because he would die in 10 days. Ordoric returned and is reported to have died as the pilgrim warned.
Odoric’s journal is an excellent piece of fourteenth-century travel literature. Some of the stories seem far-fetched but Odoric proves to be an excellent and tolerant observer of the religions and practices he encountered on his trip.