Experiencing The Garden Of Eden That Is Ha Long Bay

Monday, August 23, 2010

I never saw the movie “Indochine.” According to its summary, the flick was released in 1992, and is about a French naval officer and his young Vietnamese lover who are escaping banishment. They seek refuge in the labyrinthine crags erupting from the sea in Ha Long Bay. Those of you that caught the flick were probably amazed at the beauty of floating amidst the thousands of broken pillars — and you were most likely smitten instantly.

At least I was. Just over a year ago, I walked the early morning streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter to meet our mini-bus at a tour company’s office. At this point we were fully acclimatized to the madness of Hanoi: incessant honking from the never-ending onslaught of scooters ruling the seemingly lawless roads. In fact, even at that time in the morning, I took comfort in the craziness. The noise enveloped me like a puffy down blanket on a cold winter morning. It was like nowhere I had ever been.

The three-hour drive to Ha Long City was uneventful, and was mostly spent getting to know the other group members who’d all be spending the next three days together aboard a junk boat (my itinerary also included a night in a beach bungalow). We were then shepherded towards our unexpectedly nice boat of stained mahogany, sweet drinks in hand. I tossed a small bag onto the bed of my cabin, looked out a circular window as we passed other junks on their way to the open sea, and I instantly knew this had been money well spent.

The next couple of days consisted of reading Harry Potter (yes, you read that right, don’t judge) with my feet crossed on the railing of the boat, jumping off the top deck into bathtub-temperature water, kayaking caves and inlets of hidden islands, and eating exotic seafood caught from the waters beneath the boat. Sunsets were mesmerizing, drinks were cold, and the peace of this incredible beauty will be with me forever.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s recent article about Ha Long Bay, thankfully, brought these memories gushing back into my head. The UNESCO World Heritage Zone, labeled two years after the release of “Indochine,” is also rightly described in the piece as “a hanging garden of Eden.”

I haven’t seen this spellbinding movie, nor have I been to the Garden of Eden, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve been to Ha Long Bay, and that may be the next best thing.

[photo by jonwick04/Flickr via The Expeditioner Pool]

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