Ha Long Bay

The sky, a deep blue sea
A golden boat,
wind-driven, lists and tilts –
unmoored, it sinks.
And coldly, time flows on.
~ Tran Gia Thoai

A poem actually about a falling leaf, but I hijack it here to capture the ephemeral beauty of visiting Ha Long Bay. These pictures don’t really do Ha Long any justice.

We were so lucky – it was just my sisters and I (and our tour guide and the boat crew) on our Halong boat. Such a delight to have the entire boat to ourselves, and hence, the entire Bay too. Miles, acres, gallons of water and grey overcast sky were ours alone to meditate on and enjoy. It was the most thoroughly peaceful experience, siting at the end of the boat and just widely arcing the bay, watching the sea eagles dip and soar overhead, and marvelling at the limestone cliffs in all directions.


I loved the looming limestone cliffs, wild and untrammelled by tourists’ feet, who must admire from afar. I took these because I hope to head back one day and explore the cliffs more intimately and directly – to climb all over them with the backdrop of the deep blue-green sea and the overwhelming serenity of the place.

I watched this woman and her child – or grandchild – row almost a kilometre at a measured pace. I could not help but covet the peacefulness of the journey, although I do not actually know for what reason they were rowing.

The child looks to me like he is being berated, head hung in shame.

I wish to live in this house – I came home and told my partner we were moving to Ha Long.

I am sure that there will be satellite facilities and my workplace will be more than happy to accomodate me working from home, from the China Sea. And then I wake up from my dream. I am not a very strong swimmer, and nor is my partner, and living in one of these houses is clearly asking for trouble!

But still, I have long dreamed of my own home.

I used to be an insomniac and my trick to get myself to fall asleep was to picture a home; I visualise and decorate it thoroughly. I usually fall asleep by the time I get into the backyard. I still use this trick when I am having trouble sleeping. The house I imagine changes; sometimes I am so familiar with the home that I merely have to start and the rest of it fills itself in for me.

The houses have changed as I and my desires change. When I was in high school and desperately wanted more privacy than my large family could give, I visualised a large warehouse, the edges filled with book-shelves from floor to ceiling (a recurring decoration in all my homes), and my bedroom and bathroom in a loft, in one corner of the high-ceiling warehouse. I don’t recall installing a kitchen. Currently, the home I picture is environmentally sound – using it’s natural surrounds (it’s built on the side of a cliff) for light, heating and cooling. It has solar power, and water tanks. The kitchen is large, full of shelves for my many herbs and spices, and hanging space for my cooking utensils. This is my current phase in life – attempting to live more consciously of my impact on my environment.

Ha Long is a 360 degree experience, inside and out.

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