I woke up in the middle of the ocean to the sounds of sea waters slapping against the ship. I realized that sunshine has slipped its way between the golden silk curtains. As I drew them open, mounds of majestic mountains greeted me, seeming to float above the shimmering waters, reflecting the lively morning sun. In the far distant, I saw some other ships on sail, moving out of the alcove we were anchored in for the night. Some people above the decks were taking pictures of the sun shining its glory between the limestone islets. My mind recalled an article read a few weeks ago about the sunrise in Ha Long bay. The view was some of the most coveted in the world of photo enthusiasts. Impossible to be appreciated by land, it takes at least two hours from the shores to sail into this magical wonder. Just as I put my feet on the wooden floor, the sounds of rattling chains was heard indicating the anchor was being pulled up, and the ship was ready to set sail again.
I went to the upper deck for breakfast. Some of the other passengers were already having theirs. I chose a corner spot by the window so I could admire the glorious view as I had my breakfast. I was never a loyal breakfaster, often substituting the morning meal with just coffee and biscuits (not a good habit, I know). The memory from the previous day’s visit to the magnificent floating fishing village still lingers in my mind as I was having this proper breakfast I rarely took. I never thought people could live and make a living on sea waters. Perhaps the rather serene waters of the bay, protected from violent ocean waves by the surrounding limestone islands has made the place a safe haven. The place has a legend, as told by our guide. ‘There was a war between the local people and the Chinese invaders’ he said in a typical Vietnamese accent. ‘A family of dragons sent down from heaven to defend the land. These dragons spit out jewels and jade, which turned into the islands and islets surrounding the bay. The people were protected from the invaders by these walls of limestone islands’ he continued. ‘The dragons were enchanted by the beauty of the bay they have made themselves, the dragons decided to live among the local people’.
Beautiful story, I thought. Those people he told of fish for a living until the present day. Their houses floated on water in the middle of the ocean, far from the lands, but the sight of lights, television and electric generator proves that human beings hardly escaped modernity. As I was passing by the floating houses I saw a mother holding her baby by the waters, staring unblinkingly to the sea waters, mesmerized by the reflection of the sun. Come a few more years, the baby might have grown up to be mesmerized by her own reflection on the waters than the reflection of the sun. At a place like this, I wondered at what age the child learns to swim. As there were no walkways between houses, they had to either swim, or use sampans to get from one house to another.
I turned my view from the vast ocean to the other passengers in the dining area. Except for me, everyone on this trip came in pairs. It made sense, I thought, since I myself would consider this cruise perfect for a honeymoon trip. The other passengers had already got used seeing me alone throughout the journey. They must have mistaken me for a reviewer for some travel magazine or blog. It was later I realized that with the notebook and camera I carry around with me all the time, I did look like one. As awkward as it gets sometime, there is a certain kind of serenity when I spend some time alone marveling the spectacle of nature. I have always disagreed when people equate being alone with being lonely. While being in the company of others and having someone to talk to is healthy, being alone once in awhile just thinking about life, marveling the breath-taking nature, or just watching the world pass by is necessary for the health of the mind. I call this the period of detachment. Sitting around doing nothing but think seems counter-productive, but it is a lot better than running around being busy with no idea where you are heading to. Thinking about life, what we are going to do with it, what it means to us, and what it really is about gives us a better perspective once we are out in the world full of people again. Life is about balance. Like these oceans, the ocean in us has its own high and low tides. Sometimes they are rough, sometimes they are calm. Treasure the ocean in us
The engines had stopped roaring as I walked out to the decks. We visited a cave, went kayaking, fishing, hill climbing and such. All those experience was invigorating, but nothing compares to the night before, an enchanting moment I will never forget. As I sat at the roof deck of the ship as the sun set, the ship sailed towards an alcove. I watched the mountains fade away, and the stars came out. I stared at the stars, realizing how small and insignificant we are compared to the universe. If life was meant to be hard and serious, why was I smiling?