Here on Halong Bay, I guide the Emeraude over the same waters day after day. To some, this may sound tedious: ‘What, the same waters every day!” While the incredulous may believe I’m seeing the same thing every day, what they don’t factor in is the weather. That does change every day. And I spent a lot of time watching that.
As captain of this vessel, I focus on changes. I watch the rise and fall of the barometer. I see the clouds move in and move out, the winds come in from the east and from the west. The rains paint noirish brush strokes against the karsts, and the sun dapples the water in a way that lays a new tapestry on the bay every time. Excuse the poetry, but we mariners who stare at the water more than most, take our cup of pleasure from another platter entirely.
But there is one physical change of note upcoming for the Emeraude. Starting Sept. 20, we’re going to quit dropping anchor at the Pearl Farm and start dropping anchor at the Floating Village. (We won’t really drop anchor, but you get the idea.)
The name of the village is Cua Van. I haven’t made an exact count, but there are easily more than a hundred households bobbing on the waters here. The residents earn their living from the sea, both from fishing the wild waters and by farming fish within the village.
Cua Van is not the only fishing village on the bay. There are Vong Vieng, Cong Tau and Ba Hang, but it has earned one mark of distinction. In 2006, with funding from Norway and a designation by the Ha Long Ecological Museum, the village was the first to be selected as a site for a Floating Cultural Centre.
The Centre is charged with gathering archaeological artifacts, documenting the lifestyle and preserving the village’s folklore. Much of the archaeology is happening in a recently discovered grotto, called Tien Ong in Vietnamese.