Sailing on the Gulf of Tonkin specifically Halong Bay off the northern coast of Vietnam, all is peace and quiet. This is despite the approximate 1000 boats on the bay to cater for tourism in the area. Halong Bay was included as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, and one of the 7 new wonders by New 7 Wonders Foundation 2012; so yes, heaps of tourists.
Yet for some locals, their world remains relatively simple. The local fishermen continue to live and work on the bay, amidst the 2000-odd limestone karst protruding from the sea. Their family especially the women, have become sellers of wares and food, servicing the tourist boats which sail the area. Their home a boat or a floating barge, their possessions few yet it would appear sufficient. Which causes me to reflect on my ‘enough’, and our true need.
I marvel at the simplicity of life here, thinking I could sail on this bay indefinitely. Then I am reminded of the privilege of having my bed made, food prepared and physical spaces cleaned so I could enjoy this. Would I say the same if I had to do them all myself, with limited fresh water supply, space and ‘modern’ amenities? Definitely not.
Which leads me back to simplicity – seeing the children live without the distraction of social media and the pressures of the civilised world, having learnt to swim and fend for themselves in their beautiful natural world. I wonder if they appreciate their world; or do they long for the life of the people who intrude their world with materials things which they do not possess? Do they believe that that unknown is better? How will they navigate being part of this landscape and the supposed ‘better’ one?
Simplicity does not equate to ‘not difficult’, this I know. Their lives are by no means easy. As the movement to ‘be here now’ ‘in the moment’ and wellbeing takes flight in the “civilized” world, perhaps this is it – that all things are ‘the small stuff’ except for life and death, which is simple as beyond our control. And even death, at least ours, is a small thing in the grand scheme of L-i-f-e. What matters is the journey we take in this life and the love we have towards one another in whichever form, be they in tourist money or a smile and a kind gesture or a respectful interaction between two worlds.
N.B. A song that crept to mind … a throwback to 1977.
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