The Bhaya is a new boat with an ancient history. A true traveler of his time, the Vietnamese Emperor Khai Dinh (1885-1925) defied the custom of taking thousands of courtiers on a royal trip, and took just twelve of his most trusted followers on a very exceptional trip to Halong Bay. His ship was one of the best of the wonderful wooden junks that sailed the waters of Halong. Inspired by the romantic landscape of the limestone karst islands rising in the middle of the waters, Khai Dinh commissioned a poem in praised of the bay’s beauty to be carved on the cliff of Dau Go Cave. The tale of the king’s trip and the hardy ship he had chosen as his water home circulated among the ship builders of Halong. Each succeeding generation of shipbuilders dreamed of duplicating Khai Dinh’s wonderful boat, but nearly 100 years passed before an 80-year-old master shipbuilder, Nguyen Van Hoa, turned the dream into reality. Master Hoa was born into a highly respected family of ship builders in Quang Ninh Province. From early childhood, his father had filled his mind with stories of this magical kingly junk that no one could replicate. At the same time, under the expert tutelage of his father, Hoa developed into one of the most gifted ship designers of his generation. Night after sleepless night, he studied ancient drawings and scripts describing Vietnamese wooden junks. During the day he devised blueprints for all types of junks that could sail across all sorts of ocean waters.
Still, Hoa’s life seemed incomplete. He was always searching for a dream junk – the boat that would set his work apart from those of the other shipbuilders of his time. One day, among the thousands of ancient sketches and drawings, he discovered a fragment of the lost drawing of Khai Dinh’s matchless junk. Working slowly and carefully, he managed to restore the drawing to its original state. At last, the incomparable boat that had transported Khai Dinh and his courtiers lived again on paper. Now, all that was left was to find the support to build the vessel and, once again, bring the ship to life in reality. In January of 2005, a chance meeting took place in Halong among Antoine Bertrand, a gifted young French architect from Montpellier, his colleague, Anne Drousie, who wanted to build a luxury boat in the style of the ancient Vietnamese junks, and Master Hoa. At last, more than 125 years after Khai Dinh had set sail, all of the ingredients were in place to finally recreate this magnificent boat. Fiercely determined, French architects and Vietnamese master shipbuilders toiled for two long years in the heat of the shipyard. Finally, in July of 2007, the Bhaya was launched – a perfect blend of the experience and talent of the ancient master and the youthful creativity of the Frenchman and his friend. The embodiment of an ancient Halong dream, the Bhaya is a flawless combination of traditional eastern delicacy and western luxury and comfort. Sailing in the midst of the wonder and natural beauty that distinguishes Halong Bay, the Bhaya will play a considerable role in the embellishment and protection of this glorious World Heritage Site!