Everyone loves a good story. The discovery of a vintage postcard in a French flea market, an impassioned search for a man with links to a legacy, and the resurrection of a remarkable piece of French-Vietnamese history are some of the elements in the story of the Emeraude.
Passed on via word of mouth or the occasional well-informed travel journalist, the tale of the all-white paddlewheel steamer -- which ferried French holidaymakers through famously beautiful Halong Bay before it sunk in a storm, only to be rebuilt more than half a century later -- never ceases to captivate.
But words fail, memories fall short, and the Emeraude’s adventurous, romantic, century-long story has never been presented in its fine and full detail -- until now. This May, the Emeraude published its history in a 112-page book, The Jewels of Halong Bay: A Tale of Adventure in French Indochina and a Curious History of the Emeraude. The book was written by longtime Hanoi resident Pam Scott and based on research by Eric Merlin.
Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say The Jewels of Halong Bay is part history, part biography and altogether a rollicking story about three French brothers who debarked from Bordeaux in 1858 and made a fortune in Vietnam as France mined its colonial possession for all manner of natural resources.
A good portion of the book follows entrepreneur Eric Merlin’s search for information on the vessel, its sister ships, and the Roque descendants. Finally, the story is infused with breath of fresh air, as the Emeraude’s replica takes shape in the shipyard, and is relaunched on the emerald waters of Halong Bay in 2003 as a distinctive luxury cruise.
Within the book’s 112 pages is sprinkled a wealth of gorgeous black and white imagery, old mariner’s maps and carefully collated insights into the heady colonial life of Vietnam in the early 1900s. Anyone who has visited the country will recognize its indefinable charm in Scott’s descriptions of breathtaking land- and seascapes that form the backdrop for the Roques’ adventures and the Emeraude’s voyages.