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The Island of Tahiti

Posted May. 12, 2004 22:54,   


One day last fall, while I drove to Seoul along the western coastline, a beautiful musical piece that I had forgotten for a long time came from the car radio. It was a film score by Ennio Moriccone, maestro of the movies, and a theme song for the movie, “Love Affair.”

It was 5 p.m. in the afternoon, and I happened to pass through Buan, Jeonbuk. As soon as I heard the tune, suddenly the sunset glow of the Byunsan Peninsula came into my mind. Then, without hesitation, I drove my car to Kyokpo Harbor, leaving Buan. The sunset and its glow that I appreciated that day, sitting alone on the rock of Chaesuk River, was much more impressive than what I saw on the other days.

The movie “Love Affair” drove me to the autumn sea, though I was exhausted from the business trip. It does not mean that the movie reminded me of something special. Rather, when I heard the music, I remembered the landscape of the South Pacific island of Tahiti where the movie was shot, and at the same time, the memory of its beautiful sunset glow emerged, which would never diminish in my mind. The fantastic sunset glow, dyeing the sky, and the sea of Moreea in pink, and the awesome evening scene where a lot of canoes adorn the water...

Tahiti, a small island of the South Pacific. It is a magical island that makes you feel good just by calling its name. What was that movie? There was this scene where a woman in the pouts over the love fight suddenly embraces her man after seeing an envelope. Enclosed in the envelope were flight tickets to Tahiti.

Artist Gauguin admired it, “like an old castle”—

This scene is never exaggerated. Just go there. Everyone will admit that the place makes him feel like it because you know you will never be able to find a more beautiful landscape and a more comfortable rest anywhere else in the world. Its colors of the nature, the landscape of atolls and lagoons, the sea and the sky dyed in the setting sun, and its glow, and the comfortable resorts, which are reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, make you feel that way.

Of course, the best of all is the sunset and its glow. The sun setting behind the gorgeous island of Moreea, 15 km away from Tahiti. It embraces the island, which was described as “old castle” by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), thanks to the jagged peaks of the volcano explosions.

After the sun sets, the canoes rush toward it. Toward the red sun that dyes even the surface of the water, countless canoes move ahead, sliding over the water. And then, when the sun disappears below the horizon, they all stop as if they became one dot in the sunset glow. The glowing sea embroidered by the numerous canoes. Like this, the sunset of Tahiti is one piece of art.

Every island of Tahiti was exposed on the surface by the volcano explosions; as many as 118. The size of the sea that these islands, divided into five archipelagoes, take up is as grand as the number of the islands. It is as large as the European continent excluding Russia. The distance from one end to the other is almost 2000 km. Tahiti is one of these 118 islands. French Polynesia is the title endowed to these entire islands. “French” implies that they are overseas territory of France where the French government wields the rights of finance, diplomacy, and military.

Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti. Jet Prop (propelled by jet engine) takes off from Tahiti Faaa International Airport, and through its windows, the oceanic landscape is projected. Soon, in five minutes, it lands on the island of Moreea. It is a beautiful island with its impressive mystic mountain landscape, which boasts the glimpses which you may see from the movie, “The Lord of the Rings”

After 30 minutes of driving along the way around the island full of coconut trees, a beautiful scene of horses grazing on a plain against the backdrop of a mountain peak spreads all around the forest. This is the place where Warren Beatty and Annette Benning were affectionately leading their horses in the movie, “Love Affair.”

Bora Bora Island, a paradise of snorkeling over the sunset glow—

Bora Bora, the most beautiful of the 118 islands, is about 45 minutes away from Tahiti. The island located in the middle of atolls is surrounded by coral bands. A flight runway is not on the island but on the surrounding Motu—a sort of island formed by exposed corals, so travelers get off the plane which lands on the island with a runway and take a car ferry to the main island. A white runway powdered with corals. It is the only coral airstrip in the world.

The oceanic scene of Bora Bora Island, looked down from the air; geometric atolls and small Motu surrounding them, lake-like oceanic lagoons among atolls and Motu, and white sail boats floating over the sea. They are the magnificent landscape of Bora Bora Island, which does not look like anything else on earth. Any sight of the earth is almost overpowered by it. In the sea, snorkeling is like this; you can appreciate underwater scenes while sharks and stingrays come to whirl around. Here, human beings return to the part of nature.

Seung-Ha Cho summer@donga.com