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article imageVietnam's Vinh Ha Long: the ‘Bay of the Descending Dragon’ Special

By Igor I. Solar     Oct 19, 2010 in Travel
Hanoi - The renowned Asian dragon is an important symbol in the folklore and mythology of Vietnam, and Ha Long Bay, with its numerous limestone island formations rising from the emerald waters, nicely characterizes the beauty of the dragon legends.
Ha Long (Vịnh Hạ Long) meaning “Bay of the descending dragon”, is located in northeast Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, in the South China Sea. Ha Long is an appealing tourist attraction that competes with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, particularly among those that prefer natural scenery over busy city surroundings.
It is not easy to get to Ha Long Bay. Travelling from Hanoi, the visitor must endure a seemingly endless three-and-half-hour car ride to cover about 165 kilometres along busy, narrow roads, often flanked by construction sites and agricultural fields. There is also the inevitable stop at the souvenir shop selling ceramics, lacquer ware, silk embroidery and even Vietnamese coffee.
Souvenir shops along the way between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay feature silk embroidery workshops where v...
Souvenir shops along the way between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay feature silk embroidery workshops where vietnamese girls produce colourful traditional artwork.
Once arriving into Tuần Châu Island, south-west of Ha Long Bay city, everything is different and highly attractive. The island, a departing point for one of the cruise companies serving tourists to Ha Long Bay, has very luxuriant vegetation and several resorts. The water of the bay is clear during the spring and early summer, however often becomes cloudy following the heavy rains of late summer.
There is a variety of junk-style cruise ships offering trips among the islands of Ha Long Bay. Price...
There is a variety of junk-style cruise ships offering trips among the islands of Ha Long Bay. Prices range widely depending on the quality of service.
Several junk-style cruise boats carry visitors around the islands. This is one of the main stops  to...
Several junk-style cruise boats carry visitors around the islands. This is one of the main stops, to visit Sửng Sốt Cave.
Ha Long Bay has a multitude of limestone islets dotting the seascape. Some of the islands are large and hold beautiful caves and freshwater lakes and there are many smaller islands with narrow coves and sandy beaches. Some of the rock formations are tall but very slim, just a pinnacle, with very narrow base and bushy vegetation on the top. In total there are 1969 islands and islets, many of which, about 1000, are so small they have not even been named.
There are about 1970 islands and islets in Ha Long Bay. Some are large enough to have small freshwat...
There are about 1970 islands and islets in Ha Long Bay. Some are large enough to have small freshwater lakes or extensive caves; many are so small, they have not even been named yet.
The area has an active geological history. About 500 million years ago, what it now Ha Long Bay was part of the mainland of current Vietnam. Since then, the region has been submitted to periods of flooding, hot and dry climate, and powerful forces of erosion which gradually dissolved the softer limestone deposits cutting the highlands into blocks that were exposed to further erosion leaving thousands of islands dispersed in an area of approximately 1500 square kilometres. Most of the islets, about 770, are in the section closer to Ha Long Bay city.
That is a summary of the geological events that gave origin to the amazing rock formations of Ha Long Bay. However, Vietnamese mythology, tells a different more heroic and romantic tale:“Long ago, when the ancient inhabitants of Vietnam were fighting foreign invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders. The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam. The Dragon family fell so much in love with this area for its calm water and for the reverence they received from the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth.”Archaeological research has revealed that humans have inhabited the area for about 25000 years. At least three ancient cultures, the Soi Nhụ (18,000-7,000 BC), the Cái Bèo (7,000-5,000 BC) and the Hạ Long (5,000-3,500 years ago) have been identified. Additionally, the area possesses various land and water ecosystems with abundant biodiversity comprised of several thousand plant and animal species including about 74 species that are endemic to this region.
Cửa Vạn Floating Village. One the four  floating fishing villages where about 300 people live an...
Cửa Vạn Floating Village. One the four floating fishing villages where about 300 people live and work. They grow fish next and under the floating houses and harvest several wild species of finfish and many kinds of shellfish.
Another one of the floating fishing villages at Ha Long Bay. The villages have at least one floating...
Another one of the floating fishing villages at Ha Long Bay. The villages have at least one floating house with a room where children attend basic school.
Because the islands are so steep, most have remained uninhabited and unaffected by humans. Currently, about three hundred people live in the area in floating villages of houseboats and bamboo rafts, which include basic teaching facilities for children. Most of these people are fishermen and farmers of aquatic species. They retain their ancestral way of life, although in recent years they are becoming more commerce and tourism oriented.
Upper deck of the cruise junk travelling among the many islands at Ha Long Bay.
Upper deck of the cruise junk travelling among the many islands at Ha Long Bay.
In 1962, Vietnam declared Ha Long Bay a Historical and Cultural Relict and National Scenic Spot. In 1994, UNESCO in recognition of its outstanding universal aesthetic value designated 434 km2 of the bay as a World Heritage site. Further, in 2000 the World Heritage Committee also recognized Ha Long Bay for its outstanding geological and geomorphological value.
At the end of the voyage the friendly cruise boat s crew gather at the stern of the ship to wave goo...
At the end of the voyage the friendly cruise boat's crew gather at the stern of the ship to wave goodbye to the visitors.
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