About Halong

 

Vinh Ha Long or Bay of the Descending Dragon is often touted by proud Vietnamese as the world's Eighth wonder. One of the main attractions of Ha long is the bay's calm water and the thousands of limestone mountains dotting the seascape. The Bay's water is clear during the spring and early summer. Some of the islands are quite large and there are small alcoves with sandy beaches where swimming is possible. Ha Long bay lies in the northeastern part of Vietnam and is 165 Km from Hanoi.

Ha Long literally means descending dragon(s) and according to local myth, the story goes as follows:

Long ago when their forefathers 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 dotting the seascape 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 of the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth. Mother dragon lies on what is now Ha Long and where her children lie is Bai Tu Long. The dragon tails formed the area of Bach Long Vi known for the miles of white sandy beaches of Tra Co peninsula

This myth is in line with the Vietnamese myth of their origin Con Rong Chau Tien. This myth describes the union between a king (representing the dragon) and his bride (representing a goddess) giving birth to 100 children which are the ancestors of the Vietnamese people. The Ha Long myth illustrate the Vietnamese belief of their origin and the fact that throughout their history, they are aided by their ancestors, the dragon and the gods, in the defense of their land.

Upon arriving in Ha Long city, the visitor will be driving along 'Bai Chay' or scorched beach. The sand on this stretch of beach is dark. And judging by the name the visitors may mistakenly think that this is due to the dry climate or lack of wind in this area. However, contrary to this interpretation, the area is quite pleasant during the summer and fall months and the temperature here is around 70 deg F. According to the locals, Bai Chay got its name long ago, based on another historical event. Bai Chay was once a forest. In 1287, the Mongols led by the great Truong Van Ho,(a Vietnamese name for this Mongolian general) attacked Vietnam and was driven back by general Tran Khanh Du. Many Mongolian ships were set afire and drifted to shore aided by high wind setting the forest on fire. Since then this stretch of beach became known as Bai Chay or scorched beach.

From Bai Chay, visitors can hire a boat and go out to the bay. It is here that visitors will be find some of Southeast Asias most fascinating sites. Visitors to the bay speak highly of its almost mystical qualities and the surrealistic scenery that defines this bay. The limestone formations are both bizarre and awesome. Over thousands of years the base of many of the formation have corroded to a point where many seem to be balancing on thin air. The shapes and the positioning of these formations often resemble people, animals etc., hence, most are given a name by the locals. Some of the more famous are: Hang Dau Go ( Wooden Stakes cave), Hang Bo Nau (Pelican cave), Hang Trinh Nu (the Virgin), Hang Sung Sot (Cave of Awe), Dong Hang Hanh, Dao Tuan Chau (Sentinel Chau Island), Qua Chuong (the bell), Con Voi (the elephant) etc.. Now, about one thousand formations have names. One can't possibly see all of Ha Long grandeur in one day or even a month since depending on the time of the year, the weather, or the condition of the bay the visitor may see only one small aspect of Ha Long's beauty