Halong Bay lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s most unique and beautiful locations. Steeped in legend, the islets and limestone formations found in these tranquil waters are staggeringly beautiful. Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ and locals tell a tale of how the bay was formed. Myth has it that the islands were created long ago when a celestial dragon and her children were sent to Earth to fend off invaders. As the mother dragon protected the land she breathed out a thousand beautiful pearls which turned into a wall of islands to protect the mainland. As the baby dragons followed their mother and ran into the sea, their thrashing and flailing tails gouged out valleys in the earth and the final pinnacles were created. The dragons then plunged into the sea leaving the still waters lapping at the newly formed islands.
Ha Long Bay is the center of a larger zone including Bai Tu Long to the northeast and Cat Ba islands to the southwest. It was recognized as World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1994 and listed in the New 7 Wonders in 2012.
History & Tales:
While Hanoi’s old name is Thang Long (Ascending Dragon), Halong literally means Descending Dragon. And like many other Vietnamese towns’ names, Ha Long Bay has the origin from a legend. Once upon a time, Vietnam was invaded shortly after they started building the country. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to help Vietnamese people. The dragons emitted from their mouths many pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls stopping the invaders’ boats.
These boats crashed into the islands and broke into pieces. Vietnamese won the battle thanks to the tricky battle field. After the victory, the dragons decided to stay on the bay and the pearls still remained. The location that Mother Dragon landed is then called Ha Long Bay and where Child ones descended is Bai Tu Long Bay.
The annual temperature of Ha Long bay is 22.8 Celcius degree, suitable for tourists to travel all year round. The best time to visit is from March to August, because during this time, tourists have the chance to shoot exotic photos with blue sky and sea as smooth as mill pond. It’s cloudy and rainy in autumn and chilly in winter. Especially, the period between August and October is the typhoon season.
What to do
Visitors to Ha Long shouldn’t miss Bai Chay beach (Scorched Beach – close to the coast of Ha Long Bay), whose sand is dark. People often mistakenly think that this is due to the climate or lack of wind in this area. However, the weather here is quite pleasant and the temperature is around 22oC. From Bai Chay, you can hire a boat and go out to the bay, where you will find some of Southeast Asian most fascinating limestone islands. Taking a cruise trip around Halong is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Bay (More about cruising in Halong Bay).
The limestone formations are both bizarre and awesome. They are Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace Cave) – 4km from the wharf outside of Ha Long City, Dau Go (Wooden Stakes Cave) – 8km south of Bai Chay, Bo Nau (Pelican Cave) , Trinh Nu (Virgin Cave) – 15km south of Bai Chay, in the island range of Bo Hon, in the system comprised Sung Sot (Surprise Grotto), Dong Tien Lake and Luon Grotto, etc.
Besides Ha Long Bay, there are Mong Cai – the border city with China (visas must have been sourced in your home country), Cat Ba Island, Hai Phong City and Tuan Chau Island – a newly developed tourist resort. One can spend between 3 and 5 days visiting and experiencing the beauty of the Bay.