October 30, 2008

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Heavenly Castles on Earth

Halong Bay is the jewel in the crown of Vietnam’s travel destinations. One hundred and seventy kilometers from Hanoi, in northeastern Vietnam, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth. The bay is a magical blend of land and sea with thousands of limestone islands and islets in a myriad of shapes and sizes.

The shapes are as varied as the sizes and many of the islands have been given names, derived from their shapes, such as Voi Island (Elephant), Ga Choi Island (Fighting Cock), Qua Chuong Island (Bell) and Mai Nha Island (Roof); incredibly 989 of the islands have been given names. Numerous islands contain caves and grottos, some hidden away for millions of years, but now accessible to explore and marvel at their immensity and spectacular displays of stalactites and stalagmites.

The bay is bordered on the south and southeast by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the north by China and on the west and southwest by Cát Bà Island and encompasses an immense area of 1553 square kilometers.

According to local legend, long ago when the Vietnamese people were fighting foreign invaders, the Gods sent a family of dragons to help them defend the land. The dragons spat out jewels and jade, which transformed into the islands and islets dotting the bay. Their miraculous handiwork formed a great wall blocking the invaders path.

With the invaders repelled and the people safe again, the family of dragons became interested in more peaceful endeavors and decided to stay to enjoy their stunning creation. Hence the name Ha Long (Ha: descending, Long: dragon). The island where the dragon children attended to their mother was named Bai Tu Long (Bai: attend to, Tu: children, Long: dragon) and the place where the dragon children wriggled their tails as they frolicked in the sea was called Bach Long Vi (Bach: white – the color of the foam from the wriggling tails, Long: dragon, Vy: tail).

Whether or not you are a believer of legends you will be lulled into a sense of peace and contentment by the magical and surrealistic seascape of Halong Bay.

The tranquil emerald green waters and the captivating vistas of the seemingly countless jutting limestone mountainous islands will soothe the soul and stimulate the senses. Few places in the world offer a more breath-taking glimpse of the awesome creativity of Mother Nature.

The Halong Bay World Heritage Site is universally recognized for the significance of its exceptional geology and distinctive biodiversity, and the rich culture of the local people adds to the charm and enchantment of cruising the bay.

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