It’s 11 a.m. on a Friday morning. The sky is overcast and the ocean is bathed in a blanket of mist. Then, in the blink of an eye, the dragons appear. At first, they slowly flicker in and out of the mist. But then they are upon us. It’s the Island Caves of Ha Long Bay rising from the sea like skyscrapers at dawn: ten stories high, twenty stories, a hundred stories high. The guardians of Ha Long Bay, some two thousand uninhabited jagged limestone monoliths, are passing before us.
The ship weaves its way through and finally anchors in the beautiful harbor of Ha Long. Soon, junks begin to pull alongside the ship. Within a half-hour, we are on our way to explore the caves of Ha Long Bay with our guide, a delightful young woman named Ihn. She begins sharing the legend of Ha Long, which in Vietnamese means “where the dragon descends into the sea.”
The legend tells us that during the old time, when the country was newly formed, the Vietnamese had to fight against fierce invaders coming from the North by sea. Feeling sorry for the country, the Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her children to earth to help the Vietnamese people defend their country.
While the mighty enemies were attacking the mainland, the Mother Dragon and her children suddenly appeared and incinerated them with divine fire and giant emeralds. The dragons’ emeralds were scattered about the sea, forming an invincible defensive wall that sunk the enemy fleet. After thousands of years, the wall of emerald turned into islands of different sizes and shapes.
After the battle, The Mother Dragon and her children chose not to return to heaven, but to stay in the mortal world and assume human form in order to help people with planting, farming, reclaiming and expanding the country. To remember the Mother Dragon and her children, the people named the bay where the Mother Dragon descended Ha Long and the bay where her children descended Bai Tu Long, which means “thanks to the Dragon’s children.” Ha Long Bay can be experienced as part of a number of cruises in Asia this winter, as well as on one of our amazing Vietnam and Cambodia Mekong River tours.