Ha Long Bay

 

The legend goes that the people of Vietnam were born from the union of the dragon and the fairy.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

The dragon rose up from the sea and onto the Earth to unite with the fairy of the mountains. Together they created one hundred sons.

 

When the dragon returned to the sea, fifty sons followed to live thousands of feet deep in the oceans.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Once Vietnam became threatened by Chinese invaders in the North, the Gods summoned these dragons to resurface.

 

They released jewels and jade from their mouths creating islands across the bay, forming a great wall of protection.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

As the mother dragon made her way onto the Earth, she fell so heavily that deep valleys formed and filled with water when she plunged back into the sea.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

The peaks left behind became the region known as Ha Long or “where the dragon descends to the sea.”

 

Ha Long Bay

 

For thousands of years ancient civilizations lived in these jungle covered limestone islands surrounding the bay.

 

It is in this labyrinth of channels that the Vietnamese stopped invasions from its coastal neighbors.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Many years later it was through these same waters that hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees fled Communist rule en route to Saigon.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Today communities live on and from the sea in floating villages.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

They farm fish below their buoyant dwellings selling black squid ink to China or offer candies, fruit, and knick-knacks to tourists.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

The rest of the world sees Ha Long Bay on a cruise booked from nearby Hanoi.

 

A UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new Wonders of the World it has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Southeast Asia.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Tourists cruise across the bay snapping photos, passively observing the surreal beauty and foreign way of life.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

A few days ago I was one of those tourists.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

In the months preceding my voyage to Asia I was lured by the dreamlike images of its emerald sea and massive karsts.

 

In fact it was my deep desire to explore the glowing channels of Ha Long Bay that caused me to begin this journey in Vietnam.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

But overlooking the island studded green sea

watching locals sell fish to passing boats

and kayaking through caves in hollow karsts

 

Ha Long Bay

 

I did not feel the exploratory bliss that often consumes me when traveling.

 

Instead I felt like I was standing in a forbidden room where I did not belong.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

As if its beauty was too intense for my eyes to afford.

 

As if the motor of the boat

the words of the passengers

and each click of a camera violated the sanctity of the bay.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

As if the dragon still dwelled below, reminding us, the invaders, of its powerful past.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

As an outsider in this stunning, strange place I wonder

despite its awards

if perhaps the beauty of the bay

belongs not to the world

 

Ha Long Bay

 

but only to the dragons

the people of Vietnam who followed their father to the sea.

 

Next
Previous
Love it? Share it!

You're Welcome

Download this FREE guide that shows you how to create a life of travel, adventure, love, and purpose.

Success! Your Treasure Map is on its way to your inbox!